December 2013: The no good, very bad month if you stream video games
One of the biggest features in both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is the ability to stream directly to Twitch.tv.
Well, it’s one of the biggest features on the PS4; it’s currently not available on the Xbox One.
Still, the ability to instantly stream means that anybody can be the next big thing in the world of video personalities. In theory, at least, but 2013 proved that this may not be the best route to go for fame, fortune, and glory.
December alone saw plenty of controversial and disappointing developments in the world of streaming. It began when Riot Games, developer of League of Legends, decided that anyone signed to professionally play the game during Season Four could not stream competing titles. The list included dozens of games, including direct competitor Dota 2 and World of WarCraft.
RiotMagus defended the decision on Reddit: “You probably wouldn’t see an NFL player promotion Arena Football.” They had a point, except for the fact that the NFL Network, which is owned and operated by the league, aired Arena Football games in 2010. To call the decision unpopular would be an understatement. Riot wisely reversed on this stance, but it was far from the only controversial move made by a corporate entity.
While YouTubers aren’t streaming their games live, they’re still playing for an audience. Not only that, they often go above and beyond the ordinary means of streaming by ways of reporting news and giving opinions. Their jobs became harder due to YouTube’s Copyright ID system flagging videos due to the music being played in them. The ironic part in all this is that many publishers were on the side of the YouTubers despite their games being flagged due to music licensing. Of course, a simple way around this is to avoid using copyrighted music in a video, but that also requires extra amounts of work and comes at the cost of in-game sounds.
Let’s say, though, that you’re able to get past all of the corporate level drama and foolery. You’re streaming on your own accord. All of a sudden, the police show up and want to search your house because they received a tip that you’re up to no good. This is the case of Swifty, a normal guy playing World of Warcraft for a living. Seeing as the police have to respect every threat, they were simply doing their job, so it’s not quite their fault, but instead proves the point that there are people out there who are just up to no good. Whether it was a competitor streamer (I really hope this wasn’t the case) or someone trolling, Swifty could have gotten in a lot of trouble.
Oh, don't forget about this guy. He faked being in a wheelchair to help his subscription rate while streaming Diablo III.
Finally, we have the tale of Phantoml0rd, a League of Legends streamer who appeared to be on the wrong side of DDOS attacks. As his team began losing in League of Legends, the group DERP took down Riot’s servers. The same would eventually happen in Dota 2…and every other game Phantoml0rd tried to play. Ultimately, there were reports that Phantoml0rd was taken into police custody over a hostage situation.
I say reports because the LAPD denied that such a scenario took place, according to Game Informer’s Mike Futter. Quickly the tale of a tragic gamer gone bad became the story of a gamer exploiting the public for profit, all while Twitch did nothing about it.
What does the tale of Phantoml0rd mean for the future of streaming? It means anyone could make a deal with DDOSers and, if they’re a little more quiet about their intentions, exploit server outages and catastrophe for profit. It’s a practice commonly referred to as Blackhat: people performing a business with bad intentions and execution. Remember those days of websites having hundreds of random keywords for search engines at the bottom of a page? That’s a blackhat method of improving a search engine score.
With the continued emphasis on sharing gaming, streaming from consoles, and ability to watch anybody play a game from even your own phone, it’s easy to dream about making a living this way. But between trolls, copyright, contracts, and shady deals, it’s far from an effective way to make a guaranteed living. The truly intelligent and business savvy will find a way to get past these hurdles and continue about their lives. As viewers, we’ll continue to enjoy their content. But think about that for a second: they’re not doing fine because they’re good gamers. They’re doing fine because they’re smart businessmen.