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May 14, 2018 7:26 PM   Subscribe

A guide to understanding Twitch emotes [Polygon] “To understand every moment of Twitch — every pitfall, every win, every ridiculous play — is to understand the emotes, those instantaneous reactions in the right sidebar. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of emotes being sent over Twitch chat every second, and to someone who’s just ventured in to check out a stream, it can be a little daunting. [...] To get you up to speed, we’ve compiled a list of popular emotes below, with the intention of adding more if any rise in popularity, and updating the explanations if the emotes change in meaning.”

• Mystified by Twitch Chat? Here's What You Need to Know [Rolling Stone]
“It’s incredible how Twitch, ostensibly a platform built for watching other people play video games, has fostered a web-culture completely unique to itself. We all remember our first time watching the chat on a Twitch stream. It leaves a distinct impression. Thousands of cascading all-caps messages flushed out faster than anyone could parse. Dozens of highly specific emotes, memes, copy-pasted mantras, and the occasional cogent sentence carving out space in between the nonsense. Twitch chat is funnier than the YouTube comments, tamer than the bowels of 4chan, more twisted than the bright-eyes of Reddit, and in only a few short years, it's become the definitive language to talk about the games industry.”
• You Likely Never Saw Twitch's 'Most Popular' Emote [Kotaku]
““Fed7,” a squished image of a man saluting in a white T-shirt, was until yesterday the most popular emote on Twitch, according to one analysis. So why is is that most viewers have probably never even seen it? StreamElements, a website that scrapes data from Twitch, said that Fed7 has been used a reported 431 million times over the last three months. That usage rate even surpasses “Kappa,” Twitch’s most iconic emote. With a usage rate that high, the emote should inundate all the top streams and channels, flowing down the Twitch chat garbage river right alongside mainstays like “Kappa,” or “TriHard,” or “PogChamp.” And yet it’s nearly nowhere to be found.”
• What it's like making a living from designing Twitch emotes [PC Gamer]
“This is an uncommon skillset—not everyone has a keen eye for emotional subtlety and a deep love of videogames—and it's exactly what made Henderson one of the most in-demand emote designers on Twitch. For the uninitiated, Twitch emotes are those microscopic chibis you see spammed into the chatbox of pretty much every stream on the platform. The global ones are famous—Pogchamp, Kappa, Trihex—and they've each taken on their own semantic definition within the community. However, if you're a partner on Twitch, you can also dish out custom emotes for the people who put up the five dollars a month to subscribe to your channel, which is one of the primary ways for Twitch streamers to monetize their work. Outside of a few basic rules laid out by the top brass (no profanity, no copyright infringement, a maximum of two Kappa derivatives,) those channel-exclusive emotes can be pretty much anything, and that's opened up a brand new hyper-niche market for artists. ”
• KFC emote leads to another Twitch chat racism mess [VG24/7]
“After a few days it became clear the emote was untenable, and it was quickly removed from the service once again. The fully-branded, pixelated bucket of the Colonel’s Original Recipe was originally added to the service to celebrate a special PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds tournament that was in-part sponsored by KFC. It’s really a smart tie-in thanks to the game’s now-iconic use of the old saying ‘Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner’. It was the perfect match – or at least it was until Twitch chat got hold of it. During the tournament, fans were encouraged to use the emote in order to be in with a chance to win a real chicken dinner from the fast food giant, but pretty quickly it became a tool for racist jokes. It got so bad that, after just a few days, Twitch was forced to remove the KFC emote entirely.”
• The man behind the emoticon: Josh ‘Kappa’ DeSeno on becoming Twitch’s biggest icon [Metro]
“Now aged 34, Josh DeSeno has become a celebrity when he attends the streaming giants annual Twitchcon event, with this past year, his third in a row, having his most bizarre brushes of fame yet. Speaking to Metro GameCentral, Josh said: ‘I noticed this year there’s been a slight change where people are more likely to stare instead of come up and introduce themselves. I think it has to do with the size of the convention changing. ‘It’s the one time of year where I get to be like a celebrity for a couple of days. Or at least get a taste of what that might feel like. A lot of people come up and ask for selfies and introduce themselves. I’m a lot older than the photo so I’m not always recognised right away, but once someone does usually a group will form.’ The original photo was taken around ‘six or seven years ago’ when Josh worked for Justin.tv; the original company which spawned Twitch following the success of its gaming streams.”
posted by Fizz (29 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
First link NSFW for any workplace that might be uncomfortable with a fullscreen pepe the frog (Sorry Matt Furie)

