This morning, an anonymous hacker released what they claim is an enormous cache of proprietary data from Twitch, the popular streaming platform, including Twitch.tv source code and streamers’ revenue information.
“Jeff Bezos paid $970 million for this, we’re giving it away FOR FREE,” wrote the poster on 4chan. Today’s leak, which its original poster described as “extremely poggers,” is by far the biggest to ever hit Twitch, which was acquired by Amazon in 2014.
The leak, first reported by Video Games Chronicle, reportedly contains 125 GB of data. That data includes the source code for Twitch.tv; Twitch’s mobile, desktop, and game console clients; proprietary SDKs; Twitch-owned properties including Vapor, Amazon’s alleged Steam competitor from Amazon Game Studios; and internal security tools. The leak does not appear to contain streamers’ or users’ personal information, but the damage appears extensive. The post is titled “twitch leaks part one,” implying that there may be more to come.
“Anytime source code gets leaked it’s not good and potentially disastrous,” says Ekram Ahmed, spokesperson at security firm Check Point. “It opens a gigantic door for evildoers to find cracks in the system, lace malware, and potentially steal sensitive information.”
The 4chan poster also referenced Twitch’s recent wave of hate raids, in which botmakers have been spamming marginalized streamers’ chats with bigoted harassment. Mentioning the #DoBetterTwitch hashtag (more commonly #TwitchDoBetter), the poster claimed that Twitch is a “disgusting cesspool.” They wrote that the leak, which appears to contain huge amounts of proprietary data, is to “foster more disruption and competition in the online video game streaming space.” Twitch has introduced several new tools to combat these hate raids, and sued two alleged hate raiders last month.
Twitch declined to comment to WIRED but confirmed Wednesday morning that a breach had taken place. “Our teams are working with urgency to understand the extent of this,” the official Twitch account tweeted. “We will update the community as soon as additional information is available.”
“I wish I could say I’m surprised,” says Avery, a streamer who goes by Littlesiha and does not publicly share her last name for privacy reasons. “It took Twitch two months to find a way to protect marginalized creators that were getting harassed, threatened, and doxed through chatbot raids. Security on the site feels like a joke at this point.”
While much of the data appears to be legitimate, there is some debate over the accuracy of streamers’ revenue numbers. Some streamers have tweeted that their payout numbers are accurate, while others have claimed otherwise. “It was wrong, for my number,” said popular Twitch personality Asmongold while streaming Amazon’s new video game New World this morning. “It’s harder to fuck up more than this,” he told WIRED.
Also streaming on Twitch, Nick “NMP” Polom said, “I kind of feel violated right now.” His viewers, numbering in the tens of thousands, took the leak as an opportunity to meme, donating money attached to messages like “Seems like you need this more than me. I work at McDonald’s.” (On Twitter, he wrote that he is “live right now being relentlessly SHIT ON by my community for being ‘poor.’ THANKS @twitch.”) Although many streamers have expressed deep worry over the leak, some are turning it into a joke: Top streamer Chance “Sodapoppin” Morris, who was 42nd in the streamer revenue number list, begged his viewers not to view it as real: “I swear I’m one of the richest ones on the platform,” he joked. “I make WAY more than that.” (For many top streamers, Twitch payouts are just one revenue stream among many.) Streaming on Twitch, Felix “xQc” Lengyel shouted, “I told y’all—it’s trillionaire with a fucking ‘T’!”
While Jamaica is a beautiful destination for someone who wants to take a vacation and disconnect, for the tech-savvy locals, the unavailability of high-quality, consistent internet access and gear is a nightmare. Jamaica is in many ways a technology desert: not as the main attraction for tourists seeking refuge from tech, but because it’s hard for business owners and residents to get technology.
Technology is scarce in Jamaica because it’s expensive to import—the process is long and tedious. Companies like Amazon don’t ship directly to Jamaican residents, so there goes using a Prime account to get free and fast shipping.
Andrew Johnson, cofounder and vice president of the Jamaican Esports Initiative team, is a streamer. Johnson, like any gamer, is trying to upgrade his setup and improve the quality of his content. To do so, he needs a consistent way to obtain the same accessories and tools that any streamer needs, but he can’t buy things that Americans or Europeans take for granted, like high-end graphics cards or webcams, without paying double the price, if it’s available to him at all.
This issue extends to internet access. The primary service providers in the country are Digicel and Flow. They charge a lot for very slow upload speeds when compared to ISPs in other countries.
Internet access is generally better than it used to be, according to Johnson, but mostly for people who live in Kingston, Jamaica’s largest city. “For persons who live in rural areas, they aren’t able to get a better cable connection,” Johnson says. “Their highest upload speed is 8 Mbps. Digicel introduced broadband and fiber. I have 200 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload.”
