Streams have become one of the world’s greatest distractions. A new way to watch your favorite creators and react to them while they entertain you at the moment. You can show your support for them, donate to them, and fulfill your need to socialize while also enjoying your own hobbies. Whether it is watching an artist work in real-time or supporting your favorite League of Legends player, streaming is now a part of the norm in first-world society. In fact, one of the world’s leading streaming platforms, Twitch, has obtained more than 20 million new viewers since 2019.
What does this mean for a game like League of Legends? Well, Twitch is in partnership with Riot Games to host their ESport tournaments on the platform. The overall record for concurrent Twitch viewers is 1.7 million for League of Legends Worlds hosted by Riot Games in November 2019. That number is expected to be even higher in 2020 once Esports concludes.
Many League streamers have Twitch as their platform of choice because it’s easy to use, accessible to many viewers, and is still dominating when it comes to streaming platforms. Unfortunately, streaming on Twitch comes with a more insidious side that affects viewers and streamers alike in the League community. The insidiousness that I speak of is none other than the infamously bad behavior that is stream sniping.
What Is Stream Sniping?
According to a popular UrbanDictionary definition created by user TheDeepWeb in 2016, streaming sniping generally means watching/following a streamer into a server or a game queue just to kill and taunt them. It’s bad practice and also bad behavior that can put an entire streaming session into a bad mood because it ruins the enjoyment of the game and/or watching it be played. League of Legends stream snipers may have multiple popular streamers open at one time while they’re queueing up for a ranked match. In order for this to work, the stream sniper must be in or around the same elo as the people he’s stream sniping. If the stream snipers queue pops and one of the other people that he’s viewing also has their queue up at the same time, then it’s safe to assume that that’s who they’re going to be up against. After that, they simply take a calculated risk to ban who they see that the person they’re laning against is playing since all the information they need will be visible on the streamers Twitch. Since Twitch happens in real-time, this makes stream sniping incredibly easy to pull off even for amateurs.
Why Is Stream Sniping So Controversial?
Stream sniping, to some, isn’t actually cheating. If streamers decide to have their streams up for the entire world to see in a public setting, they acknowledge that anyone can view that stream. This includes potential opponents. However, when you’re dealing with a game like League of Legends, it’s obvious that stream sniping is cheating. This is easily identifiable to any avid LoL players who queues up for ranked or blinds or any game mode. Your opponents should not have the ability to see what you wish to play in the game.
When you first queue up, you and your teammates can hover what you wish to play. This information is useful because, in the banning phase, your teammates are less likely to ban the champ that you plan on playing. If you are being stream sniped, the other laner who you’re up against can ban that particular champ and force you to choose something else that you may not be as good at on the fly. Take BobqinXD, for example. He’s currently the best Leblanc player NA and the best Galio NA, but he’s more so known for his amazing plays using Leblanc, which is considered an unconventional champ.
Since his Leblanc is so good, when he gets streamed sniped, his Leblanc will most likely be banned and taken off the table. For players like BobqinXD who have other niches like his Galio and Irelia, it’s mainly annoying but can be used in a clickbait title here and there to show how he’s stomping his stream sniping opponents. However, it takes away from the game and players’ ability to choose.
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Why Do People Stream Snipe?
The main goal of stream sniping is merely to gather information. You can gain info about who you’re playing against and what champs they plan on playing. This gives you the ability to counter pick. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, counter pick simply means choosing a champ that acts as a direct counter to the champ you’re going to play against. An example of this could be choosing Zed into Lux, Renekton into Darius, or even Vi into Evelynn. This gives you a better chance at winning your match up and ultimately winning the game if you have a kit that allows you to combat what your enemy laner picks. Stream sniping doesn’t just happen in champ select, though.
