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Gaming News

Controversial Streamer Suspended From Twitch, Barred From TwitchCon After 'Harassment'

October 18, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Image: Ali Larsen

Last week, controversial Twitch streamer Ali “Gross Gore” Larsen landed himself in hot water after attendees of official Runescape convention RuneFest alleged that he’d harassed women and gotten into a physical altercation with another streamer. Now he says he’s been suspended from Twitch and forbidden from attending TwitchCon, but, he claims, this happened because of a different incident at the Runescape convention.

Larsen, whose Twitch URL now redirects to Twitch’s front page, posted about his suspension yesterday on Twitter.

“Due to past events that happened last week, I’ve been issued a 30-day ban on Twitch & I am NOT allowed to attend Twitchcon,” he said. “No words…”

He also said during his final stream before the suspension that apparently, Twitch was considering a permanent ban of his account, but that “someone at Twitch” had gone to bat for him. Kotaku reached out to Twitch about this and about the terms of Larsen’s suspension, but the company has a policy of not commenting on suspensions or bans.

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In the wake of RuneFest, multiple women accused Larsen of making sexual comments towards them and, according to one account, continuing to do so even after being told to stop. One person posted a video in which Larsen appeared to grab a woman’s face in an attempt to kiss her. A fellow streamer, Skiddler, said that his attempt to address these claims with Larsen escalated to the point of a full-on physical confrontation in which Larsen was the aggressor.

In response, Larsen agreed that a physical struggle had occurred, but claimed that Skiddler had gone after him—not the other way around. He also said harassment claims were “overblown,” that he has a “flirty” personality, and also that the woman Skiddler was sticking up for was wearing “a really, really, really revealing top,” which prompted him to comment on it. “That’s life,” Larsen said at the time. “If I drove around in a Ferrari, then people would comment on the Ferrari. That’s just the way people are. And I apologize if the woman took offense.”

The incident led Runescape developer and RuneFest host Jagex to say that it would not be working with “the content creators concerned” in the future, and that “we will not be working with them, or inviting them to future events, going forward.” The company did not specifically name any names.

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Oddly enough, Larsen says that female attendees’ harassment allegations and the fight with Skiddler were not the straws that broke the Twitch emote of a camel’s back. Instead, he claims the ban came about because of a comparatively innocuous clip from the same event, in which he is depicted shouting “Let’s make some drama, lads!” and following somebody in a crowd around on his knees.

“Last week at an event, there’s a clip of me, on my knees, following a streamer and being a bit immature,” Larsen said in a YouTube video explaining his Twitch suspension. “I really am sorry. This was deemed as harassment, and there is no tolerance with harassment when it comes to Twitch. So I really am sorry to the streamer that was offended and anybody else that was offended.”

Gaming News

Twitch's Casino Section Is Full Of Suspicious Channels

October 17, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Image: Twitch

On Twitch, if a streamer’s concurrent view count consistently stays above 20,000, it means they’ve probably hit the big time. It’s the culmination of years of hard work, of amassing followers and community building. Even big names like Myth and Summit1g average below 20,000 some months. Yesterday, I watched a casino stream with zero followers do it in a single day.

Twitch’s casino section has been around in various iterations for years, playing host to streamers who wager money on online gambling sites in hopes of winning at games like slots, jackpot, and blackjack. If you use Twitch’s “browse” feature to look through sections at any given point during the day, the casino section will almost certainly be near the top of the list due to its high view count, which dwarfs most individual games. As of writing, for example, casino had over 51,000 viewers. Overwatch had 28,000.

Some casino streamers, like longtime channel CasinoDaddy—which has been around since 2016 and has over 60,000 followers—feature a regular cast of streamers who interact with chat and provide entertainment value. In those, streamers hang out, chit chat back and forth, and place wagers on digital games of chance. They cheer when they win and rage when they lose. They also sometimes host giveaways.

Other channels, however, are more blatant about their intentions, featuring only video feed of digital jackpot games playing endlessly, with unknown, off-screen users slowly but surely raking in dough. They do not usually speak. Many casino streamers, CasinoDaddy included, plaster their channels’ descriptions with so many casino ads that they look like the walls of Vegas alleyways. If you click through, you get bonuses—usually extra starter cash or points—that you can use to bet on gambling sites. For example, CasinoDaddy, which tries to keep things above board by noting that it’s only for people who are 18 or older and linking to a UK-based charity dedicated to minimizing gambling-based harm, directs viewers to a site that lets them place bets on hundreds of different slots, blitz, jackpot, roulette, blackjack, and table games.

