Will is the brainchild of Encounter Roleplay. He runs the livestreams and heads the management team. You can follow him on Twitter @EncounterRP!
Twitch is a great community service, but its community has some real problems. It’s undoubtedly an unfair and sometimes outright hostile environment for anyone who isn’t a white male. Most of the time this is expressed in certain communities, which are known for their toxicity and where hatred and bigotry is commonplace (see the shameful Hearthstone Dreamhack racism in last weekend’s public, sponsored event). But it’s also a general feature of the Twitch landscape, and so has found its way into the small community of D&D streamers.
I’ve been streaming on the D&D Twitch Directory for over a year now and we keep a constant eye on our live chat, as well as the other D&D streamers around. In the past months I’ve become acutely aware of the way women are treated in Twitch communities when it comes to tabletop rpgs. On almost a weekly basis we see sexual comments in our chat directed at our female cast members, often repeated over and over by the same viewer if they aren’t recognized or acknowledged on stream. Since we actively police both our chat channels and our youtube comments, we are happy to say that we can’t actually show you user quotes, but none of the following statements are unprecedented:
“Man, [Player A] is so fucking hot! Fuuuuuck!”
“DAAAAMN, cute girls playing dnd, fuck yeaaaa!”
“Seriously, [Player A], you are really cute. I mean it.”
“Whoaw, dnd chicks who aren’t ugly AF?!”
This REALLY pisses me off. Stop making a point of harassing women for being women. They don’t play D&D on stream to receive comments like this. They’re not flattered. They’re not interested in you. They’re here to PLAY D&D. This is one reason we don’t see many women on D&D streams or on Twitch as a whole. It’s sad that a common response from your average neckbeard nerd is “it’s the internet, what do you expect?” or “it’s just something you have to deal with.” It doesn’t HAVE to be, nor should it be! Women deserve just as much respect as men for PLAYING D&D, there is NO difference. “She’s just on the show because she’s a girl, right? She gets you viewers?” It’s sad that this is a common assumption from male viewers. It’s sad that the mere fact that a woman is playing D&D on Twitch is even considered something different or novel.
D&D in Twitch Communities
I think the sexism in D&D streaming is propagated through some D&D streams on Twitch. I’m deeply suspicious of the Twitch streams that are run by men and which blatantly advertise a 90% female cast – REAL GIRLS PLAYING, GIRLS GONE WILD, HOT NERD GAMING (all actual tweets or show-titles seen in the past twelve months). Do better, please. It only encourages this behaviour and stops us all from moving forward in the hobby and as a fucking species. It not only feels very disingenuous, it’s pandering. I’ve got no problem with all-girl D&D groups, but let’s be honest here. These kind of streams know full well how to manipulate their audience to “sell” that they have women on stream, and the lack of chat moderation that these streamers do for the exact type of misogyny I talked about before is telling. What we need are more all-female Twitch teams that foster a community that is just as concerned about the GAMES being played as in cases with all-male streams!
One particular thing that really pisses me off about playing D&D on Twitch is the “fisting” obsession among streaming communities. Countless big-time streamers actively promote and encourage the spamming of fisting emotes in their chat. While they can pretend to hide behind a benign bro-ey “fist-bump” interpretation of those emotes, unless they actually buck up and police their chat from sliding this group-refrain into something overtly sexual and explicitly violent against women, then frankly they’re not worth the bytes their stream takes up. I became aware of this problematic double-speak implicitly encouraged by streamers when we started our own “Patreon fist pump” – a Night at the Roxsbury-esque club bumping that we do on stream to thank new supporters who pledge on our Patreon. Pretty quickly, this started devolving into a flurry of fisting jokes in chat. Being a new streamer at the time, this took me by surprise. So, now we have to police our chat diligently whenever we get a new pledge. Rather than change our gesture and simply let the trend continue, we thought it would do more good to keep using our distinctly NON-fisting fist pump on stream and use every instance of a “fisting” joke as an opportunity to explain the importance of our distinction to folks in chat.
I’m aware of the kind of response that articles like this can gain. Questions like “Why don’t YOU have more women on your stream?” are, of course, valid and expected. That said, they should be considered in their context. As a platform, Twitch has a user base which is around 70% male. There are simply more men on Twitch than women – and, frankly, part of me is almost glad more women aren’t subjected to some of these especially toxic communities.
While it’s nowhere near where we’d like it to be, Encounter Roleplay is both lucky and proud to have so many women involved our shows. Our team is currently made up of seven men and five women, which features both men and women in all of the following roles: player characters, GMs, artists, and moderators. While gender balance is something we’re continually trying to promote, I’m proud of having made the small steps that I have since putting together my original team last year (five men, two women). We are also extremely proud of the inclusive and safe community space we’ve been able to foster. More than anything we’ve achieved with our growth this past year, we are the most excited about how regularly we’re thanked for fostering an inclusive chatroom experience for viewers.
So, shameless plug: if you’re a woman and want to get involved in ANY way with a friendly and safe D&D Twitch community, come check out our channel during one of our streams! We’re always looking for new players, GMs, artists, writers, and moderators to run our channel, and we would love to have you! I guess most of all, if you’re a woman and you just want to play some awesome D&D, check out our open viewer games that we run every Thursday or our chatroom-style Tavern RP that runs 24/7 in our discord server!
Call to Action
While Twitch’s Rules of Conduct sets a high bar for keeping stream communities safe and inclusive, they could be doing more to enforce this posture they’re projecting for their brand – as evidenced by the Dreamhack fiasco. And unless their hordes of users speak up wanting better enforcement, they have little incentive to do anything. With that, we’re encouraged by how vocal some members of our community are becoming. Let’s have more of that. Let’s make it something that everyone is aware of. Please share this article across social media if you want to help us get the message across: you can be a successful Twitch streamer and a thriving D&D community WITHOUT “generic” internet misogyny bullshit!