What is ‘yassify’ and why should we care?

‘Yassify’ is a common word on online gaming platforms, but what does it mean? Experts talk to Cif about a new kind of tech

Yassify is a commonly used phrase on online gaming platforms (primarily competitive mobile games such as Fortnite, where players “challenge” friends to challenges. In the Korean battle royale game Apex Legends, where players “level up” by taking part in high-intensity fights, it means something slightly different). People sometimes use it to refer to games, games publishers, or people in the games. But “Yassify” can also refer to other activities, such as illegal content, political vandalism, or hanging around at a bar after the end of the day, which might not necessarily be considered a real activity.

This week, a London newspaper reported that gamers on a banned tournament app Yassify had “cyber-assaulted and racially abused” a group of players from a rival app, because they were using it for competition. They had also, according to other reports, committed cyber-hate speech. The English-language London Guardian reports that some people do deliberately post malicious comments at target gamers, while others feign being confused by the meaning of Yassify.

However, many people defend this use of the phrase, comparing it to things like “blackass” (a racially offensive term). What is the difference between blackass and yassify? Are they more similar? “Yassify, a word which entered popular English in 2009, is the crude cousin of blackass,” says Mero Tzortzinis, a linguist and professor of Newbery studies at Britain’s University of Manchester. “Blackass is used as a verb, usually to describe the behaviour or the callous disregard of someone with a bigoted attitude; Yassify, like blackass, is a noun.” The difference is, however, that blackass often has negative connotations; it is used to mean how someone is behaving. More often than not, it is used to describe someone as being low-class. To be “blackass” is to be “rabidly racist” or “oppressive”.

But many other people are using the word in innocent ways, whether joking about the times someone wears a baggy jumper, or eating a Coca-Cola in a different way to “normal”.

Can you translate the word? Well, Nils Tanner explains that “Yassify” is a tongue-in-cheek term: “It’s an ironic term used to describe groups of people who look ‘awful’ or ‘ugly’, such as people with sad eyes and bad teeth, the ‘frazzled’ or ‘feeling pooped’ when leaving a bar, or the ‘tech-wannabe’.” It’s also used to refer to misogynist games (Yassify Game of Thrones is an especially popular example). But even so, “yassify” is a much-debated word.

Yassify is also a legitimate way to declare non-partisan support of non-partisan causes. Neither Yassify, nor the internet, can kill Yassify Bots. But how can they be dislodged?

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