Twitch’s plan to replace its problematic Pogchamp emote with a rotating cast of fresh faces? Pretty poggers. Twitch’s execution of said plan? Not poggers. Today’s Pogchamp? Also not poggers, because instead, it’s KomodoHype, a meme with some Pogchamp history.
The thing about minefields is, you don’t generally realize exactly how much you’re going to regret stepping in one until after you’ve already blown your face off. So it’s been with Twitch’s Pogchamp replacement program: Initially, it seemed like a neat way to recognize various pillars of the Twitch community, but then, inevitably, streamers started getting harassed. Today, Twitch is doing something a little different: If you try to use Pogchamp in Twitch chat, instead of a streamer’s face, you get a different, preexisting global Twitch emote called KomodoHype. It’s a lizard making the excited/surprised Pogchamp face—an apt replacement.
But like so many other elements of Twitch, this emote has history. Meme history. KomodoHype has been around for more than half a decade, and one of the longer-running jokes surrounding it imagines a war between supporters of Pogchamp and supporters of KomodoHype, since the two emotes more or less accomplish the same thing.
Members of the Twitch community were meme-ing KomodoHype before deposed Pogchamp patriarch Ryan “Gootecks’’ Gutierrez fell down the conspiracy hole, so of course, when Twitch announced that it’d be giving Gutierrez’s face the boot, many Twitch users suggested replacing it with KomodoHype. If recent usage statistics (via Dot Esports) are anything to go on, a great many also started using it instead of Pogchamp. But nobody thought it was actually going to replace Pogchamp.
Now Twitch users are greeting KomodoHype’s total domination with cheers of “We won!” Some are even going so far as to call for KomodoHype to permanently take Pogchamp’s place. As a long-term solution, this makes sense. After all, a probably-photoshopped lizard cannot pull a milkshake duck or get bombarded with harassment. It’s about as uncontroversial as you can get.
But it does say something about where Twitch is at, as both a platform and a culture. While some Twitch users want the daily Pogchamp roulette to go away because they’re tired of seeing streamers get harassed, others have pushed back against Twitch’s decision to spotlight lesser-known streamers—specifically ones that are people of color or queer—because they believe it to be obligatory representation rather than a true reflection of Twitch. To them, KomodoHype’s day in the sun is a triumph for “real” Twitch culture, which just so happens to be a product of older, less diverse communities. KomodoHype is not intrinsically racist, nor are its supporters, but a portion of the reaction to it reveals an underlying tension that Twitch has yet to address—the same tension that resulted in streamers getting harassed to begin with. Twitch, a company that badly wants to be perceived as progressive, does not know how to speak to the edgier elements of its community that helped popularize it in the first place, so it neither directly condemns nor embraces them. It just pretends like they don’t exist.
But while anything could happen in the future, today’s KomodoHype hype will only last 24 hours. A Twitch spokesperson told Kotaku in an email that “there will be a new Pogchamp tomorrow.” So for now, it looks like memes will remain dreams.