Where were you the night Rogan was deplatformed...
This is maybe the dumbest shit of all time, so strap yourself in.
The other night, a 6-year-old Call of Duty: Warzone prodigy and Twitch streamer named Rowdy Rogan was permabanned from the game, apparently for being too young (the minimum age to play CoD is 13, according to Activision). The backlash ensued: a wave of “#FreeRogan” tweets, most notably from members of the FaZe Clan, like FaZe Blaze and FaZe Swagg (“Wait wtf why?!”); impassioned pleas from gamers and Twitch streamers for Activision to “chill out”; forceful declarations that the kid “has parental consent” (Rowdy Rogan’s YouTube, Twitch, and other social media presences are managed by his dad).
You can watch the moment it happened here, replete with a very measured and grateful caption:
This is an unbelievable video. You can see Rogan’s father react, in real time, to his son’s account ban, and then send him off to his mother so he can do some real performative desk-banging for the viewers watching the stream. He sighs and hangs his head, shakes his fist angrily at the cruel gods up in Activision’s ivory tower, kisses his son and assures him everything will be alright, before mom comes down and frantically demands he shut off the Twitch stream—now this is a true family, one custom-built for the e-sports age.
At the end of the day, this is hilarious. But in the morning, when you wake up, you inevitably have to contend with the fact that this is also unfathomably bleak.
Who do we blame here for all of this? The kid? No. You can’t blame the kid, I guess. You could roast his shitty little perm and his inability to pronounce basic words, but, sure, he’s six. You probably shouldn’t. Plus, I’d imagine he’s spitting unreal game in his kindergarten class right now—more than I did, at least.
Do we put it all on the dad? That seems like the more correct choice. You can paint your own, imaginary portrait of what this dude is like, but I’ve watched enough of the RowdyRogan YouTube channel to tell you what you need to know: he has Adult Braces. Personally, I like to picture Rogan Sr. as an obsessed Dance-Mom type, but more of a tragic figure: this whole video game, Call of Duty, YouTube, Twitch, whatever nonsense, it was just a little distraction at first, something to keep Rogan occupied while I got some rest, you know, you get it, yeah, but now I’m in this shit deep, man, there’s no coming back, I don’t know how else to get out of it but he’s the best, I swear, he’ll be the best goddamn Warzone player in history, he gets crazy numbers on his streams, please, I’m begging you, just $10,000 and I swear I will pay it back, I will do whatever it takes, just trust me, bet on me one more time—bet on the kid. Please. When have I ever let you down?
Or maybe this is all my fault! Why the fuck am I watching this kid’s YouTube videos? What went wrong in my life that the names “FaZe Swagg” and “FaZe Temperrr” occupy precious space in my brain when I could have been developing a COVID-19 vaccine that is 96% effective, actually?
There’s this old documentary about the Scripps National Spelling Bee called Spellbound. I remember watching it with my parents, ambitiously, when I was 7, and the overriding memory I have—or whatever whispers of that movie remain to haunt my brain—is one of Indian parents forcing their children to memorize the dictionary in the hopes that they would one day joylessly spell the world “bougainvillea” in a convention center in DC, thereby securing the bag.
I don’t think that’s that far off from pimping your child out for creatine sponsorships and merch deals, but what do I know? This is what this country is all about, man! This is the American Dream. This is what we were put on this Earth to do: outfitting your home office with Logitech C922s, firing up the Twitch stream, saying “What’s up?” to the viewers, and forcing your 6-year-old to get a 25-killstreak live on camera or else he doesn’t eat dinner.
One of the wildest things that’s happened over the past few years is the fact that people unironically call the media they enjoy the most “content.” If you’re a famous Youtuber, half the stuff you produce is probably about getting “demonetized” or “figuring out the algorithm” and you have to expect your fans to fight for you to be as financially successful as possible.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “algorithm optimization” on social media recently—posts made to “trick the algorithm;” pictures with your face on Instagram while the caption’s about some social issue; Youtube videos with this specific thumbnail style; search engine optimization skewing Google results. All of this seems insane to me because it’s going to lead to a world that hews more closely to the algorithm. When designing these algorithms, maybe the engineers over at Instagram or Youtube naïvely didn’t think people would try to exploit every nook and cranny of it for personal gain, or maybe, cynically, they just didn’t care.
What’ll happen when an entire generation’s aesthetic taste is defined by what performs well on a social media platform? Quick cuts, fast music, crazy thumbnails; all of those are shown to increase engagement, and so platforms prioritize those sort of things. People get used to them, and demand them more, and eventually any sort of thoughtfulness and artistry is left in the dust, crushed by the weight of the algorithm.
As someone who works in tech and reads a lot of tech stuff, I can attest that these concerns might be talked about a lot in art or journalism circles, but no one with power in tech gives them a second thought. There’s simply too much money to be made.
Pretty cool that this kid can’t talk properly yet but he makes his dad thousands of dollars off of shooting guys in the head. Awesome sauce!