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Lou: ‘Twitch TV: the culture and development of in-game, online language.’

(I am not very happy with that title, so if anyone has any better suggestions please let me know!)

Basically, I am interested in studying (I know we are not actually doing the study but it helps me to write it as if I am) the development of online language used by game streamers and their followers within their Twitch communities. I have not done that much research into this at the moment, so this post is going to be more about the idea I have and what Twitch actually is!

Firstly, what is Twitch? Twitch TV is an online streaming service that allows game players to ‘stream’ their game play live to those who click into their stream or channel. Users of the site, if they find a streamer that interests them can then ‘follow’ the streamer (and therefore can receive notifications as and when the streamers channel goes live) and there is also the option of ‘subscribing’ (if the streamer has reached partnership level with Twitch, so does not apply to all streamers) which means paying a monthly fee to get added extras. Twitch TV has a phenomenal amount of viewers (and growing) and some streamers will have thousands of followers watching them at any one time. One aspect of streaming is the ‘chat’ aspect that takes place as the streamer plays. This not only lets other watchers/followers/subscribers talk to each other but also converse with the streamer directly (many streamers can multitask between playing and reading their chat forum quite effectively) and therefore a small (or large, depending on how many followers take part in the chat) community can develop.


Twitch Tv
Twitch TV


Being a watcher and a follower of numerous streamers myself, I soon noticed that there were certain words and emojis/emotes being used within the chat. Some of them I had never heard about and though the connotation of some were obvious, some I did find myself Googling. The best example of this is ‘kappa’. Kappa can either be typed out or the equivalent emoji can be used (please see below; the face, I believe, was actually one of the early employees of Twitch).

Urban Dictionary defines ‘kappa’ as:

The main symbol/emote of It represents sarcasm, irony, puns, jokes, and trolls alike. If you see this term used outside of, then this is not the correct definition. Usually used at the end of an ironic or sarcastic sentence. Sentences that contain a Kappa should not be taken seriously.


The emoji for 'Kappa'
The emoji/emote for ‘Kappa’


What interests me is the notion that these words/emojis/emotes such as kappa are used within the online streamer community and not ‘outside’ in the ‘real’ world; and how some are more popular than others and the why behind that. Kappa is pretty widespread and almost every person who has used Twitch for longer than a week will most likely have seen it posted, while other streamers will start their own words.  One streamer I watch regularly says ‘potatoes’ to mean bad e.g. “I am playing really potatoes today guys, sorry about that.”

I guess the two discipline viewpoints I could study this topic from would be, firstly; anthropology, there is a branch of linguistic anthropology that studies language within cultures and secondly; sociology, as each streamer will have their own community of views/followers etc and how their behaviours help form new words and how a whole different ‘in-game’ language spreads, or not, via channel communities. (Both are disciplines I have no background in so not sure if I am making it too hard on myself?)

Any questions/suggestions/help/pointers etc would be welcome!

2 thoughts on “Lou: ‘Twitch TV: the culture and development of in-game, online language.’

  1. Vera Shcherbina says:

    Hello, Lou.

    So, isn’t it something like a meme? Or it is closer to emojis?
    Maybe it will useful to look on semiotics studies?

    • Lou says:

      I dont think it is a meme no (although saying that there have been memes made about kappa, but thats not what i am focusing on in this research). it is an emoji (or sometimes people type out the work ‘kappa’) within the chat of a streamer.

      yes, I shall take a look at semiotic studies then. thank you, sorry for the very late reply to your comment!!


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