So I know the only thing on this blog for a while has been Overwatch, but I’ve got to write this. (I’ve got a post on a different topic coming up soon.) I can’t wait until I can start confidently writing full fledged articles about OWL on my green blog, but for now, this is just my little commentary corner.
I saw this article from Dot Esports scroll past my Twitter feed today. I was very surprised to read, “Dallas Fuel releases xQc from Overwatch League team.” I haven’t really been up to date on what has been happening to him, because honestly I don’t really want to spend time dwelling on wretched situations and argue or have an opinion on whether he deserves it or not. But I didn’t realize that all of the resurfacing background chat about him this week was about a fresh suspension–I thought people were just talking about his Stage 1 ordeal again.
I did happen to be watching live, the moment Malik said “…once you get done with all your TriHards in chat…,” but I didn’t think much of it. I thought it was a cute little callout and sort of sad-funny that he knows that’s inevitably going on. I had no idea that people had found out xQc was a part of that (?) and he was in Twitch chat at the time (? is this right?).
And these other punishments too, for other players and coaches–I’m not sure the exact circumstances, but I’m sure they amount to something like “that’s gay” or “that’s retarded” or something like this. In the article, it said xQc called the casting “cancer”. This kind of thing, which is really sort of commonplace in what I’ll term Twitch culture. Jokes tinted with racism or the like, generally known to be and taken to be harmless, but using harsh words nonetheless. Ask me, I’ll say that’s just how it is. Ask anyone, they’ll say these people aren’t racist or homophobic. Muma said it. I think that’s generally palpable.
My first reaction to this announcement, after reading through the offenses, is that it’s harsh. It feels harsh, you know. xQc was initially suspended and fined by the league, and shortly following, Dallas Fuel straight up released him. These other players have been hit hard just because they’re behaving the way everyone else does. To a Twitch society standard, normal. And maybe even better than normal.
The one thing that does get me is TriHards. Just because a black person appears on stream, Twitch chat’s reaction is to spam that emote; that bothers me. That’s pretty racist. The poor guy just had a funky picture taken once upon a time, and his face has turned into this symbol of…I don’t even know what it’s a symbol of. But there is really no positive aspect to spamming it when someone black is on stream. Yes, the origin story of the picture of him making a goofy face is pretty funny. But I have never seen TriHard used in a non-racist way, as I explained to a friend once.
I have this memory of this one time…I think it was in Tyler1’s first stream back, he was playing with a Thresh who started out not so good, but then he started hitting hooks and Tyler started praising him. The guy posted his Twitch channel in chat, but to my horror, when I checked it out after the game was over, the poor guy’s chat had filled with 300 people all spamming TriHards and the n-word. I think that represents some of the worst of Twitch. You could probably get worse than that, but that’s pretty down there in terms of bad.
But I don’t think everybody who visits Twitch is racist, or comes with the intention to abusively or maliciously spam racist comments. But it is perpetuated nonetheless. Why? Simple bandwagon phenomenon. Sheep mentality. Everyone is doing it, you want to do it to. You want to be in on it. If everyone else is doing it, it’s okay. You’re not any worse than anyone else. You want the streamer to notice and/or react. Maybe you want to see how far you can push the boundaries. For example, I saw a username on Twitch today, “KKonaAllTheTime” or something like this, and you can’t really ban that because you can’t say it’s directly harmful, and who are you to say where the line is drawn, and the person with the username has basis on which to argue you. And people get away with that and see how much further they can push it. They want to outdo others in outrageousness that can’t be banned. For those who have the conscience not to participate, they don’t have the same sort of solidarity to rise up against the bad culture and spam. They cannot make a wave loud enough to counter the awful comments. If a chat contains more than, say, two or three thousand, it’s already unmanageable speeds for mods.
Well, to be honest, I don’t actually have an explanation, and I don’t really understand. I don’t know what motivates people to see people spamming the n-word and think, “I’m going to copy that.” I can’t believe that gamers are just that breed of people. I don’t think any sort of people just happen to be like that. I do kind of see why spamming TriHard would have caught on–someone is new to Twitch culture (do you remember when you weren’t yet fluent in Twitch emotes?) and is learning how to be “cool” and well, people use this emote when there is a black person on screen, so I will too. I’m not quite sure what it means, but I’ll do it. Dog on screen, FrankerZ. Girl? HotPokket, because gamer girls, amirite??? It is a see, copy sort of thing. In fact, that is how one learns to be fluent in Twitch emotes. You see how they’re used and learn how to use them. Hell, you don’t know how to use all those other ones in the menu because you’ve never seen them used, but you do know how to use MrDestructoid because you learn by context of when others use it. People learn by observing.
Yeah, so. There are problems with Twitch culture. It’s racist, sexist, and generally offensive, and everyone just copies each other. But no one knows how to stem the source. It seems like an unsolvable problem. Everyone just kind of gives a nervous laugh, scratches the back of their neck, and ignores the terrible spam. And it’s accepted. This is the way gamers talk. This is the way gamers react. This is the way the bros do it when there’s not enough girls around to stop them.
So back to those fines and things from OWL. Like I said, my first reaction was that it was all too harsh for the offenses. But that’s because I am just another part of Twitch society that is okay with the crude and slurred way gamers react to their games and plays–either those who are on the stream or in the chat. Well, not okay with it, but accepts that it is just “the way of life here on Twitch.” Like I said, I think there are plenty of conscientious people in chat who try to protest sometimes, but just cannot make much of a difference. It’s easier to create disorder than it is to try and reorder disorder.
