The CSGO tournament ESL Cologne 2016 was this week, and despite the fact that each day began at my 1:30am, I’ve been staying up and loving every single day of it. It has all the highs and lows of high-level CSGO play, the shout casters are among the best in the world, and the production quality rivals traditional sports events. And yet somehow, one of my favorite parts of the tournament is the unfiltered meme-spewing echo chambers in the Twitch chat.
Ever since Twitch Plays Pokemon introduced the concept of game streaming to me, I’ve spent countless hours watching various streamers and participating (usually silently) in their little communities. A lot of people don’t like the chats for many very good reasons, but for me the presence of a swathe of other spectators, living and reacting to the same video as you, adds so much to the experience. eSports, like regular sports, are spectator events, and when the thrill and excitement comes from watching amazing high-level play with others, Twitch chat can be your fellow spectators if you’re otherwise forever alone.
Their hivemind is honestly pretty endearing, in part because they react from the base instincts. Whatever phrase the chat is snowballing usually encapsulates what you’re thinking, and viewing an amazing moment only gets better when you check the chat and see a sudden mass of affirmations that, yes, that thing you just watched was indeed awesome. When a player (lets use Flusha for example) on screen does something spectacular, the chat erupts with “GOD FLUSHA” and “VAC”, implying the player is hacking and should trip Steam’s anti-cheat. When a player flubs, the corresponding putdown is “BOT FLUSHA”, referencing the famously incompetent CSGO multiplayer bots. When a woman appears, either as a caster or in the panning shots of the crowd, the chat erupts with “GRILL”, an unsubtle note on the chat’s immaturity and shamelessness. But it’s even more fun when the chat doesn’t have a default meme on hand for an event. When JW got team-killed during the Gambit vs. Fnatic round, I switched to chat to figure out how they’d react since team-kills are extremely uncommon at this level of play. At first, the chat was a jumbled mess of disjointed reaction emojis and disbelief, until slowly the chat congealed around “THESE HOES AINT LOYAL”, referencing a line that caster James shouted repeatedly after an earlier TK during the Group A Elimination matches. It was honestly entrancing to watch.
But the doesn’t mean the chat won’t make exceptions in unusual circumstances. This tourney, team Astralis lost two players for different circumstances, meaning that their coach Zonic had to fill in despite having made his name in CS 1.6 and having very little experience with Global Offensive in general. The chat, aware of his backstory, spammed “GOD ZONIC” whenever he got a kill of any nature, and his flubs were mostly immune to the corresponding ridicule.
If somehow the Twitch chat doesn’t endear itself to you as much as it does me, you can ignore them by either watching fullscreen, filtering out the meme spam, or booting up CSGO and watching in-game. But I hope you checked out ESL Cologne because it was a blast with or without the chat. If you’re lucky you might even have gotten a souvenir weapon drop!