Stream Teaming: How Warzone’s Biggest Stars Exploit the Game
Warzone’s uneven playing field will never be fixed if the game’s top dogs aren’t playing fairly themselves
The topic of cheats, hacks, and exploits in Call of Duty Warzone is not new or unexplored.
In fact, cheating in Warzone is a dead horse of a topic that’s been beaten to a bloody pulp and tea-bagged for good measure.
Unfortunately, like a scene from Austin Powers, that dead horse just won’t stay dead because Activision and Infinity Ward continue to allow the scourge of unfair play in their hugely popular game to persist.
However, despite the thousands of videos, comments, tweets, Reddit threads, and Twitch rants about the rampant cheating issues in Warzone, nothing seems to change. Yet, because the fundamentals of the game are so good, we “deal” and we keep playing despite the culture of cheating that has become thoroughly embedded in the game’s DNA.
Unfortunately, the publishers and developers of the game seemingly don’t care if casual players complain endlessly about cheating in Warzone since we continue to play the game and spend our money in-game through microtransaction after microtransaction.
If the people who could fix cheating in Warzone would listen to anyone, though, it would be the superstars of their game. And thankfully, the top stars of Warzone are, ostensibly, vigorously anti-cheat.
There’s just one problem…the same superstars of Warzone who are constantly complaining about hackers and making an endless stream of content about how cheats are making Warzone almost unplayable, are themselves cheating every day.
Allow me to show you.
Case In Point: Nick Mercs
In the game of Warzone, there is no one bigger than Nick Mercs.
And when it comes to anti-cheat voices, there is no one more vocal than Mercs.
But recently, I began to notice something that, as a fan of Mercs myself, I found disappointing. Mercs and his squadmates were blatantly cheating in almost every game they uploaded to YouTube and streamed on Twitch by teaming/colluding with (“friendly”) opponents watching their streams.
Warzone Stream Teaming usually looks something like this 👇
In the above video, a (“friendly”) opponent watching Mercs’ stream collected a huge sum of money, drove it over to Mercs, honked his horn at Mercs to signal he was a friendly, dropped the cash for Mercs, was allowed to drive away as Mercs smiled, laughed, and subsequently purchased the most powerful killstreak in the game: an Advanced UAV for his team as well as a Self Revive for himself, putting his entire lobby at a huge advantage.
If that isn’t cheating, what is?
You can find instances like this in almost every one of Mercs’ streams. Most aren’t as painfully obvious as the one above, but when you hear Swagg calling out to the squad, “Friendly! Friendly! That’s a friendly!” Or someone hops out of a vehicle, humps the ground, and waits for Mercs or one of the boys to pull the trigger… Stream Teaming cheats aren’t that hard to spot either.
Here are two more Stream Teaming examples from recent Mercs streams:
There are countless examples of Stream Teaming like this in Mercs’ daily Twitch streams, as well as the streams of his squadmates and other popular streamers.
But here’s the bottom line…
When you and your squadmates benefit from unfair advantages like these every time you stream, and you don’t discourage it, and often encourage it, you are giving your followers your seal of approval to continue to do it, and you are deeply eroding your credibility as an anti-cheat advocate.
So, when Mercs recently uploaded this video to YouTube 👇 in which he plainly stated, “I don’t cheat! I don’t do that shit,” continuing to say that anyone accusing him of cheating needs to, “make sure you come with the facts…”
… I decided to tweet at Mercs about the contradiction I noticed, and he responded by blocking me.
Here’s the Tweet that somehow got me blocked by Mercs:
UPDATE (Sidenote): After sharing this article on Twitter with popular Warzone content creator, JGOD, he responded by refusing to read it, calling me “dumb” and “too soft for the internet” before quickly blocking me so I couldn’t respond. Yikes.
If you read the full tweet thread that got me blocked by Mercs, you’ll see it wasn’t an anti-Nick-Mercs tweet at all. Likewise, the story you’re reading now isn’t an anti-Nick-Mercs story, either.
