Our guide to knowing your Kappa from your LUL
Our guide to knowing your Kappa from your LUL
It’s incredible how Twitch, ostensibly a platform built for watching other people play video games, has fostered a web-culture completely unique to itself. We all remember our first time watching the chat on a Twitch stream. It leaves a distinct impression. Thousands of cascading all-caps messages flushed out faster than anyone could parse. Dozens of highly specific emotes, memes, copy-pasted mantras, and the occasional cogent sentence carving out space in between the nonsense. Twitch chat is funnier than the YouTube comments, tamer than the bowels of 4chan, more twisted than the bright-eyes of Reddit, and in only a few short years, it's become the definitive language to talk about the games industry.
Of course, all that cached cultural knowledge can make Twitch chat difficult to parse for the layman, so we went ahead and wrote a quick glossary that will clue you in on some of the more common things you’ll see scrolling through the feed. If nothing else, it should at least reveal the method to Twitch chat’s madness. Yes it is loud and silly, but it can make sense if you know what you’re looking for.
Kappa – The Kappa is a black-and-white emoticon that borrows the face of one Josh DeSeno. It's also the most iconic Twitch meme of all time. DeSeno was an engineer working on the Twitch chat client back when it was called Justin.TV, and his face (along with a number of other employees) were added as "emotes" – essentially the Twitch stand-in for the smiley faces you'd use on AIM or Facebook Messenger. That smug Mona Lisa smile across DeSeno’s face quickly became an international symbol of trolling, and today the Kappa is practically used as a sarcasm-flagging asterisk. "Great play. Kappa." It’s a simple joke, but Kappa is probably the closest a piece of Twitch jargon has come to entering the mainstream vocabulary. Maybe we’ll hear our parents saying it someday.
(Also it’s important to remember that Twitch emotes are weird, in that you actually have to type out their name in chat to summon them. There’s not like, a drop-down menu where you double click on a Kappa. So, the actual word “Kappa” has entered the lexicon along with its corresponding image, which is unique to Twitch, because you certainly wouldn’t ever say "thinking face emoji" outlaid.)
NA – Originally an abbreviation for “North America,” NA was reinvented as a multipurpose prefix used for goofing on a bad play. It’s a trend that started in the League of Legends pro scene, where American players are routinely outclassed by their European and Korean counterparts. There is simply no better way to deride a botched escape plan quite like “NA flash.” Today the term has grown out of League of Legends into a ton of other Twitch-popular games, and it’s now used to describe players who aren’t necessarily from North America. For instance, if you watch professional Counter-Strike this weekend, you’re probably gonna see a few "NA grenades."
ResidentSleeper – Like Kappa, ResidentSleeper is a Twitch emote that went viral. But unlike Kappa, this one has a far more auspicious origin story. In 2012 Twitch streamer Oddler attempted a live 72-hour Resident Evil marathon for some reason. Unsurprisingly, he passed out during the final stretch. It was hilarious. Just a guy taking a well-needed nap in his office chair while beaming out a pause screen to thousands of viewers. It was a legendary moment in the early era of Twitch, so the braintrust decided to immortalize Oddler's catatonic, passed-out face as an emote. Today it’s mostly used to express boredom or fatigue. You might see ResidentSleepers fill the chat box when a Hearthstone developer unveils an uninspiring card, or when the Evo finals boil down to an Akuma mirror match.
Copypasta – If you've spent any time in a rowdy Twitch stream, you’ve undoubtedly witnessed a bunch of usernames spamming the same paragraph-length blast of text in the chat box over and over again. This is one of the more dadaist impulses of Twitch culture. It’s called "copypasta" – someone writes a gag that roasts the game/streamer/player-character in question, and a personal army works their control-C/control-V muscles until the mods catch up. Copypasta is crucial to Twitch’s distinctive look, it’s the reason the feed is so verbose and moves so fast. Currently, there’s copypasta going around that starts with “remember a time when copypasta was biting satire and prophetic indictments of contemporary Twitch chat?” It’s nonsense, and that’s kind of the point. Oh, and if you’re wondering, I have absolutely no idea why anyone would spend hours of their day spamming Twitch. Kids are weird.
BibleThump – BibleThump is a Twitch emote that features the tiny pink sprite of Isaac, from the classic roguelike The Binding of Isaac. It’s basically the Twitch community’s go-to emote for expressing sadness, heartbreak, melancholy, or just an unshakable feeling of love and distance. I have seen it spammed as Hearthstone streamer Eloise sang Final Fantasy songs, and when a spell card named “Meteor” was cast on a minion card called “Ultrasaur.” Yes, even in the dregs of Twitch chat, sometimes you need to cry.
PJSalt – Salt is the gamer equivalent of tilt. If you don’t know what "tilt" means, it’s essentially when a poker pro has a bad run of cards and lets their frustrations affect quality of their play. You know, to be "tilted." So, to be "salty" is to be annoyed, angry, sullen, or just generally unpleasant. If someone is being salty on stream, Twitch viewers will gleefully reciprocate with the PJSalt emote – which is literally just a salt shaker. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Twitch chat takes great pleasure in egging on sore losers, and some personalities, like Hearthstone streamer Octavian “Kripparrian” Morosan, have made their saltiness part of their personal brand.
PogChamp – Another one of the older Twitch emotes, PogChamp takes its image from a video of noted fighting game arbiter Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez making an extremely stoked face on the set of Cross Counter TV – a fighting game YouTube channel. Since then, the emote has become synonymous with big plays. Did Faker just score a pentakill? PogChamp. Did Reynad just top-deck exact lethal? PogChamp. There are a lot of acerbic memes in Twitch chat, but PogChamp has always been uniquely genuine.
Kreygasm – An emote that uses the face of Twitch streamer Kreyg, who looks to be on the brink of incredible pleasure. The Kreygasm is similar to PogChamp, in that it generally fills chat when something incredible happens on stream. But given the name, you can expect Kreygasm to imply some, um, other things too.
LUL – A twitch emote of longtime gaming icon John "TotalBiscuit" Bain throwing his head back in laughter. "LUL" is interesting because, unlike some of the other emotes on Twitch, it only materializes if you have the BetterTTV plugin installed. So that means instead of the picture of Bain, a lot of viewers only see the letters "LUL" in chat. This has lead to a weird linguistics deviation in the Twitch community. To some people, LUL is a a guy in the midst of a deep haughty cackle, to others, it’s just a weird way to spell the word “lol.” That’s different from something like Kappa, which is the same grayscale trollface to anyone who’s watching. Technology is weird sometimes, right?
haHAA – Similar to LUL, haHAA is an emote exclusive to the BetterTTV plugin which takes its image from a close-up of “Shy Ronnie” from those infamous Lonely Island/Rihanna SNL collaborations. Shy Ronnie was played by Andy Samberg. He’s basically an extremely awkward sidekick who can barely speak (and much less rap) when Rihanna is in the room. So naturally, the haHAA emote is used when someone on-screen does something a little cringe-inducing. It can be mean-spirited, like when haHAAs fill the chat box when a floundering esports pro takes the mic, but often it’s a way to cut the tension during technical difficulties. or to roast a caster after a particularly lame joke.