Make creepy comments in PaladinAmber’s Twitch chat at your own risk. “How much for a hug?” somebody asked during a stream a few days ago. In the blink of an eye, PaladinAmber switched over to an infomercial-style overlay, complete with a (fake) phone number and a list of payment options.
“You wanna know how much it’s gonna be for a hug?” she asked. “That’s right, you guessed it: It’s gonna be nineteen-ninety fuck off.”
In the past couple weeks, PaladinAmber has risen to a place of viral celebrity with these sorts of clips. Usually, it goes something like this: A viewer says one of approximately eight million inappropriate things women on the internet hear on a daily basis, and PaladinAmber roasts them until there’s nothing left but sinew and bone.
She does this with an elaborate camera setup, creative overlays, and improvisational humour, generally drawing on tropes from news broadcasts and infomercials. For example, a question about whether she was straight or bi — and, of course, if she was single — led to a faux “breaking news” bit that now has nearly 3 million views.
breaking news; streamers don't wanna do the horizontal tango with you… pic.twitter.com/6diCuXwqEO
— PaladinAmber. ????????????????️???? (@PaladinAmber) July 23, 2019
From her news-channel overlay, she laid into that viewer, and anyone who might have been thinking the same thing, all while seamlessly swapping between camera angles for comedic effect.
“I am a female on the internet, but I don’t want to date any of you,” she said. “This just in: It is possible for people to be on the internet and not want to do the horizontal tango with one another, or with any of you guys. So I’m going to announce that it’s none of your fucking business. It doesn’t matter. I’m a gal being a pal on the internet, and if you like my content, you can hang out. You can even subscribe. You can even just not do that and hang out and watch. That’s cool too. Don’t ask me about about my sexual preferences or dating.”
“Back to you guys!” she said, wrapping up the bit and swapping back to her regular stream view.
This is how she copes with life on a platform where over 80 per cent of users are male, and many of them feel like they can say whatever they want to women without facing repercussions. She’s turned their awkward, grating, and sometimes aggressive comments into fodder for elaborate jokes.
She is, however, dead serious about the message at the heart of her comedic tirades. She wants people to cut this shit out, and she hopes that her clips inspire other streamers to call out toxic viewers instead of letting them fly under the radar, a status quo that buzzes like flies on garbage.
“This is what content creators should be calling out, and this is what content creators shouldn’t be allowing, and this is how you could go about it if you wanted to tackle the issue that we all face every day when we go live,” PaladinAmber told Kotaku during an interview over Discord Thursday.
PaladinAmber, who declined to share her real name, is 23 and a resident of Australia. Besides loving games, she’s also a fan of sci-fi who plans to write and self-publish her own novel with support from the growing community of 30,000 people who follow her on Twitch and nearly 70,000 who follow her on Twitter. She started streaming games all of eight months ago, with nothing but a PlayStation 4 and a “bootleg” setup. It wasn’t long before her humble stream attracted its share of leering dudes. She began receiving creepy DMs on Instagram and the PlayStation Network, so she decided to shine an uncomfortably bright spotlight on the people sending them.
First, it was just basic on-stream call outs. “We’d name them and shame them and say, ‘This is the nasty boy of the week’ — that kind of thing,” she said.
The news cast and infomercial angle, she said, got thrown into the pot “purely by accident.” She decided to take Twitch seriously after testing the waters on PlayStation, upgrading to a PC-based setup with three cameras that she switches between on the fly using an Elgato stream deck.
Humour had always been a part of her stream, and she had made overlays for other skits and intermissions that she’d deploy between play sessions of games like Rainbow Six Siege. They were never intended to aid in sending weird viewers back to their sewers, but then the stars — if you could call them that — aligned.
Toxic viewer; "hOw mUch toO lET mE sEE yOUr fEEt".
— PaladinAmber. ????????????????️???? (@PaladinAmber) July 17, 2019
“I was trying to do the news one day as a joke, and somebody just happened to say something that was so far-fetched that I couldn’t not make it a headline,” PaladinAmber said. “And then that was it. Everyone was like ‘This is what the news is for. This is the news channel I stand by.’ I was like ‘That’s it. I’ve become the news lady.’”
She’s drawn to these kinds of commercial-like formats because they’re nostalgic vessels for comedic timing. This particular style of humour, she believes, is what sets her channel apart on Twitch, where high-level players rule the roost.
