Gamer’s Death Pushes Risks of Live Streaming Into View
Early on Feb. 19, Brian C. Vigneault was nearing the end of a 24-hour marathon of live streaming himself playing the tank warfare video game World of Tanks when he left his computer to buy a pack of cigarettes. He never returned.
During the break, Mr. Vigneault died in his Virginia Beach, Va., home. The medical examiner’s office in Norfolk, Va., said that Mr. Vigneault’s cause of death had not yet been determined. There was no indication of foul play, according to the police in Virginia Beach.
But Mr. Vigneault’s friends wonder if the lengthy live streaming on Twitch, a website owned by Amazon that lets people broadcast themselves playing games, may not have helped. At the time of his death, Mr. Vigneault, 35, had streamed for 22 hours straight to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Two of his friends said that he often broadcast his game playing for long periods.
“He was looking really tired on the stream,” said Jessica Gebauer, a live streamer and a friend of Mr. Vigneault’s. “We were telling him, ‘Just to go to bed. It’s not a big deal. Nobody’s going to worry about it.’”
Calls to phone numbers registered under the names of Mr. Vigneault and his family members were not returned, and messages left were not answered. Ms. Gebauer said Mr. Vigneault’s family did not want to comment.
Video by FAME shishx
Mr. Vigneault’s death followed reports of other players dying during or after lengthy gaming sessions in Taiwan and South Korea, intensifying a discussion about the health risks of a streaming culture that rewards people for staying online for long periods. At least one video game streamer has blamed long bouts of live streaming for his emergency heart surgery, and others have written about the potential dangers of playing for hours on end.
Yet would-be professional streamers typically endure a relentless grind to build an audience. Anytime they leave their computers, they risk having followers peel away to another channel. The resulting lifestyle is often unhealthy, requiring long sedentary periods with little sleep. Some gamers are fueled by junk food, caffeine and alcohol.
Twitch’s community guidelines bar destructive behavior, without directly addressing what some perceive as excessively long periods of playing. In an email, a Twitch spokesman said of Mr. Vigneault that “we are greatly saddened about the passing of one of the Twitch community.”
Ben Bowman, 30, a professional Twitch streamer with more than 579,000 followers, published an article on the video game website Polygon in January about the pressure to stream constantly, which he said in an interview could lead to exhaustion, high cholesterol and heart problems. He said he had developed a herniated disk from sitting for hours each day with no breaks because he wanted to attract the biggest audience possible on Twitch.
Soon after Mr. Vigneault’s death, Joe Marino, 45, who has more than 40,000 followers on Twitch, wrote an article on Medium about the emergency heart surgery he had in 2015. In an interview, he said his relentless streaming schedule — at least seven or eight hours a day, seven days a week — led to the surgery, an experience from which he is still recovering.