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Monday
Jun112012

« The Salty Runback : The Cost of Doing Business »

This morning, I casually commented on the kerfuffle - allow me to take a moment to soak in the pleasure of using the word “kerfuffle” - caused by the rumor that following his match against RayRay at East Coast Throwdown 4, Filipino Champ opted to walk away from the set without shaking hands or congratulating RayRay. Sarcastically, I tweeted :

“A community of homophobic, racist, sexist stream monsters is outraged when they hear a rumor FChamp was a poor sport.”

I often find humor in the ridiculous, and our community is, at times, a font of ridiculousness. That is part of its charm. To me, it was absurd that a group of people who have become somewhat notorious for reprehensible internet behavior would manufacture outrage about poor sportsmanship. The same group of people that create Tumblr accounts dedicated to posting screencaps of female players stamped with the Brazzers logo are upset that two players didn’t hug it out after a Marvel match.

I was not prepared, however, for the defensive reaction to my having fun at the expense of stream monsters. At first, I attributed things to my jokes hitting a little too close to home. As our community moves further into the mainstream, our jargon and slang becomes co-opted as a part of the popular culture lexicon. One of our more borrowed phrases is “stream monster”, which has changed from its original fighting game usage to now take on a broader meaning. People now use stream monster as a term for any person viewing a video game live cast. However, there are those of us that still use the word with its intent - a person whose interaction with a gaming community is constituted mostly or solely by trolling our stream chats. They don’t attend events, have no interest in attending events, and they lower the quality of a broadcast by transforming the cast’s chat into a seeping pool of meme sewage and regurgitated jokes peppered with homophobia, racism, and sexism.

When I made my passing remarks, these were the people I targeted. I took the time to explain this. However, what was even more surprising were the affirmations from those on the other side of this discussion. They were fully aware of just whom I had mentioned, and they stood firm in their belief that stream monsters did not deserve my ridicule.

There is a disturbing opinion being readily distributed within our ranks. Some people would have you believe that stream monsters - and I mean the true monsters, the sort of people for whom that slang was invented - are not only necessary, but they are a good thing. That isn’t true on either account. These defenders would have you believe that stream monsters, slavering little Gremlins they may be, benefit the community overall by contributing to viewer counts and consuming video on demand content.

@darryh Bitch all you want about stream monsters, but they're the ones that watch your ads, retweet your shit, and enter your raffles.”

Let me be clear for a moment. I understand the basic idea that is being expressed here. I simply reject it. If catering to these people is the cost of doing business, and if we, as a group, can never grow without their presence, then I say... so? If we need stream monsters to “grow”, I say fuck growth. If that’s the case, I’m just fine with attending local tournaments and watching smaller streams.

The bigger issue I have with statements such as these, however, is that they operate on the fallacy that increased stream monster participation is growth. It isn’t. In fact, it is hindering to the growth we should all want. The goal, and I don’t know where some of us lost sight of this, is to attract players. Not only do stream monsters not participate, but they actively discourage participation from interested casual observers who begin to interact with our product only to come up against a writhing mass of internet diarrhea.

When we can attract new talent, we gain the ability to create an even stronger community that produces something more gratifying for all of us to enjoy, both tournament professional and casual stream fan. The benefit also extends to the future, where a more robust offering in turn attracts more players. We enter a cycle of growth.

Stream monsters inhibit this sort of development. They are a finite resource that attaches itself to our community and makes it difficult to attract new faces. They are parasites through and through. “They are loyal!” So is a tapeworm. For the past few years, stream viewership and tournament enrollment has somewhat stagnated around specific levels. It isn’t coincidental that most major tournaments attract roughly the same amount of eyeballs, something in the neighborhood of 18 to 22 thousand viewers. Yes, they are going to tune in, but at what cost?

For too long we have catipulated to the worst element under the auspices that we needed to cater to these individuals in order to foster further success. It isn’t true. They can’t offer us further success, because they have nothing to offer. Six thousand assholes watching streams with ad blockers. A legion of goblins that only exist to squat over anything they can get their flappy hands on in hopes of amusing the other goblins tripping over themselves to shit on the nearest shiny objects. One needs only see yet another player, commentator, or streamer talking publicly about how they are considering giving things up due to the abuse to realize that nothing they can offer - and they offer nothing - is worth what it takes to foster them. Especially when fostering them means we lose the chance to enjoy the company of a new face that is actually worth entertaining.

I have seen guys and girls who have been a part of the scene for over a decade talk about how they are thinking of either taking a break or giving it up due to the constant harassment and never-ending abuse at the hands of individuals who have no appreciation for just how much work some people have to do to create the community they pollute. When I see old friends and acquaintances who organize tournaments, represent vendors, write strategy guides, commentate streams, help provide equipment, or manage arcades talking this way, it makes things crystal clear as to just how little we need true stream monsters.

In the words of Jack Black, “...hey, this was Laura’s idea, not mine, buddy. And if Laura’s bourgeois lawyer friends can’t take it, FUCK them. Let ‘em riot.”

-As always, you can blow Darry up with your thoughts on this article via his Twitter.

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