Right now, if you digitally eavesdrop on any given conversation in the fandom surrounding OfflineTV, a beloved streamer house racked by allegations of inappropriate behavior, you’ll likely find people debating the idea of forgiveness. Should fans forgive faves who’ve fessed up? Can they, given that they’re just bystanders?
Over the weekend, OfflineTV, a streamer house founded in 2017 by League of Legends streamer William “Scarra” Li and manager Chris Chan, announced that it has parted ways with Federico “Fedmyster” Gaytan, a popular streamer who was generally regarded as one of the content collective’s biggest personalities alongside Imane “Pokimane” Anys, Lily “LilyPichu” Ki, Jeremy “DisguisedToast” Wang, Li, Michael Reeves, and house manager Yvonne “Yvonnie” Ng. On Saturday, Ng published a note titled “My Truth” in which she said that, on multiple occasions, Gaytan came into her room, crawled into bed with her, and touched her without her consent. She said that Gaytan did similar things to Ki, who backed up Ng’s account and said in her own since-deleted note that Gaytan had offered her a massage and touched her upper thigh while she was going through a breakup. Ki also said that a former member of the house, manager Chris Chan, once wrapped his arms and legs around her while he had no pants on.
In a series of tweets, Gaytan apologized and said he is not a “predator,” but acknowledged that “I owe it to both my friends and everyone who supports me to own up to my actions, and that starts by listening to those I’ve hurt.” Chan published his own note saying he did not dispute any of Ki’s recollection of what happened and added that he’s been “deeply ashamed and disappointed in myself for the past 3 years since the incident.”
A few days after Gaytan posted his tweets, Anys said during a stream that Gaytan was “a big pushing force” in her decision to move out of the OfflineTV house last month. She painted a picture of a behavior pattern in which Gaytan would lie to her potential friends and romantic partners in order to isolate her. Gaytan has yet to make a statement in response to Anys’ claims. Kotaku reached out to Gaytan and Anys, as well as Ng, Ki, Chan, and OfflineTV, for more information, but as of this publishing, they did not reply.
Most of the ensuing fan debate has centered around Gaytan. Many fans are doing their best to express support for Ng, Ki, and Anys, who came forward despite inevitable internet backlash and harassment. Some, however, are sticking up for Gaytan, while others are asking fellow fans to refrain from hating on him, but with the caveat that he likely did do bad things. Then there are the community stewards who try to lift people’s spirits and hold the fraying enterprise together, some through fan art, wholesome memes, and other similar creations. It’s been a tall task; OfflineTV’s fandom is in mourning. To fans, these streamers felt like a family, like the chummy stars of an endless comfort-food sitcom. But now, some fear that a recently announced “short content break” is the harbinger of a permanent divorce. Even if a worst-case scenario doesn’t come to pass, OfflineTV is still looking at an uncertain future. One way or another, things will be different, and change is anathema to comfort food.
“The news, not only to me but to a lot of fans, has been extremely hard and hurtful because of how Fed was portrayed in the videos or streams, and how different and toxic he was in reality,” a fan who chose to remain anonymous told Kotaku in an email. “Now I know that Fed was manipulative, predatory, and abusive, and I do believe they needed to kick him out.” (Gaytan says his intentions were never to act maliciously or predatorily.)
The OfflineTV community, fans said, has for the most part been supportive, recognizing each others’ need to grieve after an incident many of them did not see coming.
“Most of the community has been supportive and full of love, which is remarkable,” one fan who goes by the handle Zecrom_115 said to Kotaku in a DM.
“I definitely think that the whole OTV community is mourning,” another fan, XKaudy, told Kotaku in a DM. “I’ve seen people supporting each other in [one] way or another. It feels nice to be part of a community where people care about each other, but sometimes it can be a little overwhelming, too.”
Even among streaming collectives, OfflineTV stands out. While viewers regularly build parasocial relationships with their favorite streamers, OfflineTV fans go the extra mile, creating fan art, fan fiction, and ships involving streamers in and around the house. In some fans’ imaginations, Gaytan has been with all of the streamers now accusing him of unwanted touching and other inappropriate behavior. “So much for Foki,” said one viewer in Twitch chat as Anys talked on stream about her experiences with Gaytan.
OfflineTV’s streamers are hardly the first content creators to be immortalized with vast libraries of shipping lore. But Foki—Gaytan and Anys—was a particularly popular pairing. It has not aged well.
“After Poki’s statement, the Foki ship seemed really messed up with real world events in consideration and must have been difficult for her,” a fan who goes by the handle Strokeforce told Kotaku in a DM.
In general, many fans of streamers and YouTubers cringe at the idea of real-world fan fiction and shipping, because it feels like crossing a line. Even in seemingly clear-cut cases like Gaytan’s, however, it remains a subject of debate, because streamers are entertainers who, more often than not, don outsized personas before stepping in front of the camera.
“It’s a hard question, since most streamers say they have a persona, and that they portray an exaggerated version of themselves, so shipping and having fantasies about these ‘characters’ should be fine,” said the fan who wished to remain anonymous. “The problem is that streamers don’t leave their real selves completely out of the picture, so of course when shipping or fantasizing happens, they are affected by it.”
Zecrom_115, who’s casually shipped OfflineTV members over the years, thinks that, at some point, diehard shippers have to tear off the blindfold.
“I used to ship some of them because I thought they had chemistry, but never to a point of creating fanart, participating in chat, or encouraging a streamer to date someone,” they said. “Some diehard fans will support the streamer blindly. I think fandoms should step aside and instead of judging, they should support the victims. In my opinion, it hurts to take heroes off a pedestal, but it is necessary in order to move on and learn a lesson about it.”