Personally for Twitch viewing I recommend clicking the little arrow next to the chatbox that makes it go away entirely. On smaller streams it's nice to keep the streamer company or whatever but on larger streams or live events save yourself another look into the void.
posted by JauntyFedora at 7:37 PM on May 14 [4 favorites]


Twitch is one of my perma-open tabs on the old home PC -- mostly for smaller streams (i.e. with actually readable chats) -- and I haven't heard of a good half of these. I'm guessing they're a bit more game-specific/scene-specific than some folks might think?
posted by inconstant at 8:05 PM on May 14


Twitch removing a KFC chicken dinner bucket instead of banning racists kinda tells you all you need to know about "gamer culture."

I love Twitch, I love games, I love people who play games and I watch Twitch, but "gamers" suck, and the "culture" sucks more.
posted by explosion at 8:18 PM on May 14 [18 favorites]


Yeah, Gamer Culture online has always been "stop using that specific racist term" and never "stop saying racist things"
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:39 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]


Well, I am no Gamer by any definition, but I watch Twitch more than almost any other video source. They had channels for the Cosmos, Bob Ross and Mister Rogers marathons, Shout Factory has a channel where they stream their latest acquisitions (most recently Home Movies and an Ultraman spin-off) and the ex-MSTists at RiffTrax have a channel running their 'riffed' videos 24/7. It's also used by a lot of webcomics artists for 'live drawing' (picking up the baton from Bob Ross, I guess). Some of them I don't even like the content of their comics but get a kick out of watching the process. Then there's one gamey MeFite I follow but I haven't watched more than 2 minutes of one of his streams in months.

Twitch is not just for games anymore.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:44 PM on May 14 [10 favorites]


Also, no, don't fucking use Pepe, jesus christ on a popsicle stick, not even "in context". Fuck.
posted by Scattercat at 12:07 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]


Yes, if you want to use a frog as a positive symbol, go with Kermit.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:32 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Yes, if you want to use a frog as a positive symbol, go with Kermit.

In any sort of gamer-adjacent context, I will read that as a stealth reference to pepe and give you appropriate side-eye as a result. Frogs are just fucking poison at this point.
posted by Dysk at 4:01 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


Also:

Twitch chat is funnier than the YouTube comments, tamer than the bowels of 4chan,

I guess it might be funnier than YouTube comments (which is a fucking weird thing to say - it's funnier than dying of cancer too, which is about where I'd put youtube comments, but that tells you little to nothing) but it sure as shit isn't much tamer than 4chan in my experience...
posted by Dysk at 4:05 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


Frogs are just fucking poison at this point.

BibleThump
posted by sfenders at 4:29 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


I feel pretty clueless after reading the first article. Are emotes the words themselves or the faces? The faces somehow appear in the stream chat? I even loaded up a popular stream to try and figure this out (I think the only time I used Twitch before was to watch a chess game and as a backend for DnD Beyond) and was not enlightened - typing "kappa" in the chat window emote search didn't really do anything and I didn't see any of these. Oh well...
posted by exogenous at 4:39 AM on May 15


Twitch is not just for games anymore.

I'm planning on making Twitch a big part of my focus for media studies and pop culture study going forward for precisely this reason - it has become one of the most important platforms for this particular subset of culture (video games, 90s nostalgia, D&D). Everything from chess (as exogenous mentions), M:tG, D&D, to Power Rangers, Bob Ross, MST3K, and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, to eSports events that rival some traditional sports in audience size has utilized Twitch in some way.

That said, I'd never want a live look at the constant thoughts of everyone in a basketball arena when watching LeBron James, because I've heard enough being around fans to know that's a very bad time. I cherish the chat experiences I have for the streamers I watch (barbMiku), but once the audience climbs above 300 people, it's more toxic than affirming.
posted by benluttrull at 5:48 AM on May 15


Poison dart frogs are poison, sure.

exogenous, the words are codes that you type in the Twitch chatbox in order to have the faces show up. They are case-sensitive, so just typing "kappa" lowercase wouldn't work.
posted by inconstant at 6:09 AM on May 15


Ah, thanks - that works!
posted by exogenous at 6:15 AM on May 15


A couple weeks ago Polygon announced that they were moving some of their live streams to Twitch. I think it was partly because that's where the balance of livestream attention is going these days, but the publicly stated reason, iirc, was that there's apparently a bug (or counterproductive design decision) in YouTube in which subscribers lose notifications about livestreams in the channels they're subscribed to, and the only way to restore it is to unfollow the channel and re-subscribe.

