A Black Twitch streamer who experimented with using a white avatar has shared his frustration after the uptick he received in views was undeniable.
Zach, who streams under the name Just_Relax_Kid, unintentionally made waves at the start of December when he shared that he had recently tripled his views on Twitch by concealing his identity.
“I really got 3x more viewers since I took off my cam and decided to be a white man,” he wrote.
For those who questioned his claim, he shared a screen recording to Twitter, showing how his views immediately jumped from hovering in the mid-hundreds to easily breaking into the thousands as soon as his white-bearded avatar popped up on the screen.
Reviewing Zach’s recent streams shows an even larger divide. Out of the 26 streams saved to his Twitch channel in the past month, there were 12 where he streamed his gameplay with his camera on and no white avatar, topping out at 906 views with an overall average of 490 viewers.
Of the 11 streams where he only used an avatar of a white man, he reached over 23k viewers in a single stream. The average between them all? Over 9,300 viewers—or almost 19x the number he was averaging in the two weeks prior. Both the stream that amassed 906 viewers and the one that pulled in over 23k were for the same game, Dragon Ball FighterZ.
Part of the overwhelming online response in the days since has been centered around gratitude that Zach’s post has brought attention to concerns Black content creators have about bias from both viewers and the algorithms that get their work into the right hands—as depressing as it is to see the numbers anecdotally laid out.
Zach himself didn’t make any explicit accusations upfront regarding the dramatic difference in numbers, he merely posted the information for others to do with as they will.
“I never said ‘racist’ I never asked for people to pull out the pitch forks. I even said I’m not angry,” he wrote on Twitter. “It wasn’t even a social experiment, I just didn’t wanna use my cam and thought it was funny (for the race baiters). Yea I’m shocked of course, but it’s more laughable to me if anything. Like we aren’t surprised but we are [if you know, you know].”
“People are gonna watch what they wanna watch,” he told Passionfruit, suggesting that those pointing to top Twitch streamer Kai Cenat’s success on the platform as some sort of proof that there’s no bias have “missed the whole point.”
“It’s so much blind rage that nobody really cares who’s wrong or right. [Their mind] is already made up the moment they see the subject. The moment they read that title they already have their comment typed up,” he said.
In conversation with Dexerto, Zach did express concern that the results of his unintentional experiment might prompt other Black streamers to conceal their own identities out of the hope it might get them more views—something that’s obviously important to anyone monetizing Twitch, or trying to grow their audience and hit Partner status.
“Honestly, I’m hurt, ’cause of all these Black creators who were like, ‘I’m not using my camera anymore. I’m not doing it,’” he said. “And they were serious. So, I feel bad, because I feel like I’m kind of responsible for that. I don’t want people feeling shame just for being who they are.”
It’s difficult to quantify the exact factors that went into the shift in number of viewers, mostly because so much of it likely had to do with Twitch’s algorithm pushing his content to new eyes—something Zach also drew attention to.
“I’ve been one of your partnered streamers for almost a decade, and I’ve never gotten any love or nothing from Twitch ever,” he said of Twitch. “Like, not a single thing besides Black History Month. Like, nothing. It was wild to me, and I was like, ‘You know what, I probably won’t show my camera anymore.’”
“I really wish I had an answer of how they could fix it. I really do, because something needs to change, but I feel like it’s both a Twitch thing and a viewer thing, so it’s really hard. I think that they should just start trying to push out more creators,” he added.
As of now, it appears Zach is indeed continuing to stream with a white avatar rather than turn his camera on. And of the two broadcasts he did in the middle of all of this titled “Im Just A Dude Playing a Dude Disguised as Another Dude,” it’s hard not to notice that the one where he kept his camera off pulled in more viewers than the one featuring both the white avatar and Zach himself.
“It’s the internet, once you hit send you open yourself up to all criticism good or bad,” he told us. “But hasn’t been all bad I know I’m not alone so I’m fine.”