SAN DIEGO — At a booth on the second floor of the San Diego Convention Center, where hundreds of gamers wearing purple badges gathered to peruse pins shaped like Pikachu and “Game of Thrones” posters, a streamer called Quqco squealed with joy as an acquaintance gushed over her costume.
Quqco, 28, who makes art on the streaming platform Twitch and attended the site’s annual convention TwitchCon on Friday, was dressed in long, fingerless leather gloves and a leather miniskirt — a cosplay of the character Tifa from the video game “Final Fantasy VII.”
The acquaintance asked if she could take a picture with Quqco. They snapped a photo, then the pair hugged and parted ways.
“She was so cute!” Quqco sighed, opining that women on Twitch are often each others’ biggest supporters.
Originally, Quqco, who asked that NBC News identify her only by her Twitch name to protect her safety, had planned to have a booth at TwitchCon, where fans of her streams and attendees could find and buy her artwork.
But Quqco said she believes she was targeted earlier this month by an organized group of trolls — in this particular case from a Reddit page — who mass-reported her account to Twitch and successfully got the platform to slap the second of three strikes on her, ban her for three days and revoke her access to her own booth at TwitchCon.
“Very recently, I’ve been on — there’s a subreddit called ‘LiveStreamFails.’ Unfortunately, I caught the attention of that subreddit, which has a lot of angry men,” Quqco said in an interview ahead of TwitchCon.
The trolling happened during a stream where Quqco was dressed as the character Chun-Li from the video game “Street Fighter” — a costume that covers her entire torso, with only her thighs exposed. At one point, she said she was adjusting her camera and momentarily tilted the camera downward. About an hour and a half after it started, the livestream abruptly disconnected.
Confused, Quqco soon realized she had been banned. Although the ban lasted only three days, she has appealed the strike on her account to Twitch, which has not explained what violation triggered the ban. If she receives another strike, she will be permanently banned from the platform.
Quqco has been streaming on Twitch for more than two years, but she said the incident earlier this month marked the second time in recent weeks that she was banned for alleged “sexually suggestive content or activities.”
Out of respect for streamers’ privacy, Twitch doesn’t comment on individual moderation cases, a spokesperson told NBC News. Twitch said it has doubled the number of people working for its moderation team over the last year.
NBC News was unable to independently confirm that Quqco’s account was mass-reported. However, Twitch has a growing number of users who consider themselves vigilantes, according to video game news site Kotaku. They keep a watchful eye out for women streamers who “violate the sanctity of Twitch as a gaming site,” and report them when they determine they have broken a rule, Kotaku reported.
“I felt very sorry for existing,” Quqco said of her initial reaction to being banned. “I wondered what did I do to make these people so angry. … There’s this huge brigade of trolls and thousands of comments sexually harassing you or racially harassing you. It definitely puts you in a dark place.”
Although harassment of women isn't exclusively a Twitch problem, Quqco is just one of scores of women on the site who say they face regular harassment simply for their gender. At TwitchCon, NBC News spoke with a dozen women who said they had experienced harassment on the platform. A majority of those interviewed asked that their real names not be used, citing fears for their safety.
“I’m definitely not the only one who experiences it,” Quqco said. “I get a lot of sexist remarks like, ‘women are only on this platform to steal viewers from their male counterparts.’ I’ve gotten remarks like, ‘you wouldn’t get the views that you have now if you weren’t a woman.’ It’s a lot of men projecting that because I’m a woman I don’t deserve what I’ve built.”
On a platform that is dominated by men, women are working to carve out a space for themselves, but many described obstacles that have driven them to the edge of giving up on their streaming careers.