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Ethical Streaming Guidelines: Making Money Playing Video Games

ethical streaming in video games


I've always had a bit of an ethical problem with streaming video games. It's one of the reasons why I decided to de-monetize my channel after several years. After running into politics, community neglect, and a metric fuckton of other problems, I decided it wasn't worth it for me.

With that said, I have no problem with others monetizing their own channels. Some people have put mountains of work into their own projects only to see paltry ROI with them.

But, with that said, here's a look into the ethics behind streaming video games for money.

A Look into Ethics on the Latest Videogame Craze

It's probably one of the least talked-about questions in this industry because a lot of enthusiasts are seeing their dream jobs come true.

I remember talking with several friends in the past about how big of a dream it would be to play video games for money. It would be our dream job--the reason we wake up and exist.

Now, for many, that's a reality. But is it ethical? That's not an easy question to answer.

Behind viewbotting, social laddering, embed services, community sapping, and other factors, there are a lot of practices that aren't very ethical at all. I'll break down a few here.

How Viewbotting is Entirely Unethical

A lot of people try to fight for Twitch partnership using a practice called viewbotting. Basically, a software program of some sort generates randomized accounts that follow your channel and "enter" it when you turn the service on.

So, essentially your channel has inflated numbers. In most cases, it's typically around 100 bots. 

Viewbotting is basically designed to trick Twitch's (or another platform's) systems into determining the active viewcount. A lot of factors go into those systems, including:
  • the age of the following account
  • details about the following account
  • whether the account name is natural or machine-generated (it's easy to tell)
  • follow rate
  • whether or not the account is actively chatting in your channel
Some viewbotting software actually has the bots talk back and forth with each other. Of course, they aren't in-depth conversations about heavy topics, but it's all still designed to get past the "red flags," if you will.

The purpose behind it, however, gets pretty ugly. Partnership usually means more money, more legitimate views, opportunities with developers and publishers, and other benefits. 

So what viewbotting essentially says is that you're not good enough at community building, and so you need to develop a false one to make yourself seem relevant enough.

If you viewbot, please get out of this industry. If you feel someone is viewbotting, feel free to read Twitch's guidelines on those practices.

Embed Services

I'm fairly certain embed services are no longer accounted for by Twitch's standards. But, like viewbots, the service inflates your channel to make it appear you're doing a lot better (in terms of channel traffic) than you really are.

An embed service places your stream on a popular website and the website traffic transfers as views. It seems legitimate, only the problem is the embed will often be placed on high-traffic websites and the users won't even realize they're viewing a stream until they see it on the page.

What this means is that someone's stream could be placed in the bottom-left corner of a site (let's say NewEgg) and they could easily go from 2 viewers to 500 in seconds.

It's not quite the same as viewbotting, but the unethical implications are still there. Plus, some streamers even pay money to have an embed service to push their numbers high, only to have a partnership application fail because the embed views aren't fully counted.

In short, it's a waste of money and makes your channel subject to a ban in Twitch's eyes.

How to Remain in an Ethical Realm

If you want to remain ethical in the streaming universe, stick to what's tried-and-true. 

Support others. Find newer social media platforms that offer different benefits. Focus on the content, not the viewcount. Improve your production value, and people will start talking about it.

For instance, I once tweeted out about Crash Koeck's content. His production value is through the roof and has quirks about it that scream high-quality.

When you generate the best content, it gets shared. 

For Business or For Pleasure?

I recognize that streaming videogames is a business. That's no secret. But it all depends on what you want to do with it.

If you decide that you want to stream as a business, it's going to take a lot of work.

Take a few afternoons, sit down, and plan everything out. That's one of my largest regrets with streaming. And try not to get discouraged.

But if you stream specifically for just pleasure, fantastic. Don't pressure yourself to go anywhere with it. Learn. Make new friends. Attend conventions. Do the thing.

The interesting aspect is you may find yourself working in a game company after learning new aspects to streaming. If that's a goal, definitely stick to ethical practices with streaming.

What to Charge for Your Brand of Streaming Video Games

A lot of people have integrated Patreon into their pricing models, but it might be a little difficult to figure out what to charge a person for a subscription on that platform.

A good way to gauge it so that the prices are reasonable and ethical is to ask yourself what you would pay for the kind of content offered. 

Also, there are various pricing models to research that play into the psychology of purchasing, pricing, and the perceived value of what someone is buying. A very popular pricing model is called the Popcorn or Decoy model

Using this with reasonable prices keeps you in an ethical area with streaming video games for money. You price your content at certain tiers so other options give your viewers more perceived value.

Just don't price your stuff sky-high, or people will call you out for it. 

Ethical Streaming in a Nutshell

It's hard to justify streaming video games for money. I personally took a step back because I don't want to turn one of my favorite pastimes into a realm of politics, fairweather friendship, and work.

But do what you will with what you have.

Thanks for reading.

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