On Wednesday, controversy surrounding Fortnite golden boy Tyler “Ninja” Blevins resurfaced after a high-profile callout of his apparent avoidance of streaming with female gamers. Blevins defended himself on Twitter and, on Friday afternoon, did in fact play Fortnite with a female gamer.
Blevins was criticized 14 months ago after telling Polygon“I don’t play with female gamers.” At the time he said he didn’t want to put his wife “through that,” saying it could lead to claims of flirting and worse.
It’s unclear how much he streamed with women since then, but a series of events brought the topic back this week.
“He’s one of the most popular streamers on the internet and he doesn’t support women as he publicly announced he will never duo stream with any woman.”
Blevins replied to Caviness three hours later, saying that since the article he has “played squads with multiple women after that article over the last year and a half as well as hosted MANY female streamers.”
Looking back at the 14 months since Blevins’ controversial statement, it’s been difficult to find many female gamers he intentionally queued up with for games. There was the 13-year-old Fortnite streamer Ewok. He also streamed with the 61-year-old talkshow host Ellen DeGeneres. It’s certainly possible he has streamed with more female gamers, but not with any regularity. Some women Blevins’ fans said he’s played with, like Rachel “Asivrs” Retana, weren’t actually tapped by Blevins to be on his stream; they just queued up through the game.
Kotaku has asked Blevins’ team whether they can elaborate on his Tweet and give examples of women he has intentionally queued up for games with. They did not return the request for comment.
Today, however, he sure did it. The woman on his stream is Rachel “Valkyrae” Hofstetter, a capable and high-energy streamer for the team 100 Thieves, and the part of Blevins’ chat that’s making it through moderation seems to be enjoying her presence. Others ask: “What happened to no playing with girls?”
Caviness has been receiving a barrage of hate for pointing out Blevins’ 2018 statement. Among thousands of tweets sent to her over the past 24 hours, some have called her a “retard,” a “bitch,” a “thot” and a “feminazi.” Many of these messages defend Blevins’ decision, saying he did it “out of respect for his wife.” (Caviness, whom Kotaku has profiled, has remained relevant on Twitch since 2013 for her satire and provocative sense of humor.)
“At the time [of the Polygon article] he was the most popular Fortnite streamer, played with all of the other popular guy streamers… essentially making it a club that female Fortnite players were left out of,” said Caviness on Twitter. “Being a female in gaming, it upset me. Do I want to play with Ninja? Fuck no, appeasing sponsors and babysitting kids isn’t really my forte.”
Thanks to the ADL for sharing their research on tweets sent to Caviness after her statement.
This week, Google announced that Stadia, its game-streaming platform, is coming out November 19. Consequently, it’s time to sit down and think about whether or not you really want to buy in for Stadia’s launch day.
While the idea of playing games on any PC, phone, TV, or other device sounds like a dream come true, Stadia’s promise comes with many caveats, including the fact that you need to buy the Stadia Founder’s Pack to use it on your TV (if you aren’t planning to stream to a PC). Given that, I think it’s fair to say that deciding to buy into Stadia right now and deciding whether or not to buy a Founder’s Pack are basically the same question.
I can’t tell you if Stadia’s going to be right for you or not, but it seems like a good time to go over all the things you may not know about if you’ve only heard the elevator pitch, so you can decide whether or not go put some money down on a Founder’s Pack bundle.
Hold on: Why do I need the Founder’s Pack to play on my TV?
The idea behind Google Stadia is that players can hook up a controller to any screen they own and start playing games through the platform. When Stadia launches next month, that will not be the case. You will be able to play games on Mac and Windows PCs, through Chrome; Google Pixel 3 and 3A phones; Chrome OS devices; and Google’s 4K-compatible Chromecast Ultra streaming device.
This means the only ways to link Stadia to your TV, the home base of console gaming, is to get a Chromecast Ultra, which comes with the Founder’s Pack, or hook up your PC to your TV.
Even if you have a Chromecast Ultra, you will also need the Google Stadia controller to play Stadia games on it. This wasn’t always clear, but a Google community manager recently confirmed this on Reddit.
So, you need the Chromecast Ultra and the Stadia controller, at least at launch. Since the Stadia controller is $69 on its own, and the Chromecast Ultra is $69, most people will be best served buying the Founder’s Pack, which costs $9 dollars less than the two combined, and gets you a few months of the service and some other goodies.
But what if I don’t plan to play Stadia on my TV?
Even though your TV is most likely the largest (and best) screen in your home for gaming, you can also stream Stadia games to your phone (if you have a Pixel 3 or 3A) or computer.
However, playing games on these platforms comes with some strings attached. (Literally, in some cases.) Google recently revealed that the Stadia controller will only work wirelessly with Chromecast Ultra at launch, not other devices. This means you’ll have to plug it in to play on PC and the Pixel 3. Now, you can sync up different gamepads to go wireless on other devices, but Google has said that non-Stadia controllers will create extra input lag at launch. I haven’t tried it yet so I can’t say whether or not that’s a dealbreaker, but it could be.
To me, the inability to play wirelessly is only an issue on a phone. Most of us sit close enough to our computers that a wire won’t be a bother—a bigger issue on a smartphone screen, at least. Luckily, this problem is out of most players’ hands at the moment because Stadia only works on a few Google-specific phones.
Fine. I get it. What’s in the Founder’s Pack?
For $129, the Stadia Founder’s Pack includes a Chromecast Ultra, a Google Stadia controller, and three months of Stadia Pro, which you also need to use the service. Stadia Pro, like Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation+, includes some free games, and players will get Destiny 2 and all of its expansions on launch day. You also get a gift card that allows you to give three months of Stadia Pro to a friend.
When you buy the Founder’s Pack, you’ll be able to sign in and reserve your username right away, which may or may not matter to you if you have a handle you like to use across lots of platforms.
When you price it out, the Stadia Founder’s Pack isn’t a bad deal. $69 for the controller, $69 for the Chromecast, plus $60 for two three-month subscriptions is well over the asking price. But the reason why you need the Founder’s Pack if you want use Stadia at launch is that each of these components is more or less required to get the platform up and running in the best possible condition. And that’s assuming your broadband is good enough to run Stadia, which isn’t a given.
OK…wait. Is Stadia going to work?
We’ve finally arrived at the million-dollar question. As I said at the top, Stadia seems to come with a lot of caveats at launch. Based on what Google has said, it sounds like many of these compromises and conditions will fall away over the course of 2020. There’s no doubt in my mind that Google will get Stadia to run on all phones and, over time, I expect they’ll find ways to get it running on TVs directly or using other devices.
I certainly hope Google solves all of Stadia’s wonkiness with both its controller and third-party gamepads. Also, Google’s said it will eventually open up a free-tier of Stadia that does not require you to pay $9.99 per month, which will make the service much easier to try without forcing gamers to invest in a new platform. (Once the free tier is out, the Pro tier will enable certain high-level features like 4K and surround sound support, and it’ll give you a free game each month.)
I’ve been referring to November 19 as Stadia’s launch date because that’s technically the truth, but it’s better to think of it as Stadia going into beta or “early access.” If I were to guess, I’d say the service won’t reach its peak until at least a year from now. For suckers early adopters like me, it may be worth it to check Stadia out, because it’s weird, new, and half-baked. However, if you’re in it for the convenience, I think you’ll want to take a hard look at how you plan to use Stadia before you buy in.
Update 10/17/2019, at 5:45pm: We’ve updated this post to reflect the fact that the a la carte cost of the Stadia controller and Chromecast Ultra add up to more than the cost of the Stadia Founder’s Pack, not less.
