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.
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.
Have you heard of The Masked Singer? It’s a Fox competition show where a group of mysterious contestants dress up in outlandish costumes and sing for a panel of judges. Over the course of a season, each singer—referred to by their costume—gives clues as to who they really are (the competitors are all minor celebrities of some sort) while one by one they are eliminated and unmasked. It’s a little bit Eurovision, a little bit pro wrestling, and maybe the closest thing we have to a Power Rangers reality show.
On The Masked Singer’s second season premiere this week, one of the first performers to be eliminated was Ice Cream—a friendly looking man-sized Pistachio cone with sprinkles that was revealed to be Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, streamer extraordinaire.
In his brief but illustrious career as Ice Cream, Ninja sang songs like the Devo classic “Whip It” while a robot Ladybug danced:
And also “Old Town Road,” Lil Nas X’s breakout hit of the summer.
If you want to know how close The Masked Singer’s panelists—which include Ken Jeong, Robin Thicke, and noted anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy—got to guessing Ninja’s identity, they very quickly suggested “YouTuber” when Ice Cream gave his clues, and PewDiePie was guessed just before the reveal, which I’m sure made Ninja feel great.
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.”
Last night, Twitch suspended art streamer Quqco after she livestreamed herself wearing cosplay of Chun-Li from Street Fighter, Dexerto first reported.
Quqco is a small streamer who often draws pictures from her favorite gaming franchises live on Twitch. Yesterday, she was wearing Chun-Li’s signature blue qipao and bun covers, and soon after, she received notice of a three-day suspension for “sexually suggestive content or activities,” according to an email from Twitch posted to her Twitter. The outfit features a thigh-high slit that is sometimes considered risqué.
“I actually bought one size up to ensure that the slit wasn’t too high,” said Quqco in an email to Kotaku. “The slit of this dress is cut lower than some runner shorts I own.”
Twitch’s guidelines surrounding sexually explicit content are vague, a widespread allegation waged by female streamers for years. “Attire intended to be sexually suggestive and nudity are prohibited,” Twitch’s community guidelines read. For streams like Quqco’s, they “recommend attire appropriate for public settings, such as what you would wear on a public street, or to a mall or restaurant.” The video in question has since been removed, so it’s difficult to tell if there was a particular moment that may have been flagged by Twitch. Twitch did not respond to Kotaku’s request for comment by the time of publication.
Twitch previously suspended Quqco after she cosplayed Mai Shiranui from The King of Fighters. At the time, Quqco wrote on Twitter that she was banned because she was report brigaded by the popular subreddit Livestreamfail. “I was sexually harassed,” she wrote in a now-deleted tweet. “All I wore was a Mai cosplay while I was drawing.” Quqco believes this recent suspension was also due to “a group of trolls who have been targeting me for mass reporting for a while…I am immediately reported because I’ve been branded a thot,” she said, adding that she doesn’t do physical activities like squatting or dancing on stream.
Kotaku saw one now-removed comment on Livestreamfail in which a user said, “Lmao saw her streaming again today and instantly reported the thot,” although we were unable to confirm whether she was brigaded. Brigading is not an uncommon problem for female streamers; Kotaku has previously reported on self-appointed boob police who trawl through Twitch’s directories searching for and reporting women they believe are violating Twitch’s terms of service. Kotaku reached out to the moderators of Livestreamfail but did not receive an immediate response.
“I am sure there are other girls who are facing the same difficulty as me,” said Quqco. “The problem is that there are so many trolls and ill-tended people who will band together to report a streamer.”
Today some Sea of Thieves developers did a livestream to discuss the game’s new store and purchasable pets. They were joined on stream by a monkey. The monkey threw up on a developer.
For most of the stream, Antonio the spider monkey seemed content to sit on people’s shoulders and eat mealworms thrown to him by his handler. He seemed like a chill monkey, and his handler said that he’s very relaxed around humans. He took a particular liking to developer Rare’s video manager Jon McFarlane, who was sitting on the far right.
As senior producer Joe Stevens joined the stream to go over the features that are being added to the game along with pets, Antonio the spider monkey hopped over to McFarlane’s shoulder and threw up on his face, chest and arm. He then jumped to McFarlane’s other shoulder to throw up some more. “A great choice to wear a grey t-shirt,” McFarlane said after he cleaned his now monkey puke-stained shirt with a napkin. Check it out in the video below at around 27:46.
You know when you see something and you think, “They must have prepared for a particular scenario that is very likely to happen,” and then they just haven’t, like that kid trying to cut open an apple with a samurai sword next to an inflatable pool? The people involved must have known something would go wrong, but no one stopping it makes it all the funnier. “That is what we expected to happen,” one of the developers even says as everyone smiles politely through the situation.
Wild animals do not give a shit about human decorum, and monkeys, who are especially smart, love to fuck with people. I love this clip and will cherish it forever. Hopefully Rare picks up McFarlane’s drycleaning bill.
Ninja obviously has no control over that Twitch landing page now, since he’s left the service for good, and is dismayed in this video below that the page is showcasing other streamer’s content.
While stating that his split from Twitch had to this point been handled professionally, he says the promotion of a porn stream to a still-sizeable audience—not everyone will have got the news that he’s moved platforms—is crossing “the line”, leading Ninja to begin attempts to get his entire page taken down, “or at least not promote other streamers and other channels”.
Here’s an example of how Twitch began handling Ninja’s departure last week, using a Mario joke to promote other Fortnite streamers active on the platform (presumably based on whichever streams were trending playing Fortnite):
Here, though, is how that same page looked earlier today, with the top-trending clip being some straight-up porn:
At time of posting the Mario joke has been removed and Ninja’s page is now only displaying old videos of his previous streams, with no promotion of any other channel’s work.
