How I Battled Sexism, Toxicity and Harassment in R6
When your passion turns into a labour, you know something is wrong. In fact, I think labour might even be the wrong word. On the 15th of February, I realised that my passion had turned into a battle, one that I couldn’t turn a blind eye to any more.
After working the Six Invitational 2020 as an analyst, I returned to Australia to visit family and subsequently got stuck with COVID border lockdowns. I was lucky enough to be able to work my job as a caster and analyst for Rainbow Six Siege from Australia. This meant telling my usual squads I’d be unable to play and resigning myself to the fact I would need to stream from the Australian servers. Little did I know that the next twelve months would be some of the most intense and exhausting months of my entire career in content creation for Rainbow Six Siege.
I have almost exclusively streamed Rainbow Six for several years now. It was something I never got sick of, even when I was a full-time professional coach in Europe or a full-time caster and analyst globally. Some weeks I’d be either playing and/or working something Siege-related for up to 60 hours a week. To say the passion for the game oozed from me would be an understatement. I had originally started my own competitive playing career for Siege in Australia before relocating to Europe, so I was aware of the toxic environment to begin with. I had gone through my fair share of sexist remarks and completely uncalled for harassment. I would like to think that in early 2020 I was keen to give this region another chance, which is one that was soured almost instantly.
The first three months I put it down to the players wanting to get their thinly veiled toxicity labelled as “banter” out and it would die down. If I had known it would continue on its upward trajectory, I might not have continued to stream Siege with as much tenacity as I did. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I was lucky at the time to be in the crux of my new job within the professional leagues in Europe and Asia Pacific that I had other outlets to put my concentration towards.
In the midst of a harsh Australian lockdown for many months, whenever I wasn’t working I was streaming or sleeping (with a little anime on the side). That all came to a halt when the offseason began for competitive Siege around January 2021, where I had the pleasure of streaming Siege to my heart’s content. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the exact content I got. In fact, I provided a very different version of content to the tens of thousands of viewers each week.
To say I was embarrassed does not give justice to the way I would lay awake after a stream unable to fall asleep. I’d think back to the games where I couldn’t perform anywhere near my potential because the other team was actively in my stream, screaming my every move as my Twitch would give them an easy win round after round. I would wonder how many times I’d be made a fool of by hoping my teammates would respond to my callouts with their own, only to have them retort back with language that would make my grandmother faint.
Every day I would give the community the benefit of the doubt and every day I was disappointed. Then I started to worry that some of the insults were so egregious that I was providing content that might be a trigger to my wonderful community. All the while I sat in front of my camera and microphone and grinned through the unbearable mental and emotional exhaustion that these broadcasts left me with.
I wouldn’t say there was necessarily one moment that made me realise I couldn’t stream Siege seriously anymore, more that I had reached my tipping point. The very first game the other night [Feb 15], before releasing my video statement, I had a teammate begin to tell me how they would sexually assault me alongside some other colourful commentary. This escalated into racist remarks and several n-words before I quickly muted, collected my evidence to submit my ban, and kept playing.
Embarrassed, again, by my fellow Australian’s behaviour, I attempted to ignore it and move on with the game. This was not something my teammate was happy with, as their five seconds of attention was seemingly not to their liking. That is when the teamkilling started. In the middle of a ranked game, losing a teammate early leads to around an 80% chance of losing that round. I sighed, told my viewers not to worry, and again moved on. Frustrating, but a usual occurrence in my lobbies when I am unable to five stack at the late hours I stream.
The real tipping point I think came when I decided to change my server to South East Asia to escape the several toxic games I had in a row in the Australian servers. I put my own gameplay at a deficit to play with ping just to get away from the harassment. I stood hiding in a room near an entrance waiting for my opponents to enter and shoot them from behind. I was in a pretty good position as no one had droned the side room I was eagerly positioned in and I was about to net a multikill for certain. Five seconds later, I was dead. No drone. No warning. No possible way they could have known. Five bullets came ricocheting through the wall and I was out for the rest of the round.
In Rainbow Six, during ranked games, you get a preview of the moments before your death and how it looked for your opponent. In this replay, the player was standing still looking at a wall, before seemingly alt+tabbing back in and turning towards the wall and firing through it. It was the most blatant act of stream sniping I had encountered that entire month and to say it set me off is putting it lightly.
How can I provide any semblance of decent gameplay to my audience when I am being shot through walls? How can I prove that my 5,000+ hours in this game have amounted to me being a high-level FPS player? I used to play this game competitively and in some ranked games nowadays my K/D is reminiscent of a brand new player. My chat went ballistic. I think anyone who watched that scene take place and how my face looked after would never forget it. I would say it was a mixture of me finally exploding with all the stress, anger and frustration that had built up over the past year and a notion of defeat.
I knew at that moment that I wouldn’t be streaming Siege the next day, nor would I the day after that. I am unsure how many days this feeling will persist, or whether streaming it on a far more infrequent basis will quell the frustration to a manageable level, but one thing is certain, I cannot ever reach the level of emotional distress I felt in that singular moment again.
Once I sat down and collected my thoughts, I posted a short two-minute video to explain to my community why they wouldn’t be seeing me streaming Siege for the rest of the week. Little did I know that it would skyrocket around Twitter and be commented on by hundreds of other content creators and beyond. There were several high-profile Siege streamers who echoed my frustrations and were also saddened that the game they loved was being ruined by a minority of highly vocal and insecure people.
It became very clear to me that I wasn’t alone in this battle I was facing. Many others had moved away from Siege almost completely and whilst I strongly believe that Ubisoft is working harder than ever to release their reputation and stream sniping system, I do not blame them. To say this is Ubisoft’s fault is ridiculous, but anything that isn’t maintained will begin to rot. The open dialogue I have with developers and community managers has shown me there is great care for this game and that some additions really do just take time. This is time I may be willing to wait, but for now, I must do what is best for my mental health.
If you made it this far, know that I share in your anguish. It doesn’t have to be this way and, alas, it is. What I merely ask is that no one ever just observe this behaviour. Call it out. Stop it in its tracks. There is nothing worse than someone who stands idly by or rides the waves of their privilege in order to avoid confrontation. To those over this past year that spoke up for me, thank you, you gave me hope that the community has some gems among the rough.