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Over the past year—but especially in the past few weeks—Twitch users have taken notice of a different, less scrupulous breed of casino channel. These ones come out of nowhere and rocket to the top of the casino section. Take, for instance, Casinoblast, which seemingly did not exist until yesterday, but which peaked at just over 25,000 concurrent viewers during a seven-hour debut stream that showed a simple jackpot game basically playing itself. When it started, it had zero followers and was following zero other streamers. It now has just 20 followers despite having allegedly been viewed by thousands of people yesterday. For comparison’s sake, CasinoDaddy—with its 60,000+ followers—usually pulls 2,000-3,000 concurrent viewers.

Twitch users suspect foul play.

“There is someone viewbotting to top the casino [section] and make money, and his chat is full of bots with a list of about 20 common ‘Twitch phrases,’” a Twitter user said to Twitch’s official account yesterday. “This is the weirdest thing I have ever seen.”

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The user did not receive a reply. Kotaku reached out to Twitch twice prior to publishing this piece, but a representative only said they would check to see if this was something they could comment on.

That Twitch user isn’t wrong about how bizarre the whole thing is. I spent an hour yesterday watching a handful of these suddenly-popular channels—Casinoblast, Dubrix_Casino, and my personal favorite, John_Casinogame—and their chats were either ghost towns, or they were full of “people” rhythmically blurting unrelated nonsense. Here are a few examples:

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Notice how a new message enters chat almost exactly at the four-second mark every time. Notice also that none of these people seem to be talking to each other—or even really referencing the basic jackpot game that’s happening on screen beyond, occasionally, some vague allusions. Lastly, here’s the moment when somebody came in to a channel with over 10,000 concurrent viewers and asked everybody to type the number one into chat if they weren’t a bot, and nobody did it:

Of the channels I watched yesterday, two—Dubrix_Casino and John_Casinogame—were banned as of today. However, the biggest of the three, Casinoblast, still persists, and if you look at data from unofficial Twitch monitoring site TwitchMetrics, it becomes clear that this is hardly an isolated incident. In just the past seven days, seven of the top 50 most popular channels on Twitch (as measured by average number of viewers) are casino streamers that follow this exact M.O. They pop up for a day, almost instantaneously amass thousands of highly suspect viewers, stream for a few hours, and advertise the heck out of gambling sites. Twitch eventually bans them, but often not until after they’ve been live for multiple hours.

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Many of these channels advertise the same handful of gambling sites. So in effect, these gambling sites can repeat this formula indefinitely, getting free, largely unregulated advertising by dangling their bright lights and glittering prizes from the top of Twitch—and then, when they inevitably get banned, repeat the process with a fresh channel. Most of the gambling sites I tried to click through to are inaccessible to US-based users, but these streams seem targeted at users in the UK and Russia, where gambling laws are different. I reached out to several of the gambling sites that appear around these streams, but as of publishing, they hadn’t replied.

There’s also the matter of Twitch’s audience, which at least in the case of certain popular streamers like Ninja, skews young. These gambling channels are accessible to everyone, with only a small handful even paying lip service by putting “18+” in their descriptions. It’s not a great look in the wake of other gaming-related gambling controversies like the 2016 Counter-Strike gambling fiasco, in which Valve cracked down on third-party sites that let people make wagers using expensive in-game cosmetics. Two popular CSGO YouTubers had bragged about their earnings on a gambling site without disclosing that they owned it. At the time, people took issue with the fact that there was little to stop the kids who watched these YouTubers from gambling. A 2017 report from the UK Gambling Commission found that 11% of children between between ages 11 and 16 had bet with in-game items while playing computer or app-based games.

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As of publishing, Twitch’s casino section was in a lull, with just south of 20,000 viewers spread across its many channels. Maybe Twitch is finally cracking down, but more likely, it was just a daily fluctuation. Even then, though, the casino section was still the 15th most popular on Twitch, meaning that if you decide to take even a cursory look around Twitch, scores of gambling channels—some sketchier than others—will be just a couple clicks away.

Gaming News

Chinese Phone Company Boasts Their New Phone Is Better Than The Switch

October 17, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

The Chinese phone manufacturer Huawei debuted three new products at a launch event yesterday. The Mate 20 is a slick flagship phone that checks all the existing boxes and then some. Then there’s the Mate 20 Pro, a slightly bigger and even more powerful version of the base phone. And finally, the Mate 20 X, gaming focused phone which Huawei ridiculously positioned as a superior competitor to Nintendo’s Switch. They even showed side-by-side comparisons on stage to prove it.

