Nobody asked for the ability to wear the faces of xQc, HasanAbi, and Nicolas Cage as VTuber models, but now you can, thanks to streamer Fofamit. Each model stretches and deforms along with your facial movements like your face is made out of Play-Doh. All you need is a camera or an iPhone and a facial capture app to replicate the horror.
Snuffy, one of Twitch's most popular VTubers, put on her best xQc impression and Fofamit's nightmarish version of his face and streamed with it. For an entire hour, Snuffy (as budget xQc) played Fortnite with her impression of the popular streamer's rapid commentary, punctuated only by "dude" and "bro." Chat played along and watched as xQc's face grotesquely slid back and forth over one of Snuffy's normal models.
"Fofamit did great at finding a joke in the drama of it all with their talent," Snuffy told me. "I kinda hope to see more like this in general, VTubers have endless potential to be anything. As long as it’s respectful it can be hilarious or super cool."
The VTuber Twitch tag, added last year, is usually filled with anime- and cartoon-styled characters chatting and playing games, but it's also pretty common for the top spots to be taken up by streamers like xQc, Amouranth, and HasanAbi (who all stream with their normal faces). For xQc, who was using the tag in a stream at the time of this writing, it appears to all be for laughs, as evidenced in this clip where he explains that he's indeed a VTuber (which also includes a seemingly transphobic joke).
Tags are supposed to help you find streamers to watch by providing categories like "educational", "ADHD", and "PVE" to choose from. But because they're chosen by the creator's themselves, they're not always that useful. There are hyper-specific tags, like "Auditory ASMR", "Backseating Allowed", and "Speedrun", and then there are tags like "Anime". Outside of the larger categories like Just Chatting and Music, tags can only communicate so much about what you're in for when you tune in.
VTuber Marina made a post—which now has over 6,000 votes and 33 pages of comments—explaining how they believe misusing the tag prevents viewers from finding actual VTubers. They also argue that it goes against Twitch's stated policy that "deliberate misuse of titles, tags, games/categories, or other metadata" is prohibited.
Twitch has responded to the criticism. "We share and understand your concerns about how the intentional, repeated misuse of tags can undermine the purpose of the tags product itself," Twitch admin downski wrote in reply to the topic. "We also do not feel Twitch should be the judge of creators’ personal or creative identity, so we typically only enforce against the misuse of tags when it is associated with other behavior that violates our community guidelines such as hateful conduct or harassment."
To Fofamit, the VTuber tag misuse is just another example of Twitch not following its own rules. The streaming platform has a turbulent history of enforcing its policies, especially when it comes to hate speech and harassment. The misuse of the VTuber tag (and others), whether or not it actually robs streamers of potential viewers, doesn't seem to be actively harming anyone, but it does underline the problems with the tag system in general and Twitch's larger discoverability issue for anyone that doesn't already bring in thousands of viewers.
"I saw what was happening and thought it would be fun to make the people who say they are VTubers, who technically aren't VTubers, VTubers," she told me.
"The reason the model is so cursed is because it's super easy to rig (since I've done fun models like that previously), and I've intentionally made them poorly/funny so there could be no mistake it's like a 'mask'," she said.
Fofamit, a certified teacher and VTuber herself, makes educational videos about streaming and rigging usually normal VTuber models on her YouTube and Twitch channels. She was frustrated with the lack of information on the internet about how to get a VTuber model working, so she learned how to do it and started sharing it with others.
Along the way she created various animated models, including a malleable Nicolas Cage, HasanAbi, Clippy, Minecraft Steve, and an inflatable tube person. They're all available on her Booth page.
"Making the cursed facial rigged models are pretty easy, since they don't need to be 'high quality' they can usually be created in a few hours," she said. "Rigging actual models to look nice and expressive is a lot more work on the other hand, but as I mentioned making these fun cursed models has taught me different methods and given me a chance to experiment to learn new things."
If you want to try the cursed xQc face for yourself, you'll need to download VSeeFace, a free facial tracking program for your webcam. Fofamit has a tutorial on how to get it working. For the other cursed models, you'll need an iPhone and the Waidayo or iFacialMocap apps.
Fofamit said she isn't finished making VTuber models that turn you into the monster in a horror movie. It's all a learning experience for her.
"I am planning to make a custom Unreal Engine facial rig," she said. "I've had this idea for a while... basically having soft body physics driven by iPhone tracking if that makes sense? In my mind I am thinking of the Super Mario 64 face stretching that you could do before you get to the save select."
The possibilities are endless.
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Tyler has covered games, games culture, and hardware for over a decade before joining PC Gamer as Associate Editor. He's done in-depth reporting on communities and games as well as criticism for sites like Polygon, Wired, and Waypoint. He's interested in the weird and the fascinating when it comes to games, spending time probing for stories and talking to the people involved. Tyler loves sinking into games like Final Fantasy 14, Overwatch, and Dark Souls to see what makes them tick and pluck out the parts worth talking about. His goal is to talk about games the way they are: broken, beautiful, and bizarre.