One of the largest creator monetization platforms in the world recorded that its approximately 9 million monthly users had consumed 22.8 billion hours of content throughout 2021. The platform offers a vast array of streamable content, yet an increasing amount is leaning toward the risque. Despite having banned pornography of any kind, as well as nudity and sexual content, some creators have been pushing the boundaries of this online space’s community guidelines.
Did you think we were talking about OnlyFans? We don’t blame you, but we’re talking about Twitch.
Twitch clearly outlines its policies regarding nudity and sexual content in its community guidelines:
“Nudity and sexually explicit content or activities, such as pornography, sexual acts or intercourse, and sexual services, are prohibited… Sexually suggestive content or activities are also prohibited, although they may be allowed in educational contexts or for pre-approved licensed content, in each case subject to additional restrictions” (Twitch, 2022).
It should go without saying that the establishment of any form of legal guidelines goes hand in hand with the discovery of loopholes in said guidelines; despite its supposedly rigid rules, the most popular form of streamable content on Twitch is shot in hot tubs.
This streaming platform, recently dubbed “hot tub meta,” features streamers of all genders in hot tubs where they are theoretically allowed to be scantily clad as it’s appropriate in their environment (Cross, 2021). Don’t get it twisted – we don’t take issue with the concept of hot tub streaming or the content it produces. It’s just hard to believe that hot tubs cultivate an educative atmosphere, let alone informative content creation – yet, these kinds of content creators have taken over in popularity.
Especially during COVID-19, Twitch saw unprecedented growth in views and the number of active content creators; having generated $2.6 billion in advertising revenue in 2021 alone, Twitch experienced a 41% year-on-year increase (Cross, 2021).
Ok, so policing streamers and making sure they adhere to community guidelines may be much more difficult in practice – but what about video games that feature nudity, sex, and explicit content? Does Twitch draw that metaphorical line in the sand in this context? Take the infamous game Cyberpunk 2077, which is full of nudity and sexual content – remember that community guidelines quote written above? Well, as it turns out, in 2020, Cyberpunk 77 was one of the most popular streamed video games on Twitch; in fact, that same year, streamers of the game enjoyed 191,000 viewers, making it the fifth-highest viewed game on Twitch (CNN, December 14, 2020).
Cyberpunk 2077 was not the first game to make the Twitch streaming community question the validity or soundness of Twitch’s community guidelines. The Witcher game series, especially The Witcher 3, sparked similar controversy in the years prior; it should come as no surprise that this game series also featured explicit sexual content yet was allowed to be streamed on Twitch.
Like we said before, the content itself isn’t the issue – the video games we just mentioned are renowned, and rightfully so. The problem, however, is how it is policed. If you’ll allow one extreme and abandon the other based on archaic societal constructs that ostracize topics like nudity and sex from the broader conversation, you’re contributing to the problem.
It’s important to note that “Twitch maintains a list of games that are prohibited on its platform, which include games that have an ESRB rating of Adults Only and that violate its community guidelines” – ok…that’s fair (CNN, December 14, 2020). So, why is Eek! Games’ House Party, with an ESRB rating of Mature 17+, banned from Twitch?
The platform takes no issue allowing content creators to stream from their real-life hot tubs, yet they’ll ban a clip of NPCs in a hot tub… make it make sense.
Twitch’s “subjectivity” in its interpretation of sexual content is, in actuality, just hypocritical. Strictly monitoring the content of video games, yet failing to adhere to that same rigidity in respect to streamers’ content, will ensure that Twitch remains susceptible to loopholes, such as those mentioned above – as is the case with any argument based on the principles of subjectivity.
Nevertheless, despite having the same ESRB rating as Cyberpunk 2077 and The Witcher game series, House Party, and other similar player-choice games, remain banned from Twitch.
Evidently, Twitch has a long way to go in enforcing its guidelines in a way that creates a safe, unbiased, and educational online community. The platform’s massive growth in recent years means more creators will look to imitate popular trends like the hot tub meta. If Twitch hopes to stay relevant well into the future, it would do well to apply its standards consistently between both content creators and the games they play.
Community Guidelines. (n.d.). Retrieved September 30, 2022, from https://safety.twitch.tv/s/article/Community-Guidelines?language=en_US
Cross, T. (2021, June 29). Twitch’s Hot Tub Drama Demonstrates the Difficulty of Policing Sexual Content. VideoWeek. https://videoweek.com/2021/06/29/twitchs-hot-tub-drama-demonstrates-the-difficulty-of-policing-sexual-content/
Goodwin, J. (2020, December 13). Cyberpunk 2077 is full of nudity, but Twitch still lets gamers stream it | CNN Business. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2020/12/13/tech/cyberpunk-2077-nudity-twitch/index.html
How Creator Tipping Platforms Like Twitter Super Follows & OnlyFans Work. (n.d.). Bustle. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from https://www.bustle.com/life/twitter-super-follows-onlyfans-patreon-twitch-differences
Twitch Revenue and Usage Statistics (2022). (2019, February 15). Business of Apps. https://www.businessofapps.com/data/twitch-statistics/