Valorant Youtube Streamer and experimental rapper IShowSpeed has been banned (opens in new tab) from all Riot games after a video of him verbally abusing a female player surfaced on Twitter.
The video, which was posted on Twitter by the co-owner of FullSquadGaming, Jake Lucky, shows IShowSpeed unleashing a verbal tirade against a female player after receiving some mild criticism from another player about his performance. In the clip, IShowSpeed repeatedly calls the female player a "bitch", and asks "Is a female talking to me?" before saying "get off the fucking game and do your husband's dishes".
I now understand why Valorant queues are so unbelievably toxic. You got one of the most popular streamers on YouTube IShowSpeed saying crap like this and getting nothing but praise and laughs. Crap is whack pic.twitter.com/grEghVotUFApril 6, 2022
Lucky's tweet caught the attention of higher-ups at both YouTube and Riot Games. Replying to Lucky, Riot Game Producer Sara Dadafshar said (opens in new tab) "we do NOT want players like this in our community at all," before stating that she had "perma-banned" IShowSpeed from Valorant and "all other" Riot games. Meanwhile, replying to the same thread, YouTube's global head of Gaming Creators said he was "On it" (opens in new tab), although at the time of writing, IShowSpeed's YouTube account is still up and accessible.
IShowSpeed has since issued an apology (opens in new tab) for his behaviour, replying to Jake Lucky and Lester Chen with a video stating he "wasn't having a good day" as he was getting "a lot of racist" messages and that he was "completely wrong." Indeed, there is another video (opens in new tab) in the replies to Lucky's tweet wherein IShowSpeed asks how to heal in the game, to which both his teammates respond that "Only the white characters can heal."
Nonetheless, IShowSpeed must have a lot of bad days, as this isn't the first instance of him saying deplorable things to women. Further down the thread are other videos of his antics. In one (opens in new tab), he says "Fuck you, you fucking bitch" to a female player who tells him to "stop screaming". Another video shows him asking a woman in a group video chat if she would "reproduce" with him if they were on a desert island together. When she says no, he replies "who gonna stop me?" before starting to scream at her.
It is! And I’ve been told he’s like 16. Gross man. pic.twitter.com/iikG1GIzJ0April 7, 2022
Indeed, IShowSpeed's whole shtick seems to be a blend of incandescent gamer rage and saying things of varying degrees of unpleasantness, which has seen his account become one of the fastest-growing gaming accounts on YouTube, with over 7 million subscribers. Some elements of the gaming community have come to IShowSpeed's defence. Perhaps most notably, Daniel "Keemstar" Keem defended IShowSpeed's statements (opens in new tab), saying "it's trash talk, in a video game" and "they're not real statements". He also stated that IShowSpeed is a minor, although there is some uncertainty about his age, with reports varying between 16 and 19 years old.
Trash talking has been a part of video-game culture for almost as long as there have been multiplayer games. John Romero's famous phrase "suck it down" stems from smack-talking while testing Doom multiplayer with the bods at id Software way back in the early nineties. But just because something has a long cultural history doesn’t make it right, which is why we play video games for entertainment rather than popping down to the local bear-baiting pit.
Moreover, regardless of whether IShowSpeed's words have meaning behind them or not, such aggressive and obscene statements can be extremely traumatic for the person on the receiving end, especially when you add the wider context of the abuse and harassment women suffer in the games industry all the time. IShowSpeed is also doing this on a huge platform with an audience in the millions watching, many of whom are likely to be young and impressionable viewers. In short, it's a grim affair all around, and as in many other instances, both Riot and YouTube probably should have taken action much sooner than this.