I realized, even if I think it’s harsh, Overwatch League really meant it when they said they’re going to be a totally different kind of esport. They’re out to change the culture. They’re trying to turn Twitch on its head.
I had this interesting discussion in a class recently about rape culture–it was a pretty poor lecture and wasn’t very profuse, but it discussed how sexist jokes and extremely obviously not okay sexual assault jokes are often let go because everyone laughs (perhaps nervously) and no one steps up to say the joke is not okay (a lot of the time). And no one starts out as a rapist. No one is born like, well imma go rape someone now; no, it is a build up of testing little things out, oh, is this joke okay? Yes? People are okay with it? Well how much further can I take it? Testing it out, can I say this about someone? Can I do this to someone? And it escalates. (I don’t really fully understand this logic, but I am not very well versed in the field, so I’ll take the lecture’s word for it.)
That’s what came to mind–they’re punishing something as small as spamming TriHard, because stamping out the little things is the beginning to preventing and eliminating bigger problems. They’re punishing a no-malice-intended homophobic slur, because even if it’s harmless and accepted to some degree, it leads to bigger things. And I mean, not having people say those things is pretty nice too, regardless of how they mean it. They punish a friendly, teammate-banter middle finger because even if it’s funny or joking, it’s a crude and base way to have fun (besides it being on broadcast and unprofessional). Overwatch League really wants to grow different kinds of boys. Esports has long been filled with young boys (sorry the reality is that there just really are no girls at the highest levels yet), from ages 16 to maybe 30, most of them starting out younger than 20 and without fully developed maturities yet. OWL is trying to shape their players, new to the spotlight and figuring out how to deal with fame, into better gamers and role models, ones who don’t perpetuate the existing Twitch culture. OWL is speaking out against the status quo–they are trying to change it. A tall task, but they’re going for it.
It’s true. Behavior is very copied. What’s it called, mimicry? Children see and hear how their parents act, and copy them. Ever had a four-year old give you a very snappy retort? I have. You can tell. That sort of bossiness isn’t in them, they’ve learned it from their parents. You can immediately tell that their parents say that in front of them all the time. It’s inherited behavior. Same with anything. No matter how much you try or care, who you are around and what you hear all the time is how you will be. When I went to public school, I tried to stay myself, but I quickly found myself turning into one of them, complaining about sleep, judging all the teachers, using the same slang words. If you listen to a certain YouTuber all the time, you might adopt their mannerisms without intending to. The way I always listen to gamers react to things, my brain has unfortunately adapted to react to things the same way I have unconsciously learned from them to (which I personally think is pretty undignified). Sometimes it’s harmless, sometimes it’s a new behavior you can’t shake (Muma, I’ve started saying eek now, drat you). Think about it for a second. You act like the people spend time around. You act like the people you spend hours watching for entertainment. I can almost guarantee it.
And it’s not only the demographic of young kids who Overwatch League is attracting as fans that they’re trying to help bring up in the right way (this is not about “protecting” kids their innocence or anything don’t give me that). It’s also the 15 year olds and 16 year olds. It’s the youngest players in the league. As much as teenagers (including me as a current teenager) want to believe they are fully fledged adults with free will, good decision making, and strong individuality, the truth is that none of those things are true. Teenagers are far from completely formed and still have a lot of developing to go. They’re most susceptible to this behavior adopting/copying and mimicry. They have not become the kind of person they’ll become yet. Just see the case of Dardoch–extremely young guy with no idea how to control his temper, but he’s coming around after two years (one year? debatable). The youngest pro gamers are still up for development. OWL is ready to beat them into shape and direct them down the straight and narrow. And as a domino effect, that is what the young kids will see and copy. Those are the kids who will occupy Twitch chat next. That is who the 13 and 14 year olds are looking to, eyeing a spot in the OWL someday. I’ve got to be a good person too. I’ve got to respect others and understand the power of my words and Twitch emotes, and without that I’m not going to be a better candidate to get picked up than the next guy who isn’t spamming ANELE.
Maybe I’m dreaming too much? I’m not sure. I’m definitely not confident in the League’s censures to actually culminate in this transformation of Twitch and gamer society as a whole. But it’s a nice thing to dream of. It’s a nice thing to shoot for. In the end, OWL is right. This kind of thing does need to be stamped out, and they are exercising the power they have to change it. It’s harsh, but right. It’s the first step.
One more word on xQc–I can’t help but feel sorry for the guy. From what little I’ve heard, I think he was a fantastic tank all of last year (before I started following Overwatch). The article reported that he had/has only played six matches in total this year, which is a puny number. And to be hit with this, for behavior he has probably grown up copying and others have accepted as normal, is probably very frustrating for him. To get suspended and fined for a second time, and then have his team say, “we have no business with a ‘problem child'” and just drop him is devastating, I’d imagine. Now his name is tainted with “repeat offender” and “the guy who got suspended for saying some bad stuff”, and I think things are just bad for him from here on out. It seems like he might be able to find success in streaming, but overall he’s in a pretty wretched position and I feel bad for him. Again, I’ve never really watched him, followed him, or heard any of the things he’s said, so no judgment on whether or not he deserves what he has got, he might be a massive jerk for all I know. People will say he’s older than 20 and should know better, and he didn’t learn from his first suspension, and so on. But just circumstantially, he gets my FeelsBadMan. He happened to be the first one caught in this new system with a larger vision and purpose, and it’s not to him in particular, but now he has been cursed forever.