Last week, Twitch finally responded to controversy surrounding the so-called “hot tub meta” by clarifying its rules and creating a new section called Pools, Hot Tubs, and Beaches. Given that many complaints about hot tub streams stemmed from the idea that they represented a “loophole” in Twitch’s rules, it has certainly been something to watch people cannon ball into the new section and immediately stretch the definition of “hot tub stream” — or even just “stream” — to its breaking point.
While some saw Twitch christen the new category and feared that a flood of NSFW content was about to befoul their puritanical paradise, that hasn’t really been an issue. Instead, the Pools, Hot Tubs, and Beaches section reflects the reality of hot tub streams: Despite all the furore surrounding them, there aren’t that many. At any given moment, the section features a small handful of actual hot tub (or pool/beach) streams up top — for now maintaining healthy viewer counts despite being removed from the mega-popular Just Chatting section — and a bunch of exceptionally strange, sketchy stuff below.
Some of these streams are innocent enough. My favourite, for example, is Hot Tub Uncle Iroh, a barely animated image of Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender sitting in a hot tub, vibing to chill beats. Occasionally, the music gets interrupted by one of Iroh’s many iconic lines from the show. If you’re looking for beats to relax/study to, you could do worse. There’s also Hot Tub Jesus, a channel that’s similar, but with a weirdly toxic chat. Wildlife cams — including otters and the “thiccest chicks” bathing in a bird fountain — have also managed to pull in respectable view counts. Oh, and there are, of course, several different streams of Geralt from The Witcher 3 lounging in a tub.
Then you get into more deliberately transgressive territory, like men using wigs, apps, and in one case full-body prosthetics to feminise their appearances and parody hot tub streams in ways that sometimes verge on uncomfortable. There are also numerous streamers trying to take advantage of the new section by changing their avatars to pictures of women and airing what are clearly VODs of other streamers’ broadcasts. In some cases, they make it clear what they’re doing via on-screen graphics and stream titles, but other accounts have straight-up impersonated big names like Kaitlyn “Amouranth” Siragusa and Indiefoxx while promising rewards like free OnlyFans access in exchange for subscriptions and donations.
Other scammers don’t even put in that much effort, naming their channels things like “Nicehotgirls” and running rotating clip shows of various women’s TikToks. Somehow a step down even from that are the numerous channels that go live with still images of popular hot tub streamers saying that they’re “changing into a cute bikini” and implying they’ll be back soon. Spoiler: they never come back. Instead, the people running these clear scam channels spam their chats with extremely questionable links.
Some of these accounts go offline fairly quickly, and a handful got hit by what appeared to be a ban wave shortly before this publishing. But Kotaku has witnessed others stream for hours at a time — suggesting that Twitch is not moderating the new Pools, Hot Tubs, and Beaches section with a particularly consistent hand, or that it’s having trouble keeping up. Maybe this is because it wants to give a new form space to evolve organically, or because advertisers can opt out of the whole section, putting less pressure on Twitch to keep things prim and proper. It could also be that Twitch wasn’t expecting so many people to exploit the new section — though given how many times people have tried to use Twitch for similar purposes, it probably should have.
Given the number of scams that have already cropped up — not to mention how out of control things have gotten in the past when Twitch has allowed niche sections to go off the rails — it would benefit from getting on top of this sooner rather than later.