For women streaming on Twitch, being questionably banned for “suggestive” clothing or behavior is an increasinglyvisibleproblem. Some feel that Twitch’s policies over sexual content unfairly target women, especially women whose bodies are curvier. Twitch streamer ExohydraX, who received an indefinite ban from the platform last week over her attire, is now among that number. In a conversation with Kotaku, she discussed what she feels are inconsistently applied policies when it comes to what women are allowed to wear.
ExoHydraX started playing Call of Duty on YouTube five years ago, and in the past year, she started streaming on that platform as well. She told Kotaku over email that she had decided to try out Twitch by doing streams in the more casual “Just Chatting” subsection. Like a lot of streamers in that category, she talks to her followers and does dances while wearing form-fitting clothing. That all came to a screeching halt late last week when her channel was indefinitely banned from Twitch.
In a YouTube stream about her ban, ExoHydraX said that she had been temporarily banned twice before, once for drinking on stream and once for her cleavage. This third ban came on the heels of a stream in which ExoHydraX said she was being targeted by racist trolls who were hurling slurs at her for being a French person of North African descent.
“I think it became clear that people were mass reporting me and trolling me in the last stream because I had dozens of French people spamming extremely hateful stuff as well as racist things at me,” she told Kotaku over email. (Twitch did not immediately respond to Kotaku’s request for comment.) ExoHydraX said that the presence of people saying racist things in her Twitch chat caused her to become frustrated and angry, which in turn invited more trolls. As she has a smaller channel with just around 4,600 followers, she doesn’t have a dedicated mod team to help her police her chat. Her most successful stream—notably, the one where she was brigaded—peaked at around 750 viewers. A few days later, she woke up to an email from Twitch saying that her channel was banned indefinitely because it contained “sexually suggestive content”. She believes her small channel only got banned because she was brigaded by people who then mass-reported her.
“To think that someone could be so fucking mean and they could get away with it, that fucking kills me,” she said in her YouTube video about the ban. “These people were saying terrible shit, and they mass-reported me… I don’t want to fucking cry but, it’s not even me getting banned, it’s not even just that, it’s that these were the people who reported me and I feel like they won.” After saying this, ExoHydraX left the room for a moment to collect herself before returning to the stream to discuss her ban further.
ExoHydraX told Kotaku that she has appealed her ban and is willing to “rebrand” herself and cover up more. She’s hopeful about her channel being reinstated but also said that given the volume of people on Twitch and the limited staff, it might take a while. She pointed to the streamer Velvet_7, who also danced on Twitch while wearing clothing that showed her cleavage, as an example of a streamer who was banned and then regained her channel. What bothers ExoHydraX is not only that this ban came as a result of targeted harassment, but also that she finds Twitch’s policies on sexually suggestive content to be unclear.
“They say that they want streamers to wear outfits to be mall friendly, in which case I am comfortable wearing cleavage and a romper at the mall,” she said over email. “But then I get banned for wearing cleavage and a romper, so…how does this work?”
ExoHydraX is a curvy woman, and is therefore subject to unfair standards and stereotypes. Clothing that might read as non-sexual on a woman who is less curvy is perceived differently when it’s on her.
“I also think it does depend on who’s wearing [the clothes.] Two girls with two completely different bodies but with the same shirt would get treated completely different,” she said. “I think Twitch needs to come out with new guidelines in terms of dress codes. What is acceptable and on whom is it acceptable? It’s a difficult discussion, but it is necessary for smaller streamers.”
As a busty woman who is quite aware that clothing looks different on my body than it does on women with smaller breasts, situations like these are frustrating. Barring a breast reduction, there’s nothing I can do to make my body look “appropriate” according to these types of standards. It’s not a new issue, either. When I was a teenager, school dress codes and even my parents would prevent me from wearing clothing that I saw my peers wearing all the time, because when I wore it, it was suddenly perceived as obscene. I’m not talking about tube tops or halter tops; I’m talking about button-up shirts, fitted T-shirts, and even some sleeveless shirts that were off-limits to me because they read as more sexual on my body. Even as an adult, I wear almost exclusively men’s T-shirts to deemphasize my bust.
Again, ExoHydraX said that she is very willing to cover up to get back on Twitch if they do decide to reinstate her channel. During her YouTube stream, she goes through some recent clothing she bought, humorously pointing out which pieces would probably get her banned on Twitch again and discussing the way that she’d cover up her cleavage if she returned to the platform. According to her, Twitch is where the action is, and without having access to the platform, her streaming career is dead in the water.
In a stream archive, ExoHydraX read this question from a viewer: “Why are you trying to go back on Twitch with all that BS?” by saying the following: “Because Twitch is a great platform, apart from this. It’s pretty much where everyone is at. If everyone was at Mixer, I would go to Mixer.”
Today, an armed gunman in Halle, Germany attacked people outside of a synagogue on Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar, killing two and injuring at least two others in the process. He livestreamed his attack on Twitch, during which he referred to himself as “Anon” (likely referencing 4chan or 8chan) and espoused far-right talking points. Now, the livestream platform has released a statement explaining how such an egregious violation slipped through its net.
On Twitter, Twitch outlined what happened from its perspective, opening with an acknowledgement that while it has a “a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct,” the stream nonetheless lasted 35 minutes, was viewed by five people while it was live, and was passed around to 2,200 people in the additional 30 minutes after it ended, before Twitch took it down. The issue, according to Twitch, is that the stream generated most of its heat off-platform.
“This account was created about two months prior to streaming the shooting and had attempted to stream only once before,” said Twitch. “This video was not surfaced in any recommendations or directories; instead, our investigation suggests that people were coordinating and sharing the video via other online messaging services.”
The company has since shared a version of the recording with an “industry consortium” to help stop it from spreading further.
This is not the first time a shooter has livestreamed their acts of violence. Most notoriously, the Christchurch mosque shooter who killed 51 people and injured 49 earlier this year streamed the attack on Facebook Live. Recordings of the shooting were also uploaded to Twitch, which in June prompted the company to sue 100 anonymous users to reveal the identities of those who put the recordings—in addition to pornography, copyrighted videos, and other terms of service violations—on their platform.
As of now, Twitch says it’s “continuing to investigate the Halle event” and will ban any accounts that repost recordings of it.
“We take this extremely seriously and are committed to working with industry peers, law enforcement, and any relevant parties to protect our community,” said the company.
These days, Twitch streaming is an avalanche that drowns potential viewers in a daily rush of new names and faces. No matter how much you watch Twitch, you’’ll never be able to keep up with even a fraction of the tens of thousands of partners and their daily streams, which generally last multiple hours. As a result, streamers’ fame exists in pockets. In one space, like this year’s TwitchCon, they can go outside and get mobbed. In another—their hometown, perhaps—they can walk down the street and be nobodies.
TwitchCon is an annual convention that celebrates streaming and streamers with an exhibit hall, panels, meet and greets, concerts (sometimes performed by streamers; other times, Blink 182), and a variety of parties and surrounding activities. This year’s TwitchCon, the fifth since 2015, was one of contradictions: Legitimate stardom versus video game streaming’s humble bedroom beginnings, safety and security versus fan-friendly accessibility, and the TwitchCon regular people attended versus a second, red-tape-mummified celebrity TwitchCon running in its shadow.
The second TwitchCon takes place in areas only Twitch partners can access; they’re hidden or surrounded by security. There are levels to this shadow TwitchCon—a VIP area in the convention center you can only access with a special sticker on your badge, parties and events only for select groups of upper echelon Twitch partners.
All partners are not created equal. Where once Twitch arbitrarily handed out the designation of partner—basically, somebody with more money-making options on the platform, who Twitch views as a sort of symbolic extension of its brand—to a select few, there’s now a gamified system that’s anointed nearly 30,000 people who make their money performing a variety of activities, from streaming games to broadcasting themselves exploring other countries—or the street outside their house. Some partners, like Fortnite streamer Turner “Tfue” Tenney and variety streamer Imane “Pokimane” Anys, are knocking at the door of mainstream celebrity. They have millions of followers and have appeared at major mainstream events like the Super Bowl. Others streamers barely turn heads at TwitchCon, let alone anywhere else.
