The char at E3 was… interesting!
For what feels like eons now, the E3 Pangea has threatened to break apart and scatter gaming landmasses to all corners of the Earth. Now that’s finally happening, with this year’s E3 functioning as a loose umbrella for a plethora of publisher-specific shows. This has given companies a massive stage on which to show the world that they have no idea what to do with Twitch chat.
Despite ample resources and longstanding conventional wisdom surrounding large Twitch chats’ tendency to turn toxic if they’re not properly moderated, publishers, Twitch, and E3 have all managed to mishandle Twitch chat. Things got off to a particularly egregious start on Saturday with Ubisoft’s conference, which opened with a lengthy preshow. During this preshow, there was a segment about gamers with disabilities. Chat was not kind.
“To make things worse though, people were being ableist and racist,” Dominick Evans, a streamer who consults for Hollywood on disability and LGBTQ issues, said on Twitter. “A friend who is Black and Deaf was signing about Ubisoft’s commitment to accessibility, and people were saying things like is he Deaf because of a gang fight? They also said sign language was gang signs.”
Perhaps as a result of this, or possibly as part of a premeditated plan, Ubisoft ended up basically disabling chat during its actual show. On Twitch, it activated subscriber-only mode so that anybody who hadn’t paid money to subscribe couldn’t chime in. On YouTube, it removed chat functionality altogether.
Other publishers, like Square Enix, also found themselves confronted with chaos and spam, ultimately deciding to take away chat’s ability to use words by activating emote-only mode midway through the stream. Over the weekend, Geoff Keighley’s The Game Awards channel, which has been co-streaming events as part of the Summer Game Fest event, attempted to rein in its own unruly chat in a similar way, only to fail. It activated subscriber-only mode, but whoever was running the channel neglected to turn off a feature called channel points, which allows viewers to briefly bypass the sub-only wall by spending points they accrue simply by watching a stream. As a result, even with restrictions in place, chat remained a cesspit of spam, with walls of the word “SEXO” obliterating nearly all discussion.
Continuing a long-running theme, Twitch has also done a poor job of managing its own Twitch chat, with a small moderation staff failing to quickly delete, for example, inappropriate comments about female presenters’ weight and other remarks at their expense. The PC Gaming show, meanwhile, theoretically had moderators, but they applied an exceedingly light touch, allowing racist emote spam and comments like “blacks” to slip through when presenter Mica Burton was on screen. Later, they also failed to prevent a giant, largely unrelated yell-off between viewers who were opposed to police and the “back the blue” crowd. “BLM and antifa are terrorists” is just one of many comments that got through without being moderated until damage was already done.
The worst offender, though, is probably the official E3 channel, which clears the incredibly low bar of having an active moderation staff instead of panicking and trying to disable chat entirely, but has dropped the ball in basically every other area. There are also no listed chat rules. Despite near-constant audience sizes of 100,000+ concurrent viewers, the main E3 channel has not even restricted chat to follower-only mode, which—while nowhere near as severe as sub-only—would at least cut down on chaos a little.