Updated: Aug 24, 2020
Tips for Streamers and Moderators to keep toxic behaviour and misogyny out of your gaming stream, while maintaining a lively and entertaining space!
Despite recent events in the gaming community bringing awareness to the dangers of toxic behaviour and misogyny, those problems are unfortunately still alive and well. One of the more prominent areas we see this type of negative behaviour is in stream chat. Whether the chat of an individual streamer or a large event, toxic, racist, and sexist comments are still all too common.
If we can help to make the interactions between folks online safer and more friendly, that would make it all more fun and more gratifying for everyone. - Michael Morhaime
Those of us who have been involved in gaming, esports, and streaming, have lost count of how many times we have heard “that’s just Twitch chat”, or “you know what chat is like, there’s nothing you can do.” The last time I was involved in an event where I was on camera, I was warned by multiple people to not look at chat during the event. The fact that, for my own mental health and self-esteem, it is better for me to not engage with the viewers, is upsetting.
Regardless of how much awareness and sense of community we foster, there will always be people who are toxic in our streams. Is there anything we can do about it to ensure that our own streams are safe spaces? Yes! With proper moderation of your stream or your event, it is possible to reduce, or even erase, toxic language and behaviour. The more we encourage positive and welcoming communities within our own space, the better the chance that will bleed out into the community at large.
I sourced a number of prominent female streamers and moderators within the World of Warcraft community for their tips, tricks, and insights, on how to make a stream or event a safe space free from toxicity, misogyny, and negativity. If you are a new streamer, a moderator, or just a casual viewer, these tips can make a world of difference.
Rules, Rules Rules!
Your first step when starting a stream and building a community should be setting a list of rules. These should be written down, and visible to all viewers. Have them on your page, have them pop up before a person can chat, and use many of the bots available to streamers such as Moobot or Nightbot to periodically remind viewers of the rules. Go through other streams for ideas on common rules if you need inspiration.
Establishing a set of rules to govern your stream, your chat, and your community, is essential. Communicate these rules effectively so all viewers understand what is expected of them. Having clear rules can also help deal with upset viewers who get banned. Instead of having to go into a long discussion about why they were removed, you can simply point to the rule they broke and end the conversation.
Your rules can, and should be, fluid. They are not etched in stone, and as your community evolves, and your stream personality evolves, what you accept and do not accept may change. Make sure viewers are aware of any change in rules.
Make sure your moderators understand your rules - not just the rule itself, but the reasoning behind it. Some streamers are particularly sensitive to certain language (due to trauma, etc.), so moderators need to be aware of these issues to properly weigh the severity of offenses. Have ongoing discussions with your moderators about your rules. Check in with them periodically. Are the rules being enforced? Do any rules need modifying? You and your mods should be on the same page.
Most importantly: DO NOT APOLOGIZE FOR YOUR RULES! This is your stream and your community, and you and only you determine what is acceptable and what is not. Your rules are intended to keep you and your viewers feeling safe and respected, and you should never apologize for them.
Do Not Be Afraid to Ban/Timeout Viewers
I spoke to Naguura, a full-time WoW streamer and caster for Blizzard MDI Tournaments, for her opinions on how to foster a safe and welcoming community. Her stream regularly averages 1000 viewers, and her moderators do a fantastic job. She has been streaming for a long time, and has been able to create a community that is entertaining, fun, informative, and free from toxic and sexist behaviour.
Not being afraid to ban our timeout viewers was Naguura’s biggest piece of advice, especially for a new streamer. Smaller and newer streamers are often hesitant to ban or remove people from their chat because they are trying to encourage viewership, and banning seems counterproductive. However, having a good and strong community is more important, and will lead to further growth down the road. Allowing toxicity, sexism, racism, etc., can create a toxic environment that would in effect ‘scare off’ the type of viewers you do want.
Naguura recommends timing viewers out for first time offenses, and resorting to a ban if they continue: “timing someone out doesn’t immediately mean the person will leave the stream, sometimes people are just ‘testing the waters’. If they see that you aren’t allowing certain behaviour, they might still stick around.” She goes on to mention that viewers often act differently in other streams based on the environment of the stream itself. Your viewers and community members will take their cue from you: act the way you want them to act, and ensure that toxic behaviour is not allowed.
“I think it’s actually super important to enforce a non-toxic environment on stream,
because I think a lot of people can actually be nice and can behave if they want to, but
because there are lots of communities that allow (or even enforce) toxic behaviour,
some people just join in on it because they want to be part of that community and they
want to feel like they belong. If we as streamers set a better example, it might help a lot
for the overall community.” - Naguura
Pick Your Moderators Carefully
A moderator’s job in a stream is incredibly important. They are the first line of defense to ensuring your stream community is a safe and non-toxic environment. Consider your moderators to be an extension of yourself, there to maintain the type of environment you want when you are unable/too busy to monitor chat yourself.
Picc0, aka Sabrina, is a long time gamer and WoW player. She currently moderates a number of high-profile Warcraft streams, including Sjeletyven1, Drjayfisto, Femtv, and Shakib. She also moderates the KeystoneMasters community Mythic+ tournaments. Her input was invaluable in researching this article.
Picc0 has very valuable advice for streamers in regards to their relationship with their moderators. “Appreciate your mods, they stand in the front line for YOU and your community. Have their backs, support them, don’t let haters get in between. Mods should have 150% of your trust.” This last part is essential when it comes to picking your mods. You need to be able to trust that your moderators have your and your stream’s best interests at heart. Picking moderators is an important decision. Interview them, have discussions with them, make sure they are the right fit for you and vice versa.
