If you'd told either Bryan Dechart and Amelia Rose Blaire just a few years ago that thousands of people would watch them play video games for a living, neither would have believed it. And yet, here they are, the founds of Dechart Games, a Twitch community focused on positivity,
It all started with Dechart's casting as Connor, a lead protagonist of Quantic Dreams' Detroit: Become Human game, wherein players determine the fates of androids versus their human masters. A prototype detective android, Connor's wrestling with his own humanity (or lack thereof) is a linchpin of the game's overarching narrative, a social barometer that can affect the outcome of the other protagonists' stories, just as theirs could affect his. The character, and game as a whole, captured the internet's attention and heart.
When Dechart and his wife, who co-starred with him as the Tracis in Detroit, decided to play the game on livestream, their lives would never be the same. Cut to a few years later, Dechart Games is now a small empire with a multi-day streaming schedule, merchandise, and plenty of memes and convention guest spots to go around.
But at its core, the Dechart Games community is one of positivity and finding enjoyment in experiencing things together.
"I was very intimidated by the idea of live streaming and putting yourself out there in that way and just kind of hoping that people would be interested in the behind the scenes," Dechart tells SYFY WIRE.
People were very interested. Watching an actor play their character in a video game is a novel idea, and one that attracted more people with every stream, especially given that Dechart hadn't seen much of the game. His reactions and anecdotes became as much a part of the story as the actual gameplay. At first, only 80 people watched the couple and their friends play the demo, but by the time the game released and they were playing the finale, viewership was over 14,000.
As of writing this, there's 312,000 strong in the #ConnorArmy, the moniker adopted by fans via a polling system Dechart and Blaire had implemented. Fans are polled for everything from what games to play to what time they should stream. It was all created together.
THE FANDOM RISES
The rise of Dechart Games almost seems like a happy accident. The stream was just a test, after all, to see if people would be interested. Flash forward 21 whirlwind months, and so much in Dechart and Blaire's life has changed. They've been traveling the world, meeting up with fans at conventions everywhere from Birmingham to Thailand.
"If you're doing a stream for hundreds of people, you don't really have a notion of hundreds of people on the internet," Dechart explains. "But then when you go to these conventions — you're in rooms full of hundreds of people."
The Connor Army obviously stems from Detroit: Become Human, but the couple couldn't just stream the game over and over again. It was when they started fan art streams and playing other games that it dawned upon them that this had become something with its own legs.
Since then they've done an interactive Dungeons & Dragons campaign called The Golden Spiral, streamed games such as Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Last of Us, and frequently feature fellow video game actors. Often times it may be that actor's first time playing their own game.
PLAY THE POSITIVE
The gaming community doesn't always have the best reputation, but something that Dechart Games is particularly focused on is creating a safe, positive space for people to enjoy games and streaming. "Play the positive" is a phrase that embellishes their keyboard, a constant reminder of what to keep in mind.
"Playing the positive is an acting term that I used a lot, especially playing a lot of villains," Blaire, who played the villainous Willa Burrell in True Blood, explains. "Even when a character's actions from the outside seem really evil or dark, to play that character believably, I would always try to find the positive. What are they moving toward?"
This combined with other elements of their stream — such as people having to type something positive into the chat in order to be entered into giveaways — means their Twitch is bursting with glee. It stems from the couple's joy at what Dechart Games has become. Moreover, nothing about it is contrived. Spend any amount of time there and you'll be happily greeted by newcomers and veterans alike who will be genuinely interested in what brought you to the community.
"It's easier for people to be positive... to be kind to each other. And we all know that," Dechart says. "But you have to have somebody plant the flag in the ground to begin and be like, 'This is a positive, safe space.'"
A lot of this also came from the world stats on the flowchart in Detroit: Become Human, a feature that reveals what choices players around the world made. As with many narrative-based games such as Detroit, difficult issues are at the core of the story, all of which force players to make choices and consider options they typically may not. Dechart believes they're a catalyst and give people permission to talk about something that may otherwise be too difficult to just bring up.
"We did all this cool Terminator, Matrix-y badass, full-machine-Connor-type stuff. And I was convinced that that would be what most people played through because I had this idea of gamers and what it means to be really awesome in a video game," Dechart admits. "Then you look at the stats of the game afterward. And people chose empathy. They just by default wanted the more human thing. They wanted to be kind."
It's that kindness that has allowed many members of the community to find a place where they feel they are understood.
Both Dechart and Blaire have received multiple heartfelt messages from people, thanking them for the space they've created, as well as for being the people they are. It's a lot to take in but is something they take to heart.
"[T]here's a lot of people out there that are stronger than they think," Dechart says. "There's a lot of people that are willing to give us credit for the work that they've done in their own lives."
CHARITY, CURIOSITY, AND CHILL
From the beginning, charity has been an important aspect of Dechart Games. It's a way for the team to give back to the world that has given them so much.
Recently, they raised $28,000 for the World Wildlife Federation Australia to help with the wildfires currently ravaging the country. Environmentalism has always been close to Dechart's heart, and while he and Blaire would occasionally mention things to do to help the environment, they decided to take it a step further with their channel.
This includes Curiosity Chill, a weekly stream where the chat votes on what they want to study together. It used to last only an hour but extended to a second hour dedicated to climate action.
And to further build on their brand, there's Wholesome Wednesdays.
"A lot of [story games] are kind of intense," Blaire explains. "So we wanted to counteract that and just play some really chill games that really didn't have high stakes."
It's an intentional choice on their part, a dedicated time set aside on Wednesdays to play some lower stakes games, whether that means just catching some Pokémon or playing Crash Team Racing with members of the community.
"We realized at a certain point that people were not there for our expertise," Dechart laughs. "If you stream four different games in a week, then it's just people watching you be pretty miserable at four different games."
Their success and the community they founded has also inspired Dechart and Blaire to further pursue video game acting roles. They'll feature in Ddraig House's 2D painted game Lunafon: Tales of the Moon Oak as well as in two yet-to-be-announced titles in 2020.
"I'm very excited about the opportunities that games present as a storyteller as an artist, and I would love to continue to participate in that arena, and get to be part of these games and then also play these games with our community," Blaire says. More than anything else, she hopes it will continue to be a constant circle of acting, playing, and sharing.