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Popular game streaming platform Twitch has banned all Adults Only games. Starting today, Twitch users can no longer broadcast footage from any games designated "AO" by the North American ratings board ESRB.
"Our goal at Twitch is to create a safe, welcoming, inclusive community platform where everyone can feel comfortable and have fun," the company said in a blog post. "From time to time, we update our Rules of Conduct (RoC) in pursuit of this goal and to match emerging issues in the video game industry."
"Previously, we made game-specific decisions about which games would and would not be available for broadcast – sometimes due to overtly sexual content, sometimes due to gratuitous violence. This is unsustainable and unclear, generating only further confusion among Twitch broadcasters. We would like to make this policy as transparent as possible."
Though ESRB ratings applies to games sold in the United States, Twitch's policy against Adults Only games applies worldwide. If a game is rated 18+ in another territory but isn't deemed AO by the ESRB, it's okay to stream them.
Many suspect that Twitch is instituting this policy because of PC shooter Hatred. Hatred puts players in the shoes of a brooding psychopath shooting up cops and civilians throughout New York. The game's supposed to launch on June 1st so it seems likely that Twitch wants to avoid a slew of broadcasts from the controversial game.
The ESRB says that Adults Only games "may include prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content and/or gambling with real currency." They recommend that only players aged 18 or older play them.
Twitch didn't mention Hatred by name but it's not like there are a lot of AO-rated games out there. Only 26 Adults Only games are listed on the ESRB's website. Most of them earned that rating with sexual content; the list includes games like Playboy Screensaver :The Women Of Playboy and All Nude Cyber. You haven't heard of most of them, in all likelihood.
Occasionally a high-profile game does get an AO rating. Indigo Prophecy, Manhunt 2 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas are all there. However, in all three cases, the developer edited their games and resubmitted them to the ESRB so they could be sold with the Mature rating. Twitch clarified in their blog post that M-rated versions of Adults Only games are allowed to be streamed.
I'm not expecting Destructive Creations to create a Mature-rated version of Hatred, though. It's been their strategy since day one to embracing the controversial nature of their game.
"These days, when a lot of games are heading to be polite, colorful, politically correct and trying to be some kind of higher art, rather than just an entertainment – we wanted to create something against trends," they said after announcing the game. "Something different, something that could give the player a pure, gaming pleasure. "
If anything, Destructive Creations is hoping for as much drama as possible. Every controversy related to the game - be it GOG refusing to sell the game or Steam Greenlight temporarily removing it - results in fans rallying around the game.