I am not writing this to “go after” Mercs, or get him punished, cancelled, or anything like that.
The same goes for the other hugely popular Warzone streamers and content creators I mention in this piece — specifically, TimTheTatMan and Merc’s fellow FaZe Clan member, FaZe Swagg.
I am focusing on these streaming superstars because:
- I watch them the most (because I enjoy their content the most).
- They are all hugely popular and influential in the world of Warzone which means they set the tone and standard of play in the Warzone community.
And I am focusing on Mercs the most because, as the #1 Warzone Twitch Streamer, he is the face of the game — which brings greater scrutiny, expectations, and responsibility, than anyone else.
So, to be super clear…
I am NOT a “hater” of Mercs, TimTheTatMan, or Swagg.
I am a fan of all of them — I watch them all regularly and enjoy their content! I just wish they would stop Stream Teaming. Go to their channels and subscribe if you haven’t already!
And, by the way, having seen how many gamers respond to criticisms of their favorite streamers before…
No(!) I have zero illusions about my gaming skills compared to any of theirs. Every one of the streamers I mention in this story is 100X better than me (which relates to a later point…they don’t need to cheat! So just stop…).
Furthermore, let’s get this straight as well…I do NOT believe Mercs, Swagg, or TimTheTatMan:
- Cheat more than other streamers.
- Are bad people.
While it’s hard to judge the moral character of someone you’ve never met and only know by what you watch via YouTube content, Mercs, Swagg, and Tim, all seem like good dudes, who are super competitive (as am I), enjoy entertaining other gamers, are genuinely sick and tired of cheating in Warzone (as are most of us to varying degrees), and probably never would have thought of Stream Teaming as being a form of cheating or considered the somewhat nebulous consequences of what they’re doing.
I come in peace (and love, baby).
Final request: Please reserve judgment until the end of this article. But if you aren’t going to read the whole thing, that’s fine, but please keep your comments to yourself then.
The Case Against Stream Teaming
This article is meant to make the case that:
- As many others have expressed, cheats, hacks, exploits in Call of Duty Warzone is a huge problem, but that…
- Whether there is universal agreement that this or that is a cheat, or a hack, or an exploit, misses the forest for the trees. The real issue is about unfair advantages.
- Warzone will only get cleaned up if their most popular players are playing fairly while advocating, on behalf of the rest of us, for fairness in the game.
- Even though the unfair advantage may be much more discrete, the regular usage of Stream Teaming by Warzone superstars, is a far bigger deal than it may first seem, because…
- It gives them a huge unfair advantage in-game against their opponents.
- It sends the wrong message to the Warzone community — after all, if you are a top dog like Mercs, you set the tone for the game, and if you bend the rules, even a little, what message does that send to your millions of followers?
- It makes it harder to finally bring real fairness to the game; why would Activision or Infinity Ward take seriously the daily complaints by Mercs and his huge fan base (and so many others) about the widespread issues of fairness in the game if people like Mercs aren’t playing fairly and his followers are helping him play unfairly every day?
“Alright, that’s enough mucking about.”
My Relationship with Warzone
I am not a professional gamer, nor do I want to be one.
I am not a professional gaming writer, either. I spend most of my time writing about politics, culture, and news media…not video games.
If civic commentary is my occupation, then video games are my escape — and, if I am being honest, a non-destructive outlet for aggression and irritation that comes from being a political animal.
For me, games like Warzone are a lot like traditional sports such as football.
I’m not built like Mercs (that dude is jacked!) so I never made good on my childhood dream of becoming the next Brett Favre. Instead, I spend a few hours a week watching my favorite team — the Green Bay Packers…drop an F in the comments for the Green and Gold — and maybe another hour watching my favorite sports commentators — Pat McAfee is my go-to as of late — but that’s about it.
My commitment to football is…let’s call it five hours a week. Nothing approaching the commitment of a pro.
