Everything You Need to Know About Stream-Sniping
Whether you’re a fan of deathmatch free-for-alls or RTS epics, you have probably watched a video game live stream of your favorite title. You may even broadcast your own gaming sessions on popular platforms such as Twitch.
Game streaming platforms are increasingly integral to both the video gaming industry and the wider creator economy. Today, more than 15 million people actively view streams on Twitch every single day, collectively consuming 71 million hours’ worth of content per day.
Video game live streaming has cemented the global status and careers of some of the most successful streamers, with gamers such as Ninja, Rubius, and Tfue boasting millions of followers and millions of dollars in annual earnings based solely on their streaming activities.
Whether you are a huge fan of the hottest Twitch streamers or are an aspiring streaming superstar yourself, you need to be aware of the practice of stream-sniping. But what is stream sniping exactly?
To find out the full stream-sniping meaning, why it matters, and how you can stop it from happening to you, read this complete guide to find out.
What is Stream Sniping?
First, let’s break down the actual stream sniping meaning. In a nutshell, stream-sniping is the act of hijacking or derailing another user's live stream in order to either prevent them from completing a task or simply to harass that user.
Stream-sniping can happen in a few different ways. Most commonly, stream-sniping takes the form of entering a streamer’s broadcast of a game and using an informational or resource advantage to harass the player and prevent them from making any progress in the game.
One could take advantage of the streamer’s broadcast to learn their exact location on the map in a game such as Call of Duty: Warzone and continually kill them.
A stream-snipe like this could even involve multiple malicious users gatecrashing a stream and ganging up on the streamer to prevent them from making any progress in their game.
It’s not hard to see why stream-sniping is so insidious, and why major streaming platforms such as Twitch are making serious moves to ban the practice (more on this later). Stream-sniping can severely impede the ability of a creator to make content for their audience.
This also ruins the experience for the fans, who will be tuning in to watch their favorite creator play. Meanwhile, stream-sniping is also regularly used to harass gamers, with particularly ugly incidents targeting female gamers having come into the spotlight in recent months.
At its core, stream-sniping is a deeply unfair practice. It is a form of cheating that spoils the fun for everyone and goes against all of the principles of fair play.
It can also be immensely frustrating for anyone who watches game streams to get an insight into the hottest new games, as sniping obstructs the ability of the streamer to explore the game in question.
This is why the meaning of stream sniping is so important to understand, whether you are a creator or an audience member.
Different Types of Stream-Sniping
Delving into "What is stream sniping?", it is important to revisit our earlier point about how there are multiple ways that a malicious user could go about it. These are the most common types of stream-sniping activities we are seeing on platforms at the moment:
This is another word for the kind of stream-sniping we described above. It is the most widespread form of stream-sniping, one that is simply a form of cheating in which a user will use a live stream to gain a tactical advantage in an online game.
This might involve using the stream to find out where the streamer is on the map, in order to always stay one step ahead. This is obviously unfair, not least because the streamer does not have the luxury of being able to see where the malicious user is on the map.
Another form of ghosting might involve playing the long game, viewing a streamer’s broadcasts in order to learn their playing style, and anticipating it.
It might involve using a broadcast to learn what kind of weapons or mods a streamer is using so that the user can always out-gun them in the lobby.
This is simply a form of disruptive gatecrashing designed to do nothing more than irritate the streamer and the audience, preventing the streamer from actually getting anything done in the game itself.
It might involve multiple trolls entering the same match or lobby as the streamer and just doing everything possible to obstruct them and make it impossible for them to complete their objective or show their audience anything about the game.
Unfortunately, trolls are everywhere, and live-streaming platforms are certainly no exception.
This is the darkest side of stream-sniping, one that can have extremely pernicious real-world consequences. It can largely be described as the act of invading a streamer’s broadcast in order to engage in targeted harassment and abuse.
This is something that certain communities in the gaming world, such as female or LGBTQ streamers, often have to contend with.
At its most dangerous, this practice manifests as something known as “IRL stream sniping”, where streamers are targeted, harassed, and even assaulted in person by malicious trolls. It should come as no surprise that this is a banned practice on all streaming platforms.
Anyone caught engaging in this sort of activity can expect a lifetime ban at best and serious legal action at worst.
Stream-Sniping is Not Always Bad
It's worth noting that not all stream-sniping is necessarily bad. Sometimes, stream-snipes are organized as a wholesome way of showing love to a particular streamer or organizing an in-game surprise event such as a virtual flash mob.
One of the more affirming examples of stream-sniping examples was seen in August 2021, when the streaming superstar Melina was bombarded with expressions of support and wholesome questions from her fans during a stream, with some pretty adorable results.
