Random Thoughts on Game Streaming

if you’re streaming a multiplayer game, please tell me up front so I can drop out

Thu, 28 Jul 2022

I don’t stream.

I don’t watch other people’s game streams.

I don’t stream because I don’t see the point of turning my recreation into a performance for strangers on the internet – let alone trying to monetize such recreation.

I don’t watch other people’s game streams because if it’s a game I’m interested in, I’d rather play the game myself.

I’m normally content to live and let live when it comes to streaming. If other people are streaming a single-player game, that’s their business. If they’re streaming a multi-player game, that’s different.

Consider Final Fantasy XIV as a case in point. It’s a MMORPG that’s basically a mashup of everything FF fans love from the various single player games: an all-you-can-eat buffet of melodrama, evil empires, heavies in baroque armor giving grandiose speeches about the necessity of humanity wresting control of their own destiny from the gods, justifiable decide, big fucking swords, flashy magic, and a never-ending fashion show1.

I’m still convinced the whole thing is an elaborate pastiche on Michael Moorcock2, and I’m there for it even though it’s multi-player and I’m generally not the sociable type.

However, something strange happened last night during a dungeon crawl. One of the other players addressed me on party chat and and asked me why my character’s hair was short – and why she wasn’t wearing glasses. They remembered my character’s hair being much longer. I didn’t know them from Adam, and I tend to recognize players if I’ve run with them often enough, especially if they have a memorable name or stylish outfits.

I told them the truth; I felt like changing up my look. I do that sometimes, because why not? If you’re playing a MMORPG with custom character creation you’re basically playing with dolls, so why not own it and have some fun? I then asked if we fought together before.

We hadn’t. They had seen me in a stream. I don’t recall ever playing with streamers, or consenting to be in another player’s stream, so being recognized from a stream is just a bit disconcerting – even if my character looks like she’d be more at home at a Type O Negative concert than a generally upbeat and optimistic JRPG.

You might think it’s weird and unreasonable to be uncomfortable with this because I use my real name on the web. That’s a fair point, but FFXIV is something I do to chill. I don’t use my real name there, though using the name of a character from my fiction probably isn’t great OPSEC either.

Nor is there necessarily an expectation of privacy in MMORPGs. But when doing multiplayer content with random players, you never know when you might be playing a supporting role in somebody else’s stream. I’ve never had a streamer ask me if I wanted to be in their stream.

It would be nice if they did ask. I’m not going to quit a dungeon I’ve already started because one of the player’s is streaming; that wouldn’t be fair to the other players because they’ve got to wait for the game to find a substitute. Trust me, it’s no fun to have to wait for a new tank or healer because the one you started with got disconnected or quit in a huff3.

You might thing you can stream multiplayer without consent because I won’t walk out on you, but that’s not the case. If I find that somebody has been streaming, and that I’m involved in their stream without having consented to being streamed, I will blacklist them so that I’m not matched with them in future multiplayer sessions.

And if you think that’s unreasonable, I can always initiate votes to kick out streamers in the middle of dungeons. I’m reluctant to use that feature unless another player’s behavior is egregious, lest FFXIV’s management think I’m being an abusive or toxic player, but I think streamers really should be more respectful of other players’ boundaries.

If I wanted to be in a stream, I’d get my own stream. I’d call it “Matthew Fails Video Games Forever”, and I’d treat my viewers with utter contempt because I have a day job and don’t actually need them.

  1. Glamoring your equipment (or “glam”) is FFXIV’s true endgame, but you can start participating long before you’ve reached max level or caught up on the game’s story.↩︎

  2. Particularly his Hawkmoon novels, because so many of the game’s Evil Empires are reminiscent of Granbretan; the Garleans even have jewels embedded in their foreheads, and if Garleans ever become playable you can bet your ass somebody will have a character named “Dorian Hawkmoon”.↩︎

  3. The game penalizes this sort of behavior, but that doesn’t stop some players from rage quitting if the other players in the group ask them to do basic things like turning on tank stance to draw the enemies attention or not waiting until the tank is on death’s door before casting a single healing spell. For that matter, I’ve seen offensive players not use group attacks despite the tank being surrounded by a dozen enemies, and then get upset when asked to adjust their tactics to suit the situation.↩︎