“It kind of gives this really bad 1:00 a.m. TV feel to my channel, which is what I was after, because I don’t want it to be taken seriously because I’m not an esports gamer,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve never been great at video games. I love playing video games, but truth be told, I suck. It’s one of those things where I can’t make a career in esports, but I definitely can put forward some of my really terribly well done ideas and use those to bring that real hearty laugh to people, which is what I was after.”
She does hope that people are getting the message, though, because as is, she doesn’t think Twitch’s culture or suite of moderation tools is doing enough to deter nasty, harassing behaviour. Even if a viewer gets banned from one channel, they can keep watching a streamer and see who’s in their chat (and even DM those people), they can make a new account and hop back into their chat, or they can join the chat of another channel and pick up right where they left off.
“I think the main reason Twitch is extremely oversaturated with really disgusting viewers is that, a lot of the time, a simple ban does absolutely nothing to move them on in that respect to a different platform,” she said.
PaladinAmber said that she appreciates the tools that are there, but that ultimately, she feels the culture needs to shift. More streamers, she believes, need to be vocal about over-the-line comments from viewers instead of just letting them fly by in chat.
“If you’ve ever done something stupid, and somebody said to you, ‘Hey, that was really stupid,’ it truly makes you question,” she said. “And whether or not they questioned it right there and then, eventually if enough people start saying, ‘Hey, this behaviour is really stupid; you should probably consider changing that or just logging off,’ it starts to sit there with that person, and then hopefully that change comes.”
PaladinAmber has witnessed that change first-hand in her own community.
“I had one viewer who I called out in the very beginning, and he was ban-evading,” she said. “We made it this thing on my channel where it was like a myth. There was lore behind it.
And he messaged me a couple of months ago and actually said, ‘I’m so sorry for all of the distress that I caused you. I realise now how bad my actions truly were. I do apologise. I’m no longer on Twitch. I’ve had an IP ban’ — all of this sort of stuff, but really owning up to his actions. And so I thought, if one out of 10 people really learn that lesson of ‘It’s the internet, but also your actions have repercussions,’ then my job is done as a comedic entertainer.”
She thinks humour makes the medicine go down easier, inviting people to participate in her stream and her community in more productive ways instead of just giving them the boot for their ugly behaviour.
“It’s about softening the blow, not making somebody feel extremely targeted and called out in a negative fashion,” she said. “Because when has negative reinforcement ever worked for anyone? It’s traumatic, it’s unpleasant, and it’s probably going to aggravate the situation…”
“I have a set of things [like racism and sexism] that will not be acknowledged at all and will just be sort of dealt with immediately,” she said. “But then everything else is kind of like, ‘Listen, I hear you, but also you need to stop this if you want to hang out here because this is a really cool place to hang out.’”
Over the past couple weeks, however, PaladinAmber has found herself in an odd spot. On one hand, her segments calling out skeevy viewers are reaching more people than ever, but on the other, people are now feeling emboldened to come into her chat and say the weirdest, grossest stuff they can think of in the hopes that she’ll roast them and that they’ll go viral. PaladinAmber acknowledged that, after a certain point, her approach could become counterproductive. But at the same time, she thinks that, in her own chat, things have improved in some ways.
when you have to set boundaries on the internet; pic.twitter.com/kcXQVW6SK9
— PaladinAmber. ????????????????️???? (@PaladinAmber) July 22, 2019
“I think there’s less of the really bad sort of derogatory behaviour that used to come in and more of the ‘Hey, show me your feet’ kind of comedic behaviour that’s happening,” she said. “I don’t want the ‘Hey, are you single? Hey baby, date me. What would you do for $1000?’ stuff, which is such a common occurrence for streamers who aren’t viral or content creators who haven’t yet done anything about it. Yes, it’s counterproductive, but I do think that it’s still going to change the way that a lot of other content creators handle this stuff, which will then sort of start to eradicate the issue in Twitch chat.”
She recognises, though, that streaming is a deceptively tough job, and not everybody has the mental or emotional bandwidth to add callouts that might incite hate to their schedule of being “on” for much of their day, interacting with chat, managing staffs of moderators, and dealing with the hate that already comes their way as a woman on Twitch.
She still encourages people to try speaking up, though, and to seek support in the form of therapy and things of the like, which she views as “absolutely wonderful” tools for streamers to have.
“If somebody is kind of suffering in silence because they don’t have the ability to say these things, and that’s all their chat is saturated with, I would 100 per cent say that the sooner you start to call it out and set your boundaries, the easier it is for you as a person to stand back and say, ‘No, I’m not going to accept this sort of interaction with you because I don’t agree with it. And I think what you’ve done is shitty,’” she said.