It’s not yet been a fortnight since the PS4’s release, and it’s taken Sony and Twitch less time than that to take action on the users of its open-ended livestream functionality for streaming “non-gaming related” content. Twitch has decided to remove all streams of the PS4 game The Playroom until further notice, “as PS4 owners become more familiar with the games-only focus of Twitch content.”
Translation: “This thing makes it way too easy to show dicks on our service.” For those unaware, The Playroom is an interactive software suite included with the PS4 designed to show off the capabilities of the Playstation Camera. It often displays a full-screen view of the players, so it’s the most direct way to get your personality (read: genitalia) on the service, unfettered by any obtrusive visual gameplay content. And because people have already been abusing that ability, Twitch has decided to ban streams of the game, period, full-stop.
With this announcement coming just as Microsoft has begun taking excessive punitive measures for mere verbal evocation of the male anatomy, it’s clear that there’s an element of “Oh Shit The Internet” happening with both platform-holders. The question, then, is how they didn’t see this coming. The internet’s been the internet for some time now, and though seeing your innovative, commendable technology reduced to a deluge of dongs is sure to dishearten anyone, it should be far from a surprise. We already know from Chatroulette’s Law that where dicks can appear, dicks will appear, so Sony, Microsoft, and Twitch should have thought ahead with a more reasonable, less reactionary solution.
Actually, I’m fairly confident this universal truth predates the internet. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to posit that giving any male any measure of creative freedom will invariably result in some visual representation of a phallus. Blame it on male egocentrism, if you want to, or centuries of patriarchal conditioning. I sure as hell don’t know the psychology behind it. What I do know is that there are a lot more wangs adorning ancient cave walls than we’ve all been led to believe.
The point is, as elegant and well-designed as the streaming applications are on both consoles, one would think Microsoft and Sony would be on top of this out of the gate. I’m not saying Twitch should have to host obscene content on their service, but enforcing anti-weiner regulations with blanket policies like this limits the appeal of the service for legitimate users. This Playroom ban, for example, means we won’t be seeing any more of “The Spartan Show,” a couple’s live, gaming-focused call-in program that became an immediate sensation with fans (and Sony representatives) over the last week. And with Playroom’s unique and zany feature set, there’s no telling what kind of awesome creativity could have been wrought with it.
It might not be an easy problem to solve. But if my Kinect can instantly recognize my face and deduce my heartbeat, I’m pretty sure it’d be able to figure out when it’s looking at my penis. Just selectively blur penises and vaginas (and female arreolas, natch) in video feeds, or cut off streaming capabilities when the camera sees a penis. Can that work? I don't know, I'm not an engineer, but I know that there has to be a better, more nuanced way to facilitate an inoffensive community environment than outright neutering the service and erecting draconian barriers.
Or, you know, maybe society can grow up and stop acting like nudity is worth freaking out about. That might solve the problem, too.