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Twitch’s ongoing etiquette problem is one streamers are hoping to change

‘We are not monkeys’

Cyanide Plays Games
Cyanide Plays Games during an IRL stream

One of Twitch’s ongoing etiquette issues is at the forefront of conversation again in the wake of one streamer calling out a group of trollish viewers.

Here’s the scenario: When streamers best known for a group dynamic separate to cast on their own personal channel, their chat fills up with viewers demanding to know where the other members of their group are. The message that streamers like CyanidePlaysGames take from that consistent demand is that people are only interested in watching them when they’re with other people, not on their own.

The issue, Cyanide told Polygon, is that it’s easy for streamers to be “viewed as purely entertainment as opposed to human beings,” and this comes out in Twitch chat. Just over a week ago, a clip of Cyanide telling off trolls in his comments who were demanding to see another popular streamer, Womble, started making the rounds online. In the clip, Cyanide can be seen lambasting certain viewers for their incessant requests to see Womble, who Cyanide frequently streams with.

“People go into other people’s chats and go ‘Where are you? Where is this person? Why are you not here?’,” Cyanide said. “We are not monkeys. We’re not dancing monkeys for you to sit there and throw popcorn at. We are not fucking clowns designed for your entertainment. We are human beings; that is all.

“Don’t be that person.”

Cyanide told Polygon over email that he couldn’t speak for trends on Twitch at large, but noted that there was “always a time and a place for reasonable discourse.” He said that he welcomes questions and criticism from viewers, adding that it helps him “better understand what the stream needs and wants, or for me to explain why it is I do things a certain way.” It’s not longtime subscribers and viewers asking periodically whether another personality will appear on the stream that bothers Cyanide — it’s the number of trolls who attack him through chat who grate on his nerves, he said.

“These types of things have been present from day one,” Cyanide said. “[It’s] not something new at all. I have a strong association to other streamers as we frequently appear in videos together. People have always shown up asking for us to play together since I started streaming. One etiquette issue I see is the instant gratification culture. People coming on to streams demanding a certain thing be done, a certain game be played, etc.”

Cyanide isn’t the only person who’s noticed this, either. On Reddit, viewers have noted that “any attempt at actually having a discussion with the streamers is hopeless because people are constantly telling them that they should play together and stuff,” adding that the chat often gets derailed with demands to see other people play games. One person on Reddit, who streams under the name ItsSansom, wrote that certain fans of Cyanide and Womble find one caster funnier than the other or only entertaining when they’re streaming together. The result is a demand for each caster to stream together constantly, and that impedes on their abilities to try and have personal careers, ItsSansom said.

“The unfortunate situation here is that their group is basically known because of Womble, despite all of them being quality entertainers,” ItsSansom wrote. “People don't seem to understand that when you're watching someone's stream, you're watching their personal content. That isn't necessarily going to involve the people you know them from. In fact it most likely isn't.”

It’s this blurred line that comes with being a streamer’s fan and believing that because that person is being supported by the viewer or subscriber, they have to do what the audience wants. Tanya DePass, founder and director of the non-profit I Need Diverse Games told Polygon that it all comes down to tone. Streamers want to hear back from their community, especially those who are financially supporting their careers, but they also want to be respected as humans.

DePass said doing simple things like changing the certain phrasing of a question or adjusting the inferred tone goes a long way with streamers.

“If a viewer absolutely must comment, they could frame it as, ‘hey did the schedule change, usually (streamer’s name) is on today or this time,” DePass told Polygon via email. “Rather than going, ‘Why isn't X here! I demand to know.’ It's off-putting and makes others feel as if they aren't as valued as part of the cast.”

DePass, who also streams on Twitch, told Polygon she’s noticed general etiquette on Twitch has gotten worse in the past few months. While DePass acknowledges that she’s used to trolls appearing on streams targeted toward people of color and the LGBTQ community, there’s a sense that things have gotten worse for streamers platform-wide.

I think it's gotten worse in a way,” DePass said. “Backseating, demanding to know why a caster isn't playing a particular game and general rudeness seem to be on the rise lately.”

DePass and Cyanide say they’ve seen a rise in this type of behavior, but a fan-created Twitch chat etiquette guide posted on Reddit in 2016, which was created by streamer Jessica Rose in 2014, called out similar problems that streamers were facing. That guide listed two of the most prominent issues that streamers were dealing with, both of which Cyanide and DePass spoke to Polygon about:

  • Do not talk about other casters inside another stream even if they are friends. It is considered rude.
  • If you see a caster you recognize in someone else's channel please refrain from asking when they will cast again, or when they will do (insert thing here) again.

That negative, trollish attitude is what Cyanide was trying to address in his video. The caster told Polygon that he values his community and his fanbase, adding that subscribers are “absolutely entitled to an opinion about the content” appearing on stream. Cyanide told Polygon what he wants to reiterate is that each request should be handled with a level of respect for the streamer, their friends and their community to ensure that no one is feeling belittled.

“You are supporting the content I am producing,” Cyanide said. “At the end of the day, the content I produce is my purview. If the content I produce is no longer of relevance or interest to you, by all means, vote with your wallet and unsubscribe. It's fair game. I will, of course, always listen to reasonable opinions, so as to please as many as I can within my ability or want. I am here to create content for consumption. It would be pointless otherwise.”

Toxicity in Twitch chat has been an issue since the platform first launched, but in December 2016, the company released a new tool to help combat the worst of the harassment and ongoing abuse certain streamers were facing. While the comments Cyanide gets aren’t on the same level, DePass said they are an example of a newer, ongoing problem streamers are facing today.

“People need to realize that when they are newer, that growth takes time,” DePass said. “Trying to get a bigger streamer to notice you in their chat isn't going to do anything but get you timed out or banned. I wish there was a ‘Etiquette 101’ offered from Twitch when people sign up.”

Twitch does have a set of guidelines about what is considered acceptable and unacceptable behavior in chat. It doesn’t cover every issue, including this type of questionable etiquette, but it’s a good place to start for those looking to engage with others on the platform. A Twitch representative told Polygon that casters can use Chat Rules, which are rules that “have to be acknowledged by anyone who decides they want to take part in chat. Popular chat bots are sometimes used by streamers as well to help keep the chat clean and in-line with what the streamer wants.