Sometimes it’s actually good to refresh our memories of the origins of a particular word.
With Destiny 2 removing a gauntlet that looked like it had the word “KEK” written on the upper arm, there was an outcry from a particular subset of people who have proclaimed that this is a ‘secret Alt-Right hate symbol’, and a ‘fascist expression of mockery and disdain for progressive values’. Whether or not you agree that Bungie and Activision were right to remove the offending gauntlet, or at least quickly redesign it to remove the symbol from it, I still cannot help but bust a gut laughing at how ridiculous this really is.
Let’s wing our memories back to a dark time called 2004. A video game called World of Warcraft was beginning to gain traction on the market and compete in an arena where Everquest and a bunch of MMORPGs had already set up shop. Blizzard’s ambitious little game that could – and did – had two warring factions, the Horde and the Alliance. You could be on either side, or both equally, but one thing was a constant – you couldn’t speak to the other faction. Well, not at the time anyway, Demon Hunters have blurred that particular line of late.
This meant that an algorithm kicked in if you were a Horde player and an Alliance player said something nearby, to garble up the text. And vice versa, if you were an Alliance player – the Horde “Orcish” language would be strange and alien to you. This matters because the term “lol”, or Laughing Out Loud, was a common expression of bemusement and mockery in a gaming context – mostly in Player vs. Player situations. So, if you were an Alliance Player – at the time the choice for the majority of players – you got to see Horde players typing ‘lol’ into their chat box, and displaying it on your screen.
Guess what ‘lol’ in Orcish looks like in Human Common? That’s right. “Kek”.
In time, World of Warcraft would become an enormous juggernaut of a video game – at its peak, boasting more than 14 million subscribers. A staggering number, to be sure. And as a result, you had more players – and more opportunities for the word “Kek” to be displayed to Alliance players. The Horde knew this too, and on forums and in casual conversation outside of Azeroth, they began to use the term “kek” in lieu of “lol”. It was their word. It was their version. And by damn, they used it. This is why, on the Internet, “kek” became such a huge thing; it was an inside joke, a knowing nod and an embracing of an in-game translation that admittedly wound up Alliance players a little. Even so, in time even the Alliance began to use the term.
“Kek” means “lol”. That’s it.
So if it now is a symbol of far-right oppression, does this mean – and I’m just thinking out loud here for a second to point out how utterly ridiculous this is – that the Horde, in World of Warcraft, is entirely consisted of the alt-right? If it’s their word, do they have a right to use it even if you believe now it’s a symbol of hate-speech? Is this like the “N”-Bomb; is it the case that -only- Horde characters in World of Warcraft are allowed to use the word? How does one prove that?
Of course, there have been some who co-opted the term. Shitposters on the Internet, who do love and embrace a good meme, have of late become slight social media pariahs and outcasts – and so, uniting together, they declared themselves “Kekistanis”, ruled by some kind of Pepe-like God Emperor called “Kek”. Of course, logistically I know why they embraced the term – they’re in this for the lols, they delight in mocking humour and tone and considering Horde had a reputation for mocking poor Alliance PvP players with the word “kek”, I’d even go as far as to say that as co-options go, it’s one of the few that actually work in the context of its original meaning. A small, unpopular subset of a group of people banding together and utilising a word to unite them in their sometimes trouble-making mirth.
But as for it now being a “hate-symbol”… I mean, really?!
Look, I know some people will be easily offended and perhaps even by denoting the origins of the term, I’m probably ‘triggering’ someone (and as someone with anxiety issues, can I just say screw you chaps and ladies for ruining the meaning of that word? A “trigger” was meant medically to be a sore spot – a spark in the neurological and psychiatric power-keg of a traumatised and broken mind – for people with the likes of PTSD or Anxiety Disorder, not a means you could go around and censor everything because it offended your delicate paper-thin sensibilities!). But to change the narrative in such a way that you’re trying to make it look like “kek” originated in Nazi Germany circa 1939-1945? I… wow. I have no words for how stupid that is.
And how long is it before this group, in a desperate attempt to reinforce their definitions of the term, attack Blizzard – the company who gave birth to the term through an algorithm in their biggest MMO – to cover their tracks, even though technically and politically I do believe Blizzard is fundamentally on their side? At some point, we have to embrace the idea that “kek” is just a translation of “lol”. If you had the memers and shitposters of the Internet using that as their basis, so they were “Lolistanis”, would we in the same way be trying to shut down the term of “lol”?
Oh, as an aside here, guess who owns Blizzard? You guessed it. Activision (as Activision-Blizzard). If ANY company has any actual right to use the term “kek” and embrace it, Activision-Blizzard is your bloody case study here. Destiny 2 is owned and published by Activision. Hell, it’s launched in the Blizzard App. Kek is their term to use. They’re well within their rights. Please do tell me how it goes when you walk up to a guy of darker skin-tone and demand they stop using the “N”-Bomb.
So no, I don’t believe Activision should have acquiesced to the demand. Doing so only gives the term this kind of ‘power’ – in a very real sense, embracing the word and shoving it in a big game like Destiny 2 would have helped get the word back somewhat to its roots, as a simple translation of the term ‘lol’. Activision could have rightly said, “But this word started in Warcraft as a translation of lol. We own Warcraft. It’s our word. Back off.” And you know what? I believe, deep down, everyone would have applauded that decision. Remove the sting, and you render the term utterly powerless for everyone.
And for the left-leaning people out there… you do realise that if that had happened, you’d have in a very broad sense destroyed “Kekistan” as a thing, right? All you’ve done is lend this word more power – power which memers and shitposters out there on the Internet are aware of and utilising against you, because they KNOW it drives you crazy. This isn’t an accident. This is a calculated set-up.
The end result is centrists like me just find the whole thing too ridiculous to comprehend – so we don’t. It’s stupid.
But hey, I know where the term began – and millions of people out there know how this word came to be. It was arguably just an algorithmic accident – that just happened to occur within a video game which dominated the industry in the mid to late 00’s. That’s all. There’s no deeper meaning to it, there’s no dark origin story. It’s a term that got adopted to the Internet at large, and now is being used by an admittedly silly sub-section of the Internet. And I don’t think they for the most part deserve the kind of recognition they get most of the time (though I will admit, I did laugh at the whole Capture the Flag thing with Shia LeBoeuf…).
Activision have just reinforced this as a “naughty word” – a term which, to this day, the Alliance still often sees in World of Warcraft.
… so again, are the Horde now the alt-right of Azeroth? Does this mean that we’re going to see them flock to pwn some n00bs in Alterac Valley under the banner of Kek? Does the Horde need to be censored or destroyed? Will the Social Justice demographic all now roll gender-neutral gnomes? Will the algorithm be changed to utterly remove it, ultimately handing the easily offended people on the left-leaning side of things the blank page by which to effectively rewrite the origins, definition and meaning of the term?
… wow. I mean, there’s only one word my old Tauren Hunter could have used to describe this kind of mess.
And yup… that word…