However, even for the casual players like me, whether it’s the game of football or the game of Warzone, both are very competitive games, and the whole thing becomes a lot less enjoyable, seizes to be an escape for casual players like me, and begins to fall apart entirely when written and unwritten rules are not followed, fair-play seems like an unattainable fantasy, and the overall integrity of the game’s participants, superstars and or officials fall short.
It is vital for the NFL to protect the integrity of the game, and so they do. But not Warzone.
Unfortunately, from where I stand, Warzone is suffering from a deeper integrity issue, as opposed to a simple cheating problem — and these integrity issues are far more endemic and consequential than the current conversations about the state of play in Warzone would lead us to believe.
What’s Really Destroying Call of Duty Warzone: Unfair Advantages
At the end of the day, what really irks people who play a competitive game like Warzone, watch Warzone-related content, or watch/play any game for that matter, is when some players benefit from an unfair advantage unavailable to their competitors.
And at this point in the story, it is important to note that there are many different ways to gain an unfair advantage in a game like Warzone, and that there isn’t universal agreement that all of them deserve the label of being a “cheat.” What some may call a “cheat” others may call a “hack” and others still may call it an “exploit.”
This lack of definition creates an opportunity for people (like popular streamers) to deny that they are “cheating” by brushing it off as an “exploit” that anyone could take advantage of or something else that can be chalked up as “not a big deal” compared to something egregious like wall-hacks.
But at the end of the day, a debate around “is this or that thing cheating or is it an exploit” is the wrong debate. That debate unnecessarily shifts the focus from the real concern which is terrifically simple: gameplay that is fair or unfair.
To that end, here are some of the most widely discussed ways players are getting an unfair advantage in Warzone since it launched almost a year ago:
- Wall Hacks
- Skill Based Matchmaking Abuse
- External Device Usage
- Geo-Location Abuse via Routers and VPNs
- Glitches (like Unlimited Stims, Unlimited Juggernauts)
- Pay-to-Win via weapon blueprints
- Pay-to-Win via player skins
Mercs has been accused of using many forms of cheating (to put it mildly) and has pushed back at these allegations and drawn attention to the fairness issues in Warzone more than most (almost to the point where a cynic might say, “doth protest too much”).
I am sure Mercs, Swagg, Tim, and every other streaming superstar is constantly being accused of cheating — and that’s got to be exhausting for them, and most of the time the accusations are bogus.
So when Mercs vociferously denies allegations of using cheats that fit his definition of cheating, I believe him. 100%.
I believe that Mercs does not believe he is cheating when he takes advantage of Stream Teaming, either.
However, in my view, Stream Teaming is cheating. Therefore, he is cheating. (And the same is true for anyone else who uses Stream Teaming to gain an unfair advantage.)
Stream Teaming is Cheating:
Exhibit A: FaZe Dubs Teaming Allegations
The teaming case of Fortnite player, “Dubs,” should be one that Mercs is quite familiar with given that both are members of FaZe Clan and the controversy that Dubs became embroiled in was not a small one.
While I never have been a Fortnite player, and I realize that,
- Fortnite and Warzone are different games.
- FaZe Dubs was allegedly “caught” teaming in a competition with a significant cash prize.
- FaZe Dubs denied he was teaming.
…the FaZe Dubs cheating incident makes one important thing crystal clear: teaming is cheating.
If it weren’t there would have been no Dubs controversy, investigation, or punishments dolled out.
If Dubs can’t Team/Collude with opponents, neither should his FaZe Clan brothers, Mercs, Swagg, or anyone else.
Since the Dubs teaming incident, Fortnite has released more explicit rules about efforts to team/collude with their competitors, further codifying the common-sense notion that teaming/collusion is obviously cheating.
“But teaming isn’t as bad as other cheats!”
Whether Teaming (aka Colluding) is “as bad” as another form of cheating is not what matters here. What matters is that the case of FaZe Dubs proves that teaming is cheating.
Furthermore, while it is certainly unfortunate that teaming is not explicitly labeled by Activision as cheating in Warzone, that doesn’t mean it’s not not-cheating. It just means that, once again, the suits behind the game of Warzone don’t care about the fairness of the game.
