Raised in Huntington until high school, Jane M. Wagner went on to fulfill a career in television and film as a producer and director.
“I developed my passion for filmmaking making movies in my backyard,” she said. “It’s a really great place to grow up.”
Now residing in Brooklyn, Wagner is working on a side project (while she still works full-time in TV production), which came as a serendipitous surprise.
The film, Break the Game, is her first feature documentary and its journey began back in 2015 when she was simply playing video games. While online, she came across a fascinating subculture that she wanted to tell the story of.
Break the Game is a film that starts on the video game streaming site Twitch.tv, where a competitive subculture called “speedrunning” is gaining momentum. This niche is an art that exploits every secret and glitch in a game that helps users beat it as fast as possible.
While researching this phenomenon, Wagner came across one of the best and most famous speedrunners online, Narcissa Wright. “She has this insane internet fame,” Wagner said about the now-30-year-old.
Wright is well known online her for record-beating gaming, which included a feat in 2014 where she played Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (a game that takes ordinary humans around 20 hours to complete) in just 18 minutes and 10 seconds. These skills made her a star and internet celebrity, earning $80,000 a year from streaming and a worldwide fan base of more than 150,000 followers.
However when Wagner found Wright online, she noticed she wasn’t just known for her gaming expertise. She had just transitioned from male to female and the internet, that she had once felt was a safe-space, was spewing out hurtful hate comments.
“She was putting a webcam on her life and being very raw,” Wagner said. “She was helping people who needed someone to relate to… She inspired a lot of the LGBTQ community, which is amazing.”
Wagner decided to reach out to the streamer online through Twitter in January 2017. Skeptical at first, Wright decided to meet with Wagner in Portland, Oregon to talk. They hit it off immediately.
“We grew up around the same games, so we meshed really well,” Wagner said.
She began following Wright’s life over the course of two years with Wagner taking about 10 trips out to the West Coast to film her and the people surrounding the streamer’s life.
Break the Game follows the gamer’s dreams of feeling the same love and support that she did prior to her transition, along with making a comeback to the fans she might have lost by setting a new world record for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
With over 100 hours of original footage, Wagner is still hoping to get funding from her Kickstarter campaign to finish up the film. Shot with a very small crew, borrowed equipment and minimal resources, the funding will help finish up the documentary in post-production. In editing, she plans to spend the next year adding in graphics and animation “to really show the digital world.”
When the film is complete, the Huntington-local plans to apply for film festivals in the 2020/2021-film year.
Break the Game has already reached half of its $50,000 goal, but time is running out to donate. Wagner added that since the Kickstarter went live, she has received dozens of “amazing stories” from people who play in the online world, proving how intimate the streaming community truly is.
“We want to break new ground,” Wagner said, “It’s a film about community, identity, and finding love in today’s digital world.”