Annemunition, a popular Twitch streamer with over 300,000 followers, was just trying to be a decent teammate and call shots in Rainbow Six Siege. Then, over voice chat, came the questions: "Are you a man or a female?" And the accusations: "You stole my fucking content. You're shit at the game. Get out."
Annemunition, a variety streamer who plays games like Rainbow Six, PUBG, God of War, and Overwatch, was playing Rainbow Six in her off time last week, away from the sometimes pressurised environment of her Twitch channel. The people she was playing with had no idea who she was, but they knew she was a woman and that's all they needed to know.
Over the course of several rounds, they laid into her with a series of increasingly vile insults, calling her everything from "gamer girl" to "tranny bitch." She continued to play like normal, dying in some rounds and clutching others for her team. When she did well, one guy said she stole his kill. When she did poorly, they used that to justify their attacks. "We're not being like this because we don't like women," said one of the men. "We're being like this because you're shit, by the way."
"Are you playing the right video game, miss?" the same man said later. "This isn't like League Of Legends where you can just flash your titties on stream. It takes skill."
"I hope you die," another man said immediately afterward.
"Why don't you use voice chat?"
"Why can't I find a girlfriend who plays video games?"
"Why do you mute people who ask you if you're a girl?"
Gee, I dunno.
[Warning: extreme language and monumental stupidity] pic.twitter.com/TO4VzU44YF
— Anne Munition (@AnneMunition) May 23, 2018
Annemunition kept her cool and finished the game. Then she decided to make an example of the people involved. She posted a video of the incident to her Twitter.
"'Why don't you use voice chat?' 'Why can't I find a girlfriend who plays video games?' 'Why do you mute people who ask you if you're a girl?' Gee, I dunno," she wrote.
The response was huge. As of now, the video has over half a million views and nearly 2000 comments, some of which share similar online horror stories. Annemunition told Kotaku in an email that she posted the video to make a point.
This is hardly the first time this kind of thing has happened to her, she said, and if it'd been during a stream, she would have just muted them. Since she was on her own, though, she decided to see how the situation would play out if she did nothing except make useful comments and help her team.
"As you saw in the video, that's all it took for them to devolve into toxicity," she said. "While I understand everyone, of all genders and backgrounds, can often be the subject of toxicity online, I really feel like people underestimate just how bad it can be for women or people who are recognised as 'other' over voice comms."
She added that streamers often feel a pressure to just roll with the punches when it comes to verbal harassment or other serious issues, but she worries about the kind of example that sets.
"I feel like there are a lot of expectations for streamers not to complain about anything ever and that we should just be positive and 'good vibes' only," she said. "When these types of things happen, I just think about all the young people (boys and girls) who experience this type of abuse online and don't have the tools to stand up for themselves other than to mute people and pretend everything is fine."
After Annemunition posted the video, one of the players who'd given her gallons of shit tried to apologise. In a sense. "I am extremely sorry for the way you feel, " he wrote in a tweet from an account that's since been deleted. "[K]now that the words I used were meaningless and have no substance."
"I appreciate that you want to apologise," Annemunition wrote back. "But man, you went HARD just because you heard a woman's voice... You called me a 'fucking tranny bitch' and told me to kill myself. Over nothing. All I did was exist." However, she went on to write that she sincerely hopes the guy learns from this and wants to better himself.
"I don't necessarily want to crucify people when I feel like there's the potential for them to walk away from the situation thinking 'Wow, I messed up. I said something really awful and it came back to bite me. I won't do that again,'" she told Kotaku, explaining why she chose to respond so kindly to an apology that was dodgy at best. "I wanted him to understand the gravity of his actions and the fact that words can be hurtful and that your actions have consequences."
In online games, she continued, people can tell others to kill themselves and face no real repercussions — or at least, not the sort of repercussions that would convince them to cork it for more than a handful of matches.
Meanwhile, the people being harassed are encouraged — both by their peers and the way many games' reporting systems work — to just shrug it off in the moment, no matter how much it's worming under their skin and writhing around.
"Gamers have learned that they can do these things without blowback because the solution so many people suggest is just to mute them and move on," Annemunition said.
That's why she decided to post the video, risking even more harassment from eager-to-pounce internet mobs in the process. If nobody creates consequences for this sort of thing that are immediate and consistent, yet also impactful in a way that will encourage them to learn rather than doubling down, nothing will change.
"I'm just sick of sweeping this behaviour under the rug and pretending it's all fine and dandy," she said. "It's easy to sweep things under the rug; it's hard to ask people to be better. Especially when so many people are just resigned to accepting the fact that online gaming and toxicity go hand-in-hand."
"Maybe that makes me a naive fool," she added, "but I refuse to accept that we can't treat each other with a little more kindness."