Tinkerballa for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
It happened swiftly.
A female gamer named Jess was live-streaming a few rounds of Call of Duty on Twitch, a live-streaming social media platform for gamers, when, suddenly, she heard a loud banging her front door. Jumping to her feet to get it, she was stopped in her tracks by a S.W.A.T. team bursting in. Before she knew it, Jess was lying helpless and silent on the ground while her Twitch followers watched the agents invade her home, looking for potential threats and destroying her belongings in the process.
Jess had just become a victim of an increasingly popular trend in the gaming world called “swatting”.
Swatting is when an angry gamer, typically a young, tech-savvy teenager, traces a Twitch broadcaster’s location, calls 911 and reports either a bomb threat, mass murder or anything that raises enough suspicion to send the police or S.W.A.T. team to the broadcaster’s business or home. The police break-in is typically caught on the streamer’s webcam and viewers in the channel can hear and see everything.
(Check out this video compilation of gamers being swatted: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiW-BVPCbZk)
“Citizens could be put in harm’s way. You could have an innocent person and officers responding to a call of shots fired. It can be very hazardous to anyone in the area,” Naperville Police Department Sgt. Bill Davis told the Chicago Tribune.
The Tribune also noted that swatting cases go back to at least a decade, and that approximately 400 incidents happen annually.
As a female gamer who loves the thrill of online player-verses-player competition, I’ve had my fair share of gamers criticize, curse and threaten my character and me.
I’ve had my account reported for “cheating,” which resulted in a nasty email from the game’s corporate office telling me to cease, or my eight years of accumulated game play would be permanently deleted.
I’ve had gamers tell me that someone was going to come to my house to beat and/or kill me.
The threats were so bad I had to hide my identity, change my name and play male characters just so I wouldn’t attract more unwanted attention (and write this piece anonymously). I felt like an outcast. Video games weren’t fun anymore, more like surviving a real-life Hunger Games than several hours of digital entertainment. And why? Because guys don’t like being beaten by girls. It sounds juvenile and trite, I know. But in my experience, that’s how it feels–a nerdified “boys rule, girls drool” kind of thing. Most swatting victims have been girls, especially girls who play first person shooters like Call of Duty and Halo.
To protect your identity, especially in the online gaming world, my advice is to create a gamer alias or gamer tag that doesn’t give away any personal information, even the year you were born. (Many people online have even figured out a way to trace you just by your birth date.) To check just how much personal information you have out there, visit this website: https://myshadow.org/trace-my-shadow. If you highlight all boxes, you can see how much of a “shadow” you have online—which can actually be kind of scary.
As for becoming a Twitch broadcaster, treat your channel like a business. Create your email, PayPal account and other tools around your business, not yourself. Twitch streamers are more vulnerable because they broadcast to the public. Therefore, anyone can listen and find information; just be smart and take precaution.