Chin up, Chest out: ‘Boobie Streamers’ and the pornography of girl gaming
Twitch is easily the most popularly video game streaming website on the internet. It boasts over 1.5 million broadcasters and 100 million visitors per month, and has been estimated to have a net worth of US $1 billion. But things have turned sour since May, when Twitch tightened its code of conduct and outlawed ‘indecent exposure’, ‘excessive drinking’ and ‘sexual content’ for streamers.
Now, members of the Twitch community have taken it a step further and signaled a call to action to boycott ‘stream s**ts’, female streamers who ‘rely’ on revealing clothing for subscribers and views. If you asked certain members, they’d tell you that these ‘boobie streamers’ have ruined the Twitch experience, transforming the platform into a pornographic shell of its former greatness, where they manipulate horny (often underage) boys into spending hard earned cash on their ‘gaming crushes’.
Youtuber and Twitch member Elementalqt has taken matters into his own hands, by scheduling a weekly protest podcast. Taking the power of humour under his belt, Elementalqt dons his finest slinky red slug dress, blonde nylon wig and earrings. He matches his get-up with a high-pitched, hair-twirling, comically unconvincing alter-ego, ‘Danielle’. But most iconic to his parody are the two pink balloons shoved under his top. All in all, Elementalqt’s ‘boobie streamer’ charade has gained him over 5,000 new followers and 56 paying subscribers.
‘I wanted to show how f**king ridiculous it is when girls use their bodies to get views, rather than their gameplay skill or their commentary. It’s seriously belittling to everyone involved, you know.’
Elementalqt pointed out some of his greatest pet peeves with streamers; large webcam screens which block gameplay and obnoxious donating systems. Although in the early days before 2013, streamers were mostly professional players who rarely used webcams or expected donations, as soon as Twitch became more webcam/donation friendly, female streamers started to surface by the hundreds. Female streamers tend to exhibit things in their streams which differentiate them as female, such as large webcams pointed at their chests, excessive make-up, cosplay and floral, exaggerated language. Elementalqt insists that streamers who focus their content on anything other than gameplay are only in it for the money.
According to the developers of GamerGirlsHub.tv, a forum-based spin-off site for female gaming fans, the trend has been toxic for the success of female streamers. Woman have struggle with being labelled ‘cam whores’ until proven otherwise by the internet. A trend has surfaced where ‘girl gamers’ who have never adorned anything less than a tshirt or sweater are endlessly harassed by viewers, who make a game out of abusing the gameplay chat services until they break down.
In March, former ‘boobie streamer’ Raihnbowkidz, featured in Elementalqt’s response stream above, released a video on her Youtube account explaining why she would no longer be showing her cleavage on Twitch. In her interview with Kotaku, she expressed concerns that she was contributing negatively to the League of Legends community, and that it was causing physical and emotional strain. “I would play ranked games on stream and I would lose every single one because I was just so focused on the fact that my fucking straps on my stupid push up bra were digging into my shoulders.”
In her confession she singled out that her reason to ‘sell out’ to ‘boobie streaming’ was driven by a fear of ‘not being good enough on [her] own’.
Raihnbowkidz released a follow-up video titled ‘A Day in the life of a ‘boobie streamer’’, an ironic ‘Get Ready’ video fast-tracked to feature her regular 30–40 minute preparation routine for Twitch. It involved heavy face and body make-up application as well as a segment where Raihnbowkidz explained how she painstakingly manipulated the aesthetic of her breasts with bras and make-up to appear larger and ‘perkier’. The video received almost 800,000 views and opened up the debate to whether women feel pressured into exhibiting their bodies rather than simply being opportunistic.
Twitch streamer and Youtuber, Birdman, received 400,000 views and countless spin-off threads for his video featuring a fifteen-minute rant on the ‘boobie streamers’. His nugget of wisdom? Don’t hate the player — hate the game.
‘Let’s say, I was a girl… I’d do the same damn thing! If they weren’t getting any money like that, they wouldn’t do that. The problem is the viewers. Some sad little f**k comes on to some girl’s stream and gives her 20 bucks. A hundred other dudes do that in an hour — she just made 2000 in an hour.’
Birdman called to his Twitch community members to boycott boobie streamers and focus on skilled players who deserve the money and appreciation. According to Birdman, professional gamers who used to see tens of thousands in donations weekly, struggle to make previous quotas with the influx of ‘titty streamers’ (though these claims appear to only be conjecture).
Mad, a female streamer by the username of Swecup, is gaining traction in the Hearthstone community and often shows a little skin. She says it would be absurd to suggest her cleavage had any negative impact on someone else’s income.
‘I’m from Sweden but you’d be surprised how warm it can get in my building,’ she writes. ‘If I wanna sit in my room and wear a crop top, then all power to me. I’m not shoving them in anyone’s face. They’re a part of my body. No one is being forced to watch.’
Although Mad doesn’t earn a fraction of what more popular streamers earn, with only a little over 3342 followers, her love for gaming and the extra pocket money from loyal viewers is enough to justify continuing her streaming career despite any negative backlash.
‘I can’t imagine forcing anyone to cover up will be a good thing. I’ve already seen so many instances of dude streamers shirtless, like they’ve just got out of the freaking shower, and I haven’t heard one instance of them being reported. It’s already unbalanced as far as I can see.’
A petition, she warns, would do more harm than good for women’s rights and for the Twitch community. During a live stream, Mad voiced her frustrations to viewers; ‘What is this — Saudi Arabia?’
When asked whether she thinks her channel would suffer if she weren’t able to use a ‘face cam’ anymore, Mad was indignant.
‘I’m good at my game. I’m productive during my streams, I teach my viewers things. I’m a ranked player, I’m a respected arena player… If they wanted a cam girl they’d look somewhere else.’
Social worker and psychologist Rosie Ryan suggests the condemnation of ‘boobie streamers’ is just another way to blame female sexuality for our own shortcomings. Although it is a problem that women feel they need to take advantage of their own sexuality for profit, condemning them is an unproductive resort.
‘They’re not hurting anybody, and everyone is consenting. Twitch is just another business that works off supply and demand, so if certain male streamers feel they are losing all their fans to a girl with her breasts out, then he might just have to reassess he’s own entertainment value.’
The best any Twitch users can do so far is to hang tight and wait for any news from moderators. Since the rules amendments of May, Twitch has not responded to community petition leaders or protesters on the subject of tighter dress codes.