Online gaming has changed a lot in recent years. Whereas in the '90s and early '00s online gaming was mostly saved for MMORPGs and other niche games, nowadays it's rare to come across a game that does not have some form of online gameplay. In fact, many games are now being made with online multiplayer being the only option. With each player now gaming on their own individual screens, often times miles, even continents away, the most common form of cheating, screen peeing, was not a thing of the past. No longer could your opponent gain valuable information by looking at your part of the screen.
The advent of streaming, however, saw the rise of a new form of cheating in multiplayer games: stream sniping. Stream sniping, sometimes called stream cheating, is the modern-day equivalent of screen peeking. By watching someone's live stream it is possible to get information that is vitally key to defeating them and coming away with the win. People stream snipe for many reasons; some do it to troll, others do it to compensate for a lack of skill. Whatever the reason, stream sniping, unfortunately, is here for the foreseeable future.
How Do You Screen Peek On the Internet?
The idea of screen peeking can seem hard to do when playing against someone in a completely different part of the world. Beginner stream snipers might play the game with the stream playing in the background, that way they can listen in to the streamers commentary for information, or tab out of the game quickly to look at what is happening in the stream. This is a very crude way to stream snipe. However, many gamers have their system set up in a way that is very beneficial to stream sniping. Nowadays many gamers and especially streamers have several monitors. Gone are the days of using one screen. It is this use of multiple screens that make stream sniping possible.
Another reason that stream sniping remains possible is due to the nature of streaming. Many streamers want to be able to interact with their chat. While many streaming platforms offer the ability to add a stream delay, many streamers choose not to use it, as it will not allow them to interact with their stream viewers. As a result, the stream is being broadcasted live, save for the platform's short built-in delay. This allows stream snipers to gain information in near real time.
DayZ (Early Access)
- System: Windows
- Publisher: Bohemia Interactive
- Developer: Bohemia Interactive
- Release Dates: TBA
DayZ is an open world survival game based off a mod for the 2009 game, ARMA 2. In DayZ the player must survive by scavenging for food, tools, and equipment while dealing with the threat of zombies and other players. The aim of DayZ isn't to necessarily kill other players, so stream sniping in DayZ is not completely to win or gain an upper-hand.
DayZ has not yet seen an official release, and yet it already has found its community affected by stream snipers. Even from the earliest iterations of the mod, DayZ players have had to deal with stream snipers. In fact, some snipers are said to have gone to extremes to snipe, other players, including taking cues from in-game sun's position to figure out which server certain streamers were on in an attempt to stream snipe them. In the DayZ community at least, stream sniping is just as much a commitment as streaming, and some of these players take a bit of pride in that.
Having Perfect Information On A Game with Imperfect Information
The most simple and obvious draw of stream sniping has to do with game theory, and the concept of perfect and imperfect information. Chess, checkers, and go are examples of games with perfect information; both players have the same amount of information, regarding the state of the game. Games with imperfect information, like Poker, Tichu, and many multiplayer games are made competitive by the fact that each player only has a limited amount of information regarding the state of the game.
Stream sniping doesn't give one player perfect information, due to limitations of the game and streaming service, but it does help a player to gain information that is otherwise unattainable without the player's own success is at stake.
- System: Windows
- Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
- Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
- Release Dates: July 27, 2010
Blizzard's Starcraft 2 is a real-time strategy game that pits players or teams of players against each other, with the aim of the game being to destroy all of your opponent's buildings. While this, in theory, sounds like a simple feat to accomplish, the game's three races and their asymmetrical nature provide an extensive variety of gameplay options.
Even though StarCraft 2's streaming scene has died down compared to its early days, stream sniping still remains a problem for both professional gamers and professional streamers. At one point, the StrarCraft 2 scene had tournaments that were streamed live, this provided an opportunity for the players to gain an advantage by watching or listening to the tournament's stream to learn valuable information about their builds and strategy. Many tournaments have since implemented a mandatory stream delay for both their broadcasters and players.
Starcraft 2 Teaser:
The problem, however, still remains I some cases for professional streamers. To maintain interaction with their chat, many streamers prefer to not use a stream delay. This opens the floodgates for stream snipers and stream cheaters. Many times, these cheaters are doing so for the notoriety and to troll the streamer. In the StarCraft II community, there are two players caught in the center of the stream sniping controversy: David "avilo" Blowe, and Szymon "Guru" Nieciąg. Avilo, a full-time streamer, is known in the StarCraft II community for being the boy that cried wolf. Avilo continually accuses other players of stream sniping him. His over the top reactions has actually earned him the spot as one of the scene's biggest streamers, as well as a place in the crosshairs of many stream snipers. Guru, a pro gamer, on the other hand, is known for openly stream sniping, even doing so while he streams.
Winning Isn't Everything
Not every stream sniper is doing so in an attempt to gain an advantage in whatever game they are playing. In fact, maybe even more than half of stream snipers are doing it to troll the streamer. To them, the notoriety is a bigger draw than earning a win against a well-known player. Depending on the game, there are several ways to troll a player by stream sniping and many snipers have made full advantage of these possibilities.
One common stream sniping tactic, and often distinguished by some as stream sniping versus stream cheating, are queueing up at the same time as the streamer. This is done with the hopes of matching up against the streamer in game. In multiplayer games, this isn't as big an issue, as there are other players that the stream sniper has to deal with as well. With 1v1 games, however, this can ruin a stream as a streamer might find themselves playing against the same player several times in one streaming session. Others troll by making the streamers gaming and streaming experience unpleasant, just by making use of in-game mechanics to disturb and annoy the streamer.
- System: Windows, XBox One
- Publisher: PUBG Corporations, Microsoft Studios, Tencent
- Developer: PUBG Corporations
- Release Dates: December 12, 2017
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) is an online battle royale game. At the start of the game all players parachuting out of a plane onto an island where the battle royale will take place. Here, the players must scavenge for equipment and weapons to aid them in combat. As the match continues, the playable area of the map continually decreases forcing the up to one hundred players to battle in an even more confined area. The last player or team alive at the end of the battle royale is considered the winner. Even though PUBG is a fairly new game, it's quick rise in popularity has seen it quickly become one of the top streaming games on Twitch.
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds Trailer:
With this increased exposure, PUBG has quickly found itself at the center of stream sniping controversy. PUBG is a game where players can benefit greatly from stream sniping, as knowing the location of players removes the need to hunt them down. Even though the developers of the game have been giving out bans to alleged stream snipers, this has proven to be an issue. Due to the nature of stream sniping, it is hard to prove that the offender is actually cheating.
This was the cause of controversy when lotoe, a prominent community member was banned after killing Summit1G, a top PUBG streamer, several times across consecutive games. Another player, MrGrimmz, has been the target of stream sniping, not by players who want to gain an advantage, but instead as the target of organized trolling.
Stream Sniping is still a fairly new problem among the video game community. As streaming continues to grow in popularity, so too will the problem. Game producers are already trying to find a way to curb the problem of stream sniping.
To some people, stream sniping is a risk that streamers open themselves up to by choosing to broadcast their game. A risk that streamers who don't use a delay are especially vulnerable to. Unfortunately, due to the nature of stream sniping, it's very unlikely that it is a problem that will ever be solved as long as streaming remains a viable way to enjoy gaming. Stream sniping is very much a problem in the streaming community, so next time you hear a streamer complaining about a stream sniper, give him or her the benefit of the doubt.