What does it mean to only sometimes to be famous? What does it mean for that fame to be apparent to you largely through chat boxes and Discord messages, where the human brain can scarcely comprehend that there’s another person on the other end? How much responsibility do you have to general audiences, versus just to your own? Do you need to take security precautions and, if so, does that somehow diminish your cred as Just Another Regular Person streaming to an audience that sees you as an actual aspirational figure, rather than some Hollywood celebrity living in a walled garden? At this point, I think everybody has a different answer.
I can’t exactly say what celebrity is, but I believe that I’ve ascertained a single, universal truth: It means that, at any given moment, a greater than average number of people want to be wherever you are. This, in part, is the appeal of TwitchCon. Fans show up with the hope of being near people they consider important as their own close friends—or in some cases, more important. Most fans are just regular folks who might attend a meet-and-greet and get something signed. They come away jittery but satisfied, having briefly crossed paths with somebody who takes up large chunks of their screen real estate every day. Some streamers tried to be more accommodating, talking to fans outside meet and greets and other scheduled interactions. This resulted in no small number of growing, Katamari-like crowd clumps in hallways where a sea of fans otherwise shuffled from place to place.
Variety streamer Alexia Raye recognized the need to move through back channels due to the dual specters of awkward networking attempts and security concerns, but she cast a wistful glance downward while remembering the days before things got so complicated. With tens of thousands of fans roaming a series of jam-packed convention halls, there’s a strong chance someone—or a lot of someones—will recognize her.
“I definitely feel like this was my first TwitchCon where I was overwhelmed by how many people wanted to meet me,” she said. “I kinda feel like I’ve done a shadow of TwitchCon, where I haven’t really actually gotten to explore much of the inside. I can’t just walk around freely.”
Other streamers seemed to feel the same way. Despite Twitch’s promises of rubbing shoulders with big names, I did not see megastar Tfue at TwitchCon, nor did I see other big names like Summit1g, TimTheTatman, or Dr Disrespect, the latter of whom is 6’8” and should stand out like a sore thumb, even in a crowd. The only time I encountered Pokimane, the most popular female streamer, was at her own pizza party, and even then, it was for two seconds as part of a hundreds-strong procession of people who received the exact same photo opp and little more from a streamer who, during streams, feels like she could be anybody’s cool friend. These big streamers were around the convention—at least, according to the TwitchCon website—but they were extremely judicious about deciding when to appear and when to stick to TwitchCon’s twisting backstage labyrinth.
One evening, after TwitchCon itself had shut down for the day, I did a double-take as Ali “Myth” Kabbani, a Fortnite wunderkind with 5.5 million followers, walked past me on a largely empty sidewalk. I hadn’t seen anybody on his level strolling about out in the open like that—although “strolling” might be the wrong word. He and a couple other people, one of whom had a camera, were power-walking with purpose. I have no idea where they were headed, or why, and there wasn’t time to ask.
The morning of TwitchCon’s second day, I stepped out onto a rooftop bar, unsure of what to expect. I was at a TwitchCon-adjacent event billed as a VIP brunch for big streamers. It looked suitably fancy, with free food and cocktails a plenty. A chill breeze carried the scents of bacon and booze through the air. The balcony was loud and crowded, but the atmosphere was far more relaxed than the rowdy scene in the convention center.
For streamers, TwitchCon is a place to both make fans’ days and party all night (and, sometimes, also for part of the day). For some, partner-only events, dinners, and parties are a rare opportunity to spend substantial time with other people who do what they do. It’s a place to break up the lonely monotony of being professionally sequestered away in their rooms all day, a place to vent and joke about the very particular rigors of their careers—or just catch up. Fans are not invited.
Sometimes, those people want to do business with the biggest fish in the increasingly large partner pond. This, however, is generally considered a no-no. I talked to multiple streamers at TwitchCon who maligned the practice of other streamers cornering them at parties to talk shop or beg for a collaboration. “Time and place,” said one. “Time and place.”
Security was a prominent concern. If anybody wanted to get in, they had to go through metal detectors and thorough bag checks first. There were security patrols near entrances, sometimes including bomb-sniffing dogs. Backpacks weren’t allowed, probably due to bomb concerns. It remains to be seen if that level of security could stand up to a truly determined intruder. Let’s hope we never have to find out.
For all the fans who took pictures with their favorite streamers, proudly announced who they were from Twitch chat, or gave quick hugs and then scampered away to geek out to their friends, a handful of fans didn’t seem to know where to draw the line. They stuck around too long, maybe even followed people they idolize from place to place. But for popular streamers, many of whom built their reputations on friendly accessibility—not just streaming on Twitch, but also making clans and guilds in games and talking to subscribers on Discord—it’s not as simple as just telling a clingy, slightly creepy fan at TwitchCon to take a hike.
“As a streamer in general, you’re gonna have some weird ones,” AvaGG, a variety streamer who’s most recently gotten into Grand Theft Auto V role-playing, told Kotaku. “And then as a female, you get the extra weird ones… I had one guy follow me to dinner, but I don’t know how to be like ‘No.’ So I was like ‘OK, I’m gonna eat with my friends now,’ and he just followed me to the restaurant. Most of them aren’t aware of how they’re coming off. Maybe they just don’t understand.”
It’s not surprising, perhaps, that fans drawn by a streamer’s appearance of accessibility can find it hard to draw the line. Sometimes, things escalate. Ava said she’s dealt with stalkers in the past. Another streamer, Annie, who streams for Overwatch League team The Florida Mayhem, said in a now-deleted tweet that she got followed and catcalled all the way back to where she was staying during TwitchCon.
As streamers amass more and more fame, these sorts of occurrences aren’t just confined to gatherings like TwitchCon. This is especially true of big streamers who have a tendency to be open about their locations, which on one hand aids in creating the impression that they’re chill, accessible people, but on the other, opens them up to impromptu visits from fans who might not regard personal space as the highest priority. Alexia Raye told Kotaku about a time one of Twitch’s most popular streamers, star Fortnite player Turner “Tfue” Tenney, came to visit her and her significant other, Tfue’s former Fortnite partner Dennis “Cloakzy” Lepore.
“I’ve found that, whenever he comes and visits, there’s a lot of people that show up at our house,” she said. “It just becomes kind of a security risk. But then I have to be the bad guy and be like ‘No, you can’t meet him at our house.’ But another example would be, we went to Dick’s Sporting Goods to grab something. I think we were actually getting pepper spray, just in case. One of the employees took a picture of Tfue, and apparently they Snapchatted it. All of the sudden, people just flooded there. It was just this huge ordeal.”
Kitboga, a streamer who’s amassed a following of nearly 500,000 by pretending to be a variety of characters and trolling IRL telephone scammers, showed up to our TwitchCon day two meeting with a large friend in tow. This quiet, intimidating-looking man was there to “escort me around in case something weird happens,” said Kitboga. His concern was understandable. Kitboga, after all, has likely made at least a few enemies by revealing scams for all to see. While he’s yet to face direct reprisal from any of the people orchestrating these scams, you can never be too cautious. As a result, his real name is not public information, and his house is in a trust as opposed to “registering with the state and saying where your exact address is.” Even so, there are cameras on his house.
“A lot of people sign up to Twitch, and sometimes their username is their name, or they have a Facebook where people can just friend them,” he said. “And to a degree that’s cool, because you’re friends. But it gets to a point where, if you know somebody’s real name and phone number, you can find out everything about them. It’s about being conscious about it and thinking ahead of time, so you can be safe.”
