With the rising popularity of the live streaming video platform, Twitch, many e-sports tournaments and gaming-related talk shows are being streamed by millions of viewers worldwide. However, the area in which Twitch generates most of its content is with personal streams of individual players. Twitch has opened the doors for millions of these gamers to make playthroughs of any number of games, allowing them to share their gameplay.
Although the video streaming service is predominantly male in its membership, the site has been gaining ground with the female demographic since its initial launch back in 2011. However, according to Motherboard, a recent study found that in the gaming community of live-streaming, Twitch users show a sharp difference between the ways viewers interact with one another, depending on their gender.
According to the study conducted by the Indiana University Network Science Institute, women streamers on Twitch were far more likely to receive comments and attract commenters who referenced their physical appearance.
The study, titled “Gendered Conversation in a Social Game-Streaming Platform,” collected and analyzed more than one billion public chat messages posted over a two-month period back in 2014, of which researchers closely studied a subset of more than 70 million messages posted on the streaming site. All the messages came from 400 different channels at an even ration of 200 men and 200 women, all of which were from a mixture of the site’s top 1000 ranking and some less popular channels.
Giovanni Ciampaglia, one of the article’s authors, said that “There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence about gendered conversations on Twitch, and even if you just go on Twitch it’s very stark. You could say it has a bad rap.” He went on to say that “Viewers on women’s stream spoke in more objectifying terms, which confirms that anecdotal evidence.”
The report (which you can find here) found that comments on Twitch routinely objectified women at a disproportionate rate in comparison with men. Men streaming their gameplay are generally greeted with comments about their skills and their gameplay, whereas women streamers generally receive comments regarding their appearance. Some of the most popularly used words on female streams were the following: “boobs,” “hot,” “cute,” and “babe;” whereas men saw words like “points,” “kills,” “rank,” and “battle.”
Ciampaglia goes on to state that
Our analysis on both streamers and viewers shows that the conversation in Twitch is strongly gendered. The streamer’s gender is significantly associated with the types of messages that they receive. Male streamers receive more game-related messages while female streamers receive more objectifying messages.
While not all women on Twitch are experiencing this objectification, the report did find that big-name female streamers receive a higher ration of comments about their bodies than fellow women streamers that run less-trafficked Twitch channels. However, the report does point out several reasons why there might be some disparities between genders, citing one Twitch streamer known as Kaceytron:
‘Kaceytron’ cluster is full of users whose vectors are highly similar to the vector for ‘boobs’, suggesting that the chat messages made by these users share high semantic similarity with the word ‘boobs.’
Essentially, this means that some channels that attract the most viewers also attract more raucous behavior. The report also theorizes that other streamers might be giving in to gender stereotypes for financial reasons – Twitch being predominantly male, financial incentives for streamers revolve around increasing subscriptions, which unfortunately means conforming to the request of male viewers.
In response to ongoing reports from women streamers, Twitch has pledged to work on a new community moderation technology to help aid sexist abuse. Twitch Senior Vice President, Matthew DiPietro, has previously stated that harassment is being taken very seriously at Twitch:
We’re dedicated to improving our policies, products, and features to offer broadcasters the tools and flexibility to manage their channels how they see fit and to protect themselves against harassment and other inappropriate behavior.
Twitch currently offers the option of banning certain words from their chat and they also can put aggressive users on a “time out” through their harassment toolkit. Ciampaglia also noted that there was a strong moderation system in place with the community, giving many encouraging news.
Ciampaglia’s report was posted on the arXiv preprint server and has not yet been peer reviewed.