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‘Strip Fortnite’ is YouTube’s worst response to the game

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It’s time to grow up, guys

Epic Games

There are so many Fortnite videos crowding YouTube that creators are scrounging for new ways to get their videos noticed. Sex sells — or at least of it the promise does — so YouTube content creators are using sex to lure in Fortnite-obsessed viewers.

Videos like “1 Kill = Remove 1 Clothing,” “1 Kill = 1 Strip” or “1 Kill = 1 Lick” litter YouTube. Some of the biggest YouTubers, including RiceGum, Kosh and Morgz, are contributors to the growing trend. Search YouTube for “strip Fortnite” and there are about 400,000 videos, mostly featuring male players using clickbait tactics to get people to click on their videos. The women rarely strip down to anything too provocative, but it’s the promise of naked women that sells viewers on clicking.

Creators aren’t shying away from the fact that they’re trying to get a leg up on the competition. Fortnite is still the number one search word on YouTube, according to Google Trends, and it’s continuing to grow. There are more than 28.4 million Fortnite videos on YouTube, making it one of the most popular and rapidly growing titles in the platform’s gaming space. Unless you’re a top Fortnite player, like Ninja or Ali-A, it’s hard to convince someone to watch your Fortnite video.

This isn’t the correct way of going about getting views. These sexist videos reenforce ideas that women are playthings — objects who should stand on the sidelines and look pretty while a dude plays a video game or participates in a sporting event. Profiting off the inclusion of a woman, and promoting the tantalizing notion that she may become nude in the video to get more clicks, is juvenile and gross.

I’m not the only one who thinks so. TSM_Myth, a popular Fortnite player and Twitch streamer, called out YouTuber RiceGum’s marketing tactics for his videos. RiceGum, who has more than 10 million subscribers, responded to Myth, arguing that if he “knew a certain type of video gets a stupid amount of views ... why would I not abuse it and keep pushing it out?”

“You have a lot of influence on younger people on the internet, and they may look up to you and the things that you value,” Myth said, “and seeing that a lot of your content values a lot of materialistic things, women and sex, and a lot of [other] awful things, may lead to issues.”

The heart of Myth’s issue with RiceGum’s videos is that he’s an influencer who influences his young audience. This is someone who’s appeared in a Super Bowl commercial for Monster headphones, and is a platinum-selling recording artist. RiceGum’s videos, which rack up millions of views, matter when talking about YouTube’s audience.

In one episode of RiceGum’s Fortnite strip videos, he complains that the girl in his last video didn’t get naked, and he was hoping the new girl in his video, who stripped down to a bra and underwear, would. That’s as far as the stripping goes (it ends with RiceGum taking his own shirt off), but the context is still there: I want you to appear in my video to take your clothes off. It’s purely salacious. That video has more than 10 million views, and multiple ads running on it. Other videos in the series include ads directly from Epic Games for Fortnite.

RiceGum video for Fortnite strip series featuring a Fortnite ad.
RiceGum/YouTube

None of RiceGum’s videos break YouTube’s community guidelines. A few come close, but YouTube’s rules on sexuality say that nudity is strictly prohibited unless it’s used for educational purposes (a documentary on breast cancer is used as an example). RiceGum’s videos don’t actually contain any nudity. It’s just the clickbait tease that a viewer may see something. RiceGum’s videos also don’t break YouTube’s rules on deceptive practices in regard to thumbnails. YouTube’s policies ask that creators “select the thumbnail that best represents your content.”

“Selecting a sexually provocative thumbnail may result in the removal of your thumbnail or the age-restriction of your video,” the policy reads. “The thumbnail is the title card that will be shown next to your video across the site and should be appropriate for all ages.”

Though RiceGum’s thumbnails could be read as sexually provocative, he skirts by YouTube’s own rules.

RiceGum’s Fortnite strip thumbnails.
RiceGum/Fortnite

RiceGum and the other aforementioned YouTubers are allowed to post these videos, there’s no question there. If they broke YouTube’s guidelines, the company would take them down. The decision to not use exploitative videos for the sake of revenue is the bigger deal, and an issue we’ve been addressing for years — one that we’ll continue to address as platforms like YouTube and Twitch grow. I understand that it’s difficult to try and compete with other YouTubers when everyone is clamoring to get in on the Fortnite action — something the community has poked fun at over the last few weeks — but this isn’t the way to do it.

It’s time to grow up.

Update: A representative from Epic Games told Polygon the company is looking into its ads. The full statement can be read below.

We were not aware of this. We are taking action here. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. While online advertising is often targeted using an algorithm, we actively work to provide keywords and filters to assure that where we advertise is in line with our brand. Sometimes things slip through, however, and we will continue to update and be more aggressive with our filters in the future.