So basically Polygon was losing subscribers with every livestream they did; even if they immediately re-sub so that the overall subscriber base doesn't slide, the net result is a statistical rise in churn and drop in retention. It's SEO poison and looks unforgivable to the corporate number crunchers who decide whether an arm of their media conglomerate lives or dies. Moving to Twitch was, among other things, a survival strategy.
posted by ardgedee at 6:43 AM on May 15


Yup, I have nothing to do with gaming, but it's hard to describe the joy I felt when seeing the fish icons every time Mr. Rogers fed his fish.
posted by Melismata at 7:49 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]


That first link is amazingly detailed. Worth reading the description of TriHard for the racist appropriation and attempt to reclaim it. It's a lot less abstract than Pepe the Frog when a well known African American streamer's face becomes co-opted by racists.

What I find so difficult about Twitch live chat is the speed of it. It's literally hundreds of messages a second in a popular stream. It stops being meaningful textual communication and becomes a river of noise. Small wonder that images with constant repetition like Kappa become the communication of choice and with relatively subtle and complex meanings.
posted by Nelson at 7:54 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]


Small wonder that images with constant repetition like Kappa become the communication of choice and with relatively subtle and complex meanings.

Indeed. It's also one reason why I mostly hunt out streams that have 10-20 viewers at any time. I sometimes hunt for even fewer, trying to find a small time streamer who only has 5 people watching. This is where you can have interesting engagement and conversation with the person playing/streaming. It cuts out all the noise.

Don't get me wrong, there's something exciting about watching along with 10,000+ other people (that we're all sharing this amazing video game), but it's also like you say, just a river of madness and that's not the ideal way to interact on twitch, at least for me.
posted by Fizz at 8:42 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]


I guess I'm old school, I hate that emote thing, especially how it turns regular ol' ":D" into another one of these damn pictures. Thankfully, the (small) channels I watch are very light on emotes.

In general, the thing I dislike the most about Twitch is the... complexity? There's these emotes, a weird system of donating to streamers that involves selling your soul to Jeff Bezos (and it's called "subscription" because that word is totally not a synonym of "following"), I recently learned that Twitch even has private messages for some reason.
posted by floatboth at 9:41 AM on May 15


The firehose of spammed images in response to certain things happening kinda reminds me of football chants.
posted by lucidium at 9:44 AM on May 15


ardgedee: "So basically Polygon was losing subscribers with every livestream they did; even if they immediately re-sub so that the overall subscriber base doesn't slide, the net result is a statistical rise in churn and drop in retention. It's SEO poison and looks unforgivable to the corporate number crunchers who decide whether an arm of their media conglomerate lives or dies. Moving to Twitch was, among other things, a survival strategy."

It's amazing to me that Youtube is so fucking bad that Twitch looks like a strategic genius in comparison, when Twitch has been both internally and externally in turmoil for the past few years (based on personal conversations with employees and following the company as an industry person and as a huge fan).

Anyways, the linked article from Polygon about the trihard emote and qxc toxicity is really well written. They interviewed trihex (who is the face of the emote), deejayknight and forte (who are all black twitch personalities with personal experiences) and got really good perspectives, and most importantly didn't let qxc off the hook.

explosion: "Twitch removing a KFC chicken dinner bucket instead of banning racists kinda tells you all you need to know about "gamer culture.""

I'm not unsympathetic to this point of view, but it is a little reductive--there aren't super active twitch admins or IRCops that move cross channel for moderation, instead relying on channel owners to moderate chat. You can file a user report to the admins to get someone banned for harassment, but I've never heard of that or used it and I assume that the admins intend for that to be used to catch process-evaders (ban evasion, spamming accounts) instead of "policing content".

However, channel owners are broadly in a much better position to dictate the bounds of their chat. On most streams that I watch, there are a collection of volunteer watcher/mods as well as the twitch-provided automod bot. In fact, one of the reasons that the streams aren't just endless streams of curse words is that there is automated moderation. Which is all to say that individual streams often end up being quite good.

I think that the peculiarity of having to remove the kfc bucket was due to a lot of factors, not the least of which is that twitch users are an ironic people and if you give them a corporate or "inorganic" emote, they will avoid using it for the intended purpose as much as they can. It could not have been redeemed, so the only thing that made sense was to pull it.