We talked on the outside patio of a restaurant near the San Diego Convention Center, where TwitchCon was held. Though the clouds were an uncharacteristically gloomy gray, many people were out on a nearby street. A handful recognized Kitboga and walked up to say hi during our interview. Nobody was angry or threatening. Still, Kitboga’s bodyguard’s focus did not waver.
“Everyone can always do a better job,” Kitboga said of streamer security.
None of the other streamers I talked to at TwitchCon had bodyguards.
As it does every year, Twitch began this year’s TwitchCon with a big opening ceremony in which it made announcements about features to come. Where most companies would trot out a couple suits to give canned speeches about fiscal years and record growth, Twitch turned its keynote into a heavily pre-screened conversation. On a pair of chairs that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a hip 20-something’s living room, Twitch CEO Emmett Shear and longtime variety streamer Ezekiel_III casually bantered back and forth on topics ranging from lighthearted (Shear’s favorite game to play in his spare time) to things that will fundamentally alter the way streamers make money and how Twitch governs its sizable slice of the internet.
Shear made the long-overdue and much-appreciated promise that in the coming year, streamers will finally get precise information on why they’re being suspended, and users will get updates on what happens after they report somebody. The vibe of the moment was odd, though. This important announcement about an Amazon-owned platform that increasingly shapes culture across the world was sandwiched between jokes and digressions.
“There have been a lot of issues around this,” Shear said when asked by Ezekiel_III about suspension and ban inconsistencies, a notorious issue on Twitch. “We’ve heard very clearly from the community about disappointment. We haven’t always been consistent in our enforcement in the past. We used to have a globally de-centralized team running safety ops around the world. Because you have to remember, we have to do this 24/7 in many different languages in many different countries and timezones. You can wind up, when you have these distributed teams, with inconsistent interpretations of what the guidelines are.”
And yet, this long-awaited admission was both preceded and followed by an hour of lighthearted chit-chat. Twitch, it seemed, was trying to ape the casual, down-to-earth feeling of a regular streamer’s broadcast while discussing matters very much outside that scope. It felt almost disingenuous, like the company was trying to put a friendly face on past mistakes.
But Twitch isn’t a plucky little startup. It’s a tech giant owned by a tech leviathan. It butters its gold-encrusted bread with the labor of growing celebrities who, in turn, now struggle with their own dissonance; they aren’t regular people anymore, no matter how hard they try to come across that way. Twitch, like its own streamers, is in the midst of an identity crisis.
The most shocking moment of my TwitchCon occurred at a party I didn’t even attend. The night before the convention’s first day, I saw a tweet from video game streamer Annemunition saying that there was a large table of unattended open beers at a nearby Twitch-hosted party exclusively for partners. Streamers and fans felt it was a disaster waiting to happen.
Disaster did not strike that night. Instead, Twitch’s ill-advised drink table spread, which was thankfully complemented by a more traditional bar, sparked a discussion about safety that left many saddened but unsurprised when, in the following days, two women said they were drugged at TwitchCon-adjacent parties. One of them, a streamer who goes by the handle KTLODO, said she ended up in the hospital and posted pictures of the incident.
“Toxins came back with benzos in my system, which combined with alcohol could’ve meant death,” she wrote on Twitter. “Thankfully my friends were there for me and saved my life. I don’t think I’ll be around the rest of TwitchCon. Hope you understand.”
The other woman, a streamer named Jazzzy, posted a similar message the day after attending a partner party hosted by Discord. “Someone spiked my drink last night,” she said. “I suffered the consequences today. Just woke up from a nap, after throwing up the whole morning and afternoon.” This prompted another streamer, TheFrenchToastt, to say that she noticed something in her drink at the same party and decided to throw it away.
Once word got out about the beers at the Twitch partner party, drugged drinks at multiple other parties, and streamer KTLODO’s hospital trip, streamers I spoke to had trouble looking at the convention the same way. The event had been tarnished with an ugliness that belied its chummy, celebratory vibe. It wasn’t just that companies and party hosts had lapsed in taking care of attendees; it’s that members of the Twitch community were probably the ones spiking drinks.
“To clear things up, I was at a bar with almost solely TwitchCon attendees,” said KTLODO on Twitter. “I wasn’t at the partner party that was poorly handled. I was just unfortunately targeted despite being surrounded by plenty of Twitch friends, which is heartbreaking that it was most likely one of our own.”
Some organizations came prepared. The Online Performers’ Group, which manages around 70 content creators across Twitch and YouTube, handed out roofie test strips to concerned clients and made sure employees had them on hand just in case.
“We’ve had clients roofied in the past—even at industry/official parties,” OPG CEO and founder Omeed Dariani told Kotaku in a Twitter DM. “We try to ensure that we have at least one OPG representative at each party, but some companies refuse to allow our clients to have their support staff on hand, which creates much higher risk situations. Those companies often rationalize this by saying that they will ensure safety at their parties but, too often and including at the Twitch Partner party, we see practices that increase the danger, rather than decrease it.”
He also noted that traditional celebrities OPG manages like musician (and occasional streamer) T-Pain refuse to go anywhere at events like TwitchCon without personal security. In their world, it’s simply not done.
But at TwitchCon, it’s not just what’s lurking inside the walls, but rather, what’s going on all around. Both Twitch and Discord told Kotaku that they’re trying to make their parties safer.
“Whether on stream or in person, the safety of our community is of the utmost priority and we are sorry for any concern this caused,” said Twitch in an emailed statement. “To serve the earliest guests, a few drinks were pre-poured and left on a staffed and monitored table at our closed event. Although we believe this was a controlled set-up, we quickly removed it when a concern was flagged. We will continue to design and adjust our events so that attendees feel secure at all times.”
Discord, meanwhile, reached out directly to Jazzzy, the streamer who got drugged at their party and is currently “investigating.” “We always have security at our events and prohibit bags from being brought in, but given recent events, we will be reviewing and looking to augment those to help ensure the safety of all of our partners and guests,” a Discord rep said in an email.
It’s not like streamers were expecting to go hog wild all TwitchCon weekend with no regard for their own safety. It’s that they hoped their own communities and the larger Twitch community were maybe a little better than the ones that orbit other creative fields, industries, and celebrities—or even just regular bars. But Twitch and the community surrounding it remain in flux, and this year’s TwitchCon was a reflection of that. Some of the dynamics are informed by Twitch’s own policies. A lack of clear boundaries and consequences for crossing them can lead to fans not knowing when to stop. Twitch’s inconsistent policing of toxicity against women doesn’t cause, but certainly doesn’t prevent, unsafe situations like what happened at the parties.
Twitch itself wants to be both a global powerhouse and your best friend; is it any wonder streamers struggle to find a balance? TwitchCon is an intermingling of celebrities, regular people, and thousands of others who land somewhere in between. This year’s TwitchCon felt like a hand reaching out and pulling streamers up into the world of more traditional celebrity, where constant vigilance is the norm and nobody’s entirely normal, no matter how hard they try to be.
Sony’s been trying to nail down pricing on PlayStation Now for half a decade. Today’s dramatic price drop brings the streaming game service as close to reasonable as it’s ever been. Here’s how pricing breaks down by region.
That’s not bad. A $9.99 charge from Sony for something you forgot you subscribed to is a lot less shocking than a $19.99 charge popping up. There’s something soothing about single digits.
Along with the new pricing plans, Sony is adding a selection of big-name PlayStation 4 games to the service for a limited time, including God of War, Grand Theft Auto V, inFamous: Second Son, and Uncharted 4. These four games will be available on the service now through January 2020, and more games will be rotated in and out on a regular basis.
Sony is so excited about the price changes it’s made a minute-long commercial.
First a lot better, now a lot cheaper. Nice moves, PlayStation Now.
