One of the oldest and most popular global emotes on Twitch has been removed from the service after Twitch said “the face of the emote encourag[ed] further violence after what took place in the Capitol [Wednesday].”
That face belongs to Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez, a longtime Street Fighter pro and commentator. Since 2012 and until yesterday, Gutierrez had been immortalized on Twitch in the form of the “PogChamp” chat emote (short for “player of games champ”), which portrayed an exaggerated excited face he first made in a 2010 video.
Twitch’s decision to remove the emote (one of its custom chatroom emojis) seems focused on a series of tweets Gutierrez made Wednesday afternoon, expressing sympathy for the “#MAGAMartyr” shot during the violent Pro-Trump mob invasion of the US Capitol Wednesday. Gutierrez went on to ask if her death would lead to “civil unrest” or if she would “die in vain.” In the hours before Twitch’s decision, a number of people in and around the Twitch community had begun to call attention to Gutierrez’s tweets and/or suggest the emote be removed or replaced.
In 2018, Twitch rolled out a new harassment policy that began considering “verifiable hateful or harassing conduct that takes place off-Twitch” in its moderation decisions.
“We want the sentiment and use of Pog to live on—its meaning is much bigger than the person depicted or image itself—and it has a big place in Twitch culture,” Twitch said as part of its tweeted statement. “However, we can’t in good conscience continue to enable use of the image. We will work with the community to design a new emote for the most hype moments on Twitch.”
Twitch viewers used the PogChamp emote roughly 2 million times a day, according to stats from TwitchEmote.com, and it was the fifth most popular on the entire site, according to StreamElements. The meme behind the emotes has evolved to the point where just saying “poggers” or “pog” on a stream or chat can express the same enthusiasm or surprise, to the point that even Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has attempted to use it.
As recently as 2018, Twitch partnered with Gutierrez to promote a paid, custom animated “cheermote” of the PogChamp image. That promotion included a video where Gutierrez joked about a “strong legal team” creating the cheermote as an alternative to “suing each and every one of you for copyright infringement.”
In 2016, Gutierrez told a Reddit AMA that being the face of the emote “doesn’t feel like anything because it’s not something that I engineered, did on purpose, or even said ‘okay’ to.”
Until Twitch decides on a new PogChamp emote, there are plenty of people on social media making highly entertaining suggestions for the best available astounded facial expression.