Anyways, it's all to say that while gamers are terrible, I generally like the moderation quality of twitch. It's very imperfect, but I feel like it's going the right way.
posted by TypographicalError at 10:24 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]


There is one frog-related thing on Twitch that's wholesome, and those are references to Geguri. She's the only woman player in Overwatch League, she's on a team with a record-breaking losing streak, and for a while she was basically learning English from Twitch chat, specifically xQc's channel, which was worrying but now it looks like her Discord has taken that role, so that's good.

Trying to watch OWL games on Twitch is a good reason to turn off chat, unless you get the All-Access pass -- since it costs a bit to access, there's fewer people and it's actually moderated and scrolls by at a reasonable pace. I still feel like Steve Buscemi "How do you do, fellow kids"ing it up while watching but it's greatly improved from the main channel.
posted by rewil at 10:58 AM on May 15


I've watched a bit of twitch, but I never understood how it is possible to read any of the chat when any new messages scroll out of view in what seems like microseconds, it's impossible to parse. Can anyone more into twitch chat explain how that works? I've definitely seen complaints by viewers that "chat is dead" as a negative reference to a streamer's channel, but to me any non-"dead" chat just scrolls way too quickly to read at all.
posted by LtRegBarclay at 2:44 AM on May 16


LtRegBarclay, there's plenty of space between "chat is dead" vs. "too fast to read" -- at least, for me "chat is dead" would imply very little talk indeed, with no messages or multiple minutes at minimum between every message. So it's possible that the complainers would consider a chatroomlike seconds-or-minutes between bursts of more tightly clustered messages to be "chat is dead", but that seems both alive and readable to me. At any rate I don't see people complaining about the latter -- though I admit it could be a matter of politeness, or different community expectations, or some other such thing.

So for scale/reference, my personal "difficult to read" starts at the chat rate of some kind of final event being hosted by GDQ Hotfix (not a dozen messages every second but still difficult to carry on a thread of conversation). This random tournament qualifier being commentated/hosted by a non-official community member rates at "sedate but not dead" for me. And maybe that's way off from the expectations of the people you have interacted with in the past, but it works for me.

A stream with the really blistering amounts of chat spam, I don't think people are really reading it so much as they are getting a general impression of the "football chant" and maybe picking out a line here or there. That's uninteresting to me as well.
posted by inconstant at 6:30 AM on May 16


I think scrolling down the Polygon article then suddenly coming to like seven Pepes in a row has confirmed my desire to never go on Twitch, ever. Shit.
posted by egypturnash at 10:00 AM on May 16


I am SO glad the Star Wars Battlefront 2 streamer I follow decided to stay with YouTube. ::shudder::
posted by dorkydancer at 12:00 PM on May 16


"It’s incredible how Twitch, ostensibly a platform built for watching other people play video games, has fostered a web-culture completely unique to itself."

I'll never consider Twitch just to be a videogame thing, hell, I have to remind myself it's not technically justin.tv anymore. Justin.tv was incredible, shame that all had to go out the window as they went corporate, but the community aspect of it seemed like a no-brainer.

"I've watched a bit of twitch, but I never understood how it is possible to read any of the chat when any new messages scroll out of view in what seems like microseconds, it's impossible to parse. Can anyone more into twitch chat explain how that works? I've definitely seen complaints by viewers that "chat is dead" as a negative reference to a streamer's channel, but to me any non-"dead" chat just scrolls way too quickly to read at all."

You're not meant to read all of chat anymore than you're meant to listen to what everyone is a stadium is yelling or cheering or screaming. Twitch chat is an audience, not an actual chatroom. You don't have conversations there so much as you cheer, and jeer. If you want to communicate anything, you need a crowd of other folks chanting along with you.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:21 PM on May 17


So there's some Twitch chat meme among Taiwanese LoL fans, spamming "77777777". And the explanation is hilarious:
China audience spam "66666" in chats whenever a "smooth" play is executed. The chinese word for smooth is "溜" which sounds similar to the Chinese word for 6. As Taiwanese audience don't want to spam the same thing as the Chinese audience. They spam "77777" instead but essentially meaning the same thing. Why "7"? Because 7 is a bigger number than 6.
posted by Nelson at 7:38 AM on May 19


Hah, before the explanation I assumed it was a new laugh/giggle onomatopoeia (i.e. qiqiqiq is like xixixi). I'll have to ask about that one.
posted by inconstant at 5:40 PM on May 19


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