It’s no secret that the Internet is home to a world of “dark humor” and “heavy sarcasm”, especially in comment sections on video streaming sites like YouTube and forum sites like Reddit and 4Chan. More often than not those are a poor excuse to try and slide offensive comments in a conversation behind the safety of a computer screen.
One issue that’s been brought to light more often recently is the negative commentary provided by big internet personalities. In an industry that’s still young and reckless, there are many people who are growing up in the public eye and building large social followings while they’re still learning. It reminds me of child actors who have grown up being pressured by the spotlight, although less severe in most cases.
Take Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg for example. He is known for providing fun and engaging “Lets Plays” (LPs) in the early days of his channel before his following grew to exceed 57 million subscribers on YouTube and 15.6 million Twitter followers.
“PewDiePie” is a brand/name that is near the front of people’s minds when they think of successful content creators, until he inexcusably made anti-Semitic comments in one of his videos in early 2017. He also had another incident where he used a racial slur during a live stream of PlayerUnkown’s Battlegrounds.
Logan Paul is also another notable YouTube star that is known for prank videos and being a proponent of “dark humor”. He’s been successful in his own way, but his approach to content was flipped on its head after he took a trip to Japan. While abroad, Paul filmed the style of video that he would in America. This did not translate across cultural barriers and led to an extremely offensive end product.
His biggest mistake, however, came from a separate video where Paul visited an area where people often take their own lives. They filmed their trek through the area and, upon finding a body, proceeded to make jokes about suicide and death.
Both of these content creators faced strong backlash from the many outlets (barring certain loyal followers and seemingly YouTube). Actions were taken in response to both incidents, but there hasn’t been a definitive precedent set since these platforms were created.
Many believe not enough action has been taken to prevent further incidents from happening. These incidents playing key roles in the discussion due to both content creators having relatively young audiences that might be more impressionable and view their behavior as acceptable.
Twitch is another platform that has substantially grown in recent years, and has garnered a lot of attention recently with the success of Fortnite. One of the most successful streamers, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, became a pop culture icon overnight when he played a few hours of Fortnite with pop-music star Drake, rapper Travis Scott, and wide-receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers Juju Smith-Schuster.
Blevins already had a successful Twitch following, but having cultural icons bring in unprecedented viewership to a stream is almost never a bad thing. Unless you happen to slip up near the tail-end of your fifteen minutes of fame.
In a simple slip of the tongue during one of his live streams, Blevins muttered a racial slur as he was singing along to “44 More” by Logic. There was no ill-intent or force behind what he said, and he quickly apologized for the mistake.
As Twitch’s platform has grown and major league gaming becomes more mainstream, many games have decided to work with Twitch as an official platform for streaming their matches. The Overwatch League is one of the most notable partnerships, as Overwatch’s continued success on Twitch has shown that people are willing to watch weekly matches. However, with the rise to compete with mainstream sports, a new sense of professionalism needs to be developed and enforced.
Gathering people from all walks of life in a profession that’s not strictly regulated is a high risk venture, and for the OWL, the risk has come back to haunt it. According to PCGamer, as of March 2018 four players from different teams have been disciplined for misconduct.
Twitch is quickly learning the ropes in how to handle situations like these, but as a branch of Amazon, it’s hard to know how much they are able to do on their own accord before involving higher ranked employees.
In a time of strong social division and the weight that social media carries in establishing narratives, maintaining a corporate image that is influenced by outside forces has become increasingly difficult. Without the right actions being taken, it is easy to lose website traffic to people who don’t support a company’s stance on an issue.
Do these situations pose a threat to the longevity of video game content creation? Do they hurt the credibility of professional gamers? How can YouTube, Twitch and other platforms ensure that these situations are kept to a minimum? Let us know in the comments below.