For a lot of up and coming Twitch stars, being a streamer means being online almost all the time. If your butt isn't planted on a comfortable gaming chair for an eight-hour session of Fortnite, it's probably checking Twitter to get some extra fan engagement in before bed.
The boundaries of work and life can get blurry when your working so much, especially when members of your audience find their way into your personal life.
"I've had the police called to my house three times by people faking events, trying to get the SWAT team called in," Ben "DrLupo" Lupo, one of the top streamers on Twitch today, tells SYFY WIRE. "The police told us that the report said that I had stabbed my wife to death and that I was going to shoot myself."
The police showed up to Lupo's home, one officer with his gun already drawn, to investigate the call. His wife answered the door, which confused both officers since there was nothing wrong with her, contrary to what the call had said. "She knew exactly what was happening as soon as she saw those flashing lights," Lupo recalled. "I had told her that someone is going to do this once we started to pick up steam."
Lupo took that opportunity to tell the Omaha Police Department about what he does as a streamer and what they might have to deal with if someone else makes a fake call again. "One of the things that comes with popularity is people that don't like you," Lupo said. "People think I just rode off Ninja's coattails since he's popular, even though I met him last year during a match of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds before all the madness with Fortnite."
Swatting, or putting in a fake call to police or other law enforcement agencies in order to get them to go to a specific address, is a well-known harassment tactic. It's far more than a prank, as it's gotten people killed in the past and shouldn't be taken lightly.
Harassment, like swatting, is nothing new to the streaming community, and to some degree, its members have gotten used to an abundance of hateful messages, unmanageable stream chats, and hounding on other forms of social media. Although Lupo says it could be worse, he has learned to roll with the punches and try to teach his audience during missteps. But he also recognizes that not everyone has the same privilege that he does.
While Lupo has had his Twitch account since 2013, he only started to seriously stream on a full-time basis last year. During that short time as a Destiny-turned-Fortnite streamer he's been the first person swatted in Omaha in five years, giving him more face time with Omaha PD than expected.
"The thing about swatting is that people do it to get a reaction, they want me sitting there when the police bust in armed to the teeth," Lupo added. "That's not how it happens though. It's rarely that exciting and is a huge waste of time and energy for everyone involved."
Lupo, who has more than 27,000 subscribers on Twitch, received an outpouring of support when he left his job as a systems engineer in March of 2017. He got more than 300 new subscribers in less than 20 minutes after he announced his new daily streaming schedule. Since then, he's grown a massive following across multiple social media platforms majorly in part to the huge success of Fortnite.
But he's also become a bigger target. Lupo's Nebraska-home was a simple Google search away before he moved. That access combined with his fame has led to a number of scary moments.
"One time I had a car full of high school students show up to my house to 'meet DrLupo,' it was very strange," he said. "A white car pulled up in front of the house one day after stream, three high school-aged kids get out, the driver stays in with the car running."
"This was amidst all the swatting stuff so I was already on edge, and the three of them come up and ring the doorbell. I answer the door and two of them have their hands in their pockets," Lupo added. "My brain went to the worst place possible, I thought I was about to die."
Luckily, the kids just wanted to meet the man behind their favorite streams, even if it was a huge invasion of privacy. The group of teens found Lupo's address through a simple google search since he uses his real name as his tag, he's moved to a new home recently.
Lupo took the situation in stride once again, thanking them for watching his streams and supporting what he loves to do. He didn't try talking to the kids when they were at his home, but he did get a second chance on Twitter later that day after getting tagged in one of his visitors posts. "I messaged the guy and asked him if he had a second to talk. I told him that showing up to streamers house is not a good idea," Lupo said. "We talked and he apologized, I think he went away from the conversation with a better understanding of why that was wrong."
No streamers start out knowing that they'll blow up to worldwide fame and that often leads to a lot of eye-opening experiences like this. "I made my name 'DrLupo not knowing I was going to be popular, it's my real name and [Ninja] calls me Ben on stream," Lupo said. "It was a jarring and really weird experience, I never thought something like this would happen — luckily it turned out to be nothing."