Amid all the chaos of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s comforting to know that the crisis has not disrupted every facet of our culture. Some homebound individuals have found solace in livestreamed performances by the Metropolitan Opera; others tuned in for the virtual edition of the Ultra Music Festival. And last weekend, thousands of quarantined gamers battled social isolation by watching Bree stream her adventures in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. “I realize how privileged I am to be a streamer during this time,” said Bree. “The fact that I already work from home … I’m very grateful.”
This gratitude extends to many parts of Bree’s life. Due to her background working within a variety of industries and digital platforms, Bree is very self-aware about the ways that she’s benefitted from her unorthodox career path—and filled with respect for the people who have helped her get where she is today.
Bree’s interest in gaming far predates her decision to enter the Twitch-streaming world. As the only child of a relatively young couple—”my parents are awesome,” said Bree—her first exposure to video games came at an early stage. She picked up her first game, Drakan: Order of the Flame, in 1999, and soon enough she was a full-fledged member of her father’s team in EverQuest Online Adventures.
“I was his healer in that game, and I would play with him and his co-worker and his co-worker’s daughter, who was my age,” recalled Bree. “I was literally like seven or eight years old and playing EverQuest Online, which is crazy.”
To this day, Bree much prefers PC games over console titles, a predilection that stems from the countless hours she spent PC gaming with her father during her childhood. This isn’t the only way her father has made his mark on her streaming style. He occasionally makes guest appearances on Bree’s stream, even building a gaming computer with his daughter and broadcasting the experience live. “My community loves him,” said Bree.
He abuses the hell out of the gloo gun to try to glitch himself into places he shouldn't be— breebunn (@breebunn) May 20, 2017
Alongside her love of gaming, Bree cultivated a passion for the arts as a kid, teaching herself to draw and taking college-level art classes in high school to augment her self-taught skills. Prior to her streaming career, Bree worked as a graphic artist for a board game company while posting her personal art and cosplay projects on Tumblr. As she began to gain a following for her art, she occasionally posted video content on YouTube as well. “My community was very faithful to me throughout the years—like I had been cultivating this community for eight years, or something like that,” said Bree. “And so all of them were very much like, ‘yeah, do streaming, we will totally support you!’”
This encouragement from her fans—plus a final push from her father, who encouraged her to quit her job and shoot for the stars—emboldened Bree to shift her primary focus from visual art to streaming. The change came just in time. “When art is, like, your main job, it does kind of become something different,” said Bree. “I missed it being a hobby.” Though art will always be part of her life, said Bree, she’d rather pursue a career as a therapist if she eventually decides the streaming life isn’t for her.
tfw you cancel a hair appointment bc you're having so much fun drawing— breebunn (@breebunn) November 3, 2018
This would be a perfect fit for Bree, who is outspoken about using her stream as a platform to boost constructive and progressive discussions within her community. “I’ve always used my platform online as a safe space for talking about normalizing mental health issues and stuff like that, and just making it a very open space,” said Bree.
Throughout our conversation, Bree stressed the importance of the strong community she’s built over her many years as an online personality. While she’s had her fair share of run-ins with aggressive online trolls, the support of her community helps her brush off their criticisms.
“It can kind of feel like a bubble at times—and then someone will come in and say something offensive or just incredibly sexist, and it makes you realize like, ‘oh my god, I had almost forgotten that this was a thing,’” said Bree. “Of course, you just can’t win, right? It’s one of those things where I’ll wear a turtleneck on stream and people will come in and say I’m never going to succeed if I don’t show a little skin. But then if I wear a lower-cut shirt, I get the typical sexist comments.” Fortunately, a strong team of moderators has vigilantly prevented these trolls from infiltrating Bree’s community, and they remain a minority among her thousands of loyal followers.
One indication of the warmth of Bree’s community is the enthusiasm with which it has welcomed her boyfriend, streamer ModestCube. “I feel like the people that followed me also followed him, so they already knew who he was,” said Bree. “So there’s this level of respect where they’re just like, ‘oh, awesome, you guys are dating.’ That’s cool. I have dated someone before who wasn’t in the online realm, and that was a completely different experience when we decided to be more public with our relationship.”
For the moment, it appears the coronavirus pandemic won't severely impact Bree’s streaming schedule—but it has certainly caused her to postpone some of her plans for the future. “I would love to do more travel streams … when the time is right,” said Bree with a chuckle. “Obviously now is not the time; I literally have not left the house in weeks.”
Despite these roadblocks, said Bree, the quarantine is an opportunity for her and her fans to continue to strengthen their community. “I’d like to keep true to that, and make sure I’m just cultivating a good place to go when you need a fun distraction,” said Bree. “That’s definitely what I want to keep pursuing.”
Top image via Twitter/@breebunn
This article was written by Alexander Lee, an esports journalist, lifelong Nintendo fan, and proud cat dad. Follow him on Twitter @alexleewastaken, and check out more of his work on his website www.alexlee.work.