The sun is bright. Blinding, almost. It is late afternoon on the last day of TwitchCon, and I have been waiting in line for 40 minutes. I’m not in the convention center, but rather, about half a mile away, outside a San Diego pizza restaurant called Ciro’s. The line wraps around the building. Well over one hundred people have gathered to attend a pizza party hosted by Twitch mega-star Imane “Pokimane” Anys. The crowd looks restless. I overhear people speculating that Anys hasn’t even arrived yet. “She’s gonna pull up in the Poki-mobile and be like ‘Sorry, guys!’” says a person in front of me. Ten minutes later, this actually happens: Anys pulls up alongside the frothing crowd in a BMW with art of her face painted on the side of it, fashionably late to her own party.
Anys is one of the biggest streamers on Twitch. The 23-year-old has nearly 3.5 million followers, putting her just outside the platform’s top ten most-followed. She is, notably, the only woman to have yet made it into Twitch’s highest echelon. Her on-stream persona is a mixture of chill, inviting, and quietly funny. She’s a contrast with the bellowing boys club seen elsewhere on the platform, instead occupying the loftiest tip of the Twitch iceberg with a warm and easygoing charisma. She also manages to be believably expressive during big competitive moments, or when she accidentally kills a chicken in Minecraft (RIP). Her appeal is one of contrasts: She’s somebody who many viewers can imagine themselves being friends with (or, as often seems to be the case with Twitch’s largely male audience, dating), but her “girl next door” persona is, at the same time, very polished, with an almost unattainable air about it. Also, in case you had any doubt about the whole unattainability thing, she now has a BMW with her face on it.
This, in a nutshell, is why a whole mess of people wanted to eat pizza with her.
Like pretty much everybody else there, I found out about the pizza party because Anys advertised it on Twitter. I arrived outside the pizza restaurant at 4:05 PM, five minutes after the event began. I did not leave until just before 6:00 PM, the time it was originally scheduled to end. I spent all of that time, except for two seconds, in some form of line. This might sound like torture, but at around the 35-minute mark, I achieved a sort of purgatorial galaxy brain nirvana and began to regard the whole thing as an Experience. This improved the situation tremendously.
It was around this time that the first of many passersby decided to investigate the line’s vast ecosystem. From just behind me, I heard a voice:
“A lot of GAMERS here,” the voice said. “GAMERS, what’s this line about?”
For what was the first and would definitely not be the last time, a guy behind me explained in a quiet whisper-mumble to the much larger guy asking this question that the folks in line were waiting to see “Pokimane, a streamer.” Over the course of the next hour and change, a procession of people—some relatively knowledgeable TwitchCon attendees, some confused San Diego citizens—asked what the line was about. For some reason, they continually asked this same guy right behind me. “Do I just look like I know?” he said to a friend in bemusement after the third time it happened.
As the line inched forward to the point where I was almost on the correct side of the building as the door, a man walked up. He looked much older than the mostly 20- and 30-somethings who comprised the line. I expected him to be the most bewildered of all the people who’d approached thus far. Instead, this tank-top-clad, silver-haired brick house of a boomer was here to give a presentation on what he knew about Twitch.
“I heard about this on the ride over,” he shouted at no one in particular. “It’s livestreaming. People will wear a GoPro at a concert—or play video games. And it was just bought by Amazon!”
Kind of a shaky start, but not the worst. I gave his book report a B-minus overall.
As the clock ticked toward the hour mark, I saw the people around me growing more and more restless. Hopeless, even. “There’s no way I’m waiting to go in there,” said one prospective pizza party attendee upon seeing the line into the too-tiny pizza parlor. “I’m gonna have to fight through a crowd of little kids.”
Not long after, a woman with a determined look on her face rounded the corner. Then she saw the rest of the line. “Yeah, that’s a no from me,” she said before immediately turning to walk away.
For more determined line-waiters, the pizza restaurant became a sort of promised land. Anybody who rounded the corner was barraged with questions. “Did you come from inside?” “What’s it like in there?” “Is the pizza good?”
The line, I will admit, was more than a little conspicuous. In addition to the hundred (possibly hundreds?) of people who comprised it, security guards patrolled up and down it the entire time, holding what appeared to be metal detectors. More security was stationed at the door of the otherwise humble mom ‘n’ pop shop. Anys might have made her name in a medium that thrives on accessibility with a uniquely inviting, down-to-earth vibe, but she is a star now. She can’t just show up somewhere without taking appropriate precautionary measures.
And show up she did—50 minutes late. This was perhaps the most surreal moment of the whole occasion, only in part because a person in front of me had predicted it just ten minutes beforehand with a level of accuracy that seemed almost clairvoyant. Anys and some friends pulled up in the car right next to the point where the line wrapped around the block, the late-afternoon sun glinting off her face (her car face, that is, not her real face). People looked stunned. Soon, the line shifted itself into more a huddle formation as people tried to get a glimpse of Anys. She proceeded to greet everyone with a level of enthusiasm that I’m still not sure how she summoned after a grueling convention weekend, took some pictures, and then advanced to the front of the line. Just like that, she was gone—or at least, out of eyeshot.
I’m still not sure if she meant to be late. I heard some people behind me grumbling that she’d been late to her official TwitchCon meet-and-greet the day before, too. Maybe it’s a tactic to build hype. Maybe she’s chronically late to things. Or maybe she’s chronically too cool to be on time. Or all of those things.
The line sped up a bit once Anys arrived, but it still felt like we were shuffling through a swamp of coagulated maple syrup. The clock struck 5:00 PM. Then 5:15 PM. By this point, I had a powerful hunger. Fortunately, as though summoned by the line’s collective hunger pangs, a family of candy sellers arrived. An older man in a weed hat spurred on two young girls (his daughters, presumably) as they sold chocolate bars to people in the line. Thank you, weed father and weed children. I would have starved to death without you.
As the family proceeded down the line, a streamer in front of me made an observation about them: “We’re all chat, and they’re the content creators.” I have not been able to stop thinking about this statement since. It was a bad joke that didn’t really land (Was candy the content? Were we chat simply because there were a lot of us?), but it was such a TwitchCon-appropriate type of bad joke. If you spend all of your time immersed in the Twitch ecosystem, this—for better or worse—is apparently just how you perceive the world.
Finally, after around an hour and 20 minutes, I approached the door. That’s when I realized there were two doors, one of which functioned as an exit. Anys was standing outside this one, taking pictures with every single person who emerged from the pizza restaurant. So this pizza party was more of a photo opp with pizza on the side. At first I was a little disappointed, but then I realized that, given the sheer magnitude of Anys’ fame at this point, she probably didn’t have a better option to offer her fans.
Finally, I neared the end of my quest and entered the restaurant. Then my vision adjusted to the no-longer-blinding light of this cool indoor space, and the comedy of the situation came into sharp focus: There, before me, was a second line. It snaked around the entire restaurant’s outer perimeter and over to the door, outside of which Anys stood. I got my free slice of pizza from the front counter and prepared for another long, grim march.
I considered devouring the slice right then and there, but I stopped myself. I was going to have pizza with—or at least in the general proximity of—Pokimane, darn it. So I gripped my paper plate such that it wrapped the pizza in a warm, taco-like embrace and dreamed of the day when I’d reach the second door.
Toward the back of the room, there was a sign on the wall. “PLEASE GRAB YOUR PIZZA AND GO,” it said in large, printed letters. Beneath that was a message written in Sharpie that said, “THX <3—Pokimane.” This operation had been engineered for maximum efficiency. As fans digested the pizza, this perfectly calibrated pizza party machine digested and expelled us.
Still, the other fans in earshot seemed to appreciate it, perhaps because they too were finally nearing the end of the line where we all had been living for ten million years. “I respect it,” said a 20-something guy who’d just gotten his pizza. “She’s literally serving her fans.”
