IN a simpler time, gaming was built on the foundation of people coming together to have fun in the name of healthy competition.
But these days, streamers who stand to make big bucks from platforms like Twitch and YouTube can enter into a toxic world of sexism, racism and 'hate raids' as they fight for views and popularity.
The online world's most recent major scrap saw streamer and YouTuber JiDion be permanently banned from Twitch after encouraging his followers to harass fellow gamer Pokimane.
The Amazon-owned platform live broadcasts content creators playing video games like Fortnite and League of Legends on their consoles.
The application, which can be viewed via phone or PlayStation as well as its website, has been dubbed the "undisputed champion of its arena", hosting 91 per cent of all video game streaming.
Just like social media influencers, big stakes are on the line for those who rise to the upper ranks of getting the most hits with sponsorship deals, collaborations and paywalled content up for grabs with cash windfalls of millions.
Moroccan-Canadian internet personality Imane Anys is one of those to benefit from the online fame from broadcasting video game content.
Known to legions of fans as Pokimane, she was featured in the 2021 Forbes 30 Under 30 list – boasting an estimated net worth of between $2-3million – and has over 8.5million followers on Twitch.
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So when fellow gamer JiDion – Jidion Adams – encouraged his an army of his followers to flock to Pokimane's Twitch stream, saying "everybody say L + Ratio" in her chat, it came with consequences.
But using the platform to generate hate isn't uncommon.
Last year, content creators and viewers who believed the platform didn't do enough to combat online abuse boycott Twitch.
A 'hate raid' occurs when a flood of abuse is hurled at one specific person to overwhelm that persons channel with hateful language, done at speeds of dozens of times a minute by bots.
In some cases, these messages can be horrific and soul-destroying to the person reading them, and in many cases are customised to their target's race, sexual orientation or gender.
Max, 19, a bisexual transgender man, has been on the recieiving end of one of these raids.
He told Radio 1 Newsbeat: "Being so open about my identity is met with a lot of hate from people I don't know most of the time."
'MISOGYNGY AND HARASSMENT'
JiDion was believed to launch a “hate raid” on Pokimane’s stream on January 12, 2022 – and some believe the move was nothing more than misogynistic.
Twitch star Mizkif took to Twitter with her views, writing: “Sad how Pokimane still has to deal with misogyny and harassment in 2022.
"And it’s even more sad how I have to say this publicly because people are afraid to stand up and say she’s being treated poorly because they’ll be called a ‘simp.'”
It wasn't just Pokimane being harassed — her viewers were also honed in on by Jidion's chat, using Twitch Whispers' one-on-one DM feature.
Despite being against Twitch's terms of service (TOS), vile interactions and having multiple keyboard warriors target others can be part and parcel with big online success.
But there's other traces of toxicity too, the roots of which dig far deeper than unjustified hate messages from a stranger.
Where talent and skill lacks, some female gamers are accused of appealing to other gamers by relying on their looks yet it's a dangerous world for females with real talent who have their success blamed on being a woman any way.
The distracting side-line antics are so far detached from the actual playing of any video game but the popularity battles, commentary and visual appeal is all part of how someone climbs the virtual ladder.
'COMMUNITY ASPECT HAS GROWN'
But not everyone online these days enjoys the modern vibe.
Eric Marc says when he's gaming, he just wants to focus on the game in front of him.
As a father, he does what he can to control the environment his kids enjoy their gaming in.
He told Innovation and Tech today: “I’m in my 40s and I enjoy it as a mindless way to wind down after work.
"I only let my kids game in the living room, rather than in their bedrooms, so I can see what they are wearing, who they are playing with, and if their opponents are age-appropriate."
Halo player Roger Robinson says its all a part of the community aspect growing a lot more to watching others – and watching the game they play.
He said: “My prime gaming days were 2004-2007. Many more people are involved in watching other people game with the advent of Twitch and gaming influencers.
"The community aspect has grown a lot more. The hardware and graphics have improved and become more cinematic."
In September last year Twitch announced it would do more to protect its users by introducing a verification process to limit bots – and ban users who are seen breaking the rules.
After realising she was the victim of a hate raid, Pokimane noted that what JiDion was doing was likely against Twitch's TOS and he was handed a permanent ban.
But stay tuned, the fallout has, of course, since fuelled more drama – now between Twitch star Ninja and Pokimane.
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