Zoie Burgher knows exactly what you see when you tune into her Call of Duty streams. She knows that viewers judge her and people assume the worst because of how she presents herself. Burgher is currently blowing up on YouTube anyway, thanks to a recent ban on Twitch. Twitch, a popular livestreaming service, has rules specifying that streamers cannot show too much skin during broadcasts, much less focus on anything overtly sexual. Burgher, who is known for twerking while playing Black Ops 3, has been banned many times for violating that rule, with the most recent expulsion happening last weekend. While this turn of events may not sound surprising, Burgher contests that there's something suspect going on with the latest incident with her Twitch account:
As Burgher tells it, she hasn't actually been streaming on Twitch for the last month, maintaining a low profile leading up to Twitch's official convention. The last time Burgher was streaming, she claims, she was wearing the Swedish outfit pictured in the video above. In the email Burgher shared with me, Twitch lists the infraction as "porn or other sexually explicit content".
While Burgher recognises that the first few bans were legitimate, in an email exchange she described the latest ban as "unfair", since in her eyes she's technically been on good behaviour lately. She also notes that other streamers have worn similarly revealing clothes but have not gotten banned yet. I asked for specifics and didn't hear back from Burgher, and Twitch declined to comment as well.
Source: BlastphamousHD TV
Burgher's even made a playlist featuring videos where people roast her, and it includes titles like "Zoie, please go to a cam site" and "Zoie Burgher: a new cancer forms". That's tame, compared to the specific insults hurled at Burgher on social media sites and comments sections, where many have taken to calling Burgher a "slut" and "whore". Some cite YouTube's own community guidelines, which stipulate that "YouTube is not for pornography or sexually explicit content", though historically the enforcement of that rule is not very clear cut.
"The argument [against Burgher that] I've found most interesting is that what she is doing is detrimental to the image of female gamers," commented YouTuber Philip DeFranco in a video addressing the controversy surrounding Burgher. "With Zoie being the most-watched streamer on YouTube at the time that she's streaming, isn't she representative of female gamers? To which I think the argument is perception-wise yes, but also on the other end, is that fair? No one's ever looked at my videos and goes, 'Uh, that's so representative of guys on YouTube.'"
For detractors, it's not just that Burgher is playing Black Ops 3 provocatively. The peanut gallery keeps bringing up Burgher's meteoric rise — Social Blade, a YouTube metrics tracker, notes that Burgher has gained nearly 400,000 followers in less than a month. For people who toil away on YouTube for ages before gaining a following, seeing Burgher tear it up so quickly has proven infuriating. It's a misplaced jealousy that suggests viewers are being tricked into watching Burgher's content or that she's cutting corners to get a fame she does not "deserve", whatever that means. Meanwhile, actual YouTube giants make Burgher's subscriber count look laughable (no offence to Burgher).
"I stream, and all that entails: Storytelling, game commentary, chat interaction, fostering a sense of community... while in a bikini," Burgher said. Burgher's point is that while most pundits focus on her attire, they ignore the many elements that have made her stream successful, too. Archives of Burgher's streams sometimes focus on her sexuality, yes, but they also feature plenty of trash talking, self-aware jokes and kill streaks. Burgher isn't just entertaining people with her antics, she's also playing well:
Not that it stops the social media onslaught. Burgher's owning it. She jokingly refers to herself as a "thot" while streaming, and her Twitter bio says "brought to you by daddy issues", a jab at one of the most common insults hurled at her.
"What is the first thing people say about girls who are wearing 'too little' clothes, or about girls who are acting 'un-lady like'?" Burgher mused. "It's said they have no parents, they were raised badly, or never met their father. So I beat [people] to the punch line... because then maybe you'll sit back for a moment and think — wait, is there more to this?"
"I'm a college educated girl, and I could tell you more about the Middle Eastern crisis and its centuries-long dynastic feud between the Sunni and Shi'a than anyone you have ever met," Burgher said. "But first I have to do 50 more jumping jacks on live camera because this guy just donated 50 dollars. Platform is power, and I don't mind using sex appeal to get it."
I asked Burgher why she thinks she's become such a hot topic on YouTube, and she told me that it was just a matter of being at the right place at the right time.
"September is a slow month," Burgher explained. (To wit, one of the popular videos featuring Burgher outright says "there wasn't that much news today".)
"Most people familiar with consumer buying cycles (and therefore ad rates, the source of YouTube money) understand that the before-school consumption spike has been replaced with a media consumption lull as kids are back in school and no longer able to consume as much social media," Burgher continued. "I have risen from 3000 to 300,000 subscribers in 10 days [Editor's note: Now up to 400,000], and not just 10 days, but during a time when everyone (on YouTube) is suffering from lower views, and lower audience interaction... people are competing not only for views and subscribers, but attention. Once there is sufficient attention on a subject, other YouTube channels start covering it in an attempt to capitalise on the views."
Burgher's insinuation is a deeply ironic one: While some accuse her of weaponising her sex appeal for personal gain, the truth is more that other YouTubers are exploiting her looks for better thumbnails, and saucier news/reaction videos. Every time a YouTuber features Burgher, they increase her profile more and more. YouTube and social media are complaining about a behemoth that it created in the first place.
"At the end of the day, people could be getting entertained anywhere on the internet — even on the pornographic sites people suggest as alternatives for content, but they're not; they're watching me," Burgher said. "So I will take their good faith and invest it into myself to evolve and grow as a person and YouTuber."
"I can have a great personality all I want, but if no one's around to experience it, how great is it really?" Burgher said. "I aim to get an audience, and I've done that."
On Twitch, Burgher's story would have been an old one: The internet has been misguidedly arguing about livestreaming "camwhores" for ages, trying to police what a woman should or should not wear on-camera. Years ago, Burgher's ban would have closed the latest chapter in that saga quickly, but instead it has spilled onto YouTube. Guess you can say that YouTube's own livestreaming service has finally made it.