Imagine that, out of the blue, you tried using a specific word or phrase but, for some reason, the word’s meaning didn’t work anymore. It’s kind of like if the phrase “holy crap” or some exclamation just couldn’t express the emotion you were feeling anymore. The word or phrase just feels empty and, slowly but surely, you just stop using it because, well, it’s just not useful anymore.
This kind of happened in the realm of Twitch recently as they removed one of the most popular emotes in their library. Yes, I’m talking about Twitch removing the iconic PogChamp emote. This may not seem like incredibly impactful news. In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t. The world has bigger problems than an emote being wiped out of existence on the Twitch platform. However, I do have to say, Twitch, I don’t like it.
I guess I do have to explain what PogChamp is to the uninitiated to give a little background as to why Twitch removing wasn’t a good idea, in my opinion. So, Twitch is basically a live video streaming channel that anyone, especially ordinary people like you or me, could broadcast stuff. It originally was a spinoff of another streaming service but, while the original service focused on day-to-day stuff, Twitch primarily focused on gaming and soon eclipsed whatever the other service was called. In fact, the original service was absorbed by Twitch and, today, Twitch not only broadcast video game streams but other stuff like painting, cooking, programming and even people just streaming their day-to-day activities. It went full circle, in a sense.
Anyway, Twitch allows viewers to kind of interact with the content creator via the chat feature. Viewers can simply type in the chat feature, allowing them to interact with the content creator spontaneously and other viewers from all over the world. You can communicate with boring old words, of course, but Twitch does give you emotes. I like to believe Twitch pioneered using emoticons before anyone else. I’m probably most definitely wrong but Twitch was the first place I fully experienced people using (and flooding the chat) with emotes.
There are a variety of emotes and, to someone who hasn’t seen them before, it may seem like gibberish. However, like you see in other chat software, each emote have developed a specific meaning to the people on Twitch. An emote like Kappa might signify someone trying to troll someone or denote sarcasm. ResidentSleeper means whatever is happening on the stream is boring (or it’s very late in the evening?). Kreygasm is to display intense “happiness” regarding whatever is happening at the moment.
One of the most popular Twitch emotes was PogChamp. PogChamp features an image of a man with a weird shocked look on his face. The emote is supposed to signify something amazing or, conversely, sarcastically state how lacking of hype the stream is. Like a lot of emotes, there is a man behind the emote. The man is Ryan Gutierrez, a very popular figure in the fighting game community. Like most gamers, he’s more widely known as his gamertag, Gootecks. He made the surprised face as part of a blooper reel and it instantly became an icon unto itself. It not only burst through the fighting game community but the general video game lexicon. That’s how popular it was!
However, the man behind PogChamp did prove to be the reason for the emote’s demise… but was it really?
Now, I have to be careful here as I elaborate on the events which led to Twitch removing PogChamp as this is a very touchy subject. I will try to write it up as factual and without any color behind my words as to not cause any issues. With that warning out of the way, let me take a deep breath and try to explain the backstory of the emote being deleted…
On the 6th of January of 2021 (I’m putting the date just in case people from the future are reading this so they can look it up), the United States House of Representatives were meeting at the Capitol building to formalize the results of the 2020 United States elections for the presidency. A crowd, who disagreed with the results, forcefully entered the building and, in the process, one of the demonstrators was shot by security and was caught on video. The video of the shooting spread through various social media outlets. Gootecks, via Twitter stating that the woman died a “martyr” while also forwarding the video.
This did not go over well for a lot of the Twitch community. Some immediately called on Twitch to ban the PogChamp emote because PogChamp uses Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez’s face. Twitch did eventually delete the original PogChamp and have decided to cycle through other possible faces to replace Gooteck’s shocked face. Still, the original PogChamp emote is now officially dead and buried.
Okay, I understand why Twitch is removing the original PogChamp emote. There are people who are upset by it now because they are upset with Gootecks, the face of PogChamp. They didn’t want the chat to be focused on who PogChamp is and connecting the emote to his opinions. They wanted Gootecks “cancelled” and Twitch went on board. They didn’t want to be associated with Ryan Gutierrez’s mug in any way so they removed PogChamp.
While I get the reasoning behind the decision, I simply don’t agree with it. It’s not because I’m board with Gooteck’s opinion (I’m generally a neutral party here and I’m okay with people saying things I like or don’t necessarily agree with). It’s also not because I am a fan of the man (which I generally am) as he did bring me hours of entertainment during his stint as a member of the fighting game community. No, it’s because PogChamp has become so much more than Gooteck’s shocked expression. It’s become much bigger than the man behind the face. It’s a part of the language people use and it’s been reclaimed by the general gaming community to mean something else.
Let’s take the words “geek” and “nerd” as an example. Both words were used as a way to insult people, generally the more introverted and studious individual. It was used as a way to demean a person. Nowadays, people are proud to call themselves either a “geek” or an “nerd” and they even wear it as a badge of honor. It can still be used as an insult but, because both words have gained acceptance from the very communities it was supposed to antagonize, both words don’t really sting in the way the one throwing the insult may think. Basically, both “geek” and “nerd” now has a different meaning from its original use.
The same thing does sort of apply to PogChamp. When someone enters PogChamp, it’s simply shorthand for a statement of excitement. It’s supposed to show hype. It denotes actual surprise. You could type in “wow” or something along those lines in Twitch but, because the emote has been used for such a long time, PogChamp seems to get the point across much better and more succinctly.
Moreover, PogChamp has started to evolve into the mainstream. A few months ago, a meme called “My Little PogChamp” started to make its way through a variety of social media platforms. It shows the girl for Kill La Kill beckoning someone for an embrace while calling that person her “little pogchamp.” Now, My Little PogChamp isn’t technically the proper use of PogChamp as its supposed to express hype, not used as a pet name for someone. Now, even if you didn’t know the backstory of PogChamp, you still understand the idea behind what My Little PogChamp is supposed to connotate.
Basically, PogChamp, in its current use, doesn’t have anything to do with Gootecks anymore. It’s an expression and a way to convey a variety of emotions or even just as a plain ol’ cute name. Twitch thinks it’s deleting the image of a person that people may hate but, honestly, they’re actually limit the vocabulary of Twitch users. People put in PogChamp because it’s the best way to convey a specific feeling on a situation and not because they just want to spam Ryan Gutierrez’s goofy shocked mug. Of course, Twitch can do whatever it wants. It is a company after all so they have the right to control whatever people put on their service. It still doesn’t seem right, does it?
Twitch is trying to find the perfect replacement for PogChamp but, right now, they just haven’t been able to find the right image. The original PogChamp actually perfectly encapsulates the meaning of hype and it’ll be impossible to find the perfect face that captures that specific feeling. Frankly speaking, I don’t think they ever will.
What are your thoughts on Twitch getting rid of the original PogChamp? Let me know in the comments section below!