When Richard Yu. the Huawei executive in charge of its smartphone, PC, and tablet business showed a slide comparing the two, people in the audience laughed. Yu also chuckled.

He hyped the Mate 20 X on stage not just for its apparent superior cooling technology (gaming makes smartphones get notoriously hot) but also for all the ways it’s apparently better than the Switch.

For instance, he pointed out that the Mate 20 X has a 7.2 inch screen as opposed to the Switch’s 6.2 inch one. The Mate 20 X is 1080p whereas the Switch is only 720p in handheld mode. According to Yu, the Mate 20 X’s battery life is also twice that of the Switch’s. But that’s not all!

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What really makes the Mate 20 X a Switch-killer is apparently it’s gamepad add-on which includes an analog stick and d-pad and attaches onto the left side of the phone.

Screenshot: Huawei (YouTube)

Look familiar?

Image: Nintendo

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Yea, it’s basically a glorified version of the 3DS’s circle pad pro attachment. Yu was generous not to mention that Switch still only has access to one app, Hulu, and you can’t even make calls on it.

Of course, there are two differences between the devices that matter more than anything else: the Mate 20 X costs about $1,000 (the Switch sells for $300) and doesn’t play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey.

As far as its competition among other gaming smartphones, however, it’s harder to say. Razer recently launched the Razer Phone 2 which includes its own vapor cooling chamber and comes in at $800. Razer’s also selling a seperate controller attachment for the device, but it’s basically an Xbox controller with a spot to mount the phone than a Joy-Con-lite.

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Screenshot: Asus

And then there’s Asus’ ROG Phone, which is the most ridiculous looking of them all. It comes in with 8GB of RAM and a price tag of approximately $1,160. It’s controller attachments are the most like the Switch’s though, just smaller and boxier than the Joy-Con. Asus pitched it as the best phone to play PUBG on, and they may be right, even if it does cost as much as a very nice PC gaming rig.

As easy as it is to laugh at all of these smartphone manufacturers trying to ape the Switch’s success, however, it doesn’t seem entirely foolish. With Google, Microsoft, and other companies all pushing forward into the brave new world of video gaming streaming, smartphone gaming feels poised for an evolution. An expensive smartphone with all the bells and whistles might seem like overkill for Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition or even Fortnite, but being able to stream Forza Horizon 4 or the next Halo game to it in the future makes it a lot more tempting.

Gaming News

Netflix's Witcher Series Has Cast 2 of Its Most Important Female Characters

October 10, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Freya Allan and Anya Chalotra alongside their Witcher video game counterparts, Ciri and Yennefer.Photo: Netflix, Image: CD Projekt Red

Now we know just who’s behind two crucial figures in The Witcher television series. Netflix has confirmed the actors who will bring Ciri and Yennefer to life in its new fantasy epic.

Unveiled through a new interview with the Hollywood Reporter, showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich said Freya Allan (Into The Badlands) and Anya Chalotra (Wanderlust) will join Henry Cavill’s Geralt of Rivia, as Ciri and Yennefer of Vengerberg, respectively. After leaked casting calls for Ciri had potentially indicated that the character could be played by a minority actress, there was some backlash from Witcher fans that lead to Hissrich step away from social media. But according to the showrunner, it didn’t affect the extensive casting process for the series:

It boils down to a couple things. One, this property has such a passionate fanbase. I think any leak at all was going to attract this type of attention, and with any attention comes backlash to that attention. I do think that whatever information is trickling out there, there will be people responding positively to it and people responding negatively to it. I think that’s just part of making a television show, and especially a show this big. In terms of why people responded so strongly, I think the fans really have pictures of these characters in their minds and I don’t blame them for that. I get it. When I read my favorite books I certainly imagine characters a certain way. There’s obviously a couple lines of description of Ciri in the books and people become very enamored with their own vision of it. I think coming in as a writer and saying my vision might look different than yours is scary for fans, but truthfully I don’t think it has to be. One of the things I feel most strongly about is people being afraid that we’re going to strip out the cultural context of The Witcher, to remove its Slovak roots, the very thing people in Poland are proud of. That couldn’t be further from the truth. What I’ve always wanted to do is take these Slovak stories and give them a global audience.

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Although the Netflix series is directly inspired by the fantasy novels by Andrzej Sapkowski rather than the wildly popular video game takes by CD Projekt Red, Ciri and Yennefer are well known characters to fans of the game: Ciri played a major role in the widely-lauded Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, a ward of Geralt’s and princess of the Kingdom of Cintra, while Yennefer, a powerful sorceress, is one of Geralt’s main love interests in the games, as she will be in the TV series.

