- Streamers urged the gaming community to stage a blackout against Amazon-owned gaming streaming service Twitch.
- This move sparked on Twitter with the hashtag #TwitchBlackOut came after a host of women accused gamers of sexual misconduct and harassment.
- Twitch responded to the claims and said it will take the matter seriously and look into every accusation in detail.
It was in October 2017 that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual misconduct after a significant number of women globally voiced how they were sexually harassed in a professional environment therefore spawning the #MeToo movement.
The #MeToo coupled with the #TimesUp movement exposed the tech industry’s inability to tackle sexism. While companies in most sectors are now pledging to eliminate predators like Weinstein, it seems like some are struggling to do so. The video game streaming and esports industry is no different. Lately, Amazon-owned Twitch has come under the spotlight after users accused its partners – members who are able to access platform features for revenue building monetization – of sexual abuse.
As a result, streamers called for a complete blackout urging the community to not use the platform for a day so the site can reflect on how it aims to make it safer for users. In fact, #Twitchblackout was trending across the world on Twitter to remind people to stay away from the site so that the concerns are taken seriously.
Allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct have been against SayNoToRage, ProSyndicate and HenryG among others who allegedly pressured other gamers for sex.
One of the allegations was made on June 19 wherein Destiny player SayNoToRage was accused of harassment by MindofSnaps through a Medium post. In the post, MindofSnaps explicitly highlighted how SayNoToRage made her feel uncomfortable from him touching her hair.
“When we sat on the bus together, that’s when things crossed a major line for me. The little things here and there may seem insignificant but paired with the weird behaviors and body language and the fact that it was dark on the bus, it really stuck out to me and made me feel incredibly uncomfortable,” MindofSnaps wrote. “I realized partway through the trip that I was heavily leaning out into the aisle to avoid touching shoulders with you, yet I kept feeling your shoulder touch mine. I looked over, noticed you were literally leaning into my seat, and physically pushed you back into your own seat by the top of your shoulder.”
Responding to these accusations SayNoToRage excused his sleazy behaviour by saying he gets “liberated sexually” when he is drunk.
MindofSnaps further said that she is hardly alone and that other women have experienced a similar situation with SayNoToRage. This then encouraged a slew of women to take to social media to express the abuse they went through when SayNoToRage cornered them at live gaming events.
As reported by Dexerto, SayNoToRage – who has 173K followers on Twitch – even published an apology on YouTube – which now has been deleted by the user – where he stated his actions were because of his past.
Furthermore, a megathread on Reddit was developed which revealed a long list of allegations against infamous partners with details of horror stories experienced by other gamers.
In addition, users also complained of experiencing racism. Stephanie Ijoma, another streamer who developed UK gaming platform NNESAGA said:
“Me being a black woman especially, I’ve never felt safe in such a toxic environment. We’re supposed to be playing and connecting with others and we can’t do that if the space that we’re in isn’t well protected.
“Twitch is the biggest platform for gamers to express themselves, showcase their talents and connect with their community. How can we do that on a platform when it’s not looking out for us? When there is so much sexism going on, racism, abuse and sexual harassment?
“They need to hire more diverse people to help bring down the discrimination, the bottom line is we need to trust Twitch again.”
The issue is hardly new but Twitch failed to act quickly, say users
After many claims of sexual harassment were reported, Twitch responded on Twitter saying it was actively looking into cases concerning streamers and that it takes such accusations very seriously.
Following the company’s statement, streamer YourStarling alleged that Twitch CEO Emmett Shear has been aware of this issue for a while but has chosen to do nothing about it.
YourStarling said that Shear was questioned whether “partners [were] using their platforms to abuse women” during a company meeting over a year ago. He responded by simply brushing it and saying: “Wow, the things that go on our platform, can’t really comment.”
Another streamer Sampai tweeted accusing the company’s recent statement being “empty words, considering you, as a company, minimized and dismissed my sexual harassment and continued to let the predator attend your events and gave him live segments at E3 on your official channel.”
Following the backlash, Shear said in a company-wide email shared on Twitter that if Twitch finds any claims to be true and credible, it will ban the accused from the platform.
Notably, the allegations come a month after Twitch launched the Safety Advisory Council, aimed to aid the company address several safety issues including that of harassment.
As Spelunky developer Derek Yu said on Twitter: “Alcohol is just a cover for predators abusing their positions of power and I think men in particular need to be aware of this dynamic and call it out when it’s used to hurt others. I think it’s important to ask how studios and events are going to deal with this problem.”
Gaming industry continues to struggle to eliminate sexual abuse cases
Indeed, the issue needs addressing urgently as Twitch is not just the one in the gaming industry struggling to tackle workplace abuse.
Insomniac Games – makers of the PS4 Spider-Man game – were called out by former colleagues who claimed that they were sexually harassed during their tenure at the company. Former employee Sol Brennan alleged the company treated women poorly which was the reason of him leaving the gaming giant.
“I have a list in the double digits of women who were harmed by the actions of this company – some so much so that they declined to speak about it to me at all,” Brennan tweeted. “Insomniac has throttled careers of great women, left them no option but to ‘resign’ and protected sexual predators.”
To this, Insomniac responded by tweeting: “We were aware of the allegations made in a former employee’s tweets today and had taken numerous steps to address them. For legal and privacy reasons we will not respond to individual allegations about specific former employees.
“We are a workplace family that has actively promoted diversity, inclusion, representation and equality for our entire existence. We will continue to do so every single day”.
While establishing stronger regulations and procedures will not prevent all cases of sexual harassment, it will discourage those in the gaming industry from behaving uncouthly.