Will Anyone Take the Fall at Twitch?

Will Anyone Take the Fall at Twitch?

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | Accusations of sexual assault and racism at the streaming platform leave us wondering who's going to take responsibility.

This Week in Business is a collection of stats and quotes from our sister site GamesIndustry.biz that sheds light on console sales, new trends, and more. Check back every Friday for a new entry!

We ran a big feature about Twitch yesterday over at GamesIndustry.biz, based on discussions with 16 current and former employees about their experiences at the company. There's a lot in there, but there's one thing in particular I thought I would call out here. Not because it's any "worse" than the other accusations or allegations we reported on, but because I don't think it lends itself to getting much attention on its own. (That's partly my fault, considering I put it near the bottom of an 8,500-word article.)

The reason I want to call it out is because it reinforces something we should have taken out of the Ubisoft scandal earlier this year about how essential proper leadership is in a corporate culture, and how commonly companies in the games industry lack it.

As reported in the article, Russell "Horror" Laksh was the first full-time moderator at Twitch. Moderation was not a big priority for the company in its early years, so it was just Laksh, a young person with little training and no real mentorship, overseeing a staff of volunteer moderators. There were a handful of other actual Twitch employees who were involved in moderation, but they had other duties to attend to as well.

However, Laksh ran afoul of a popular streamer and that resulted in a backlash known as the Remove Horror campaign that included death threats, doxing, and other harassment. Some of those users and partners were banned, which made people even angrier, and eventually Twitch CEO Emmett Shear posted an apology on Reddit that he was unbanning many of the users and partners involved in Remove Horror, taking disciplinary action against Twitch staff and volunteer mods "who overstepped their authority," and that Laksh would no longer moderate anything "as right now pretty much every moderation issue will be tainted by this episode."

In a YouTube interview Laksh conducted a couple years ago, he gave his side of the story, which included the revelation that he took the day off as soon as the Remove Horror campaign started gaining steam, and the bans that stoked so much anger were actually actions taken by others.

Laksh said he mentioned that in a meeting with an unnamed C-level executive, "who proceeded to tell me that he recognizes I didn't do anything, but it was my team and I had to take the fall for them."

The idea of an executive lecturing about any kind of leadership imperative like taking responsibility for the actions of one's team while in the process of throwing one of his own team under the bus to appease an angry mob is infuriating on its own.

But in light of what we ran yesterday, I can't help but wonder if this same unnamed C-level executive read the report. Did he see the litany of allegations and accusations his employees have made and come anywhere close to concluding that this is his team, so he has to take the fall for what went on?

QUOTE | "It just didn't feel safe there ever. Nobody ever really took responsibility for anything and there was nobody to go to if you were threatened, or felt threatened, or were harmed in some way." - One of 16 current or former Twitch employees we spoke with describes what it was like working there.

QUOTE | "Sometimes things are difficult to analyze, other times there's Pokémon. Other factors surely contributed. Pricing, branding, and so on... but one portable business had Pokémon, and the others did not." - NPD analyst Mat Piscatella was one of the people we spoke with about Nintendo's prolonged dominance in the dedicated handheld market, which has come to an end with the recent discontinuation of the 3DS.

QUOTE | "That weird pressure that game developers put on each other, there's still some of that leftover machismo about what a badass you are because of the number of hours you work, but secretly it's because you have nothing else going on and this is the one thing that makes you feel ok." - Devolver co-founder Mike Wilson, speaking on a panel with ID@Xbox head Chris Charla and Robot Teddy's Callum Underwood about how they deal with depression and why developers need to be more open to talking about the subject.

QUOTE | "After passing out on an airplane once many years ago when I had worked much too hard, I decided I had to slow down and hit the right pace. The dramatic scene in the skies was embarrassing, but what made a bigger impression on me were the words from the doctor onboard who stared into my eyes when I woke up in the chaos I had created: 'You are going to work yourself to death if you keep up this tempo.'" - Far Cry 3 managing director David Polfeldt talks about a literal wake-up call in an excerpt from his new book The Dream Architects.

It sounds like these consoles were a little tough to pre-order. | Microsoft

STAT | 15% - Percentage of surveyed gamers who were able to preorder a PS5 or Xbox Series console recently. Nearly twice as many, 29%, said they tried to preorder but were unable to secure a system.

STAT | 7 million - The number of PS4 units sold from its November 2013 launch through the end of Sony's fiscal year. PlayStation head Jim Ryan expects the PS5 to beat that total between its launch next month and the end of Sony's current fiscal year.

QUOTE | "Does the price of a game even matter, if it's included in your Game Pass subscription?" - Xbox games marketing GM Aaron Greenberg wraps up a lengthy answer to a question about next-gen game prices going up to $70.

QUOTE | "The [Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs] has focused on whether Microsoft's commitment to double the number of Black and African American people managers, senior individual contributors and senior leaders in our U.S. workforce by 2025 could constitute unlawful discrimination on the basis of race, which would violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act." - Microsoft lets everyone know the US government is invoking the Civil Rights Act in order to pressure it to not hire more Black people.

QUOTE | "We talk about battle royale as a genre, but it's not really a genre. It's a game mode. The genre that Spellbreak falls into is like a magic spellcasting game in the same way that what differentiates Fortnite is that it's a shooter, but it's a builder-shooter. The core gameplay is very different." - Proletariat CEO Seth Sivak explains why the Spellbreak developer wasn't too fussed when the team was partway through development and saw PUBG hit it big using a similar battle royale idea to the one they were working on.

QUOTE | "To put it simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons. Although these firms have delivered clear benefits to society, the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google has come at a price." - A line from the opening of the US House of Representatives antitrust committee's new report concluding that Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google have all engaged in monopolistic practices.

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Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry International in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at CBS-owned GameSpot in the US.

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