Streaming is a huge part of gaming today and vital to the success of esports. But the convenience of reaching a large audience and engaging directly with it, for all its benefits, also has a few drawbacks. Today we look at the practice dubbed “stream sniping” and explore its effects on modern gaming.
First things first. Stream Sniping is simply the practice of watching somebody play online while being in the same game as them and using this information to your advantage.
In action games such as Fortnite or Overwatch, this can be employed to reveal the opponent’s positioning and used as a deadly weapon. In turn-based games such as MTG Arena, it is arguably even worse, since hidden information such as the opponent’s hand is now known to the enemy which is absolutely devastating and a gross disadvantage.
Yeah, That’s Bad. But is it Cheating?
The answer, in fact, is not that simple. Sure, there’s undeniably an unfair advantage coming from outside the game. It’s morally questionable, for sure. But many argue it is not a form of cheating.
This is because the player who suffers from the disadvantage proactively decided to broadcast their game, and openly put it on the internet for all to see. “All” includes the opponents. Want to get the absolute maximum edge you can in the game? Don’t stream it! It’s not like streamers are put in front of cameras at gunpoint!
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But realistically, this is not that simple. Many content creators, including almost all esports stars, make a living, or at least a solid chunk of income, from streaming their gameplay. In order to be successful at Twitch, or any other streaming outlet for that matter, you need a dedicated, passionate, and most importantly, large audience.
Remember, these are people who are interested in the same game as you and are players themselves – many of them being rather avid. If you’re good and have secured your place in the chosen game’s elite, it is even more likely to bump into other people who are fellow fanatics and watch your stream. So, a collision is inevitable.
Policies regarding stream sniping vary from game to game and company to company. Obviously, any form of cheating should be disallowed in a tournament setting. However, not all esports are being played on big stages all the time, and online tournaments are quite the standard affair – not the mention they’ve been the only way to play in the past five months.
So, What Should We Do?
Obviously, there is no one easy answer, but these are the thoughts of one industry insider and they go as follows:
- Address the practice in the rules set. Tournament organizers need to have it in their policies. On-screen deck lists in Hearthstone are not considered cheating, as the same effect could be achieved with pen and paper, and everything pan and paper is legal in Hearthstone. Should stream sniping be disallowed, all TO’s need to do is state it in advance. Offenders need to be punished so that rules are reinforced.
- Implement delay. This is something most tournaments are doing anyway. The advantage is clear – a delay of 15 seconds or so is enough to almost completely eliminate stream sniping from action-packed games, since this is a rather long time when you’re in the heat of battle. This approach has one huge downside, though – it greatly hurts the viewing experience.
Esports is not only about the players but arguably more about the fans. Those of us who have witnessed a game of League of Legends being played live on stage know the pain of seeing the players cheer and congratulate each other beneath the limelight but having to wait 15 longs seconds to see what was all that about. See somebody get noticeably angry? Well, you can expect to see them die exactly 15 seconds from now. Spoilers are bummer.
- Who cares, allow it! It’s law of the jungle, baby. Should you openly broadcast your game, you have to be prepared to take on some freebooters along the way. You think you’re the best in the world? Consider this as a handicap and just another way to show off your god-like skill. It was you who flipped that “live” switch, after all.
We can surely expect this practice to continue to be the point of many a discussion online. EarlyGame will be watching different companies in their approaches and throw our two cents every now and then with the noble goal of making esports the best they could be.