Jumping on the latest trend is often the key to success for many creators—same goes for Twitch and the concept of a ‘meta’. A ‘metagame’ (shortened meta) refers to finding an optimal way of achieving success in the competitive gaming landscape. As streamers constantly look for ways to maximise growth, reach and income, a controversial meta has been cropping up on the scene. Welcome to the slippery little world of hot tub streams.
Taking off as a full-blown trend last month, hot tub streams usually feature female streamers clad in swimwear—broadcasting directly from their bathtubs or swimming pools. Inflatable tubs, green screens and sometimes even buckets are used by streamers who want to jump on the trend with no major investments. Popular on the platform’s ‘Just Chatting’ directory, hot tub streamers can be found lounging in their tubs for hours chatting to their audience about a wide range of topics.
“I wanted some kind of different content and no one else was doing it,” said variety streamer XoAeriel who jump-started the trend. In an interview with Kotaku, the streamer admitted to purchasing a blow-up hot tub from Amazon with LED lights to go inside before streaming. “Views took off pretty quickly and my following started to grow pretty fast. A few streamers started noticing this and ordered blow-up hot tubs for themselves.”
Since the end of March 2021, popular hot tub streamer Amouranth has gained over 500,000 followers. Indiefoxx, the second biggest streamer to regularly stream from a hot tub, gained almost 300,000 and counting. Although others like Spoopy Kitt and XoAeriel haven’t amassed numbers this large, Kotaku noted how they’ve still managed to pull in thousands of fresh viewers in just over a month.
These streamers also come up with constant innovations to keep hot tub streams alive as a trend. Amouranth, for example, now hosts a podcast with other streamers—engaging in some socially-distanced gossiping sessions broadcasted from their respective hot tubs, be it inflatable or full-blown 8 feet swimming pools. Even the coveted VTubers (Virtual YouTubers) have jumped on the craze, streaming their 2D avatars from customised virtual tubs.
Let’s start by breaking down the demand and impact of hot tub streams on its audience. While hot tub streams usually pan out like all other streams featured on the platform’s ‘Just Chatting’ section, one of the major differences lies in the conversations that go down in the chats. While some viewers ask standard questions about the streamer’s day and future plans, others leer, pass offensive remarks and go as far as imploring female streamers to remove pieces of clothing.
Firedancer, a variety streamer specialising in makeup and cosplay, outlined how harassment has gone up on Twitch ever since the mainstream popularity of hot tub streams. “Some viewers have also gotten very toxic in the last few weeks,” the streamer added in the interview with Kotaku.
One can first-handedly experience these claims themselves by keeping a close eye on the chats under hot tub streams. For the 10-minute window I watched Amouranth’s recent live, I could spot a plethora of suggestive comments—if not emoji combinations—popping up in numbers hard to keep track of. While some engaged in regular conversations with the streamer, others used zeros to replace the os in the word ‘boobs’ to avoid being banned by the moderators in the chat. Some publicly admitted wanting to see an “accidental wardrobe malfunction” while others advised her to start an OnlyFans.
Amouranth, however, mentioned how she has learned to roll with the toxic side of the popularity. “I’ve seen a lot of more conservative (in terms of attire or demeanour) female broadcasters get undue hate or sexual harassment regardless,” Amouranth said to Kotaku.
As for the case with their fellow streamers, hot tub streamers in particular have been accused of stealing viewers by taking advantage of “horny nerds” on the platform. These niche streamers have been slut-shamed for being “scantily-dressed” and “acting provocatively” in order to increase their viewership and subscriber count. Dubbed “the most pathetic thing seen on Twitch in forever” by co-streamers like xQc, hot tub streams have spurred another controversy as to what constitutes a ‘real gamer’.
While some argue that streamers who “flaunt their body” and focus on looks to succeed can’t be termed ‘real gamers’, others highlight how hot tub streamers set standards for other female streamers—making it difficult to retain subscribers who increasingly expect them to jump on the trend.
However, it should be noted that a ‘gamer’ isn’t necessarily a tag for a special class of people. If you whip out your dusty little Oxford dictionaries, you can see how the word is used to define absolutely anyone with interest in video and role-playing games. It all boils down to our social conditioning in the gaming landscape—where women have to often prove that they’re ‘real’ gamers whereas men are just given the benefit of the doubt.
Twitch is a platform well-known for the strict reinforcement of its community guidelines—resulting in numerous bans for the streamers who dare violate them. So why are hot tub streams still a craze on the platform? Why hasn’t Twitch expectedly cracked down on the trend?
“Swimwear is permitted as long as it completely covers the genitals, and those who present as women must also cover their nipples,” reads Twitch’s policy around sexually suggestive content. “Full coverage of buttocks is not required, but camera focus around them is still subject to our sexually suggestive content policy. Coverage must be fully opaque, even when wet. Sheer or partially see-through swimwear or other clothing does not constitute coverage.”
Well, hot tub streams technically abide by all of these rules mentioned. Neither do the cameras “focus on breasts, buttocks, or pelvic region” nor do the streamers wear “sheer or see-through swimwear.” This is why the trend has garnered a ‘loophole’ status in the community—allowing streamers to ‘exploit’ the loophole and broadcast in swimwear from any location which previously required them to be near a pool or beach to do so.
“People are frustrated because they feel like Twitch’s platform is being taken advantage of,” said QTCinderella to Kotaku. “However, hot tub streamers are not taking advantage of the platform because the platform is currently allowing it.” The female streamer thereby urges Twitch to be more vocal with their audiences about their stance on the issue. “By not doing so, it is encouraging a bizarre pent-up resentment,” QTCinderella added.
Over the years, female streamers have been banned from Twitch for wearing tank tops and swimsuits in other contexts. Branded “titty streamers” and other derogatory terms, the controversy around ‘appropriate’ female attire has prompted Twitch to consistently crack down on these streamers. Hot tub streams could either be an ironic ‘movement’ fostered from the ashes of these bans or be a fad waiting for another meta to replace them.