At around the hour and 40 minute mark, I finally exited the second door. It was then that a whole host of thoughts rushed through my head. Should I ask her if she meant to be late? If she was purposely doing it to bolster her image? Would it be funny to request for her to sign my greasy pizza plate, to commemorate this extremely specific occasion? In the end, however, there wasn’t time for any of that. Instead, the photo opp was over in a flash, and before I knew it, another person had already taken my place. The efficiency of it all was ruthless but understandable.
Then I ate my pizza. It was fine.
Some distance away, I reviewed my photo. It was a good picture, all things considered. Anys looked a little worn out, in a normal human way any of us would after a lengthy ordeal. Maybe she was beat from the convention, or maybe that’s just how a person’s face looks after they’ve smiled for well over 100 photos in rapid succession, and there’s still a line out the door and around the building to come.
Regardless, in that moment, Anys, the real-life person, looked a little less unflappable than Anys, the face painted on the side of a car. It’s one thing to stream to millions of people from the comfort of your home. It’s another to reckon with them—and your own fame—in person for three straight days.
If nothing else, Anys definitely made some people’s day. As I stood on a nearby corner, waiting for a Lyft, a person I recognized from the line rounded it. “FUCK YES,” he said loudly, with a skip in his step.
A large percentage of on-camera streamers share the screen with microphones that do nothing but sit there and capture sound. Razer’s new Seiren Emote, announced today at TwitchCon, comes with a built-in 8-bit emoticon display that can link to Twitch and react dynamically to subscriptions, follows, and chat messages.
Using Razer’s Streamer Companion App in conjunction with the $180 hypercardioid condenser microphone, due out later this year, streamers can quickly and easily set up custom reactions to all sorts of Twitch actions. Animated emoticons can play when users subscribe, donate, or follow the streamer. Multiple emoticons can be set to play at once when triggered. Twitch streamers can create their own custom emoticons and set them to go off when viewers type in certain words or phrases, building their brand and engaging with the community at the same time.
The software, currently in beta, is easy to use. I don’t stream regularly myself (I’m working on it), and I quickly connected to my Twitch account and set up an emoticon to play when someone followed my channel.
I connected the Seiren Emote, selected the rainbow vomit emoticon, hit test, and voila.
Razer’s Streamer Companion App isn’t only for the Seiren Emote. A wide range of devices can be linked up, from Razer’s upcoming lighted Kitty Ear Kraken headset and other Chroma lighting-enabled gear to Philips Hue bulbs and those cool lighted wall panel things my wife won’t let me buy. During an online demonstration of the software earlier this week, I watched a streamer’s room explode with light after I typed into their Twitch chat. It was pretty impressive.
Along with providing a nifty little light show, the Razer Seiren Emote is also a very lovely microphone. It’s quite similar to the non-lighted Seiren X, with its built-in shock mount and slim form factor. Along with the default short stand, the Emote also comes packaged with a gooseneck extension for added height.
As someone who prefers hiding behind their microphone during live broadcasts, I am fully-prepared for my input device to take center stage. You can find out more about the Seiren Emote over at Razer’s website.
Earlier this week, Twitch suspended a streamer named Quqco for wearing a cosplay of Street Fighter heroine Chun-Li on stream, deeming her outfit “sexually suggestive.” This took Quqco—and many others—by surprise, given that the outfit was not overtly risqué. But this was not an isolated incident. In the past few days, Twitch has been cracking down on so-called “sexually suggestive” content more aggressively than usual, and picking some questionable targets for its crusade.
In addition to Quqco, several other notable streamers have received suspensions or warnings from Twitch about sexually suggestive content in the past few days. Late last week, IRL streamer Bridgett Devoue was given a three-day suspension for “sharing or engaging in sexually suggestive content or activities,” but Twitch did not elaborate any further. Over the weekend, Overwatch streamer Fareeha got hit with a warning (and a 90-day probationary period) after wearing a sports bra and baggy shorts at the gym. Also over the weekend, art streamer Saruei found herself on the wrong side of a warning for drawing “nudes,” despite the fact that her characters—while hentai-inspired and scantily clad—are clothed. Today, Twitch suspended her for three days.
Nobody’s entirely sure what to make of the latest spate of suspensions. This is in part because, as ever, Twitch has failed to lay out a consistent roadmap of what streamers should do to stay on the right side of the rules. For example, Fareeha’s warning specifically accused her of wearing “underwear or lingerie,” when she was, in reality, wearing baggy gym clothes in a setting where you’d expect to see them. Twitch’s guidelines around what streamers can and cannot wear are vague and contextual; the sort of attire Fareeha was wearing might not have cut it if a streamer was broadcasting from their bedroom, but streamers regularly wear gym clothes in the gym. Some men even go shirtless. It’s not clear why Twitch singled out Fareeha.
Fareeha is as confused as anyone, and tired of the inconsistency. “I’m aware another streamer was just recently banned for a cosplay that showed a little bit of leg,” Fareeha told Kotaku in an email, referring to Quqco. “It baffles me that she and I are the people getting reprimanded for ‘not sticking to TOS’ while others who have honestly done way worse go under the radar.”
“How can they ban her for showing some thigh, and put me on probation for showing shoulders, when there are streamers who have shown way more private things?” Fareeha said. “All the power to the girls who can showcase their bodies with confidence; the successful ‘titty streamers’ that have gotten so much flak in the wake of the recent ban/warning waves are genuinely not the issue. The big problem here is the inconsistency with which Twitch approaches these bans.”
While Fareeha does not have concrete evidence of this, she suspects foul play. She said that she’s been harassed before by a YouTuber with a Discord dedicated to harassment of select streamers, and that there are other “troll Discords” that often target women and members of the LGBT+ community. One common tactic these groups share is mass usage of Twitch’s reporting tool. Earlier this year, Fareeha received a hate speech suspension that she now chalks up to mass reporting after a controversial moment in which she said that South American Overwatch players “are shit.” She apologized shortly afterward, but Twitch still suspended her for 30 days. Fareeha disputed the suspension and got it shortened. In the meantime, people flooded her Discord with harassing messages.
“The people responsible for it were saying disgusting, racist, sexist and homophobic things about me on all kinds of platforms, and when I needed Twitch for support and help, I was the one who got punished for it,” she said.
While Twitch’s process for meting out warnings and suspensions is purposefully opaque, Fareeha suspects that Twitch acts on reports that reach a certain critical mass more quickly than others.
“Mass reports seem automatically actioned sometimes, and it really offers the streamer no protection when real people aren’t the ones processing reports from potential trolls,” she said. “That being said, if my case was looked at by an actual person, there’s definitely something more to it. Whether it’s personal bias, some kind of sexism or whatever other ‘ism’ it could be, it’s clear that Twitch has let the [terms of service]-breaking actions of many others slide, while I get penalized for wearing long shorts and a sports bra so big it’s practically a crop top.”
Bridgett Devoue also thinks it’s possible that she was mass reported, but doesn’t believe that was necessarily the cause of her suspension. Her streams generally involve her sitting in a chair and talking to her chat while wearing a crop top, short shorts, and stockings. This has earned her the ire of groups like the popular subreddit and drama haven Livestreamfail, a place where users have sometimes been known to brag about reporting streamers who they perceive as violating Twitch’s terms of service. There, women are often derided as “titty streamers” or “Twitch thots.”
Devoue said she tends to avoid reading Livestreamfail because she has no desire to marinate in all the hate. Instead, she believes her suspension was the result of an “over-correction” on Twitch’s part, rooted in “backlash” stemming from other recent controversies.
“I’m an active user on Twitter, and I constantly see users frustrated at some streamers seemingly getting away with acts others would be banned for, and even comments of favoritism towards female streamers,” she told Kotaku in a Twitter DM. “I hope if anything, this recent wave of bans quiets those still saying women get special treatment on this platform, because sometimes it feels like the opposite.”
