Rotating PogChamp emote on Twitch causes lots of controversy

Olivia Richman • January 13, 06:50

Twitch was planning to replace the PogChamp emote with a new face from the streaming community every day for the rest of 2021. But that experiment might not make it that far. Like almost everything on Twitch, the rotating PogChamp emote has become a source of drama, often targeted at the individuals featured as the emote that day. 

The PogChamp emote was recently removed because it was based on Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez’s face. The gamer had recently used Twitter to seemingly support riotous violence at Capitol Hill. The community responded with general support for Twitch’s decision, with many viewers promoting their favorite streamers as the potential new face of the PogChamp emote. 

This led Twitch to announce that they wanted the “sentiment and use of Pog to live on” in a January 6 tweet. The solution? Use a different streamer’s face for the PogChamp emote every 24 hours. This was positively received at first, but some recent content creators have started to get harassment after they were announced as the emote of the day. 

CriticalBard faces racism, harassment after being chosen as PogChamp emote

Actor and vocalist Omega Jones, known as CriticalBard on Twitch, was the PogChamp on January 11. CriticalBard stated that he received “a lot of hurtful messages and death threats” in response to the announcement. 

“I did prep my Twitch and Discord moderators about what was probably going to happen, considering I’m a black man who is about to be the face of a global emote Twitch has loved for so long,” CriticalBard told Polygon. 

The harassment CriticalBard received appeared to be based on a comment the streamer made during a recent live broadcast. He had been discussing the difference between Black Lives Matter and saying “white lives matter.” People started taking one of his quotes, that “white lives don’t matter,” out of its original context. The statement was originally from CriticalBard explaining how being proud to be white is not the same as being proud to be black. 

“Black folk have to say Black Lives Matter because we were stolen from a country, […] stripped of our heritage and our identities. All we know is our blackness. There’s a difference,” CriticalBard said to his viewers. 

Not everyone was convinced by the response. Some took to Twitter to accuse Twitch of “reverse racism.” They explained that CriticalBard was allowed to be “racist to white people” while Twitch had banned Gootecks’ emote after he was accused of being racist. 

Harassment and drama defines Twitch’s PogChamp plan

While the harassment over becoming the new PogChamp was expected, it seemed that CriticalBard’s biggest issue was Twitch’s lack of action in response to the situation. CriticalBard felt that Twitch could have done more to stop a lot of the harassment by banning people who “fueled the flames.” 

The streaming community supported CriticalBard at large, agreeing with the sentiment that Twitch should have been more proactive in anticipating the response. While the concept of a constantly changing PogChamp is fun in theory, many people on Twitch believe that the streaming platform should have thought more about how it would bring attention to chosen content creators. 

The next day, Twitch announced drag queen Deere as its new PogChamp inspiration.  

Homophobia and transphobia flooded the replies on Twitter, with many people demanding the return of Gootecks instead. Others called the new emote “trash,” while still others said that the PogChamp emotes were getting “worse and worse” by the day.

Twitter users quickly pointed out that Twitch wasn’t doing enough to stop the ensuing harassment and wasn’t allowing the PogChamp streamers to properly protect themselves from the incoming bullying. While some people replied that the streamers should get “thicker skin,” others have called on Twitch to address the harassment caused by the platform’s attempt at being inclusive.

What most everyone can agree on is that Twitch’s decision to rotate the face of PogChamp has created more drama for everyone involved.

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