DreamHack Austin and Hearthstone’s Rowdy Fans

This week in Hearthstone news, an article published on GosuGamers called “Enough is Enough” detailed the struggles of a Twitch moderator in trying to control a seemingly extremely raucous Twitch Chat for the DreamHack Austin Hearthstone Grand Prix. I don’t think I was able to watch any of it, besides a few games of Kolento vs Eloise, but I am well-versed enough with Twitch to know what the issue is all about. Instead of really taking a whole side in this argument, I’m going to bring up random points, and ramble about them in my point of view.

  • Twitch Chat is inherently crazy and insulting
    • Owing to years of having slow internet, I never watched Twitch for long periods at a time. I regularly watched ADWCTA/Merps talk about Arena for a time. I will watch tournament games to kill some time at work. I enjoy watching Ben Brode stream when he’s on. Despite being on Twitch not very often, I know that Twitch Chat is the embodiment of chaos. When you have a smaller crowd, there tends to be general civility, with interaction with the streamers/mods. You can have questions answered. But when the crowd seems to go past 1000, things start to get weird. For big events in Hearthstone, the crowd definitely goes in the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands. Streamers like Forsen also have very large crowds. At some point, I realized it is best to have Twitch Chat hidden because of the constantly crazy crowd.
    • I’m 26 going on 27, so I am in the upper age window for people using emojis. I personally don’t use them or really understand them, because I am behind in the times. I admit that some of the core emojis in Twitch like Kappa and Kreygasm are entertaining and fun. But when the chat is just flooded with emojis, they just become annoying.
  • “They’re just 12 year olds”
    • I see this defense for Twitch Chat everywhere, and it honestly is a poor excuse to make for anything. If 12 year olds went around kicking people in the shins in public for no reason, and their parents say “they’re just kids,” would you be satisfied? And the average Twitch demographic is likely more manchild than an actual 12 year old.
  • Racism or trolling?
    • I had no idea who TerrenceM was prior to starting this blog entry. I went on Google Images and found out he is black. Unfortunately, that revelation made the entire discussion “make sense.”
    • I’ve spent the better part of the last decade in Baltimore. I was here when the riots happened last year. I do public health work with predominately Black families, for home visits about maternal health. I’ve been all around the rough parts of town, depicted on The Wire. I am aware of what concerns the population have here.
    • I also know what it is like growing Asian American. Thinking back, I faced a ton of racism as a kid in school. In Baltimore (where most people are either Black or White), a lot of people aren’t familiar with Asian Americans, and think I wasn’t born here, and expect an accent or a weird foreign name from me. But given my “chill nature,” none of it really affected me or drove me over the rails.
    • No matter what your thoughts on race(s) are, it is undeniable that racism is everywhere. The outlets for racism are different depending on your beliefs (e.g. the police, media, social norms, employers, people in general, etc), but know that it exists.
    • Flashfoward to DreamHack, and you have TerrenceM, a black guy, in the finals vs Chakki, a white guy. If you are familiar with who the pro Hearthstone players are, almost everyone is White or Asian. There also is an emerging eSports scene in Latin America. So let’s assume the Twitch Chat audience is from the Americas, Europe, and Asia. It is fairly obvious (and unfortunate) that the black guy is going to be picked on by the chat.
    • I am not too familiar with racism in other countries, but I would assume that America is further along in race relations, given there is more diversity in America, with different people living among each other. I have heard of simian-styled heckling of African soccer players playing in Europe. I don’t know how washed up NBA players are treated in Chinese basketball or European leagues. The racism projected by Twitch Chat, on all races, is representative of worldwide racism.
    • Given world events (a euphemism) and words said by people like Ted Cruz, imagine if a clearly Muslim, Middle-Eastern person was competing in the finals. I have seen enough comparisons to Madder Bomber, and a certain Twitch emoji, and a certain Arabic phrase to know that it would be probably 20x worse than what happened in DreamHack Austin.
    • And the last bullet point here. I have no idea how prevalent the racism and bigotry was in the DreamHack Austin Twitch Chat, because I didn’t see it myself. I would assume not everyone who sent in something offensive actually feels that way. I would expect a fair number of trolls. But we don’t know how many of that denominator were the real racist and bigoted people, projecting their actual beliefs.
  • Free speech?
    • The argument of what constitutes as free speech is something I am not knowledgeable enough to weigh in on intelligently. I would levy that it is okay to disagree with something respectfully, but not in a way that is insulting to others participating and watching. Of course, most people in the Twitch Chat would likely be unable to express disagreement without coming off as insulting.
  • Herd civility and cloaks
    • I have attended enough baseball games to know that most people watching the game there are civil. Even if you are wearing the colors of the “away” team, you are probably not going to get harassed besides some friendly booing or thumbs downs. If you behave well and are respectful, and you will not get assaulted at a baseball game. This “herd civility” is protective. There are enough families around, and overall nice people, that will enforce an aura of respect.
    • Like it or not, the Twitch Chat is the crowd that is watching an eSports competition. And everyone is wearing a cloak of internet anonymity. It is likely impossible to expect everyone to act a certain way, when everyone is somewhere else in the world.
  • What can be done?
    • The mods of any Twitch chat have a difficult task when handling a large crowd. Apparently people were hit with bans for offensive language for that particular chat, and it seems to be a regular thing in Twitch. In DreamHack Austin though, it was said that a certain mod “was joining in”the hateful dialogue. Clearly, you need responsible people to handle the enforcing.
    • A ban from Twitch chat is just a slap in the wrist in the end though. One idea would just be shutting off the Twitch stream for an offender for a period of time. ISP tracking and delays aren’t new technology at all. Of course, Twitch probably isn’t willing to do this, because they want people watching their stream, not drive them away. And any punitive measure is a slippery slope, given how “Big Brother” your streaming service appears.
    • Clearly, firm rules are needed for a Twitch Chat to improve. Certain Reddit subreddits like Competitive Hearthstone are known for very strict rules, but the end product is rather good. Any filtering bots need to be more discriminating of offensive language. Excessive emojis also need enforcement.
  • Final thoughts
    • Though it is up to the community to improve themselves and behave on Twitch Chat, it is foolish to expect behavior change because of what happened.
    • It is ultimately up to Twitch to make any changes to help clean up their chats.
    • Company reputation is an important thing when distinguishing a firm from a rival. Twitch Chats having a toxic reputation could be damaging, but this is hard to say, given there isn’t really a gold standard for eSports streaming services.

 

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