To really understand the meaning of stream sniping, it is worth keeping in mind that it is not always used in a wholly negative context. However, the vast majority of times the connotation is, unfortunately, a negative one.
High-Profile Stream-Sniping Incidents
Stream-sniping has been around since the very dawn of game streaming, often with unpleasant and pretty infuriating results.
There are countless examples of stream-sniping from the past year alone that have severely impeded the ability of creators to actually get their content out to their fans.
In July 2021, the streaming mega-star xQc was playing a few rounds of Warzone when his stream, which was being viewed by thousands of people at the time, was continually interrupted by a team of snipers who kept gatecrashing and killing him off.
The repeated snipes were so disruptive that xQc had to stop playing altogether, while fans pitched in with advice on how to keep the trolls out.
Meanwhile, popular Hearthstone streamers Kripparrian and Disguised Toast got so frustrated with one particular gang of streaming snipers that they took matters into their own hands.
After multiple incidents of disruptive sniping, the streamers made a YouTube video exposing the trolls in an attempt to get platforms to pay attention and boot them out for good.
Then there are those examples of IRL stream-sniping that have had a real-world impact on streamers themselves. In May 2021, Asmongold, the founder of the OTK squad, revealed that he was considering hiring security for his team after an IRL stream was interrupted by a particularly determined troll.
This is why it is so important to take stream-sniping seriously if you are going to broadcast your own gaming sessions online.
How to Prevent Stream-Sniping
So, you’re about to download games and start streaming to your growing audience of fans. What can you do to safeguard against stream-sniping and ensure that it does not happen to you?
Set a Delay Interval in Your Streaming Software
Fortunately, platforms such as Twitch and YouTube have handy settings that make it much more difficult for malicious users to engage in stream-sniping. The most effective way to go about this is by going into your broadcast settings and introducing a delay interval to all of your content.
To do this in Twitch, head to Stream Manager > Preferences > Channel and set the duration of your interval. This will introduce a delay between your playtime and your broadcast so that everything the audience sees is actually a few seconds, minutes, or even hours behind.
If you use a dedicated broadcasting software such as OBS Studio or Streamlabs OBS, head to Settings > Advanced > Stream Delay to do the exact same thing.
Be Mindful of Your Username
Understandably, aspiring streamers rely on their username to build recognition and their fanbase. However, your username is the primary target for stream-snipers looking to disrupt your broadcasts.
Consider avoiding putting “TVV” in your username when playing, as this lets everyone in the game know that you are a Twitch streamer and will make you a target for any trolls that happen to be in the lobby with you.
You should also consider hiding or changing your username when broadcasting so that it is not possible for snipers to locate and identify you in-play.
There is a range of tools that you can take advantage of to hide from trolls when live streaming.
Some games, such as CoD: Black Ops Cold War and Sea of Thieves, have streaming settings that allow you to hide your server name and any other identifying information during broadcasts to make it impossible for targeted attacks to occur.
Always Report Stream Sniping
This is something that both streamers and audiences can do to combat stream sniping and prevent malicious actors from engaging in this harmful activity in the future. Whenever you see an incident of stream-sniping taking place, do not hesitate to report it.
You can head to the Twitch Help platform to quickly and anonymously report a user. You can even give stream sniping as a reason for your report, which may result in that user being permanently banned from Twitch.
By reporting stream sniping when you see it, you can make game streaming more enjoyable for everyone.
Use an Overlay
Finally, you can opt to use an overlay to ensure that any malicious actor viewing your live stream is not able to ascertain where you are on the map or which lobby you are in. An overlay will block your minimap from all viewers and obscure any other information that might indicate your location in a particular game.
You can activate your overlay instantly on pretty much any FPS game you can think of, including League of Legends and Fortnite. For example, to activate an overlay on OBS, simply:
- Open the “scenes” box and select the “+” icon
- Name your scene and select it
- Head to the “sources” box and select “images”
- Name the image you want to use as your overlay, hit “ok”
- Head to “browse” and select the image from your files that you are using, then hit “ok”
- Position the image where you want it to appear on your screen and resize as needed, hitting “ok” when all of the information you wish to hide is obscured
The Future of Stream Sniping
In recent months, Twitch, Discord, and YouTube have all updated their policies to address the problem of stream sniping, and included it under their banned and harmful practices.
This represents a growing acknowledgment of the problem of stream-sniping not just for creators and their audiences, but also the platforms themselves.
As such, expect platforms to take an increasingly aggressive line against stream-sniping in the future, as well as more policies and tools to empower streamers who might become targets of this activity.