Last week the streaming platform Twitch announced that they will be implementing a new version of their popular PogChamp emote of over 8 years. This is a direct result of the platform removing the original face of the emote who was Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez, after he tweeted support for the insurgents who stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. The new version idea was based on a suggestion from Twitter. The idea that Twitch decided to implement is a feature that will have a rotating new PogChamp for 24 hours for the rest of the year calling it “PogChamp of the Day”. This will give huge exposure to a diverse range of streamers across their platform. Now this all sounds like a great idea, right? Remove the past problematic PogChamp and replace it with fresh new faces each and every day? However, things have not been going as smoothly as you would think.
The PogChamp emote is one of the most used and popular emotes on the streaming platform. And when Twitch announced the changes to remove the original and to allow new streamers the opportunity to be highlighted, it was met with many positive comments. Users liked the idea of giving opportunity to lesser-known streamers and highlighting creators of all different races, genders and styles. The concept itself was designed to really showcase how diverse the streamers are on Twitch and to celebrate it. However, some users began to mention that the platform has a lack of protecting streamers from other users entering and harassing them continuously without much consequences. Especially those who are from marginalized groups, they seem to be targeted and receive the worst part of the “internet trolling”. Twitch has been criticized many times before for not being supportive and aiding individuals who experience toxic behaviour within streaming but has always maintained the fact they are listening to people’s concerns.
But, there are a ton of upsides to being the “PogChamp of the Day” for a streamer and it definitely is something to be celebrated. Twitch’s social media platforms with over 7.8 million followers would be sharing your handles and encouraging people to follow and visit your stream. This exposure alone is a huge opportunity for someone to not only build their stream but their personal brand as well. In addition, the pride that can come with having been validated by the service that you use and being nominated by your followers as the PogChamp. While, some comments are to be expected with users voicing their opinions, some streamers are receiving extreme hate campaigns and comments from internet trolls. And this goes beyond your typical trolling with some users receiving death threats and constant racist or sexual remarks.
It seems that marginalized streamers are receiving the most backlash and this is nothing new to Twitch unfortunately. Marginalized streamers who have become the PogChamp such as CriticalBard and DEERE were met with extreme toxic behaviour simply for being themselves. The problem lies with Twitch despite saying that they will take action and support those who received such hate and harassment, it seems that they are not doing enough. While every streamer knows ahead of time of becoming the PogChamp and can prepare by having multiple mods on stand-by, the lack of real consequences from the platform does not seem to deter those from creating multiple accounts or sending death threats. And this is where the real issue lies. Stricter rules and a more active security plan would be extremely beneficial so that streamers feel more supported and safer while using the platform. This will not solve all the issues as it cannot be perfect, but the harassment that marginalized users receive needs to be better dealt with.
However, people started to speak out, popular streamers and fans went to social media to express the concern for streamers and bring attention that marginalized streamers are receiving an extreme amount of hate. They called on Twitch to do something about it. And Twitch listened by releasing a statement early this week in direct response that says that “creators and fans of all backgrounds” and “hateful content and harassment…have no place on Twitch, social media, or anywhere else.” Recently, Twitch has developed new striker policies when it comes to racist and sexual remarks. So, it appears that speaking out has done something but there is still a lot of work to be done so users need to continue to bring attention to these issues.
Imagine the rush of emotions the day of becoming the “PogChamp of the Day”, the excitement of having new people visit your stream and get to know you. But then to be met with constant notifications about your gender, color of your skin and death threats. While for some it was a fairly positive experience, while others were met with harassment. While the intentions were good on Twitch’s behalf to promote streamers from every race, sexual orientation and experience, it needed to be done when Twitch had the right measures to support all streamers. Hopefully the recent cry for more support from Twitch, results in making the platform a safe environment but only time will tell.