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Banning Playroom streams is an irrational fix for an unsurprising problem

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.

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9 comments

  • NinjaPopsicle - December 3, 2013 4:33 p.m.

    "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." Indeed. What does surprise me is that game companies and developers for some reason still refuse to believe that the majority of their "core" gamer crowd are complete assholes on the internet.
  • HAMMERCLAW - December 1, 2013 5:59 p.m.

    There is and there will be a "more elegant and nuanced" way of winnowing out undesirables. Unfortunately, said solution will be "draconian" in a very predictable way. It's call moderation and screening, which will, no doubt, result in the offending "members" being perma-banned, in a harsh draconian way.
  • brian-anthony-thornton - November 30, 2013 7:01 a.m.

    Chatroulette’s Law: Anything that can go dong, will go dong.
  • Squirrel - November 29, 2013 2:52 p.m.

    I think we need to mention Nintendo too here. They ceased the Swapnote internet based message service when some guys inevetibly used it inapporiately to send pics to some kids. Now we all lose a service simply because something that was destined to happen finally did. How do people not know how the internet works in this day and age? These bans don't prevent any kind of behavoir, they just defer it to another venue and piss off legitimate users.
  • deedob2 - November 29, 2013 4:44 a.m.

    "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" Oh boy i'd like to see the testing groups for this and the developper's work area. "Here we see the lead developper on the Kinect doing jumping jacks in the nude" "You, please wiggle them to see if the pixel blurring can follow it's movements" - "Here, shareholders and people of the board, is going to be a representation of the new Kinect censor. Miss Natasha and Mister Sunshine from QA will demonstrate how it works."
  • Doctalen - November 28, 2013 10:38 a.m.

    B EQUALS D THINK OF THE INNOCENT CHILDREN! OH LAWD THE CHILDREN!
  • pl4y4h - November 28, 2013 7:10 a.m.

    This story is bringing memories to how many pictures of dicks me and me friends drew and sent to each other in pictochat. It almost became like that scene in superbad.
  • GenderBender_9000 - November 28, 2013 6:26 a.m.

    8===>
  • Shigeruken - November 27, 2013 9:35 p.m.

    As lame as playroom is, it's still a game. Banning people for these streams is ridiculous.

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