Picc0 also mentions that you should not be afraid to “un-mod” someone who is supporting toxicity in your stream. Keep an eye on your moderators’ interactions with your viewers, either while your stream is active or after the fact. Go through your chat logs and moderation logs. Remember that it is your stream and your community, so it is your responsibility to ensure that your moderators are following your rules.
For those moderators doing a good job, appreciate them. Keep them motivated, and back them up when needed. If your mod is being harassed by a viewer, act on it. Viewership and ‘content’ is not worth losing a good moderator. Very few streamers make it big overnight, it is something that needs time and effort to grow. A solid and enthusiastic moderation staff helping you maintain a safe and non-toxic environment is a monumental part in achieving that growth.
“I believe that the first steps to improvement are the streamers. They have the most
impact on their viewers. They need to stand up and make people stop being abusive
and hateful….As a streamer you have responsibility, if you like it or not. Use it for good.”
For Moderators (and Streamers):
The following is a list of strategies for Moderators to employ, in partnership with their Streamers, both before and during a stream. Many of these can be done ahead of time off-stream. As a Moderator, or a Streamer, it is important to discuss these strategies with your moderation team, and re-evaluate as your community grows and finds its identity.
This list was put together with the help of Naguura and Picc0, as well as wonderful insight from Red Queen (moderator of Automatic Jak’s stream, as well as larger event streams such as Keystone Masters), and Kahlandra (moderator of many large-scale WoW event streams, such as MDI, Classic Wow, GCDTV, and various charity streams).
Meet regularly with all Moderators and Streamer
As a moderator, you are an extension of the Streamer. It is important to stay relevant on what the Streamer wants their community to be. Provide advice from your experiences, and keep them apprised of goings-on in their stream they might miss, but ultimately, your job is to keep your streamer safe and comfortable in their space.
Meeting regularly with other Moderators is also important so that you are all on the same page regarding people in the chat and things that were said/need to be watched for. It is a good idea to keep some sort of common repository like a google document where issues can be written down so any moderators not online at the time will be made aware.
Get the BTTV Extension for Twitch
The BTTV Extension adds fast click options for users in chat, such as ban, timeout, and delta options located conveniently next to their name. It has other options as well.
Make use of Twitch’s “Mod View” Option
This view has many tools and allows immediate access to the banned terms list, a history of actions taken in chat by other mods or the streamer, automod features and a convenient window where you can monitor trouble makers and make notes on their accounts for future reference.
Make a Ban List early on and add to it as necessary
A Ban List is a list of words that, when typed into your chat, will automatically result in a ban for the viewer. You can google standard ban lists for an idea of where to start, but the goal should be to ban racist, homophobic, sexist, and sexually explicit terms to the ban list. Typically these words are against ToS on almost every platform, and allowing them in your chat (either intentionally or by missing it) can result in a channel ban and loss of sponsors/income. Discuss any other words that may be offensive/inappropriate for the streamer and community specifically.
As your stream community grows, re-evaluate the ban list from time to time and see if anything needs to be added/removed.
You never know what some people will try to link. Banning hyperlinks automatically removes any links posted in chat, unless a moderator approves it.
Ban Advertising Bots
Advertising Bots will often come into streams spamming illicit services or phrases, and they tend to come in waves or on certain days, especially during large events. It is important to automatically and instantly ban every single one. The more you ban them, the less they can come back and flood the channel due to the new IP ban system on Twitch.
Stop Targeted Harassment
It is important when you see any targeted harassment of your Streamer, or another viewer, to nip it in the bud as soon as possible. This behaviour is inappropriate and should not be tolerated. Banning them outright and expressing a warning in chat to others will send the message that it is not welcome in your community.
Keep Track of Problem Accounts
Use the Mod View options on Twitch, or something like a google document, to keep track of problematic viewers. Keep track of bans, timeouts, warnings, etc. This will also help you determine if anyone you have banned comes back with an alt account. Share this information with your other moderators and your Streamer.
Make Use of Tools for Stream Events (Bots)
There are many tools out there for streams, such as Nightbot, Moobot, etc., that can periodically post messages at regular intervals, can help you manage giveaways and raffles, and more. There are many bots out there that can help you with a variety of tasks, streamlining your Stream and moderation.
Don’t Burn Yourself Out
You’re human, and as a Streamer or a Moderator you put yourself in the spotlight and your decisions will be questioned. Some people who behave negatively will continue to do so in private messages after being banned. Be prepared for this kind of thing, but remember that if it ever becomes too much, take a break. Your role as a moderator is important, but do not allow it to affect your mental health.
Use the Rules - Don’t Excessively Explain Moderation Decisions
The importance of setting Rules was described earlier. As a moderator it is important to stick to these rules - do not let viewers slide because they are your friend, etc. If they abuse the rules and face no consequences, this could be problematic. Once rules are established, it is important to not apply any double standards.
When a moderation decision is made, use your judgment on what needs to be explained to the rest of the viewers. If they broke a rule, simply state “X person broke Rule 7, banned”. If their infraction was more ambiguous, perhaps give a short explanation. If you excessively detail every moderation decision, some viewers will do their damnedest to find loopholes or hypocrisies in those decisions and try to exploit them. Keep your moderation simple.
Employing all of these tips and strategies will help maintain a positive and welcoming stream for all viewers. Remember, it is better to slowly grow a good stream community, than to allow toxicity for the sake of view count. You will benefit more from it in the end.
THANK YOU! I would like to give a huge thank you to the streamers and moderators that provided me with their invaluable experience and insight to help me write this article:
Red Queen @Red__Queen_
Each of these fabulous ladies provided me with way more information and advice than I could cohesively put into one article. I encourage anybody who is entering the world of streaming and moderating to reach out to them if you wish to learn more.