In the world of live video game streaming, the relationship between a performer and the people who watch them crack jokes over Runescape can quickly become toxic.
On Thursday, the relationship between Paul Denino, known as "Ice_Poseidon" online, and his fans got out of hand as he was escorted off of a flight after someone called in a bomb threat in his name. This practice is known as "swatting," and it's how malcontents in the gaming community terrorize people they don't like.
The usual setting for a swatting is someone's home, so a plane is kind of crazy, although not entirely without precedent. In 2014, Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley tweeted his flight, and trolls quickly tweeted at the airline saying there was a bomb aboard the flight. The plane was grounded in Phoenix.
ABC15 Arizona reported that police said an anonymous bomb threat was called in. Denino was escorted off of the plane by officers at Phoenix's Sky Harbour airport after the anonymous person allegedly impersonated Denino, and said he had a bomb. Although the incident was little more than an inconvenience to the flight's passengers, in a follow-up video posted to YouTube, Denino explained how the swatting has shaken him.
"I'm considering not streaming Dreamhack [an international gaming conference] because I'm afraid," Denino said. "If someone's willing to do that on a fucking plane, what's to stop them from doing it at Dreamhack?"
In what looks like a capture of Denino's Twitch stream, posted across multiple streaming fan accounts on YouTube on April 13, his stream is interrupted by police officers knocking at his door.
"You swat my house, whatever, fuck you—you swat a plane?" he said during his YouTube response to the flight swatting. "That's a whole other level. You don't expect that to happen."
Swatting is always an abusive practice, and it was a fixture of the deeply toxic and reactionary Gamergate movement several years ago. When streamers are swatted at their home, they can contact their local police department and warn them that they are being targeted to prevent further incidents. But what about people who are streaming and broadcasting their location while traveling? Are they supposed to call in advance and warn every airline, hotel, or venue that the plan to visit?
At this point, it must be hard not to feel a little helpless.
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