Streaming is a huge part of gaming today and is critical to esports success. But the convenience of reaching a large audience and being in direct contact with them has a few downsides for all its advantages. Today we take a look at the practice known as “stream sniping” and examine how it affects modern gaming.
The important things first. Stream sniping is simply the practice of watching someone gamble online while in the same game as them and using that information to their advantage.
In action games like Fortnite or Overwatch, this can be used to reveal the positioning of the opponent and use it as a deadly weapon. In turn-based games like MTG Arena, it’s arguably even worse as hidden information like the opponent’s hand is now known to the opponent, which is absolutely devastating and a gross disadvantage.
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Yes that’s bad. But is it cheating?
Indeed, the answer is not that simple. Sure, it’s undeniably an unfair advantage that comes from outside the game. It’s morally questionable, for sure. But many argue that it is not a form of cheating.
This is because the player at the disadvantage has proactively chosen to broadcast their game and put it openly on the internet for all to see. “All” includes the opponents. Do you want to have the absolute greatest possible advantage in the game? Don’t stream it! It’s not like streamers are held at gunpoint in front of the cameras!
But realistically, it’s not that easy. Many content creators, including almost all esports stars, make a living, or at least a solid part of their income, streaming their gameplay. To be successful on Twitch or any other streaming portal, you need an engaged, passionate, and most importantly, large audience.
Remember, these are people who are interested in the same game as you and are gamers themselves – many of them are quite avid. If you are good and have secured your place in the elite of the game you have chosen, the chances are that you will run into other people who are also fanatics and are watching your stream. So a collision is inevitable.
Stream sniping guidelines vary from game to game and company to company. Obviously, any form of cheating should be prohibited in a tournament environment. However, not all esports are played on big stages all the time, and online tournaments are a perfectly normal proposition – not to mention they have been the only way to play for the past five months.
So what should we do?
Obviously there isn’t an easy answer, but these are the thoughts of an industry insider and they are as follows:
Address the practice in the set of rules. Tournament organizers must include it in their guidelines. On-screen decklists are not considered cheating in Hearthstone as the same effect could be achieved with pen and paper, and anything done with pen and paper is legal in Hearthstone. Should stream sniping be prohibited, the TOs only need to announce this in advance. Violators must be punished so that the rules are strengthened.
Introduce delay. This is something most tournaments do anyway. The advantage is obvious – a delay of 15 seconds or so is enough to almost completely eliminate stream sniping from action-packed games, as that’s quite a long time in the heat of the moment. However, there is one major drawback to this approach – it significantly detracts from the viewing experience.
Esport is not just about the players, but more about the fans. Those of us who have seen a League of Legends game live on stage know the pain of seeing the players cheer and congratulate each other in the spotlight but have to wait 15 long seconds to see what it was all about. Do you see someone get noticeably angry? Well, in exactly 15 seconds you can expect to see him die. Spoilers are crap.
Who cares, admit it! It’s the law of the jungle baby If you broadcast your game openly, you have to expect that you will face some privateers. Do you think you are the best in the world? Think of this as a handicap and just another way to showcase your godlike prowess. After all, it was you who flipped the “Live” switch.
We can safely expect that this practice will continue to be the point of much discussion on the Internet. EarlyGame will observe various companies in their approaches and occasionally throw in our two cents with the noble goal of making esports the best it could be.