The news also comes with even more casting confirmations. Jodhi May will play Queen Calanthe of Cintra, while Björn Hlynur Haraldsson will play her husband, Eist. Adam Levy will play Mousesack the Druid, MyAnna Buring the head of a magical academy named Tissaia (with Mimi Ndiweni and Therica Wilson-Read as two apprentice sorcerers, Fringilla and Sabrina), and lastly, Millie Brady will play an outcast princess, Renfri.

The cast for The Witcher so far, from top left to bottom right: Henry Cavill, Anya Chalotra, Freya Allan, Jodhi May, Mimi Ndiweni, Therica Wilson-Read, Millie Brady, Adam Levy, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, and MyAnna Buring.Photo: Netflix

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We’ll bring you more on Netflix’s plans for The Witcher as we learn them.

Gaming News

Runescape Developer Cuts Ties With Twitch Streamers After Allegations Of Sexual Harassment, Violence

October 10, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Photo: Ali “Gross Gore” Larsen

RuneFest, a convention run by the creators of RuneScape, is supposed to be an annual celebration of the fantasy MMO that came out in 2001 and has stayed improbably relevant in 2018 due to updates, iterations, and an active streaming community. This year, some attendees raised concerns about one streamer in particular, Ali “Gross Gore” Larsen, who attended the convention. During the event last weekend and in the days since, multiple people have said that Larsen engaged in sexual harassment and—in one case—physical violence.

Larsen did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but said in a stream that the harassment claims were “overblown,” and that although a violent altercation had happened, he was not the aggressor. Larsen is a popular streamer who at various points has been part of the Runescape, League of Legends, and Twitch IRL communities. He has gained a reputation for controversial behavior on the platform, which has included calling a popular female streamer a “slut” on his own channel and in her own channel’s chat in 2016. That same year, he got temporarily banned from Twitch after claiming that several esports professionals had spread false rumors about him. After the ban, he apologized in a Facebook post, writing, “I’ll prove to everyone that I can change, and will change for the best.”

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In June 2018, he spoke on stream about how he thought that his sister should’ve kept and then sold her virginity; after blowback from viewers, he posted on Twitter saying that his family was no longer speaking to him. At the time, he sounded optimistic: “after my mother will reach out to me & we can put all of this behind us & get on being a family.” Later that month, he posted about how he had not yet sent his mother the donation money he had been collecting to help pay for her housing. After complaints, Larsen said he sent the money to his mother, but the “drama” of the incident had already led Discord to drop him as a partner.

On Monday, word began spreading on social media about Larsen’s alleged RuneFest infractions. One user posted a video in which Larsen appears to grab a woman’s face and try to kiss her:

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A different user also described meeting Larsen at the convention on Twitter, writing, “Only had a brief run into Gross Gore but regardless of length, I was still very uncomfortable. He said me and my friend should kiss for him because lesbians are hot, which was super uncomfortable.”

Kotaku reached out all the people who’ve come forward about Larsen’s alleged actions so far, but did not receive responses.

A streamer, Skiddler, posted a statement about Larsen’s supposed harassment of a woman named Rachel. Skiddler also said that he had tried to address this with Larsen after the fact, but that their conversation then escalated to physical violence.

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In his statement, Skiddler described Larsen repeatedly making comments about Rachel’s breasts and continuing even after she told him she was uncomfortable: “He continued not only making comments, but fetched multiple people whom he was with to validate his opinion on her breasts,” Skiddler wrote. “Rachel approached me shortly after, distraught, and left the hotel.”

According to Skiddler, he then approached Larsen in a “casual manner” at a hotel where many convention attendees and content creators were staying. He says he tried to explain that Larsen had upset his friend, and said to Larsen that “it’s absolutely not acceptable to talk to people like that.” That, Skiddler claims, was when Larsen became aggressive, supposedly responding: “Are you really gonna fucking white knight that stupid bitch?” and “Really, you’re gonna fucking do this?”

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Skiddler says he then made it “abundantly” clear that he didn’t want things to get physical, but Larsen kept yelling that Skiddler wanted to fight.

“As more people gathered round, Gross Gore became more aggravated and aggressive,” Skiddler’s statement continued. “He turned to one of my close friends, recently just turned 18, Alex. He screamed ‘what the fuck are you looking at’ in Alex’s face, and then started pushing him. Alex’s brother, Dom, tried to stand in between the two and stop Gross Gore from shoving Alex, but he was relentless and was shoving and screaming in both of their faces. Alex, being quite young, is like a brother to me, and I’ll be honest, at this point, I felt as though I needed to step in. I ran over to them both and shoved Gross Gore out of Alex’s way, at which point I was grabbed around the back of the neck by one of Gross Gore’s friends and thrown into the side of a moving car. I was being held down by a couple of Gross Gore’s friends when Gross Gore and another couple of his friends ran over and started repeatedly kicking me whilst I was on the ground.”

