Streaming’s Biggest Platform Continues to Struggle with Toxicity
Twitch has had its fair share of scandals in the past few years, from hate speech, to not punishing its big streamers harshly enough, to throwing out bans willy-nilly. But the biggest shake-up came last Friday; over seventy people came forth with information regarding sexual assault in the gaming and streaming community. Twitch and CEO Emmett Shear responded last Sunday with a statement on Twitter.
It all started on Friday, June 19, when Twitter user Hollowtide posted about her experience with an “unnamed top player” of Destiny. Streamers JewelsVerne, SheSnaps, and SchviftyFive later identified the player as Lono or SayNoToRage. The three women came forward with their own experiences, which included “non-consensual touching, propositioning for sex and harassment”. The streamers asked that questions be directed to their personal statements, of which there is now a Google Doc posted on Medium created by streamer Jessica Richey. The length of the document is eye-opening; it contains links and paragraphs of personal accounts by those who have experienced harassment and abuse in the gaming community.
After the allegations came out, Lono put out an apology on YouTube on Saturday. In it, he states, “Being inappropriate with these people robbed them of their sense of safety and security and it broke trust, and I am deeply sorry.”
Molly Fender Alaya, streamer and Overwatch community development lead, took to TwitLonger Sunday morning and called out Omeed Dariani, CEO of Online Performers Group, for inappropriate behavior towards her in 2014. Dariani responded with a Twitter thread stating, “I do not specifically recall the conversation referenced, but I’m not going to sit here and argue about whether or not it happened. Because I promised I would believe women. Even, and probably most especially when I’m the person being called out. And I do believe her. So as far as I am concerned, this happened”. Dariani further responded by stepping down as CEO of Online Performers Group. Many “high-profile” streamers stepped down from OPG, and Astro Gaming stated that it would stop sponsoring Lono.
On June 21, Twitch posted a statement on Twitter thanking streamers for speaking up and promising to “work with law enforcement where applicable”. For his own part, Twitch CEO Emmett Shear shared an internal email promising to hold Twitch to “higher standards”. He stated, “The gaming industry is not unlike others that have had to reckon with systemic sexism, racism, and abuse that rewards certain people and disadvantages—even harms—others. The status quo needs to change”. Twitch’s solidarity was suspicious for many streamers and they demanded real, conscious change within the platform; they called for Twitch to “involve third party, impartial investigators in its next steps”.
The Toxic Gaming Community
The New York Times spoke with Kenzie Gordon, a PhD candidate at the University of Alberta who “studies gaming in relation to prevention of sexual and domestic violence”. She stated “straight white men have created the identity of the gamer as this exclusive property. When women, people of color or L.G.B.T.Q. people try to break into the industry, the “toxic geek masculinity” pushes back in ways that often lead to sexual abuse and bullying”. Just look at Gamergate in 2014; women facing “threats of death and sexual assault for critiquing the industry’s male-dominated, sexist culture.”
Women, people of color, and LGBTQ people belong in the gaming community just as much as white men do; Twitch as a platform allows them to engage in what they love to do. But things get out of hand and sexual assault, harassment, and racism are rampant in that community; some real work has to be done. In relation, streamer and gamer Brooke Thorne told the New York Times, “When it’s one call-out, it’s a problem with a person. When there’s a ton of call-outs, it’s a problem with the industry.”