Last night, esports and lifestyle organization 100 Thieves held an all-star streamer Uno tournament featuring Twitch and YouTube stars like Rachel “Valkyrae” Hofstetter, Ali “Myth” Kabbani, Jack “CouRage” Dunlop, Ludwig Ahgren, Hasan Piker, and the Botez sisters, whose otherworldly skill at chess sadly did not quite carry them to victory in a children’s card game. Star power wasn’t the event’s only standout quality, though. It took place in person, with masks only sporadically on faces.
The tournament itself was a good time, full of the sorts of laughs and clippable moments that naturally arise when a whole lot of very charismatic people gather around the same table. Some fans, however, were irked by participants’ seeming lack of adherence to covid safety protocols, especially as numbers spike around the world—even in parts of the U.S., where vaccines are more readily available.
In reaction to this, Hofstetter—who recently solidified her status as one of the biggest streamers on the planet by becoming a part-owner of 100 Thieves—explained that the organization took precautions ahead of time.
“Everybody was tested prior and again before entering the building,” she said on Twitter last night. “Health inspector, masks on off-camera, most vaccinated, covid information pamphlet with rules and guidelines. Foolish to think we would do this without.”
Jackson Dahl, 100 Thieves’ VP of talent and entertainment, elaborated further.
“To add even more detail, we PCR tested every person who attended today both one week prior, 24 hr PCR the day before, and rapid tested before entry,” he said.
This was backed up by tweets from streamers like Piker, who noted in the morning—before the event began—that “we went through rigorous covid testing (including this morning).”
Even with all that in mind, however, some fans are concerned that 100 Thieves’ Uno extravaganza was a case of “too much, too soon,” especially when the organization could have waited just a few more months—at which point a significantly greater number of people will likely be vaccinated.
“Yes,” one fan replied to Hofstetter’s tweet earlier today, “but was it necessary to do it in-person in the first place?”
In response, Hofstetter said that it was a “a contracted sponsored business event,” and she didn’t “have control over it.” Kotaku has reached out to 100 Thieves for more details about what the contract stipulated and why the event could not have taken place later, but as of this publishing, the organization did not reply. It’s likely, though, that the event came about as part of 100 Thieves’ ongoing collaboration with Cash App, given that it aired on the mobile payment service’s Twitch channel, featured branding all over tables and banners in the background, and took place in 100 Thieves’ LA facility, which is called the “100 Thieves Cash App Compound.”
From a pure numbers standpoint, the Uno tournament was a savvy maneuver. As recent Among Us, Rust, and GTA role-playing trends have proven, if you build a place for big-name streamers to congregate, viewers will come. The combined star power of last night’s Uno event pulled in over 80,000 concurrent viewers at its zenith. And again, they were playing Uno—not the world’s most thrilling game, and one they could have easily played online, from the safety of their own homes. This particular lineup of streamers probably could have done anything collectively and still achieved a similar level of viewership. The fact that they were together was the key. After more than a year of covid-borne isolation, it was weirdly thrilling to see everybody in the same room, laughing and peering at each other over comically large cards.
But, as medical professionals have pointed out, things are not back to normal yet, and it’s likely that we’re seeing yet another surge in cases in part because people are prematurely behaving as though they are. 100 Thieves’ event provided viewers with the fantasy of normalcy—a welcome escape from the lonely drudgery of endless quarantine. However, it also fanned the flames of preemptive quarantine breaking, of celebrating like we’ve crossed the finish line when the marathon isn’t quite over yet. In the world of ads and brand deals, streamers are often referred to as “influencers,” and that buzzword isn’t entirely without meaning. Fans really do listen to their faves—not blindly, mind you, but people and organizations with millions of viewers absolutely command a level of influence.
During a time when it’s more essential than ever that people stay patient—we are finally almost there—it probably was not the best idea to hold a face-to-face Uno tournament, no matter how nice it felt to see everybody together again.