Headphones worn by a gamer while playing Clash of Clans and Runescape for almost 60,000 live streaming followers prevented him from hearing 10 armed men enter his house.
In the latest occurrence of what appears to be a developing gamer trend, U.S. Air Force veteran Joshua Peters, 27, was targeted by anonymous hoaxers.
The viewers of live streaming service Twitch realized what was happening at the same time as Peters. His mother’s voice can be heard calling to him about the officers before confusion passes over his face, and the gamer quickly leaves the shot.
Returning to the screen 15 minutes later, clearly still in shock and on the verge of tears, Peters confirmed to remaining viewers that he had been “swatted.”
So what exactly happened? The St. Cloud Police Department in Minnesota received an anonymous call from someone claiming to live at the address of Peters, where the gamer had lived with his family since returning from a U.S. Air Force tour of duty in Kuwait.
This caller, Peters later told viewers, said that someone “had shot their roommate and now they were pointing their gun at them.” Police heard “two gun shots” on the call before it ended.
The practice within the gamer community is known as “swatting.” Its aim is to cause armed police to be dispatched to a target’s house.
Attackers might only want to scare their victim, but in reality there is a lot more risk and danger involved for all concerned. The bigger the threats made on the call, the more violent and aggressive a SWAT team will be to gamers.
Previously, SWAT teams have killed family dogs, thrown a grenade into a baby’s cot, and shot and killed a man who called a suicide hotline.
Before ending the show, Peters addressed his attacker.
“I see you posting my address. I had police point a gun at my little brothers because of you. They could have been shot, they could have died. Because you chose to swat my stream. I don’t give a shit about what you have against me, or what I did to you. For that I am at a loss for words. Your gripe is with me. But do not involve my family in this. They don’t deserve it.”
That wasn’t quite the end. Hours later, the attacker tried again, calling the same police department and pretending to be a member of Peters’ family. The lie this time was that the gamer was suicidal over the danger he’d put his family in. The police checked rather than responding with force again.
The gamer spoke to the Guardian the day after the attack.
“There’s no possible persons who I can think would do something like this to me … I’ve seen this happen to other streamers, I just never thought I would be the one to get randomly targeted. Never. My channel’s not crazy big, like some of these other mainstream streamers. I just didn’t expect that. I was going upstairs, and before I knew it, my face was on a tile on the ground, hands wide open and a bunch of police officers with assault rifles.”
St. Cloud police confirmed that Peters was the first gamer swatting target the city had seen, but officers were aware of the concept so the situation could be defused relatively quickly. A police investigation is in progress, but Peters said that there are no clear suspects.
Gaming provides escape and release for a generation of military veterans who may still be battling with post-traumatic stress disorders, making them vulnerable to being the “play things” of other gamers.
In an online gaming world where anonymity remains not only easy, but the norm, authentic real-life information can be found relatively quickly and easily. Developing and streaming to mass audiences in this way exposes gamers and their families to countless eyes – some of them prying and malicious.
[Image – Twitch Live Stream]