While Twitch has not specified which element of Devoue’s stream it found to be so sexual that it caused the rulebook to explode, Devoue believes it might have been her chat, which she says recently expanded from hundreds of concurrents to thousands thanks to increased exposure and a sudden popularity growth spurt. This made moderating chat a precariously tall order for her then-smaller moderation staff, and some potentially objectionable comments slipped through the cracks.
“I simply wasn’t prepared for situations that began arising due to increased chat participation,” she said. “To be clear, I always ban racism, slurs, homophobia, sexism, or violence. The grey area for me was comments of a sexual nature, as I’m an open person not afraid to talk about almost any topic, including sex. I believe we can always have mature dialogue about almost any topic, and maybe find the humor in otherwise serious things. I disdain censorship outside of violent hate speech, so it’s been hard for me to find that balance while growing as a streamer.”
But again, Twitch didn’t actually tell her whether or not that’s why she got suspended. She’s since brought on more moderators and listened to advice from other streamers, but she remains in the dark, just like everybody else.
“I think what makes these bans difficult to define is Twitch caring about context more than anything,” Devoue said. “For example, you can stream in a bikini, but only if it’s for use by a pool, not just sitting in your apartment. Nudity in a video game is allowed, to an extent, but nudity elsewhere is not. Again, I just think warnings and specificities after the bans would help all of us streamers know exactly what Twitch wants, and how we can safely be within their boundaries and make their lives easier by not breaking [terms of service]. To be fair, I’m sure this is all a lot more complicated than simply explaining things more, and I commend Twitch’s efforts in this matter.”
Saruei, who was suspended for drawing “nude” characters, declined to speak to Kotaku out of concern that she could face further repercussions from Twitch. However, prior to her recent suspension, she spoke out against what she feels is “hypocrisy” on Twitch’s part. Suggestive poses apparently aren’t allowed in her drawings, she said, but it’s fine when some people do them IRL.
“These are suggestive poses, right?” she said of her own art while discussing her Twitch warning during a recent (now-unavailable) stream. “We agree with that, right? Why I can’t draw waifus like this when there is fucking Twitch girls that can do it?”
She went on to express frustration about the lack of clarity that she, like others, has had to deal with. “I hope it won’t happen again, because I asked them ‘What is the problem with these drawings?’” she said. “Is it the clothing or the pose? What is against Twitch guidelines? I need to know.”
Today, she did receive some clarity—and also a suspension. In an email she read on stream before the suspension went into effect, Twitch said that her characters’ poses and the “focus on the butt in particular” constituted a no-go zone. She was also told not to promote her stream with titles focusing on “lewd art.”
As for Shift, he was baffled when Twitch first placed a “RIP” tombstone atop his Spongebob-with-ripped-pants emote. “You’re joking, right?” he said on Twitter at the time, posting an image of his “sexual content” violation. “Honestly Twitch, get fucking real. When I go around and see horny boobie emotes everywhere on this site, but I can’t have the iconic Spongebob pants rip as an emote, that’s how you know we’ve got top-tier moderation and guidelines on this website.”
According to Twitch’s guidelines, streamers are not allowed to have custom emotes that depict “sexualized torsos or bodily fluids,” but Shift’s emote was laughably un-sexual in nature and, if we really want to dive into the weeds and/or kelp of this one, didn’t even include an actual butt—just a square backside and some torn pants. Fortunately, it seems like this story might have a happy ending. Yesterday, Shift said on Twitter that his Twitch partner representative is trying to defuse the situation, and another Twitch staffer told him that his emote’s exile should be short-lived. For now, however, the emote is still banned.
Kotaku reached out to Twitch for comment on all of these warnings and suspensions, but did not receive a reply as of this publishing.
These recent occurrences have caught the eyes of other streamers, who’ve had to deal with Twitch’s inconsistency and relative silence for years. At this point, they’re pleading for change.
“Honestly, Twitch is just the most exhausting thing to try to understand,” Rainbow Six, Overwatch, and Minecraft streamer Annemunition said on Twitter. “You can’t draw 2D breasts on stream but you can literally get naked and put paint on your actual breasts and that’s fine. For the record, I don’t have a problem with either. But it just makes no sense. It just feels like you can get away with anything if you make Twitch enough money, and I hate it, even as someone who probably falls in that category. I don’t have a solution, I’m just annoyed with the way Twitch is handling everything the past few weeks.”
These incidents have caused others to make note of hypocrisy not just on Twitch’s part, but also within its community. “Twitch bans female streamer for wearing revealing clothing, and the [Livestreamfail] community rejoices,” said satirical streamer Kaceytron on Twitter. “Twitch bans hentai and the LSF community is outraged. Figures.”
Regardless of what they’re cheering for or against, however, pretty much everybody agrees that Twitch needs to give its approach to warnings, suspensions, dress codes, and other related subjects an overhaul. Maybe that means a series of set-in-stone specifics. Maybe that means a case law-like system where public precedents stemming from previous judgements inform future rulings. Whatever the case ends up being, the current system—overly vague and open to exploitation from bad actors—isn’t working.
“If people are getting banned for ‘sexual content’ with no further explanation, they could easily look at hundreds of other streamers doing so called ‘sexual content’ but not being banned, which might create resentment among their streamers and viewers, which I doubt is something Twitch is intending to do,” said Devoue.
As for Fareeha, she may not feel like her probationary period is warranted, but she’s at least trying to take it in stride.
“I’ve ordered several turtlenecks, ski masks and bodysuits,” she said. “I’ve pulled off some tech tricks, and for the rest of my 90 day probation, I will cover myself up a ridiculous amount. Partially in protest, but mostly in good humor. I’m going to make the most out of whatever they throw at me. They can’t ban me for showing my body if I’ve ascended and turned into a holographic AI head.”
During a Twitch stream earlier this week, popular leftist streamer Hasan Piker made a statement that would, by pretty much any measure, be considered incendiary. “America deserved 9/11, dude,” he said. “Fuck it, I’m saying it.” Today, Twitch suspended Piker for one week.
Emotions had been running high in the leadup to the statement on Piker’s stream. Piker, who is also a host of the online news show The Young Turks, was reacting to an episode of the Joe Rogan podcast in which the host interviewed recently-elected Republican congressman Dan Crenshaw. Near the start of the interview, Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL who served in Afghanistan, had made the assertion that prior to 9/11, Bin Laden had no reason to hate America except our “Western ideology,” describing that hatred and the acts that followed as “irrational.”
Crenshaw went on to argue against the idea that the United States’ destabilizing foreign policies had sowed the seeds of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In response to Rogan’s comments that people in other countries now dislike us because they’ve watched civilians die en masse to U.S. drone strikes and other military ventures, Crenshaw suggested that “millions” of people in countries like Yemen and Iraq are actually “begging” for the U.S. to establish a bigger military presence and restore order. Ultimately, he concluded that if the U.S. was to pull out of many of the 100-plus countries it is currently occupying in various forms, worse actors would “100 percent” fill the power vacuum.
Piker, an American citizen who was raised in Istanbul, Turkey, was vehemently opposed to these comments, and said so on his stream. “This is so insane,” he said after watching that portion of the interview. Piker followed this with his statement about how America “deserved” 9/11.
“We fucking totally brought it on ourselves, dude,” he then said. “We fucking did. Holy shit. Look at the way that this dipshit is running his fucking mouth, justifying genocide right now.”
Piker’s Twitch chat did not react well to this statement. Responding to the sentiment in the chat he brought up the fact that the U.S. sells weapons to Saudi Arabia, which had likely helped fund 9/11. “How is anything I’m saying controversial?” he said. “We fucking fund the people who did 9/11—still, to this day. Donald Trump literally went on national television and said, ‘They bought $10 billion worth of weapons,’ so if they chop-chop-chop an American legal permanent resident, it’s OK.” (It was actually $8 billion worth of weapons split between Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Jordan.)
