Who is Joel? The chat meme taking over The International

By Kenneth Williams


Oct 23, 2023

Reading time: 2 min

Dota 2 fans tuning in to watch The International 2023 may be surprised and confused by the chat’s celebration of someone, or something, named Joel.

The International always brings a new meta, new builds, and new memes for the Dota 2 community to enjoy. TI 2023 is no exception, and the chat memes are heating up in preparation for the final weekend. Between sarcastic questions about Shopify Rebellion and fake player biographies, viewers may have noticed a mysterious figure named Joel being celebrated in chat.

Joel is a BetterTTV emote that depicts a spinning fish. It was created by user Anibally in March of 2023. The fish itself appears to be a low-poly catfish, with small but visible whiskers. The animated emote depicts Joel, which is assumedly the fish’s name, spinning in a circle.

The large size of the emote combined with its absurdity has made Joel a popular subject of spam in both The International chat and many other streamers, notably Ryan “Northernlion” Letourneau.

Joel emote banned at The International

The only way to see the actual Joel emote is to have the BetterTTV extension added to your browser, which allows users to create their own custom emotes on the platform. Without it, viewers just see the word “Joel.” This has led to mass confusion in chat, with mobile viewers especially estranged.

It seems Valve itself had enough of the spinning fish and decided to take action.

Joel emote banned from The International chat after spam

On October 22, 2023 during the final games before top eight of The International, the streamrunners decided to ban the Joel fish emote from chat. This has led to an arms race between Dota 2 fans and chat mods.

Shortly after the ban, the Joel spam has been replaced with several similar emotes of spinning fish. The most popular shows a skeletonized version of Joel calling for his reinstatement. It’s still not clear exactly why Dota 2 fans started spamming Joel in the first place, but they clearly want him back after the ban.