As more people than ever stream themselves playing games on platforms like Twitch and YouTube, stream sniping has become a real problem. So what exactly does it entail, and what can be done about it?
What Is Stream Sniping?
Stream sniping is the act of using someone’s live stream against them. For example, in a competitive multiplayer game, knowing where an opponent is can allow you to sneak up on or flank them simply by watching their stream to work out exactly where they are.
The phenomenon only affects multiplayer games but isn’t necessarily limited to only competitive titles. While stream sniping may be used to gain a competitive advantage, it can also be used to harass and grief individuals.
The streamer may not be able to hide on-screen information like the server they are connected to or their screen name, which can give a stream sniper everything they need to locate them.
The practice most commonly affects streamers with a large audience, but anyone who is live streaming gameplay could theoretically fall victim to it. You can think of stream sniping as a remote and modern-day equivalent of peeking at your buddy’s screen at a LAN party, or “screen cheating” in split-screen mode in a game like the original Halo or Nintendo 64 classic Goldeneye.
Counter-Measures to Prevent Stream Sniping
Stream sniping has become more prevalent with the arrival of fast, responsive internet connections that can broadcast gameplay with very little delay.
As a counter-measure, you can specify a delay interval in streaming software and on streaming platforms like Twitch. In OBS Studio and Streamlabs OBS this can be found under Settings > Advanced > Stream Delay. Twitch partners can toggle low latency (less delay) on or off under Stream Manager > Preferences > Channel.
Unfortunately, if a stream sniper is in the same game session as you then there may be very little you can do to avoid becoming a target. Even if your stream is on a delay if you’re doing something in a particular part of the map (like using a vehicle or fixed weapon), or playing in a “predictable” style (protecting a base or flag) then you’re going to be at a disadvantage.
Some games, like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, have introduced the ability to hide server names and other identifiable information to make it more difficult for stream snipers to locate their targets. Sea of Thieves featured a community update which focused on stream sniping and what players in that community can do to mitigate it.
Stream Sniping May Get You Banned
Since stream sniping involves gaining an unfair advantage over someone, it’s generally frowned upon and is liable to get you banned from servers and services if you are caught. Catching someone in the act is a lot easier said than done though.
Many snipers have found themselves banned while playing games like Valorant, Final Fantasy XIV, and Fortnite since the practice falls foul of the terms and conditions.
Still want to give streaming a shot? Learn how to stream games from your PC straight to Twitch.