During the same (now-unavailable) stream, Piker used vulgar language to criticize Crenshaw for the hypocrisy of having once served, only to now use his credentials to justify more war. “Didn’t he go to war and, like, literally lose his eye because some Mujahideen, a brave fucking soldier, fucked his eyehole with their dick?” (Crenshaw actually lost his eye to an Improvised Explosive Device.)
These comments went well beyond the Twitch chat and set off an often-incendiary internet discussion, beginning with accusations that Piker is “anti-American” on Twitter and YouTube. Big personalities like Drama Alert host Daniel “Keemstar” Keem made hay of the fact that Piker hadn’t been banned from Twitch for the remarks.
Crenshaw himself also got involved, in response to a tweet Piker made about Crenshaw continuing to be offended by a joke comedian Pete Davidson made about his appearance on Saturday Night Live last year. “The only thing that offends me is your inability to use capital letters in any of your tweets,” Crenshaw said on Twitter. “But really it is the fact that Google/YouTube profit from and promote The Young Turks and by extension your disgusting defense of the 9/11 terrorist attacks against Americans.”
This all culminated in Crenshaw making an appearance on Fox News yesterday to discuss Piker’s remarks. The segment opened with host Laura Ingraham declaring that the “radical left seems to be getting more depraved every day,” airing a severely truncated version of Piker’s clip with just the 9/11 line and no follow-up plus the comments about Crenshaw’s appearance, and calling Piker a “vile creature.”
She then introduced “wounded war vet” Dan Crenshaw, who chuckled and proclaimed that Piker was obviously “triggered,” despite being the one who went on national news to talk about a mean thing someone on the internet said about him. Crenshaw and Ingraham proceeded to smirk their way through a conversation about how Piker doesn’t understand foreign policy, leftism is anti-American, and how it’s “pathetic” that Piker “sounds like a valley girl when he speaks, as a young man.” The pair also talked about how it’s “incomprehensible” that the “highly radical” Young Turks have a platform on YouTube, and that conservatives would never be able to get away with being radical on YouTube. (Fox News currently has 3.4 million subscribers on YouTube.)
Around the same time, Piker went on The Young Turks to address his Twitch comments. He reiterated his central points—that American foreign policy led to 9/11, and the U.S. is selling weapons to Saudi Arabia—but conceded that he “should have used more precise and better” language to convey those ideas. Host Cenk Uygur, who agreed with many of Piker’s stances but vocally disapproved of how he conveyed them, asked Piker if his comments about Crenshaw’s eye were “satire.” Piker replied in the affirmative. He said he doesn’t actually believe the Mujahideen are brave, and that he was instead referencing the end screen of the 1988 movie Rambo 3 as well as beliefs ostensibly held by former President Ronald Reagan, whose administration helped arm the groups that eventually became the Talbian and Al Qaeda. He went on to say that while he thinks Crenshaw took his comments “like a champ,” Crenshaw doesn’t necessarily deserve his respect.
“Service does not guarantee respect,” he said. “It should not. I’m sorry. This is the exact same kind of jingoistic sentiment that leads to the militant attitude that the United States has. If you have served and then, on top of that, are using that service to continue sending loads of young men and women overseas to die or to come back home and fail to reintegrate into society, just exclusively for the profits of the military industrial complex, then no, you don’t deserve respect by virtue of service.”
This, however, apparently did not move Twitch, which suspended Piker’s channel earlier today. Twitch does not publicize the rationale behind specific suspensions, so it’s impossible to say whether Piker got the big purple boot because of what he said about 9/11 or because his comments about Crenshaw constituted a personal attack. “If you disrespect a veteran as a Republican, you can be President, but if you do it as a leftist—especially one with a Muslim name—you’re a labeled a Jihadi who hates America,” Piker said on Twitter shortly after word of his suspension got out. Kotaku reached out to Piker for further information on the suspension, but he did not reply. Kotaku also reached out to Twitch and Crenshaw about the situation, neither of whom replied.
To an extent, Piker anticipated this potential outcome of his comments. The downside of Twitch’s “clip” system—which lets users quickly and easily create brief, shareable snippets of streams—is that it’s basically designed for people to take things out of context. Piker said during The Young Turks segment that he realized his on-stream comments would be misconstrued right after he made them, so he quickly stopped the stream and deleted the video-on-demand version of it. Because he’s one of the few popular vocal leftists on Twitch, he believes portions of his audience are waiting for him to slip up and defend the wrong cause so they can proliferate the clip sans context. That, he thinks, is what happened here, despite his efforts to pull the video.
As a leftist, Piker has had uncommon success on Twitch in part because he’s willing to go places other leftists sometimes aren’t—or have been unable to gain access to. At various points, he’s befriended popular right-leaning streamers. Other times, he’s debated them and dissected their talking points alongside other divisive political streamers like Steven “Destiny” Bonnell. Piker himself is a self-styled provocateur, going so far as to call himself “The Provocateur Gamer” on Twitch. This approach, for all its potential flaws, often pays dividends. Stating things crassly and taking aggressive stances means his clips are more shareable, which makes them more prominent in Twitch’s algorithmically generated recommendations and gives them legs on popular Twitch-adjacent hubs like Livestreamfail, the drama fuel to Twitch’s drama fire. According to third-party site TwitchMetrics, Piker currently has the sixth most-watched English channel in Twitch’s popular “Just Chatting” section.
Based on numbers and the general lack of prominent leftist Twitch streamers, you could argue that due to the structure of Twitch and the modern internet at large, it’s currently hard for vocal leftists interested in actually discussing their views to succeed in a big way on Twitch without regularly going over the top. But at the same time, all of this provocation feeds the same insatiable content machine. In Piker’s case, it began on Twitch, but quickly evolved into mob efforts on Twitter, where it’s notoriously easy for incensed users to descend on whomever they deem worthy of rage and threats. It then graduated to YouTube, where drama is especially big business and channels focused on ever-churning cycles of divisiveness are a news genre unto themselves. The YouTube commentariat frequently weighs in on Twitch issues as well, and Piker’s comments about Crenshaw—and specifically, the way he said them—made for perfect video fodder. From there, the controversy made the leap onto the mother of all outrage fabrication machines, Fox News.
This cycle benefits opportunists, whether they’re drama-devouring YouTubers or politicians like Crenshaw, whose mastery of the ancient art of concern trolling has been nakedly apparent ever since his spat with Pete Davidson. Yesterday, he ended his chat with Fox’s Laura Ingraham with a grin, saying that he needs to “come back more often” after Ingraham pointed out it was his first time on her show.
It also makes it hard to discuss the points Piker was trying to make, though he did, by his own admission, make them sloppily. What he tried to do was hold a powerful figure accountable by dispelling his justifications for undeniably abhorrent acts perpetrated by the United States. What ensued, though, was a drive-by scream fight about whether or not a streamer hates America. Twitch proceeded to pour salt on the wound by suspending Piker and, per its unpopular policy, not explaining why, leaving the door open for people to conclude that the content of Piker’s statement—that America’s policy decisions led to 9/11—played a part in the company’s decision-making.
During his Young Turks segment, Piker expressed hope that people will still take away a more lasting lesson from all of this.
“Obviously, 9/11 was a horrific tragedy,” Piker said. “3,000 Americans died, OK? 7,000 troops have died since then in endless wars. And if you’re spending all of your energy getting upset at me because I think that is abhorrent and awful, maybe you should spend your energy elsewhere and realize that those who justify the endless bloodshed don’t actually have the best interest of those young men and women at heart.”