To get around slow service and poor bandwidth, Jamaican streamers often go live before 6 am and after 6 pm local time, since off-hours are the best times for a stable, reliable connection.
When it comes to gear and shopping, Jamaica doesn’t have large electronics stores like Best Buy or Micro Center. Their big-box grocery stores may have some electronics, but they’re twice the price that Americans are used to paying, and Jamaican shoppers know it.
“You can buy TVs, and electronics, and stuff from small local shops like What’s New, Intcomex, and Royal Computers. A person would be ok with buying an older model TV, versus me buying an older graphics card,” says Johnson. He says he’s been in talks with local shops, like Royal Computers and Intcomex, to keep gaming-centric electronics in stock.
So why not buy abroad? Many Jamaicans simply can’t afford those American or European prices. The minimum wage in Jamaica is J$175 ($1.34 US) per hour, which optimistically translates to J$7,000 ($46) per week. The average yearly salary is about J$336,378 ($22,219)
During these weird and stressful times, more of us are playing video games than ever before. For some, the high-octane shooter offers release, the day’s anxieties dissipating alongside the cacophonous explosion of virtual matter; for others, adrenaline-pumping sports titles do the trick. But for players who want their heart rates to go down rather than up, there’s a growing crop of games that foreground quiet and unfussy tinkering. A top-down view, gently oscillating music, and the careful placement of buildings accompanied by a satisfyingly tactile plonk—these are the hallmarks of serene and minimalist takes on the so-called city-builder.
The rationale is simple: What if you simplified the classic city-builder game (SimCity, for example), even going so far as to cleave it of actual citizens? What if it had beautiful buildings simply for the sake of beautiful buildings, sprouting naturally from virtual rock, grassland, and water? The cumulative effects of these what-ifs has coalesced into a string of trancelike game experiences in recent years; slowly expanding towns lull the mind, alleviating stress in a manner altogether less frenetic than titles of blockbuster action.
Islanders arrived in 2019, followed by Townscaper, Cloud Gardens, and Dorfromantik, none precisely like the other but sharing a commitment to declutter, and perhaps upend the urban planning usually found in video games. Over Zoom, Paul Schnepf, one third of Islanders’ development team, describes his game as a distillation of the “fantasy” offered by series such as Anno and Age of Empires—the way they allow you to build your own realm or kingdom, to “be the god of your own little world.” But to the casual observer at least, these games of long-form civilizational progression are often inscrutably complex, filled with extensive (not to mention exhausting) production chains and the micro-management of resources. Islanders is a merciful reprieve from such demands, designed to be played in breezy, 20-minute bursts.
Boot up the streamlined game and you’re presented with a small land mass surrounded by turquoise water. Perhaps you’ll construct a seaweed farm or a lumber yard, their placement on the landscape accompanied by fluttering numbers in the bottom-left corner of the screen. Islanders isn’t entirely devoid of numbers, but it reorients them around a simple puzzle game: Make a pretty island, earn points, progress on to the next—an archipelago loop that feels like daydreaming on a beach. Of course, there’s always sandbox mode, which makes the game’s city-building core even more chill; there’s no score to worry about, just aesthetics.
Perhaps remarkably, bearing in mind its assuredly polished form, Islanders is the product of an undergraduate degree program at the applied sciences university HTW Berlin. In fact, this is the same university that Dorfromantik emerged from two years later, the two small studios informally involving themselves in one another’s work. Like Islanders, Dorfromantik is the city-builder reimagined as a puzzle game, albeit with a more obvious debt to tabletop strategy titles such as Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan. It swaps clean minimalism for a cozier, hand-drawn aesthetic verging on cottagecore. Quaint villages, steamboat-filled waterways, and fields of golden corn stretch out organically across hexagonal tile pieces like a bucolic, prewar vision of Europe.
Afrofuturism, if you’re unfamiliar, is a movement in literature, music, art, video games, movies, etc., featuring futuristic or science fiction themes which incorporate elements of global Black history and culture, or better yet, making them central themes. We’ve seen some games that take the concept to heart, like Usoni, but few go beyond including Black or African characters to actually include their stories or experiences.
We Are The Caretakers is an unapologetically Afrofuturist sci-fi squad-management RPG about protecting endangered animals—and your planet—from extinction. In the game, you recruit, train, manage and build squads of arcane protectors called the Caretakers. Set in the land of Shadra, a fictional nation in Africa, the story revolves around defending Raun, rhino-like creatures, from human and alien poachers. The game tries to go past the usual Western lens of wildlife conservation to see what people who live in areas where poaching is a common way of life go through. Some people need a way to survive, so they’re involved not because they want to be but out of economic need. We also see people who are in it for sport. And in between is the wildlife, on the brink of extinction.
