Since the end of last week, news reports have been circulating about Paul "Ice Poseidon" Denino, a streamer who got swatted while on an aeroplane and subsequently got banned from Twitch. In his eyes, he was booted unjustly, chewed up and spat out by Twitch's new "IRL" section. However, this isn't Denino's first brush with Twitch law, nor swatting, for that matter. Many people watch him because they want to see stuff like that happen. Some even go out of their way to cause it.
Denino has a long history of messing with people and being messed with. It's spilled out from games into real life thanks to a practice called "stream sniping," where people figure out where you are by watching your stream and use that knowledge for some sort of prank or shenanigan. The aeroplane incident was the culmination of a trend that's become central to Denino's appeal, for better and worse.
Once upon a time, Denino was a streamer who mostly sat in his apartment and played old-school fantasy MMO Runescape. He got a reputation for leaning into "edgy" meme humour, often through half-lucid diatribes, Tourette's-like tics that he pretended to have no knowledge of, and in-game stunts. That, paired with a strangely watchable brand of awkward charisma, won him a sizable but unruly audience.
Case in point: at one point, Denino added a text-to-speech program to his setup and rigged it so that people could make it say things on stream when they donated. Mostly, fans used it in good fun, but some people tried to make it say things like the N-word or "kill [N-word]." Denino started getting heat for that, and after a while, he banned most variations of the phrase. But people persisted. He ultimately got suspended from Twitch in November of last year for an incident in which he was streaming from his pool and couldn't react quickly enough to stop a spelling variation of the N-word from getting through his filter. Here's a video (warning: NSFW due to language):
He seems pretty unhappy with his viewers after he finds out what happened. "I hate you so fucking much, dude," he says repeatedly, voice gradually rising in volume. "I'm in the process of buying a fucking house. If you get me banned, I'm not gonna be happy." At the time, viewers couldn't look away. They ate it up. This gets to the heart of a key part of Denino's appeal: people like messing with him, because they're guaranteed a reaction that feels real.
It's not surprising that people would mess with Denino, given that Denino's shtick often involves messing with other people. He says weird shit to people in games and on the street. He tries to evoke reactions. Over the past year, Denino's stunts have grown more elaborate, from him jokingly trying to pick up a young woman on camera while playing Runescape to, increasingly, creating bizarre situations to stream in real life.
The December 2016 launch of Twitch's IRL section, which is focused on people living their lives, gave him an even bigger platform for the latter.
Some of the things he does are pretty dumb. For instance, in September of last year he stuck a screwdriver in his PC and almost electrocuted himself. In December, he tried to get a girl's number live on stream (without informing her that he was streaming), which apparently constituted leaking said number by Twitch's standards.
After that, he got suspended from Twitch for a month. Other things he does are kinda cool. This March, he brought a young musician named Dion Lovel, who was performing outside, onto his stream, had him play music, and gave every donation he received that day to Lovel. He also set up a Twitch channel for Lovel and told his followers to subscribe to it. Lovel is now a partnered Twitch streamer himself.
But Denino's recent notoriety -- and troubles -- have stemmed from incidents that aren't so innocuous. Because he streams so much while he's out and about, he's not hard to find. He usually keeps people abreast of his general location on Twitter, and he even gives out his specific location during some streams. Stream sniping is unfortunately just something people do these days, but Denino's become the IRL posterboy for it.
Last October, he got the police called on him while in parking lot. Early last month, somebody sprayed him with a fire extinguisher while he was eating at Denny's. In mid-April, he got swatted in his apartment. Those are just a few examples. These days, it's not at all uncommon for fans to just show up while Denino is streaming, sometimes in crowds. The question is whether they will act chill or try to pull a stunt.
If you ask fans of Denino why they tune in these days, they will be split. Some will say they enjoy the recent chaos, and viewer counts that have reached upwards of 30k in the past few months speak to that. Others, though, will say that they like watching this weird dude walk around with a GoPro and interact with the unpredictable world around him. Like the time he biked around New York and messed with strangers.
That time somebody knocked his camera out of his hand because they thought he might do something violent. Rather perversely, the time he witnessed someone leap off a roof, presumably attempting suicide. These are the moments many fans pass around and recount. They like the spontaneity, the ways people act and Denino reacts. They don't want people to know who he is or to show up because of that knowledge. It makes the whole thing feel false or, worse, boring.
There's no doubting, though, that stream sniping gets Denino attention, even when (or perhaps because) he seems utterly exasperated by it. The aeroplane incident is the ultimate example of that. In late April, somebody called in a bomb threat at an airport and pointed to Denino as the culprit. He was immediately pulled off his plane by law enforcement. Shortly after, Twitch permanently banned him.
A couple days later, Denino published a video about the situation on YouTube. In it, he talked about how he felt like the Twitch ban was unjust, because he didn't do anything that was explicitly against the rules.
"When you look at the [terms of service]," he said, "there was no rules saying that you shouldn't leak your location. He noted that, the previous time he was suspended, Twitch told him the sorts of calls he received were technically against terms of service. But they didn't ban him then, so why now?
He said he felt like a "guinea pig" for Twitch's IRL section. "After three months of doing IRL -- getting calls everywhere I go, just inevitable stuff that happens in the section of IRL, a section that nobody understands yet, not even Twitch staff -- I was one of the people innovating the section," he said. He also noted that he wished they'd have communicated with him more frequently, given that IRL is unexplored territory.
At some point during his career, Denino started telling people straight-up where they could find him, but he defended his practice by saying that people found him anyway -- so it might as well happen on his terms.
"Sure, I've been swatted in the past," he said, "but that brings up a weird question. If you've been swatted in the past, does that mean every other time you get swatted, it's your fault? If I didn't stream and I still got swatted -- because they knew what flight I was on, because I already told everybody what flight I was on -- would it still be my fault? Would I still be banned?"
I reached out to Twitch, but they said they don't comment on violations of their terms of service. I also reached out to Denino, but he did not reply either.
Regardless of the precise reason for Denino's ban, it seems like he's been skating on thin ice for a while. Trouble tends to follow him around, after all, in part because he's fostered a culture of it by messing with people and in part because he doesn't seem to know where (or how) to draw the line. Maybe he doesn't want to. Is he causing all of these incidents or asking for them? No, probably not. Is he leading by example? Kinda, yeah. Is he benefiting from all of this? In terms of notoriety, definitely. But now he's lost his main platform, and that's a big setback no matter how you slice it.
This week, Denino moved his operation to YouTube, where he resumed live-streaming his weird life. He claims to have even had meetings with YouTuber higher-ups and says that he's got "exciting" stuff planned. For now, though, he's back to on-camera antics. Recently, he streamed himself talking about anal beads, getting choked out in a park (to learn self-defence), and talking to a kid about cursing in a moment that was strangely endearing. It was classic Ice Poseidon.