Up to this point, the U.S. Army and Navy’s recruitment efforts on Twitch have been fraught to say the least, but over the weekend, the latter courted outright disaster. During a Saturday evening stream of Twitch mega-hit Among Us, players named themselves after America’s atomic bombing of Japan in 1945 and the N-word.
During the first match of the stream, which lasted slightly over an hour, one player with a dark-colored avatar named themselves “Gamer Word,” which is a meme that references the N-word. When Navy streamer Brandon Chandler caught wind of this, he chuckled while others laughed and joked about tiptoeing around saying the word. On multiple occasions near the beginning of the stream, Chandler said that all the people he was playing with were his “close friends.”
During that same match, another player ran around with the name “Japan 1945,” a reference to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which are estimated to have claimed hundreds of thousands of civilian lives. When a second match began about 20 minutes into the stream, Gamer Word and Japan 1945 returned, and they were joined by a third player who went by the handle “Nagasaki.”
It did not take long for the Navy’s chat, which regularly draws activists opposed to the U.S. military’s recruitment efforts on a platform whose audience skews young, to notice. Viewers began asking questions in an attempt to get Chandler or the other Navy esports team member monitoring chat, Thessa L. Reed, to acknowledge their friends’ poor-taste (and possibly rule-breaking) jokes.
“Wow, what happened in Japan 1945?” asked one.
“What does gamer word mean?” asked another.
“Sick joke about killing 250,000 people, guys,” said a third.
Hundreds of similar questions and comments followed.
Despite this, Chandler, who claimed he could not see chat, and Reed, who was not on camera but was actively engaging with chat, kept matches with these players going for over 40 minutes. Reed even taunted chat when people started to flood in as a result of the player names.
“See chat, one thing you guys don’t understand is, this is a numbers game, and you guys are just helping us with the numbers,” he said.
A couple minutes later, Chandler paused the stream and returned with a batch of differently named players. Gamer Word, Japan 1945, and Nagasaki were not among them.
“The last two guys got deleted, guys—shush,” said Reed. “We deleted people.”
“They’ve been excused,” said Chandler.
Chandler then played one more game of Among Us before attempting to switch over to League of Legends. While Chandler was trying to get into a game, Reed abruptly informed him that “we’re gonna have to end the stream a little early,” something he attributed to “technical difficulties” and, extremely curiously, “relationship stuff.” The stream concluded after that.
Kotaku reached out to both Twitch and the Navy on Saturday night with questions about what, if any, consequences the streamers in question would face. Twitch still has not replied.
Sometime this afternoon, the Navy deleted the VOD of the stream in question. The Navy has not streamed since Saturday night.
Update—9/14/2020 6:00 p.m.: The Navy has told Kotaku that Chandler will no longer be part of its stream team.
“We recently had a stream of the game Among Us where three non-Navy affiliated users decided to use extremely inappropriate in-game usernames,” commander Lara Bollinger of the Navy’s public affairs office said in an email. “We do not condone those usernames and Navy Goats and Glory’s immediate response was not quick or correct. Our streamer should have immediately left the game and refused to play with users who were unapologetically inappropriate. The streamer’s reaction to the situation was unbecoming of a member of our team and he will no longer be streaming as a part of Goats and Glory. Additionally, we are re-evaluating how we vet users allowed to play with us on stream in an effort to ensure that this does not happen again.”