Police, who Skiddler says were apparently there to address an unrelated noise complaint, appeared and broke up the alleged altercation. Here’s a YouTube video purporting to show the aftermath of that moment:

In it, police can be seen outside a hotel, holding back one man and talking to a few groups of people, including other well-known streamers like Greekgodx.

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Kotaku reached out to the Hampshire Constabulary, the police force that has jurisdiction over the general area in which RuneFest took place, who issued a statement confirming an incident occurred, but that no arrests were made: “Officers attended the Aviator Hotel on Farnborough Road, Farnborough during the early hours of Sunday, 7 October after reports of a large crowd having gathered at the hotel. On arrival hotel staff were dealing with the crowds and two police officers assisted in dispersing the groups. The officers were then notified of an altercation outside the hotel. Officers attended but not offences were witnessed or disclosed.”

On Monday, Larsen took to Twitch to clear the air. His recounting of events is very different from Skiddler’s, although both men do say that a fight broke out between them. Larsen says that Skiddler—from whom he said he sensed “bad vibes” before they even started talking—was the one looking for a fight, and that Larsen had repeatedly tried to de-escalate the conflict.

“The guy states that I was the aggressor,” said Larsen. “Guys, look at me. I get nothing out of fighting. I haven’t had a fight since I was 11, and I lost. Look at these muscles. I don’t believe in fighting. I don’t like fighting. It’s not me.”

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He went on to say that when he gets loud and rowdy on streams with people like infamous YouTube streamer Ice Poseidon, it’s just an act. And so, when Skiddler got in his face, Larsen claims that he said in response, “Don’t do this. I know you want to fight me, but don’t do this.” That statement, he believes, was taken out of context in Skiddler’s account.

At that point, Larsen said, he noticed a crowd forming. That made him anxious but also angry. He says he shouted that one of them was a “cunt.” He also began to figure that somebody had egged Skiddler on into fighting him because “drama sells.” “I feel like he used that whole harassment thing—which was absolutely blown out of proportion—to be the hero of his groupies,” said Larsen.

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Then, Larsen says, he noticed another person, whom he believed to be Alex from Skiddler’s story. According to Larsen, this person was standing nearby and appearing delighted by the series of events. Larsen claims he felt Alex was making the situation worse, so he shouted at him to leave and says that he did something physical, though he didn’t specify exactly what. That, claims Larsen, prompted Skiddler to rush over and say “I’m going to fucking kill you,” at which point Skiddler threw a punch.

Larsen said that, even though he doesn’t fight, he dodged the supposed punch because “my mom used to hit me so much that I learned to dodge.” He also said he’s never done drugs, which he claims has further aided his reflexes. At that point, Larsen says he wanted to make sure Skiddler was restrained, so Larsen “came at him” in retaliation, and Skiddler fell and smacked into a cab. Larsen again stressed, though, that this wasn’t his fault. “Look at these muscles,” he said, pointing to his arms.

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Larsen’s recounting also ended with the police apparently breaking up the fight. He added that police talked to him, but said he wasn’t arrested or escorted off the premises.

Larsen denied harassing women at the event. He then said that when he’s had a few drinks, he can come off as “flirty,” going on to add, “Yes, I have a girlfriend, but my whole personality is very flirty.” He then said he had made comments about Rachel, which apparently included noticing that she was wearing a “revealing top” and telling a friend to “meet Rachel and her tits.” He went on to say that he apologized for that comment, calling it “inappropriate.” He also put some of the blame on Rachel.

“I mean, no offense to the woman, no disrespect,” he said. “But the woman, she was wearing a really, really, really revealing top. And that’s great, we live in 2018. You can wear whatever you want. But people have to understand that if you’re going to wear something so revealing, people will comment on it. That’s life. If I drove around in a Ferrari, then people would comment on the Ferrari. That’s just the way people are. And I apologize if the woman took offense.” 

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Photo: Jagex

Earlier this week, Runescape developer and RuneFest host Jagex told Kotaku that the company was investigating the incident but hadn’t come to a conclusion about what happened yet. Today, however, it announced that it’ll no longer be working with “a small number of content creators” that the company had ascertained to have been involved in the incident, but it did not specifically name which ones.