Upon entering a fight, the game transforms into turn-based-style combat. The goal is familiar to RPG fans: Wear the poachers down by Will, indicated by a blue bar, or Stamina, indicated by a red bar. Then you use a finishing move to send them packing. The most surprising thing about fighting enemies in this game is that it’s extremely hard to diminish their Will.
The inspiration for We Are the Caretakers came from previous titles in the turn-based RPG genre, like Ogre Battle, XCOM, and Northgard. The game is well-polished, but it’s an even better representation of the Afrofuturism genre.
Scott Brodie, founder of Heart Shaped Games and lead developer on the game, told WIRED, “I look at Afrofuturism as a way to center stories around Black people and the broader diaspora and not being so Western-centric. I was first introduced to it through Black Panther. As well, throughout this project, I’ve really become a fan of Nnedi Okorafor,” the two-time Hugo award-winning Nigerian American writer. “It’s been great learning about other works in the genre while working on the game. I do think we ultimately saw that there is a non-Western story here that we could tell, and Afrofuturism really fit what we wanted to try to do.”
Afrofuturism doesn’t only promote representation for the Black diaspora; it can also create a sense of understanding between Black creators and viewers of all backgrounds—or at least a want or need to understand those lived experiences. Black people are often told those experiences are untrue. Afrofuturism often works to amplify elements and themes of Black culture: people, history, persecution, liberation, joy, community, and more.
“Sometimes they’ll go into a trance, and that’s when Sesuhunan comes down, and they dance,” she says. “That’s a really cool moment because people can actually interact with a more physical form of a spirit.”
Learning the Ropes
Voice acting runs in Larassanti’s family. Her mother is also a voice actress. Emiko used her expertise to coach Larassanti when recording lines for Kena—particularly with finding a balance between Kena’s emotions. “Sometimes she’s really strong and sometimes she’s very soft, so finding that middle balance was kind of a challenge,” says Larassanti.
If Larassanti received her dialog before recording, she would practice it with her mother—with Emiko having her try out different emotions for each line. “That was really helpful in terms of finding the balance for Kena’s voice and getting feedback from somebody like my mom, because our parents are always very honest with us,” Larassanti says.
She would also watch random Grand Theft Auto videos and study how voice actors would interact. And, since Kena: Bridge of Spirits is an action-adventure game with combat, she would need to record sounds for actions like walking, breathing, and hitting. Watching shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra helped quite a bit in this department, she says.
“I also watched clips of characters in video games falling, and it was just so cool to hear different actors’ approaches to falling and how wild they can be,” Larassanti says. She was surprised that even simple actions like falling required so much voice exaggeration.
Larassanti did most of her voice recording in the summer of 2020 when she wasn’t in school. At UCLA, she majors in world arts and cultures. She’s also pursuing a minor in ethnomusicology, because of her desire to learn about other cultures. Her grandfather also finished his undergraduate degree at UCLA, where he also taught gamelan.
“Studying world arts and cultures and being immersed in different cultures and religions and studying them really helped with opening my mind up for this role,” she says. This forged her approach to portraying Kena, because a big part of her studies involves giving voices to marginalized communities through the arts. She looks at artistic work through a different critical lens now in terms of who is being represented and whether it is authentic, accurate, and enough. With Kena: Bridge of Spirits, she feels her Southeast Asian representation within the atmosphere and environment itself. The characters are all people of color, and there are beautiful relationships explored among them.
What Kena Represents
Larassanti views her role in Kena as an important one because Asian Americans often don’t have as many opportunities in media compared to their white counterparts, whether it’s in movies, TV shows, or even video games. By casting authentically for Kena, Ember Labs has given Larassanti a chance to share her identity and experiences through the character.
“They were so kind and supportive … and so they really helped me find the balance of Kena’s voice and what they wanted to do,” Larassanti says of Ember Lab’s cofounders, Mike and Josh Grier. Without her knowledge of the Sesuhunan or how to address elders in Bali, Kena: Bridge of Spirits would have had a completely different feeling.
“It’s the actors’ backgrounds and heritage that can really add to a character in a story if given the opportunity,” she says. While Larassanti doesn’t know what she’ll do next, she would love to star in another video game and maybe even branch out to animated films. “I think there are so many different possibilities,” she says. “It’s fun, but I think this really taught me a lot as a voice actor.”