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The Stream Monster Effect

An interesting conversation went down over the weekend at NYU’s Practice panel. I wasn’t there in person, but a couple of the panelists filled me in on the details later that night at Next Level, which spawned its own conversation. Based on what we talked about, I will try to weigh in on the topic of misogyny in the Street Fighter community.

Firstly, misogyny is perhaps not the best word. Gamers can be pretty sexist, no denying that, but there’s no “hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women” as defined in the dictionary. Least, I would hope not.

What I think is happening is something I like to call the “Stream Monster Effect.” The term “Stream Monster,” as far as I know, was coined by Arturo Sanchez (mentioned in the article linked above) to describe players who aren’t good enough to compete in tournaments, and instead just troll/talk shit in the livestream chat. Think of them as the most extreme vocal minority doing whatever they please under the protection of the anonymity of the internet. The result is a hateful bunch of no-name scrubs acting like they own the place.

Now, don’t get the words confused. The “hateful” I’m referring to is more along the lines of “being a hater” than espousing actual hatred. Stream Monsters will hate on anything to appear witty on stream, not just women. Hell, most of these kids would pounce at the opportunity to actually interact with a female. So where does all the hate come from? I think it’s the result of microscopic opinions gaining traction (as everything does on the internet) and snowballing out of control. I’ve seen examples of this in other communities, not just Street Fighter.

Reddit Starcraft, for example, spends its time dealing with its Bipolar Disorder of loving/hating one Geoff “EGiNcontroL” Robinson. iNcontroL is a fairly prominent figure in the Starcraft community, having won World Cyber Games USA 2007 for Brood War. Most Starcraft II players (an overwhelming majority of users of r/starcraft have only played SC2), on the other hand, know him through a popular podcast called “State of the Game.” People loved him at first for his quick-witted humor when he appeared on SotG as a guest, but when he became one of the permanent hosts, opinions began to change.

Geoff incorporates impersonations/impressions into his humor, so naturally he stepped on a few toes when he used a bad German accent to poke fun of German player and SC2 media darling Dario “TheLittleOne” Wunsch when he guested on the show. TLO didn’t make a big deal out of it, but the internet did. People suddenly started finding Geoff’s impersonations to be in bad taste, and the SotG forum thread blew up with page after page of meaningless discussion on whether Geoff went too far.

Next came the North American Starleague, a major international tournament that Geoff was involved with both as a player and as a commentator. Before the event was revealed, Geoff spent a good month or so hyping it up through announcements on State of the Game. Most of it was saying that more details will come soon, and of course, announcements of announcements are now a meme in the Starcraft community as a result.

When NASL finally launched, it failed to live up to the hype, mostly due to the poor production values. It was something out of Geoff’s control, but he bore the brunt of the blame anyway. Around the same time, he displayed lackluster results both in NASL and in other major tournaments such as the Major League Gaming Pro Circuit, and a big part of the crowd that initially loved him for his straightforward, no-holds-barred humor was now giving him shit for being vocal without having the results to back it up.

I can’t be the only one who sees the irony here.

The worst part is, some of these people were being all hipster douchebag about it and claiming they started hating Geoff before it was popular. The very fact that hating someone is popular is what annoys me about r/starcraft, and Reddit as a whole. Anything that is even remotely popular will catch on, become a meme, and stay not just beyond its welcome, but for good. Reddit embodies the Stream Monster Effect, and it’s not a pretty sight.

Back over in the Street Fighter community, Stream Monsters have recently caught the Jaha craze. Yes, that same Jaha that got destroyed by Ben and I in a team tournament and got all salty about it, that same Jaha that is supposedly West Coast OG but just acts like a child, that same Jaha that gets booted off the mic by Sp00ky himself because he has no business commentating in the first place. There are analytical commentators (James Chen, UltraDavid, Seth Killian), there are hype commentators (Yipes, SkiSonic), and then there’s Jaha, who is neither. All he does is play his shitty music from his phone on stream and replace certain words with “swag.”

For some reason beyond my abilities of comprehension, this shit is catching on, which wouldn’t bother me so much if he weren’t also making personal attacks on people he doesn’t even know. At Season’s Beatings recently, Jaha stirred up the stream chat by calling a chubby girl who appeared on stream “She Honda.” I happen to know her personally, her boyfriend happens to be top NY Marvel player Chris G., and she was just sitting next to Chris to give him some support when he played his match. But of course, because it happened on stream, the nickname she didn’t ask for instantly caught on, and the Stream Monsters had a field day.

Based off of this, it’d be easy to label the fighting game community as a bunch of misogynistic assholes, but I hope everyone can see past the strawman and look at the bigger issue: that we’re coming across as assholes in general because a vocal minority, the Stream Monsters, is given the light of day to make us look bad. The saddest part is that it’s all transpiring over a primitive chat service. I can guarantee you that people who actually show up to tournaments don’t behave like this.

Forget it, Jake; it’s the internet.

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