Twitch faces backlash from LGBT+ gamers over PogChamp ‘popularity’ vote: ‘May the best cis white man, win!’

PogChamp Critical Bard

For 35 days, 35 different Twitch streamers have been highlighted as the channel’s popular PogChamp emote, used by viewers in chat to express excitement or shock. But now that’s set to change.

The PogChamp emote originally featured the open-mouthed face of streamer Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez. However, Twitch swiftly removed the emote following Gutierrez’s tweets in January aligning with those who stormed the Capitol in Washington DC.

Instead, they rotated a different streamer each day over the past month to take on the prestigious emote mantle, which has been spammed more than 62 million times in chats across all streams to represent a varied crowd of viewers. 

Later today, Twitch are launching a vote to decide which streamer will become the PogChamp emote permanently in their PogChampening. “You decide what the future of hype looks like,” said Twitch in a tweet.

Rotating the PogChamp emote was a great way to showcase the diversity of streamers on the platform, including Critical Bard, a member of the popular LGBT+ stream team Rainbow Arcade, and Deere, leader of the drag stream team The Stream Queens.

However, these streamers were deluged with racist and homophobic abuse online after being chosen to represent the emote. Critical Bard has since tweeted describing it as “an extremely horrible experience” and that “if ‘Critical Bard’ and ‘P*gChamp’ were never mentioned in the same sentence ever again, I would not shed a single tear.”

In a tweet on the day of their emote, Deere said: “I am grateful to Twitch for allowing me the chance to be visible and to represent not only the queer community alongside Critical Bard yesterday in this program but also to share that the platform is for everyone.”

While the rotation of the emote highlighted a diverse range of streamers, many fear the PogChampening vote is a step backwards as a popularity contest in which streamers from minority communities will lose to the cis white straight men who dominate the platform.

“The PogChamp changing daily to a random streamer is a great idea,” said streamer Jambo in response to Twitch’s tweet. “If doing it every day is too much, change it to once a week, but please PLEASE do not make it a popularity contest and create yet ANOTHER avenue for harassment.”

In another reply, Jeff Brutlag notes: “Also, if one of the marginalised creators wins, what do you plan to do to protect them from harassment?”

Popular Animal Crossing streamer Toph also responded: “*in the tune to the RPDR intro* ‘May the best white man, best white man win.'”

The PogChampening vote will take place today on Twitch’s own channel at 12pm PT.