Watching the Defective

or: you cannot step twice into the same stream?

Big controversy this week that I first noticed bubbling on NeoGaf (the canary in the video games coalmine), that then blew up on twitter and soon after on a handful of influential game blogs. These pieces ranged from decently thought-out bitlets of journalism, to click-baiting headline stinkers.

Point is that something between ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘wow I can’t believe a human being would dare say that too another’ occurred, several times, on a video game stream.

I have to admit it. I’m a stream junkie. I don’t watch tv at night, and shamefully I only read a handful of nights out of the week, but most evenings you’ll find me jumping around twitch.tv, own3d.tv and SA’s Let’s Play Archive. I like watching games I don’t even play, styles of games I don’t even play… which is how I started watching the cross assault program that was cooked up between capcom, twitch tv and some major fgc streamers. It was last comic standing for street fighters. Last Comic Standing take hundreds of hours of footage and whittle them down to 12 or so hours of tv. CrossAssault had no such buffer. It didn’t even have the 7 second delay of terrestrial radio – not that anyone would have had their finger on that button.

I didn’t intend for this to be my first post about game streams. I had actually been putting it off (see: blog’s M.O.), but this is as good a time as any to weigh in.

However, there isn’t much to weigh in on. Something awful happened to a young lady. A young man was more than rude to her. A culture was put under the microscope, and what was revealed looked creepy to those who stopped by to take a look at that one slide.

It has to do with the rise of trolling as an accepted and functional form of social interaction, it’s part of the misogyny that passes for humour in circles of young men, it has to do with the increasingly smaller gap in the numbers of men and women playing games that you and I are playing. [Sure, the average video game player is a 47 year old woman or w/e, but the average ‘gamer’ *shudder* is still a teenage boy.]

But most of all this comes down to a lack of realization of the kind of platform that live streaming creates. You see this again and again. If we are being charitable we would say that streamers forget that there are hundreds or thousands of people watching them, that these videos are all archived, that there is a very diverse audience paying attention. At worse we could say some of these folks just don’t care who sees them behave like jerks.

Greg “games” Kasavin livestreamed Oblivion a bunch of years ago and it was so successful that he collaborated with Giant Bomb and Bethesda to make a launch date Skyrim stream happen.

One of my favorite stream d00ds is MANvsGAME who you can find over on twitch. He plays games to completion on stream, while commenting on the game and on his play. He has made what I gather is a small but growing career out of this. He has worked with team meat to do demo streams of Super Meat Boy, and this week he’s got a gig with gamepro and EA livestreaming Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 upon it’s release.

Game makers are beginning to discover the powerful sales hook that a quality stream of their game provides. Game designers see players getting better at their games by watching pros play (SC2, LOL etc..). And content providers, both the hosts and the folks streaming, are creating a new entertainment space.

I am not the language police. I have tried, as a server admin for an online fps, and I fought a losing battle against kids who felt the need to try and beat our bad-word filter and make all the dumb arguments in favor of calling another player ‘gay’. It does get tiring.

There is room for people who are jerks to have their shows. The ol’ freedom of speech thang, and I will freely exercise my right to /ignore them. But when streamers mean to reach a wide audience, for personal or commercial reasons then the unwritten rules of public discourse must be upheld. Just pretend that your grandmother is listening.

There will be hiccups. There will be awful moments. But most importantly there will be lots of great content out there for players and viewers to experience. It’s too bad that it takes something dumb like the cross assault sexual assault to bring streaming culture to light.

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