A couple of weeks into talking, though, one of his channel moderators, who goes by Snookville, wrote her a message warning her about Earney’s alleged behavior toward women. The moderator said he saw Earney bring multiple women—up-and-coming Twitch streamers—in and out of his room at conventions, including after telling another woman he would just see her. “It didn’t scream ‘abuse of power’ to me,” says Avery of her thinking at the time. “It was like, ‘cheating and kind of being an asshole.’”
Since then, Avery says, her mind has changed. She says she later learned that throughout their relationship, he was sending flirtatious and sexual messages to other aspiring or small-audience streamers. “That seems a little predatory,” she says. “He specifically uses his power with smaller streamers who are trying to grow a following, as opposed to streamers who are more on his level.” When they broke up, she says, he began dating another up-and-coming streamer.
Earney confirmed that these events occurred over email to WIRED.
Avery published a post on Saturday about her relationship with Earney. Throughout the weekend, other women also publicly accused Earney of behavior that ranged from uncomfortable flirtation to crossing sexual boundaries. Earney announced on Sunday that he would discontinue his networks “indefinitely,” in a post titled “A departure.” He apologized for his “overly sexual and flirty behavior.” “Regardless of when any of what you see is said to have happened, I want you to believe them [the accusers],” he wrote. “What is obvious is that this behavior has gone on throughout my career and I directly benefited sexually from it while the people on the receiving end were negatively impacted.”
In an email to WIRED, Earney denied that his behavior was abusive or harassing, calling any suggestion otherwise “completely untrue.” Regarding claims that he sought out up-and-coming streamers, Earney told WIRED that he does not “consider the ‘streamer’ aspect to be relevant here. I never associated sexual behavior with channel growth or improvement.”
On Wednesday night, after days of outcry, Twitch removed Earney’s partner status and channel, along with the channels of several other accused streamers: BlessRNG, Dreadedcone, Warwitch, and 21wolv, three of whom responded to allegations against them. (A global Twitch emote of BlessRNG’s face has been removed.)
In a post on their website also published Wednesday, Twitch says they are “reviewing each case that has come to light as quickly as possible, while ensuring appropriate due diligence.” Twitch adds that, “In many of the cases, the alleged incidents took place off Twitch,” and noted that they will need to report some of those cases to “proper authorities who are better placed to conduct a more thorough investigation.” Twitch declined to comment on WIRED’s question about its responsibility in streamers’ behavior off the platform after they gain an audience on it, and has shared no plans on whether it will vet streamers to whom it gives “partner” status.
In interviews with WIRED, women who came forward with allegations of abuse also described larger, structural factors in the Twitch streaming community that can contribute to a toxic environment. “I have said this for so many years,” says Natalie “ZombiUnicorn” Casanova, a Twitch streamer with 220,000 followers who shared her own allegations of sexual misconduct involving a top streamer. (The streamer has called her allegations false.) “We are behind the rest of the entertainment industry on the way women are treated.”
About half of gamers are women. Gaming culture, however, has been steeped in the trappings of traditional masculinity for decades, from the wargames that inspired Dungeons & Dragons to the military simulations of Call of Duty. Gaming’s reputation as a male-dominated cultural tidepool is, in part, because of advertising campaigns, not because of who plays games. Boys with pocket money are a marketing demographic, and early on, gaming companies like Nintendo targeted them. Over time, this boys’-club ad demographic reinforced itself, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy: boys-only Halo nights, Ventrilo voice chat servers full of male Counter-Strike players.