Stream sniping can even continue as the game progresses. If a streamer has two monitors or they’re using a mobile device, they can actually see everything that’s happening on the enemy stream in real-time during the game. This means they know where the jungler is and any potential gank that they may go for. They can see if an enemy backs. They can see if the enemy is going for an objective or setting up for one. All of these crucial information impacts the macro play of the game. If you’re an experienced player in League of Legends, that information is the key to an easy win being handed to you on a silver platter. It makes the game so much easier if you know all of your opponents’ moves, where all of their wards are when they plan on ganking, and more. Your reaction to these game-changing events can be planned accordingly without any risk to you.
when someone on the enemy team is streaming pic.twitter.com/agEo0OHV1Q— bobqin (@bobqinXD) May 13, 2020
Is There A Way To Stop Stream Sniping?
Now that you know what stream sniping is, why it’s done, and why it’s so disgraceful in the League community, the next logical thing to assess is how it can be stopped. Unfortunately, League doesn’t have “stream sniping” policies in their Terms of Service.
Unfortunately, there’s no real way to prove that someone is stream sniping and cheating on their account because League can’t track when someone has their Twitch open or watching someone else’s.
It’s just not plausible. However, platforms such as Twitch have implemented policies against the practice. Streamers can choose to ban users who they suspect of stream sniping. Usually, this happens when a streamer sees a viewer with a similar gamer tag like the one they use in-game. Very unoriginal, right? But, even banning stream snipers can come with some unintended consequences. Take Ataras, for example, a popular League of Legends streamer who banned someone after he suspected them of sniping him during a game. That user then made multiple false reports on his account, which led to a 14-day ban. Even with proof in hand that said sniper admitted that it was him and that cheating was his intention, Ataras was still banned. Why? Because Twitch doesn’t have the manpower to go through the hundreds of thousands of reports that happen on the site.
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Everything is, unfortunately, operated through bots and computer programming meant to access the validity of reports and give punishment. This system isn’t perfect at all, and there are many issues when it comes to reporting on Twitch. That’s why some players don’t report stream snipers at all. In order to combat them, streamers have had to get creative in their methods. Many League streamers use map covers while they stream so that stream snipers can’t see what’s going on from their perspective. The streamer themselves can still see their maps, but the rest of the stream can’t. This has proven to be an easy way to stop cheaters from knowing your map movement without sacrificing your own vision.
Another way to deter stream snipers is by adding a delay to your stream. If you add a delay by a few minutes or so, they won’t be able to ban the champ that you intend to play or know what’s happening in real-time on your stream since they’re always going to be a few steps behind. The downside is that you can’t interact with your audience in real-time, which sucks since the commentary is a huge part of streaming. Whether or not that’s something a streamer wants to sacrifice must be weighed on how often they interact with their audience and whether it’d negatively affect their viewership if they were to enact a delay.
Most frequent questions about stream sniping
Sabotaging a game is illegal. However, stream snipers will almost never face criminal charges.
Stream snipers are ruining the streaming experience for both the streamer, and his audience. If you’re broadcasting your League of Legends game, you can protect yourself from them by putting an overlay across your mini-map.
Unfortunately, there’s no real way to prove that someone’s stream sniping. Even if you somehow manage to prove it, stream snipers will most likely never get banned from the game.
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Stream sniping is an abhorrent practice that ruins the enjoyment of League of Legends for the supremely talented streamers who wish to commentate during their games. It’s unfair, grimy, and affects the viewers and streamers alike. Twitch and many platforms like it have tried to enact policies against stream sniping, but it seems redundant if the stream sniper in question can get people banned out of spite for their own bad behavior.
Streaming is an imperfect set up and may never be perfect, but we as audiences should know when to call out people for their actions and hold them accountable. On top of that, we need to speak up and call for immediate action when we see that our favorite streamers have been wrongly persecuted in retaliation when they’ve done nothing wrong. The voice of audiences matters because we’re what makes platforms like Twitch popular. It isn’t the streamers themselves, but rather their ability to keep their audiences entertained and happy with the content that they’re putting out.
Keeping this in mind is important for putting stream snipers in their place and supporting our favorite streamers through it all and showing our loyalty and dedication even when they get frustrated. Understanding is key to providing the best experience on any platform, regardless of the few bad apples that may seek to ruin our experiences.