“Having reviewed the allegations we have found that the content creators concerned did breach our code of conduct,” said a statement emailed to Kotaku by Jagex. “We do not tolerate inappropriate or offensive behaviour in any way and, while we had a limited working relationship with some of the individuals, we will not be working with them, or inviting them to future events, going forward.”

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Kotaku also requested comment from Twitch about Larsen’s current standing on the platform; the company did not respond before publication.

As for Larsen, he said on his stream that he plans to stop attending RuneFest in the future. He’s also apparently going to stop talking to women at events entirely.

“I’m not gonna be talking to women or saying anything,” he said. “Because I’ve learned from this that I can be crazy, wild, flirty Gross Gore on my streams, but in the real world, I can’t—because people who don’t know Gross Gore wouldn’t understand Gross Gore. And then they see it as harassment or verbal abuse or being weird. So yeah, that’s it.”

Gaming News

Streamer Trihex Apologizes For Homophobic Slur After Twitch Suspends His Channel

October 8, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Image: Trihex

Even if you haven’t heard of Twitch streamer and speedrunner Trihex, you’ve almost certainly seen him. He’s the face of the near-ubiquitous “Trihard” emote, a chat icon people use both in good fun and, unfortunately, to mock people of color. As of now, while the emote remains on Twitch, Trihex himself has been temporarily banned.

Over the weekend, Trihex’s Twitch channel got banned. While Twitch doesn’t comment on bans, Trihex allegedly drew Twitch’s ire when he called a friend who was in the same room as him a “faggot,” which is against Twitch’s rules. He was banned less than 24 hours later. After the banhammer fell, Trihex acknowledged his insensitive word choice in a post on Twitter.

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“Last night, I said a word of derogatory nature,” he wrote on Saturday. “In my past, I frequented portions of the internet & chat rooms where such language was normalized. Since then, I understand that such word(s) is harmful and not okay. I apologize for my poor behavior and to anyone who is offended. I never intend to demean any person of marginalization.”

He also said that he plans to do everything in his power to “stop usage” of those words “myself as well as within my community.”

As of now, it’s uncertain how long he’ll remain banned, but other streamers have previously been exiled from Twitch for as many as 30 days for similar infractions, even when it was their first violation. Kotaku reached out to Trihex for more comment, but as of publishing, he’d yet to reply.

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While some of Trihex’s fans have said they appreciate his frank apology, others feel like the ban isn’t entirely fair. They point to the fact that Trihex is a chill, generally kindhearted streamer who doesn’t walk the line in the same way as others who’ve been banned for slurs or other poor linguistic choices in the past. A vocal contingent has latched onto the case of another, much rowdier streamer named Reckful, who recently went on an extended rant about how, if somebody got in his face, he’d “hire ten people to kill your entire fucking family.” They’ve taken to questioning Twitch’s priorities, given that Trihex said an admittedly shitty word and apologized but remains banned, while Reckful has, thus far, suffered no consequences for making frightening threats.

This is far from the first time Twitch has received criticism for inconsistency in moderation, with users accusing the company of favoritism on a regular basis. Some of this thinking is conspiratorial, but in other cases, the roots of it, at least, are hard to ignore. Streamers like Ninja have received slaps on the wrist for language and actions that almost certainly would’ve incurred more severe consequences for other streamers. Twitch has also struggled to define and consistently enforce rules surrounding harassment and sexual content, which has led to female streamers receiving undue hate just for existing on the platform.

For now, though, Trihex is taking his ban in stride.

“I’m gonna use this time to reflect & reform,” he wrote. “See you all soon.”

Gaming News

Microsoft Announces Xbox Game Streaming Service

October 8, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Today, Microsoft announced its plans to enter the world of video game streaming with Project xCloud, an ambitious service with a silly title that promises to allow the streaming of Xbox One games across computers, phones, and tablets.

Microsoft says it’s currently testing out Project xCloud and plans to open up tests to the public next year. In a blog post, the company said that game developers will be able to support the streaming service “with no additional work,” and that in addition to trying to solve the big ol’ latency problem (with Microsoft’s many datacenters), the team is developing “a new, game-specific touch input overlay” for controller-free playing.

“Our goal with Project xCloud is to deliver a quality experience for all gamers on all devices that’s consistent with the speed and high-fidelity gamers experience and expect on their PCs and consoles,” the company said.

This news comes just a week after Google announced its own stab at the streaming world, Project Stream, which entered a closed beta test this weekend and allows users to play Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in a Google Chrome tab.

