Blizzard Vows To Improve Twitch Chat After Hearthstone Racism Fiasco

During the recent Dreamhack Austin event, Hearthstone pro Terrence "TerrenceM" Miller came in second. It was quite a moment, a breakout performance for a relative unknown. And while many viewers were impressed, others in the thousands-strong Twitch chat refused to stop pointing out the obvious: Miller is black. You can probably guess which slurs were involved. In the immediate aftermath of the weekend-before-last's event, multiple publications chronicled the nastiness spewed in Miller's direction, as did one fed-up Twitch moderator and Miller himself. "I knew it would be bad, but I didn't think it would be that bad," Miller told Polygon at the time. "I was getting texts from my parents saying, 'Oh, we saw you on your interview, really good job.' And I was just hoping they saw it in full screen and didn't see the chat."

It was not Twitch's best moment, but it's not like it came out of nowhere, either. For better or worse, people often feel comfortable saying (or spamming) anything in large Twitch chats. The hype that Twitch chat adds to a great eSports event is undeniable. It's like watching your favourite teams throw down from a packed sports bar, only with fewer dudes in sleeveless shirts elbowing you into a pit of sweat and despair so they can see better. However, some of Twitch chat's most popular memes have strong undertones of casual racism and sexism. You can only take the good with the bad for so long.

Today, Blizzard released a statement about the Dreamhack Austin incident, promising to do better in the future and urging players, streamers and moderators to do the same. Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime said (via PCGamer):

We're extremely disappointed by the hateful, offensive language used by some of the online viewers during the DreamHack Austin event the weekend before last. One of our company values is 'Play Nice; Play Fair'; we feel there's no place for racism, sexism, harassment, or other discriminatory behaviour, in or outside of the gaming community. This is obviously a larger, societal problem that affects us on many levels. We can only hope that when instances like this come to light it encourages people to be more thoughtful and positive, and to fully reject mean-spirited commentary, whether within themselves or from their fellow gamers.

To help combat this type of behaviour during live events, we've reached out to players, streamers, and moderators, along with partners like Twitch, DreamHack, and others, to get consensus and collaborate on what to do differently moving forward. To that end, we're investigating a pilot program that Twitch has in the works to streamline moderation and combat ban evasion. We're also updating our esports tournament partner policies with a stronger system of checks, balances, and repercussions to provide a better chat experience around our content.

We believe these are important steps to take to help address the related issues, but we acknowledge that they only address part of the problem. This is ultimately an industry-wide issue, and it will take all of us to make a real impact.

It's a strong mission statement that needed to be made, and I'm glad a company of Blizzard's size and clout went for it. Hopefully others will follow suit. I'm surprised Twitch has yet to weigh in, though this pilot program of theirs sounds interesting. Twitch streamers and moderators need better tools in the fight against rampant dickery, especially with mainstream eyes increasingly taking a shine to eSports. Wanna ensure something stays niche? Try doing nothing while the lowest common denominator of your audience alienates massive portions of the human population on a regular goddamn basis.

Ultimately, Twitch chat's hype and playfulness can survive — thrive, even — without people behaving like insensitive jerks en masse. It's actually pretty easy to poke fun at someone without being racist, believe it or not! It's like the old adage says: The more people not being complete dickbags, the merrier. Change can be messy and scary, but in this case, it's more than warranted.


Comments

    Blizzard could solve this overnight by dis-allowing Twitch the rights to broadcast their IP. That'd stir them into doing something decisive.

      I think you're right. Hearthstone is regularly in the top 5 games on Twitch. The removal of just that game would be damaging.

      I would assume that was what they meant by
      We’re also updating our esports tournament partner policies with a stronger system of checks, balances, and repercussions to provide a better chat experience around our content

    Yes this is awful, and it sucks that viewers of the competitive gaming space act like this. But its the internet, and you're never going to eradicate it. I would hate to see a chatroom for a football or basketball game!

      It's not 'the internet' - it's platforms and spaces maintained by people and companies earning $ based on how many users attracted by THE GUY WHO WAS ABUSED.

        He made money too, and he knew what he was getting into.

          So he's not only supposed to let it happen, he had some culpability here as well?

          That is the stupid argument I've read on the internet for a while

      Saying "it's just the way it is, you'll never change it" doesn't solve anything. The onus is on the people typing the abuse to stop being racist douchenozzles, not on everyone else to work around them.

      Blizzard's approach is the right one. Ban the perpetrators and work on a more robust moderation system that better combats alt accounts etc.

        Some people like to watch the world burn. Internet trolls are generally normal people in real life, but they can be incredibly toxic online - certainly it's a personality fault but are they saying those horrible things because it's what they actually believe or are they just entertaining themselves?

        I suspect that even if we finally overcame bigotry you wouldn't know because socially underdeveloped people would still say disgraceful things. Not because they believed it, but because they were having fun at other's expense.

        It's a fine line, I know.

          That's a good point, you're always going to have people that do it just for the reaction etc. I guess my point just was that doesn't mean it's not worth trying at all.

          That's the difference between a troll and ahh dunno the term, let's just say ass hat. The troll does it purely for a reaction. The ass hat does it because their an ass hat.

      If you've ever watched a sports stream online, there's normally a chat attached to it.

      Even WWE pay per views aren't as horrendous as Twitch. Hell, most AFL streams are downright pleasant.

    So what if hes black? why do people think that changes anything? fucking hate how people just spam horrible things like that about people, its really silly. :(

      When you lack the intelligence to create a rational debate people tend to go for insults.

    Am I the only person able to see the comedy in this? It's very funny! You wonder 'are people really that bad' and then you get the confirmation in buckets of racism heaped upon some hapless idiot - it is hilarious! I might join in next time.

    Seriously, just remove chat from livestream for tornaments, its not needed at all. Ive never seen a commentator ask people questions in the chat, its always done through twitter or reddit or some other medium.

    Twitch channels could just use emote only mode for events if that feature is still a thing. Chat has nothing meaningful to discuss during esports spam

    Eh, its the internet, its kind of to be expected. Dicks will be dicks, doesn't matter the race, gender or whatever... they'll still be dicks

    Not saying its ok, just saying its a futile battle

      This. It's like trying to fight for women to have the right to vote, or black people to be able to go to the same restaurants as white people, some battles just can't be won.

        Ugh... yep... exactly what i was trying to say.... well done

        Last edited 19/05/16 6:45 pm

          You're wrong again, it's an analogy which is, by definition, not an exact comparison. Of course it's not the same thing.

            If you say so

            Last edited 27/05/16 2:41 pm

          Didn't even see that go right over your head, did you?

    Typical toxic behaviour by people who in the real world are fragile and scared losers, emasculated and alone.
    The sooner the larger gaming community stamps them out, the better.

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