Twitch is one of the most popular video game related sites in the world. For both the players streaming their games and the viewers watching it has become a pastime unto itself. Since so much of what happens on Twitch is live, the rules of conduct can be very important to keep the site available to all ages. Twitch just made a change to their policies however, which creates a new blanket policy, yet at the same time changes very little. All Adults Only are now banned across the board.
In a post yesterday on the Twitch blog they announced this change in policy. Going forward any games rated as Adults Only (AO) by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) will not be allowed to be streamed via Twitch. While several games had previously been banned from the site, this was done on a case by case basis and was not exclusively based on ratings. Interestingly the ESRB rating will be the sole determining factor of the ban under this policy. If a game that receives a rating lower than 18+ elsewhere in the world is rated AO in the US, it’s still banned. If the reverse is true, the game will be allowed.
The number of AO rated games is incredibly small. There are only around 30 or so that ever been given the rating. The vast majority of them are games with excessive violence or nudity. The games you may have heard of, including Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Manhunt 2, and Fahrenheit were all modified to achieve M ratings before release. All three major console manufacturers already have bans on AO titles for their systems.
The word on the street is that this change in policy was due to the impeding release of Hatred as those who pre-ordered the title will receive it tomorrow. Hatred is an apologetically violent mass murder game that has already been the center of quite a bit of controversy. It appears that Twitch, and its parent company Amazon, are looking to avoid both the controversy that would result in the game being viewable on their site, as well as the controversy that would follow specifically banning the game by name. Valve already had to deal with angry fans when they pulled the game from Steam Greenlight, before putting it back up.
The creators of Hatred, Destructive Creations, have made no secret that controversy was their intention when it came to the marketing of the game. They fully succeeded in this. Depending on your perspective Hatred is either a signal of the decline of western civilization, or an exercise in free speech in the battle against overzealous political correctness.