Twitch, the massive live streaming video service dedicated for video games, has come under intense fire by many people for a new rule that disallows the streaming of Adult Only (AO-rated) games.
The center of this controversy, Twitch’s Rules of Conduct, was updated on May 27th with an announcement on the official Twitch blog about the change in the rules. The post from the Twitch staff states that any AO-rated game under the ESRB’s rating system may not be broadcast on Twitch by any gamer, even if the same game is rated differently in another region.
“While the ESRB ratings apply exclusively to US titles, our policy extends to versions of these games in all territories,” The post noted. “Generally, if the US version is rated for Adults Only (18+) or has an equivalent rating in your territory, you should not broadcast that game on Twitch.”
A few hours later, the post was edited with this clarification:
If a game’s US version is rated Adults Only by the ESRB, you should not broadcast that game on Twitch. However, ESRB rated Mature versions of Adults Only titles are permitted for streaming, such as Mature versions of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy.
Games rated 18+ by other rating systems are fine to stream, so long as they are not rated AO by the ESRB, and they don’t violate the standard language of our RoC and ToS.
The change in policy was immediately criticized and mocked in both the comments section of the blog and on Twitter. Some users attacked Twitch for attempting to act as a moral authority, arguing that certain games that are just as controversial or as violent as AO-rated games are still deemed as acceptable.
“Then ban GTA5 from Twitch? I pay women to have *** with me. And then I shoot them in the head,” user LarZen, commented in the blog. “Is that safe for the children to watch?”
Other users outside the United States attacking Twitch for elevating the ESRB’s rating system above other systems such as PEGI’s in importance to decide what games are proper for streaming. Capturing the frustrations of such streamers, one user wrote, “Do you expect people to check what the age rating is in the US every time they want to stream something?”
However, most users that responded negatively to the news have made a connection between the policy change and Destructive Creations’ upcoming Shoot ‘em up Hatred. The AO-rated game, slated for release on June 1st, has received much publicity due to its extremely violent nature and Steam’s banishment and subsequent reinstatement of the game on Steam Greenlight.
Matthew DiPietro, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Twitch, responded to comments regarding Hatred and questions on its legality to stream it by stating that “currently Hatred, along with a very few other games, is rated AO for its extreme violence” and linking viewers to an article produced by Polygon back in January about the rating of the game.
The statement made by DiPietro came under increasing fire for using a secondhand source instead of ESRB’s databases. Users who searched up Hatred’s rating on the ESRB’s website reported on Twitter and the blog’s comments that they were unable to find any official statement from the site on the game’s actual rating.
As of this moment, ESRB could not be reached for comment on Hatred’s absence from the database.
What are your thoughts? Did Twitch overstep or is the ban on AO rated games a smart move? Let us know in the comments below!