Yesterday, Twitch removed one of its emotes because its originator encouraged violence at the Capitol during an insurrection coordinated by Trump supporters. If you’ve been furiously googling “what is a pogchamp?” sit down, friend: I am here for you.
Twitch emotes have become a language unto themselves. In a fast moving Twitch chat, any thought out, nuanced, well-written message is going to scroll faster than Hasan Piker’s still climbing sub count. Using an emote is a much easier way to convey what you are thinking or feeling, and some have become shorthand for very specific sentiments. PogChamp is one of the oldest emotes on the platform, and has become Twitch slang for expressing surprise. It’s an image of Street Fighter player Gootecks, the alias of Ryan Gutierrez, with his head turned to the side, mouth wide open in shock.
Yesterday, Gutierrez tweeted about the insurrection on America’s capital, which he appears to support. He wrote, “Will there be civil unrest for the woman who was executed inside the Capitol today or will the #MAGAMartyr die in vain?” He also shared a video of the woman being shot by recording a broadcast from InfoWars, saying, “Big Brother Twitter wouldn’t let me post the url so if you don’t think big tech censorship is real, there you go.” These are more or less word for word repetitions of right-wing and QAnon conspiracy theories about big tech.
“We’ve made the decision to remove the PogChamp emote following statements from the face of the emote encouraging further violence after what took place in the Capitol today,” Twitch said.
The change or removal of emotes that take on political meanings has previously been fraught. Twitch has already had to grapple with the phenomenon of people spamming the Trihard emote whenever a black person is streaming—the emote depicts Trihex, a black streamer, and over the years people have used it to be implicitly and explicitly racist. Although Twitch hasn’t sorted out what to do about racism in chat, in comparison their response to Gootecks’ tweets were very clear. The emote has been removed, and will be replaced with a different image so that it is not associated with Gootecks.
The issue with having emotes of people’s faces is that when those people do things that are high key treasonous, like encouraging violence in the Capitol, people will no longer want to use that emote anymore. Losing PogChamp is like losing a part of one’s vocabulary on the platform. But just like words that have, over time, taken on political or prejudicial meanings, the emote can be replaced or modified. Soon, Gootecks’ face will feel as antiquated and inappropriate as calling things ghetto.
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