“Is Stream Teaming really cheating if the Official Rules don’t label it as cheating?”
The official Rules of Warzone don’t say anything about “reverse boosting” or use of specialized routers for unfair in-game advantages, do they? Does that mean they’re not a scummy way of getting an unfair advantage? Does that mean they’re not a form of cheating?
If there weren’t official rules against wall-hacks, and I was in your lobby using wall-hacks, would you say that I was cheating? Of course, you would.
Even Mercs acknowledges that “cheating” in Warzone isn’t simply “doing what the rules expressly prohibit.” In this video, he says reverse boosting is cheating (although the official Rules of Warzone don’t say so), and he got real offended at the suggestion he would use reverse boosting because “he keeps it a buck…he doesn’t cheat…he doesn’t reverse boost…”
In another video (one of my favorites, by Mercs) shown below, he and his squad glitch inside of loadout boxes.
He had a little fun with one crazy glitch, made a video about it, encouraged devs to fix it, and didn’t do it again. Because, obviously, it’s just not fair.
And as you’d expect, it’s not like Mercs uses glitches like this regularly, because even though there is no rule in black and white saying you can’t do this, it’s so obviously unfair that he knows not to do it anyway.
Likewise, despite there being no specific rules within Warzone against “teaming,” when considering cases like FaZe Dubs or others punished more severely before him for teaming in Fortnite, and some good old fashioned common sense, teaming is cheating.
“But, these top streamers have dealt with bad stream snipers for years and still do, so I’m not upset that they are getting some good stream snipers now. They’ve earned it.”
- There are not good and bad stream snipers.
- Stream snipers who target and kill streamers are cheaters.
- Stream snipers who bring huge amounts of cash, killstreaks, and vehicles to streamers, are engaging in teaming / collusion which is cheating and that’s not good either.
- I reject the idea that anyone earns the right or is entitled to collude with cheaters and benefit from cheating in any way.
Whether you’re Mercs and you’ve battled scummy stream snipers for several years, or you’re a little Timmy who’s having a really bad week, cheating is cheating and you shouldn’t be doing it. Any other position sets a really awful precedent for the game.
“Still, there is nothing people like Mercs could do to stop his streamers from doing stuff like this.”
That’s just ridiculous.
If you are such a simp for your favorite streamers that you’re willing to run around Verdansk gathering up cash just so you can help them win a round or get a few extra kills, what message are you getting from your streaming idol if he smiles when you arrive, gladly takes and spends your money at the buy-station he happens to be right next to?
Mercs is saying to you, “Thanks! I don’t mind if you do that! In fact, I am happy when you do. More please!”
Instead, people like Mercs should be saying,
“Yo. Stop doing that. I don’t need it. I appreciate the love, but don’t show it like this. It doesn’t make me look good. It makes me look like a hypocrite. And if we want Activision to get hacking and cheating out of this game, we can’t be doing it or anything like it ourselves.”
That’s all he and his streaming peers need to say.
If Mercs and all the other Warzone content creators are as anti-cheat as their YouTube thumbnails and live-stream rants would lead you to believe, there is zero reason for Mercs and his streaming peers not to tell their fans to stop with the Stream Teaming.
Mercs, for example, could and should say it every time he suspects a cheater is cheating FOR him, just like he calls out everyone he suspects is cheating AGAINST him.
And I’ll be the first to applaud him if he ever does.
Would doing so stop everyone from doing it? No, of course not — just like a Warzone anti-cheat program (if we ever get one) won’t stop all cheaters from bringing their slime to Warzone. But, it couldn’t hurt and would probably help a great deal, and takes no effort on the part of people like Mercs, just a little humility.
But until then, when the face of Warzone and his regular squadmates, who are also among the most popular Warzone talent, are cheating (in any way at all) every single day — even if they haven’t thought of it as cheating before — it only motivates others to start cheating and emboldens the ones who already do to keep doing it.