What does it mean to be authentic on Twitch? Who is real and who is fake on a platform where everybody is a brand, but also where a cornerstone of that brand is the appearance of down-to-earth chillness? This is the implicit question of the week on Twitch, and it’s all thanks to Imane “Pokimane” Anys.
On an internet obsessed with reactions, events like E3 are a goldmine. Content creators of all stripes co-stream big announcements as they happen, adding some flavor to otherwise pristinely packaged proceedings. Today, however, E3 told creators that might not be such a great idea this year.
At this point, there are more parody hot tub streams on Twitch than actual hot tub streams—so much so that one now holds the distinction of being the most viewed hot tub stream of all time. Credit where credit’s due, though: Minecraft megastar George “GeorgeNotFound’’ Davidson at least went out of his way to make his take on tub boy summer as viscerally upsetting as possible.
As of last month, the age of NFTs was officially upon us. As of this month, it might be on its way out. Average prices have declined by as much as 70% since a peak in February, according to Bloomberg. That, however, has not stopped big-name streaming and esports figures from announcing their own NFT collections.
Many Twitch streamers have YouTube channels, and vice versa. They also have Twitter pages, Instagrams, TikToks, SnapChats, and basically every other kind of account under the sun. For years, Twitch has taken activity on other platforms into account when deciding to suspend or ban streamers, albeit inconsistently—and typically only when an infraction had also happened on Twitch or to another Twitch streamer. Now it’s trying to turn off-platform activity into a cornerstone of its moderation approach, partnering with a third-party law firm to investigate off-platform threats, sexual assault, and other forms of harassment and violence.
There is no predicting which game Twitch will catapult into the spotlight next. Last year, it was Among Us, a previously obscure party game about deception. Now, it’s Rust, a survival game that first came out in 2013, whose heyday was thought to have long since passed. These seemingly random flavors of the month have a major thing in common: The creation of the streamer cinematic universe.
Giving money to streamers can be weird. It makes sense when a streamer is a scrappy up-and-comer for whom even a few coins in the cup can make a difference, but we live in an era in which big streamers are millionaires with exclusive contracts and brand deals. While popular streamers have expressed awareness of this power differential in the past, Imane “Pokimane” Anys is doing something about it.
It began on Monday with a simple question: “Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote?” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked on Twitter, and nearly every even vaguely left-leaning streamer on Twitch answered. Mere hours later, AOC had a verified Twitch channel with hundreds of thousands of followers. Tuesday night, she streamed with some of Twitch’s biggest stars, resulting in a raucous audience that topped out at around 439,000 concurrent viewers on her channel alone.
LeafyIsHere is a creator known primarily for picking on other creators. Last month, he was permanently banned from YouTube for repeatedly violating the company’s harassment policies after a series of videos about Twitch star Imane “Pokimane” Anys—one of which kicked off a hashtag campaign around the existence of her supposed, secret boyfriend—as well as a feud with YouTuber Ethan “H3H3” Klein. Now he’s been booted off Twitch as well.
Late last month, drama-baiting YouTuber LeafyIsHere stirred up an internet-wide fuss over the idea that Imane “Pokimane” Anys, the most popular female streamer on Twitch, might have a boyfriend. It was the most recent evolution of a long-running line of thought: women on the internet keep their dating lives secret to fool gullible men into giving them money. Yesterday, Anys posted an apology video in response to the boyfriend drama, as well as a great many other things. Now it’s been disassembled, shoved under a microscope, and fed back into the drama machine.
Right now, if you digitally eavesdrop on any given conversation in the fandom surrounding OfflineTV, a beloved streamer house racked by allegations of inappropriate behavior, you’ll likely find people debating the idea of forgiveness. Should fans forgive faves who’ve fessed up? Can they, given that they’re just bystanders?