Twitch policy highlights the difference between voluntary and involuntary adult content in virtual worlds.
Last week, the gameplay streaming platform Twitch published a list of games banned from the service.
The short list, seemingly published in preparation for the launch of the controversial killing spree game Hatred, includes a predictable murderers' row of games rated Adults Only by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy—Director's Cut, Manhunt 2: Uncut, and Hatred), and some games with a lower or no rating that are blatantly pornographic (BMX XXX, HuniePop, and others).
One curious item on the list is Second Life, Linden Lab' online virtual world. Users can create pretty much whatever they want within Second Life, and as you can imagine, that means they create a lot of sexually explicit content: nudity, S&M dungeons, swinger communities, you name it.
At peak Second Life hype, around 2007 to 2008, it seemed like a virtual world with infinite potential. People used it for virtual conferences, virtual meditation classes, and virtual art galleries. While similar uses still exist, Second Life is increasingly known for adult content more than anything else.
The important difference is that you have to opt-in for Skyrim schlongs
Wagner James Au, who worked for Linden Lab for three years as an embedded Second Life journalist and who continues to cover virtual worlds at New World Notes, told me that this became Second Life's differentiator.
"It was the only place where you could do extreme sexual content so that's what it became branded as," he said. "Even though the tech was more libertarian and open minded, you could simulate rape, bestiality, coropophilia, the whole gamut of stuff that even the most liberal person is going to have to wince at."
However, if you read our recent interview with a popular nude mod creator, you already know that almost any game can be modded with adult content. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, for example, is a hugely popular role-playing game that's welcome on Twitch, despite the fact that anyone can download and play with the Schlongs of Skyrim mod.
A Twitch representative told Motherboard that its Rules of Conduct prohibit modded nudity like that as well, but Skyrim is still allowed while Second Life is banned outright.
The important difference is that you have to opt-in for Skyrim schlongs, while in Second Life schlongs can happen to you at any moment, without consent.
Different areas in Second Life are flagged as G (like the kid-friendly movie rating), M (mature) and A (adult), and users need to have entered payment information to enter the latter. You can get banned for doing something sexually explicit in a G-rated zone, but that's only after you already did it.
For example, In 2006, CNET interviewed Second Life's real estate tycoon Anshe Chung within the virtual world, only to have the event interrupted by a sudden parade of floppy, floating dildos.
"There's really no way to stop it," Au said. "People get penalized. Linden Lab or the landowner will boot you, but it'll still happen. That's what makes trolling videos happen."
Trolls won't be able to stream their antics on Twitch now, but they're not going to stop. Au said that some Second Life trolling YouTube videos with extreme sexual content have more than 100,000 views.
Corrections: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Linden Lab as Linden Labs; it also referred to Wagner James Au as "Wu" on two instances.