In the streaming world, the line between fact and fiction is blurry, and in OfflineTV’s case, both streamers and fans are actively engaged in making it even blurrier. This has led to a difficult dynamic: Some fans are having trouble separating truth from what they’ve seen on the screen, or what’s played out in the theater in their minds. They think they know Gaytan when all they’ve seen is a well-crafted persona.
If you look at replies to Gaytan’s recent tweets, you’ll find numerous fans saying they “support” him and know that he’s a “good person” at heart. Some even say that he’s forgiven in their eyes, that it’s already water under the bridge. Others have vociferously countered this line of thought, saying that nobody outside the friend group he’s now alienated really knows him.
“For those who are defending the online version of Fed, I can see why it would be difficult to conceptualize that this perfect version that they painted could do any wrong,” an OfflineTV fan named Jimmy Xin told Kotaku in an email. “It is the same as if one of your friends made a mistake, but at the end of the day, they are your friend and you at least try to stick up for them. The difference is, in reality, none of his defenders truly know him, nor are friends with him... In an extreme case, this is similar to the Bill Cosby claims, where him being such a large influence on many people’s childhoods made it difficult for people to accept the fact that there was a difference between his persona, and him in real life.”
Gaytan’s personas were particularly alluring to fans of OfflineTV as a collective whose members created shows and podcasts together. For some, his brand of charisma is what bound the group together. That engendered a special kind of fan loyalty.
“I think there definitely are people who have a loyalty to him, especially after his streams in the past few months. He was very good at creating a ‘hype’ stream. It felt almost like a TV show, but felt personal due to him being just a streamer of his personal life,” said Strokeforce. “But I believe that is separate from his OTV persona... From my point of view, there is loyalty from two camps: the ‘Fed as a streamer’ camp, and the ‘Fed as the OTV social bridge seen throughout the series’ camp.”
This division complicates matters even further. There are fans who know Gaytan as just a streamer, largely separate from the OfflineTV group. They can more easily disregard what OfflineTV members are saying about him—or even lash out at Ng, Ki, and Anys—because to them, everybody else might as well be background characters in Gaytan’s show.
As with many other streamers who give viewers a window into their day-to-day lives, these fans divide Gaytan’s streams into TV season-like “arcs.” Strokeforce said they kept up with Gaytan’s stream during the “Egirl.gg arc” earlier this year, during which Gaytan got catfished by a woman he hired to play games with him from a website called Egirl.gg. Others have already begun to speculate about Gaytan’s eventual “redemption” arc—a not-uncommon phenomenon in the world of streaming, even when the only thing that’s really changed is the passing of some time.
“I think Fed has done something really stupid,” one fan, Copowa, told Kotaku in a DM. “But I think and hope he will have a ‘redemption arc.’”
While a small handful of fans advocating for Gaytan seem to have decided that he didn’t do anything wrong, others have said they’re more bothered by the way he’s being regarded and treated. “I in no way support Fed and what he has done,” a fan who goes by the handle Potatoplays81, who received pushback on the OfflineTV subreddit for a thread that appeared to defend Gaytan, told Kotaku in a DM. “However I do think that harassing and threatening Fed is not necessary.”
“I absolutely do not support the fact [OfflineTV] decided to make it public,” Copowa said. “They should have just got Fed out of the house without specifying anything and just saying it was for [a] personal reason.”
But other fans disagree with that line of thought, which has grown pervasive over the past few days. Xin pointed to the fact that members of OfflineTV say they did try to handle everything privately a year ago. “No matter what, he would have been kicked out of the house and group because there were numerous allegations of sexual harassment towards him,” Xin said (Gaytan admits he is flawed but denies he is a predator). “I believe that OfflineTV handled it extremely professionally and decided to get on top of the news before anyone else could make speculation or rumors.”
Increasingly, though, fans are looking forward, trying to amp each other up about what this new, Gaytan-free version of the OfflineTV house will look like and sort out how to respond when/if Gaytan’s redemption arc begins. This brings things back around to the question of forgiveness. Some fans have already forgiven Gaytan or espoused undying support for the good person they believe him to be. This tracks with portions of other fandoms rallying around and enabling problematic creators after their indiscretions have come to light, often because platforms’ lax moderation rules leave loopholes for big returns or fresh starts. While Twitch has begun taking definitive action against some streamers in the wake of a recent wave of sexual abuse accusations, the world of content creation remains a fraught environment for creators and fans. Some accused predators on YouTube have even reportedly preyed on their own fandoms.
All that in mind, fans’ messages of forgiveness to Gaytan carry an undeniable weight. An OfflineTV fan going by the handle Scar has publicly questioned others for sending these kinds of messages on Twitter. She dislikes the precedent it sets for fandoms giving a pass to creators accused of this kind of wrongdoing, especially when members of the fandom were not even the ones who were wronged.
“The fans had nothing to do with this harassment [and] therefore have no right to comment on whether they forgive Fed or not,” she told Kotaku in a DM. “Fed did not even deny the sexually harassing—yet fans are still implying that ‘it was okay’ and ‘it’s no problem, man, you were drunk!’... Fans obviously have the right to not give a fuck about what happened and keep supporting him, but to forgive him and make him feel better about a situation where he is not the victim? Now the fans are supporting a sexual predator, and they believe they have some sort of power over the victim if they forgive him.” (Gaytan denies he’s a sexual predator.)
For now, OfflineTV fans can only really support each other and try to rebuild their community into something better. It’s been a hit-and-miss process, with arguments and schisms along the way. If nothing else, Xin hopes that fans learn something from all of this.
“In the end, whatever happens to OfflineTV, I think we all need to understand that they are human beings, and none of us truly know them on a personal level,” he said. “If people feel like they are uncomfortable or unsafe in an environment, it is within their right to speak out and address the issue.”