Update: 8/12/19, 10:30 a.m. ET: “I apologize want to apologize directly to @ninja that this happened,” Emmett Shear, Twitch’s CEO, said on Twitter last night. “It wasn’t our intent, but it should not have happened. No excuses.”
Shear said the company had been experimenting with how recommended content was displayed across Twitch when the pornographic stream appeared on Blevins’ page. Shear added that the account behind the stream has been permanently banned and that channel recommendations have been suspended “while we investigate how this content came to be promoted.”
Microsoft recently put their streaming service Mixer back in the spotlight by securing exclusive rights to Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, who had been one of the top streamers on Twitch. Exclusive streamers aside, there are several compelling reasons to stream and watch streams on Microsoft’s platform instead of Amazon-owned Twitch.
Mixer started life as Beam, an independent streaming service launched in January 2016. Microsoft purchased Beam in August of 2016 and announced integration with Windows 10 that October. By spring of 2017 the Beam service was integrated into both the Windows operating system and Xbox One. In May of 2017 the service was renamed Mixer due to the name Beam not being available for international use.
Mixer’s basic functionality is the same as Twitch. Players use the service to stream their gameplay over the internet, either directly from PC or Xbox One or from other consoles using capture hardware connected to a PC. Streamers on Mixer earn money by soliciting donations or subscriptions from viewers.
So what makes Mixer different?
One of Mixer’s defining features is its focus on community interaction. The service boasts extremely low latency between streamers and viewers, allowing for timely interactive features. Instead of a 10-20 second delay between broadcast and viewing, Beam’s low latency protocol lowers the delay to under a second, making interaction between watchers and players more immediate.
These interactions generally manifest in the form of viewer-activated buttons. There can be voting buttons along the side of the stream, interactive commands overlapping the stream and easy access donation buttons. So many buttons.
In the image above, streamer Ship has set up a mini-game where viewers can predict events that occur during rounds of Fortnite. At the beginning of each round spectators receive 100 stars to wager, winning or losing stars based on the accuracy of their predictions. It’s a fun little activity that makes viewers feel more connected to what they’re watching.
I’m particularly fond of the silly beach ball interaction, which drops a ball on the screen and tracks how many users click on the hands at the bottom of the screen to keep it bouncing. It’s what Mixer calls a “rally,” a special skill viewers can activate that other viewers can participate in. These and other skills unlock as viewers experience levels increase. Which leads us to …
Experience Points And Sparks
As users watch Mixer streams, they gain experience points. Everyone loves gaining experience points. When enough experience points are gained, a user increases their experience level. This grants them access to more emotes and skills, used to express themselves as they watch their favorite streamers play. Mixer effectively turns watching other people play games into a game.
I am currently level 15, just from tuning into random streams sporadically since early 2018. I earn experience points automatically while watching. A little box in the top right of my screen keeps track of how much experience I am accumulating and how much I need to reach the next level. I’ve got a long way to go to level 40, when I unlock the “Piece of Me” effect.
Users also earn an in-app currency called Sparks as they watch or broadcast on Mixer. Sparks are what viewers use to activate skills, enable interactive features, and use community-created apps. Using Sparks during the streams of partnered Mixer streamers contributes to the financial rewards they receive from the service. Otherwise, Sparks are just a neat way to make some noise and express yourself while watching others play.
In March, Twitch launched a featured called Squad Streaming for partners. Mixer’s been doing it since 2017, allowing groups of up to four players to merge their streams into one. Watching co-op online games is much more satisfying when you can see the action from every player’s perspective.
It’s Not Twitch
Twitch has dominated game streaming for so long now, it’s nice to see someone playing a game surrounded by an interface that isn’t the same old white and purple, watching the same horrible emojis and comments speed by on the right side of the screen. Despite being around for years, Mixer feels fresh compared to Amazon’s streaming juggernaut.
Mixer is also more chill. Even when I watched watched the platform’s recently-acquired superstar alongside 35,000 other viewers, the chat rolled by at a manageable pace. It’s the most relaxed I’ve ever felt watching Ninja stream.
It’s Also Not Perfect
Even with Ninka, Mixer has a long way to go before it’s a serious threat to Twitch’s streaming dominance. It needs to be able to stream natively from platforms other than PC and Xbox One. It needs a lot more viewers. As I write this on a Tuesday afternoon, the most-viewed stream second to Ninja’s 30,000+ is Monstercat Radio with a measly 4,200. It’s not going to be the most popular streaming service anytime soon, but it’s already a damn good one.
Last Thursday, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins announced he was leaving Twitch to stream exclusively on Mixer. Twitch has subsequently added a tongue-in-cheek reference to the original Super Mario Bros. at the top of his channel to mark the popular streamer’s departure.
“The Ninja you’re looking for is in another castle,” a banner at the top of the page now reads. It then encourages viewers to “check out these popular live channels” instead, before listing a couple dozen channels for other Fortnite streamers. If any of the roughly 14 million users following the account pop over without having heard the latest news, at least they’ll know not to keep waiting.
While Twitch removed the purple “partner” check mark next to Blevins’ name as soon as he revealed he was moving to Microsoft’s platform, the rest of his video archive is still up on Twitch, at least for now. That’s just over 900 videos, each with thousands to millions of views.
While the emphasis is usually on the “live” part of live streaming, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to arguably one of the platform’s most notable and prized collections of gaming content. Twitch normally only saves the archived work of Twitch Turbo users for 60 days.
Correction: 8/5/19, 9:39 a.m. ET: A previous version of this story stated that Ninja had 14 million subscribers to his channel at the time of publishing. That was actually the number of followers on his channel.