Depending on who you ask, there are many schools of thought surrounding the “right” way to play a game. Some people play games to experience challenges, others are in it more for the narrative, and plenty fall somewhere in between. Sometimes, your attitude on how to experience a title can entirely depend on the game itself. There’s no wrong answer here — that is, assuming you don’t try and impose it on someone else.
This might explain why in late March, a video clip by Twitch streamer Ashley Roboto exploded on social media, with over 500,000 views and 35,000 likes as of this writing. In it, the red-headed Canadian, whose streams focus on spreading positivity, goes on an impassioned speech against viewers who try and gatekeep the way she and other Twitch personalities play games.
“I want you to look right in my eyes right now,” she begins, noting that she’s only speaking to a specific audience within her chat. “Shut the fuck up … let people play games however they want to.”
In the stream highlight, she expresses disbelief that anyone would roast her for playing a game on easy mode. In an email to Polygon, she clarified that the clip occurred during a Kingdom Hearts 3 stream, a game that she said is notoriously convoluted and has some of the most confusing lore in video game history. This is why she’s playing on easy — she wants to focus her attention on parsing the story.
“Not everybody wants to play games to be absolutely infuriated and in pain the entire time,” she said in the clip. In our exchange, she added that she did try and play on higher difficulties at one point, but it was too frustrating. “Easy mode was my saving grace,” she said.
The PSA seems to have resonated with many Twitch streamers, as the replies are full of other personalities sharing their own experiences with viewers who try and gatekeep the way games “should” be played. It’s a phenomenon that nearly everyone experiences, based on conversations Polygon has had with a number of Twitch streamers.
“I absolutely feel pressured to play games a certain way,” Twitch streamer Nikatine told Polygon over Twitter. Nikatine primarily plays simulation games like Microsoft Flight Simulator, and when new viewers hop into the chat, she said, they’re prone to telling her that she’s playing them wrong.
“It’s gotten so bad I’ll play dumb sometimes,” she said. In a game like Elite Dangerous, for example, she might ironically say something like, “ohmygod it’s so dark in space, like when does the sun come out?” just to mess with viewers.
According to Twitch streamer blizzb3ar, who sometimes gets viewers who suggest there’s a “right” way to play Stardew Valley, this sort of pressure is prominent with female-presenting streamers. Women often get their credentials as a “real gamer” questioned, he says, pushing them to “prove that they belong in this space.”
It doesn’t help, Ashley said, that easy mode has a “stigma” that makes people prone to mocking others for using it. While these attitudes have been interrogated over the last few years, there’s still plenty of debate around it. But for Ashley, it’s not just about finding the best way to enjoy a game — it’s also a matter of opening up the floor to a wider variety of people.
She calls easy mode “100% an accessibility feature as well, which I think a lot of people don’t realize. I’m always going to be in the camp of making games more accessible and enjoyable for everyone.”
Beyond accessibility, though, it’s also worth remembering that Twitch streamers are a source of entertainment. This can sometimes mean broadcasts that display raw skill, sure, but it also includes acts that are there to make you laugh, if not provide a space to help you better parse a video game.
Fortunately, Twitch streamers with viewers who refuse to get it do have a recourse. Ashley jokingly says her mods will “suplex” anyone out of the chat who critiques the way she plays a game.
“I normally just tell them straight up, ‘This is my channel, so these are my rules,’” blizzb3ar said. “And I let my mods know the same thing so they can enforce that in chat.”