Gaming News

Seattle Police Launch An Anti-Swatting Program

October 1, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Footage from what police say is a recent swatting situationImage: Seattle PD

Swatting is pretty much the shittiest prank a person can pull, if you can even call an action that might lead to someone’s death a “prank.” Somebody calls the police and accuses somebody else—often someone who’s livestreaming—of an in-progress crime so heinous that a SWAT team shows up at their door, with unpredictable consequences. Late last year, a 28-year-old was killed as the result of one. As police continue to struggle with the issue, the Seattle police department has taken a proactive measure.

As spotted by Ars Technica, the Seattle PD now has an official swatting resource site that encourages streamers, or anyone else who feels like they might be in danger of getting swatted, to create a profile with a data management service and flag yourself as having “swatting concerns.” Once you’ve done that, police should handle any calls about you that come their way with extra care.

“A 911 call taker receives a report of a critical incident,” reads an explanation of how the system works on the Seattle PD’s website. “While ensuring first responders are dispatched to that call for service as quickly as possible, the call taker will simultaneously check for whether or not swatting concerns have been registered at that address. If swatting concerns have been registered, this information will be shared with responding officers, who will still proceed to the call.”

The site also includes videos of what police say is raw footage from a swatting incident and an anti-swatting PSA.

This is not the first time the Seattle PD has engaged with Twitch and streaming culture. Last year, officers experimented with running an official Seattle PD Twitch channel, on which they regularly played games while talking about their process. The whole thing fell apart after they used the channel to give an update on a very sensitive case in which officers shot and killed a pregnant black woman with a history of mental illness, all while playing Destiny. After facing heavy criticism, the Seattle PD elected to discontinue use of its Twitch channel.

Here’s hoping this anti-swatting initiative works out better for all involved.

Gaming News

The Scariest Movies to Stream This Month

October 1, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Maika Monroe in It FollowsScreenshot: Netflix

It’s October, and you know what that means—it’s time to stuff that Netflix queue full of zombies, creepy dolls, ghosts, slashers, and psychological torment.

True to the spirit of the season, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, and Amazon Prime Video are adding spooky new titles seemingly every day, with each platform featuring a different sub-genre. If you’re overwhelmed by the selection, here’s a rundown of the best offerings to help you narrow down the options.

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Modern Classics: Netflix

Just about every recent movie that your horror buff friends won’t shut up about is on Netflix right now. The Witch (2015), The Babadook (2014), and O.G. modern horror classic The Shining (1980) are terrifying looks into familial dysfunction. Gore fiends can enjoy Raw (2017) or Teeth (2007), while The Conjuring (2013) has ghost-story fans covered. Finally, even weenies can appreciate It Follows (2015), which is tightly plotted, suspenseful, and light on jump scares.

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Cult Classics: Hulu

Huluween season is upon us, and cult classics feature heavily in this year’s lineup. If you’re in the mood for blood, there’s plenty of movies to choose from, including The Fly (1986), Hellraiser (1987), Hellraiser II (1988), The Amityville Horror (1979), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), American Psycho (2000), and Child’s Play (1988). Found-footage cult favorite The Blair Witch Project (1999)—plus both of its sequels—and its spiritual successor Paranormal Activity (2007) round out the offerings.

Sequels and Remakes: HBO Go

A horror double feature is a great way to kill a gloomy fall afternoon, and HBO Go has several two-parters guaranteed to freak you out. The Omen (1976) and Damien: Omen II (1978) are devil-spawn classics, while claustrophobes will grit their teeth through The Descent (2006) and The Descent: Part 2 (2010). If you’re in more of a slasher flick mood, HBO Go has House of 1000 Corpses (2003) and its sequel The Devil’s Rejects (2005). Even though it’s not technically a sequel, I think It (2017) is worth a mention—especially if you’re into creepy clowns.  

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Old-School Horror: Amazon Prime Video

Every film genre got its start somewhere, and Amazon Prime has a huge selection of horror trailblazers. There’s psychological thriller Les Diaboliques (1955)—which some say inspired Psycho—plus the original Night of the Living Dead (1968) and The House on Haunted Hill (1958). Don’t count out silent films, either: Nosferatu (1922) and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) are available in a two-part bundle.

Gaming News

Streamers Have Concerns About Twitch's New Tag System

September 27, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Image: Twitch

Unless you’re doing some kind of performance art piece or are—not that I would know anything about this one—looking for an excuse to make your habit of constantly talking to yourself seem less weird, you probably want viewers when you stream. Twitch just added a new tag system that’s supposed to help facilitate that, but streamers aren’t entirely on board with it just yet.

