Asmongold speaks out about racism on Twitch

The streamer spoke about racist emote usage and Twitch's responsibility.

Screengrab via Twitch.tv/Asmongold

Twitch’s top World of Warcraft streamer Asmongold commented on the social unrest in the U.S. and how people can do their part on Twitch to stop racism last night in a newly uploaded YouTube video. 

Following George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, protests have broken out across the country leading to many Twitch content creators feeling the need to comment on systemic racism and police brutality.

Asmongold is known for never holding back on his opinions, regularly chiming in on social matters during his streams. In regards to racism specifically, Asmongold, a white streamer, doesn’t have the same sort of personal experience that others might in the public sphere. 

But on Twitch, Asmongold’s experience handling massive audiences gives him a degree of expertise that might be helpful to those looking to make a difference by preventing racism on Twitch and in online chat rooms. 

“I thought this was the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s what I had to do.”

Among the main topics Asmon talked about during his 25-minute video was chat moderation during publisher-related events, the use of specific racially-driven emotes, and how Twitch can work with streamers one-on-one.

Game reveal streams

Game and console reveals on live streams draw some of the largest and most diverse audiences on Twitch every year. But unlike a typical personality stream, some publishers and developers don’t have a lot of experience moderating a live chat room.

Asmongold says that there are a handful of ways to combat racist remarks during developer streamers on Twitch. For starters, developers could put more resources into aggressive moderation for game reveal events, Asmongold suggests.

The potential pitfall of putting aggressive moderation into a chat is that it requires a lot of effort and, even with moderators watching closely, it could be difficult to prevent nasty comments from sneaking by. 

With hundreds of thousands people watching a stream, chats move so fast that it’s nearly impossible to moderate everything. But stopping those sorts of negative comments is crucial for the developers to make sure that their game doesn’t get a bad reputation because of some ugly comments.

“It makes the game look slightly shittier,” he said. “It makes the experience worse.”

Asmongold’s personal solution to the problem that developers find themselves facing is to instead make chat rooms emote-only for some big events. To prevent direct racist or bigoted comments from being typed out, emote-only mode allows viewers to convey emotions and still feel like they’re a part of the chat. 

Emotes with racist connotations

Specific Twitch emotes, like TriHard, have long histories of being used for racist or sexist purposes by viewers. Asmongold doesn’t believe that any Twitch emotes are inherently racist, but there does come a point at which the intent of a user can pervert an emote.

Other emotes depicting people of different races, like Anele, and MingLee, are often used for discriminatory purposes, and Asmongold cites the emotes’ lack of emotion as part of the reason why.

“Anele and MingLee don’t display any direct emotion,” he said. “Emotes are used to convey an emotion or any idea, and in the absence of the emotion or idea, the emote is taken, literally in this case, at face value. So the emote becomes a manifestation or representation of that race.”

When people post emotes with racist intentions, it’s typically due to something that a stream has said that triggers the response. While there are many emotes depicting people from various races and ethnicity on Twitch, only a few are used for bigoted purposes regularly.

“Twitch emotes are very much a game of Marco Polo, where you say A and they say B,” he said. “So whenever you remove B, you say A and they can’t say B. There are very few people who go to C, and there’s even less people who go to D.”

Asmongold’s solution would be to either replace some of the emotes that are used for the wrong purposes or put emotes on a rotation. 

On Asmongold’s channel, he banned the TriHard emote because he found that it was almost exclusively used with racist intentions, and since that point, the number of people making discriminatory posts using emotes has gone down significantly.

“I had a reduction in the number of people that were drawing these racist connotations with the Black emotes to Black stereotypes by about over 99%,” he said. “Where I used to have it constantly, anytime I said anything, now there’s like one person that does it a day.”

Work with streamers

Asmongold’s final major point about ending racism on Twitch was that it needs to come from Twitch itself. 

He said that often times, Twitch communicates with streamers through a disciplinary system, but taking an initiative to cooperate with streamers who might have problems with racism in their chatrooms could go a long way. If a disproportionate number of accounts are being flagged for racism in a channels chat, Asmongold said that Twitch should watch the streamer and work with them to see how they could better prevent viewers from making racist comments.

“Twitch needs to have a more hands-on approach,” he said. “Not punishing the streamers, but working with the streamers to make the platform better. The best way they can do that is by educating the streamers.”

Asmongold added that being able to identify some forms of coded racial language aren’t as obvious to some streamers. By working with streamers to give them advice on that front, the platform can help individual content creators keep their chats clean. 

“If Twitch wants to remove racism from their platform, they have to put in work,” he said. “They can’t just throw the hot potato over to the streamers and say, ‘this is your problem now. You’re responsible.’”

Ultimately, racism on Twitch is a complicated topic that can’t be solved by one person in a 30-minute video. But some of Asmongold’s last words of wisdom were for streamers who might get frustrated with viewers. 

“It’s very easy to just dunk on somebody that’s racist,” he said. “It doesn’t help. It might feel good, but it does not help…alienating and excommunicating people only goes to radicalizing them more. I don’t think that banning somebody from a chat is going to make them less racist. My goal always is to make things better, not to do what I think is ‘justice.’”