Gay gamer victim of traumatic “swatting” in possible hate crime

Police showed up at a gay Twitch streamer's house due to a false tip off in an instance of what is known as "swatting."

Split screen of two images: on the left, gay Twitch streamer Nickolas Potter, a recent victim of ‘swatting;' on the right, on the right, multiple police officers in a residential area
Image: @glizzy.gaymer via Instagram (left); @Glizzy_GaymerTTV via Twitter (right)

Nickolas Potter, better known to gaming friends and fans as gay Twitch streamer Glizzy Gaymer, stopped his June 17 stream abruptly due to ‘swatting’ when a team of police officers detained him at his house in what may have been a hate crime.

Hearing his husband’s name and their address over the police speakers outside his house, Potter ended his Twitch stream of Pokémon Y and went outside to see what was happening. A team of police officers greeted Potter with their weapons raised and shouted at him to put his hands behind his head.

I was handcuffed and detained without being told why despite telling them I wasn’t who they were looking for,” Potter tweeted later, in a thread describing what had occurred.

“When they started asking questions none of it was making sense until I mentioned that I had been streaming at the time.”

One officer told the gay streamer this sounded like a case of ‘swatting,’ when someone gives a false tip to the police to send them to a certain location, often the home of a particular individual. Law enforcement then arrives at the swatting victim’s house, weapons drawn, in the belief that a violent crime may be in progress.

“In this case,” Potter tweeted, “they said they received a call saying that my husband had shot his ‘wife’ 5 times and was threatening to kill himself.”

Swatting has been occurring for years, since at least 2008 according to CNN, and seems to be especially prevalent in the gaming community. Perpetrators often find the addresses and personal details of others through their computer IP addresses and give those details and locations to the police, along with a fake story.

While swatting is to some degree comparable to childhood prank calls, CNN explained in a 2019 article, it is different and a lot more serious through its involvement of law enforcement.

At the very least, swatting is a traumatic experience for the victim, and at the most, swatting can be fatal. A 2017 ‘swatting’ resulted in the death of a man named Andrew Finch when an officer fired on him upon his opening the door.  

The police kept Potter until his husband arrived home and proved that none of the tip had been true. If the police had done any research, they would have known he was married to Potter, a man, Potter noted on Twitter.

The police asked if the couple had any enemies – they don’t.

“I asked if it might be a hate crime given it’s [P]ride month and I was streaming at the time,” Potter tweeted. The police officer he asked didn’t respond.

“He asked if I’d been playing any competitive games and beaten someone as if it was just a pissed off player but I wasn’t playing anything like that,” Potter said in an email. “My streams have pride and LGBTQ+ as tags so my queer identity is very visible.”

The police also didn’t seem particularly concerned about what could have been a violent crime, Potter wrote. Through a phone call still ongoing but forgotten by the police, Potter’s husband heard an officer talk about how he had thought the tip would lead to a “big bust.”

At the end of his tweet thread, the gay streamer wrote that he found out this “swatting” has been happening to many Twitch streamers, but that purchasing a VPN can help provide protection.

“Please protect yourselves and get one if there’s any possibility you could be targeted as well,” he tweeted.

Mashable reported in 2017 that while swatting had been prevalent in the gaming community for a few years, it was becoming a bigger problem with the advent of services like Twitch, the streaming mechanism of choice for Potter and many others

While it’s still undetermined why Potter was targeted, his guess that it might be homophobia-driven since it happened during Pride month seems as likely a theory as any.

In the span of three months in 2021, six members of “Stream Queens,” a group of drag queens who stream while playing video games, were all swatted. The queens told NBC News they understood these swatting incidents as “a manifestation of homophobia and transphobia.”

A Twitch spokesperson told NBC that the service continuously works to improve its safety features and protect its users, but Potter’s experience reveals that there is clearly still work to be done. 

As for Potter, this episode has affected his streaming, both in how he feels about it and in the literal sense. “Since it happened I’ve had a lot of anxiety about starting each stream and it’s affected my endurance as well,” he said.

Potter also said that the swatting attack means he sees new people joining streams differently. He can’t help but see them as potential threats.

“Which is unfortunate,” he said, “because I love connecting with people and I hate feeling so closed off.

I’m definitely taking steps to protect us like setting up a VPN but I’m not sure how to go about fixing the emotional toll.”


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