The tag system takes the place of Twitch’s old communities feature, which let streamers join and create groups dedicated to specific interests, games, genres, or whatever else they could think of. In its place, it introduces a series of Twitch-curated tags that can be applied to streams. These include everything from basics like “competitive” to specific speedrun categories like “100%” and “Any%” to identities like “LGBTQIA+.” Twitch’s IRL and Creative sections has also been replaced by a series of more specific non-gaming tags like “art,” “food & drink,” and “beauty & body art.”

It is, on paper, a more consistent system than communities’ haphazard mishmash of often-redundant custom groupings, but many streamers say they miss the flexibility—not to mention the specific communities they built.

“Already don’t like tags as much as I did communities,” a streamer named SonicGhost said on Twitter. “There are a lot less tags that describe a stream compared to communities. There was a community for every type of streamer.”

“The tags are not good to me, the communities were better,” said streamer Taichi85. He explained that he was an admin for a community of six Italian streamers and that it was the only way for potential viewers to recognize them as a unit, because stream team functionality—which can serve a similar purpose—is only available to Twitch partners. Now there’s an Italian-language tag, but nothing that recognizes the community Taichi85 helped create.

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Streamer RaisinBrann, who made a community for her representation-focused organization Brown Girl Gamer Code, said she is in a similar boat. “I feel less motivated to stream now,” she said. “There’s no real way to identify the content for BGGC. Our Twitch page does more that just play games. We have segments where we highlight [black women] in the gaming industry and learn about them, amongst other things. There’s no way to identify that.”

The tags Twitch rolled out with, she said, are too generic. “What little diversity was on Twitch is now way harder (damn near impossible) to find,” she said. In her eyes, Twitch’s decision to universally pave over communities with tags displays a fundamental misunderstanding of how people used communities in the first place.

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“The communities feature was more than just things people tagged to their streams,” RaisinBrann said. “They were designated safe spaces for a lot of us who don’t even have spaces like that at home/work/school/etc. I’m hurt, y’all.”

Twitch is currently taking suggestions for new tags and plans to add more variety to the system on a monthly basis. For now, though, some streamers feel like they’ve been left out in the cold.

“Lmao, nine super granular MOBA tags and still no Indie Games classification on Twitch,” said Twitch partner and Sandbox Strategies influencer relations specialist SeriouslyClara. “I was definitely all for tags and seeing how it shook out, but this start is kind of rough. Yes, let’s help MOBAs get more visibility, by all means. And make sure ‘Meme Runs’ and ‘Omaha Hold’em’ finally have a place. Phew! Couldn’t live without those tags. But ‘Indies?’ Nah.”

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While the tag system does include specific genres, they only point to pages populated by particular games, not individual streams. The lack of stream-specific genre tags has been a big sticking point for some streamers.

“So real quick, who picked all the new tags for Twitch?” said Twitch partner Angrypug. “How are so many basic tags missing. I mainly play horror, many people play battle royale, etc. Where are these kinda tags? I went through the whole list and didn’t find one I wanted to use.”

Others who play more obscure genres like simulations and 4X strategies have expressed similar, even more urgent concerns.

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Twitch appears to have missed a few other spots, too. “Your new tag system is great, but we need tags for gamers who play with disabilities,” said AbleGamers COO Steven Spohn, voicing a sentiment that’s been echoed by accessibility focused streamers, as well. “Please consider tags adding: Disabled Gamers, People with Disabilities, Assistive Technology, Accessibility / Accessibility Options.”

Artsier streamers, who now have a bunch of new tags to work with beyond blanket categories like “creative,” are also approaching the change with trepidation. Twitch partner MeowSparky pointed to the fact that, with creative activities broken into smaller sub-sections like “art,” “music & performing arts,” and “makers & crafting,” they’re now buried by games that individually pull significantly more viewers on Twitch’s monolithic categories page. To find them, you now have to do some digging.

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“A new user won’t even know that creative streams exist as it’s not shown on the categories pages at all,” she said. “Scroll for ages and still no creative categories are shown. A user has to type ‘cooking’ or ‘painting’ as a filter to find a relevant stream but most users browse, not filter.”

There is, to Twitch’s credit, a “non-gaming” tag that appears beneath all non-gaming categories, so you could conceivably click it from the icon of a more popular section that does appear near the top of the categories page like “just chatting” and then find creative streamers from there. Still, that’s pretty roundabout, all things considered.

And of course, a new, more standardized system means trolls are having a field day while Twitch works out the kinks.

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“Scrolled through Twitch just now and noticed some folks already tagging their stream as ‘body painting’ in hopes of gaining more viewers even though they are just playing random games. One is even bashing body painting in their stream title,” said streamer and community manager Malkarii. “Twitch Tags 101: How Not to Use Them.”