She takes the call, and suddenly, her voice goes up an octave (or maybe two), her tone suddenly sugary and sycophantic. “Hello? Uwu?” she says to her male caller. “Oh, I must have Seige running in the background, I’d never play without you, you’re too good!” Eye-roll implied, but the caller doesn’t notice it. Under her breath and in her real voice, she asserts to her waiting friend “You’d do it for the check. You’d do it for the check!”
Check? There’s a check that comes with taking strange calls with strange boys on Discord? Although this scenario is happening in 17-year-old TikTok user @anacreon’s parody video and not in real time, based on the TikTok’s current 1.1 million likes and healthy handful of comments lamenting not being able to do “the voice,” you start to get the idea that there is. A quick look at TikTok’s #discord hashtag confirms the phenomenon by giving the kind of girl involved in the scheme a name — she’s a “Discord uwu girl.”
There’s a check that comes with taking strange calls with strange boys on Discord?
“Uwu” refers to this emoticon: uwu, which according to an Urban Dictionary definition from 2012, “means happy, like an anime character's face when they're overjoyed.” Since 2012, the uwu emoticon has completed a full internet lifecycle, first being cute, only to become cringe a few years later. It now exists in post-ironic bliss, with people using it jokingly so often that it’s become earnest again. An “uwu girl” is a girl who brings the emoticon to life through her aesthetic and her demeanor, which tends to be sweetly childlike, but also suggestive, drawing on the sexualization of (usually young) anime girls. The aesthetic involves lots and lots of pink and cutesifying of self through makeup that prioritizes unnaturally big eyes and fake freckles, invoking cartoon characters like Sailor Moon and the concept of the hyperfeminine gamer girl. Not to be confused with “softgirls,” who also like pink but don’t play video games (think queen of doing that “sexy baby” thing, Ariana Grande), or “egirls,” who play video games and like anime, but prefer black fishnets and chokers to an uwu girl’s pink miniskirt.
The Discord uwu girl is a separate type of uwu girl, one who, as the name implies, can be found on Discord and is usually faking or accentuating her uwu aesthetic to get money from men. You can get an idea of what this looks like through the many TikToks that parody the Discord uwu girl — the character is usually a cat ear headset-wearing woman who gets mad when her Discord “king” buys another woman an item off of her wishlist, using That Voice to convince admins to pay for her Nitro. From this collage of information, we can conclude that the Discord uwu girl is essentially a very niche sort of sugar baby, highly specific in her approach (the high voice, the invocation of cute girlishness rather than sexy) and in her goals (to acquire Nitro or gaming skins rather than, I don’t know, a Birkin).
19-year-old Hannah, a self-described uwu girl whose name has been changed for this article talked to me about her experience over Twitter DM. “When I’m in a Discord with a lot of guys who know I’m a girl, they often want to send me stuff or meet up after only talking for a couple hours,” she said. “I don’t really ‘target’ anyone, but you can usually tell what guys want [to send things].” Most often for Hannah, they buy her items off of her Amazon wishlist. “No one has ever paid for my Nitro,” she said. “I think that’s more of a joke.” Although she does tend to use a high-pitched voice, as the TikTok parodies suggest.
19-year-old Discord uwu girl Ri told me something similar, saying she “[messes] around with lonely gamer men” with her high voice to get a reaction or to convince them to buy her illustrations and suggestive photos, but she has run into harassment based on her voice, too. “I’ve been called many things just off of people hearing my voice,” said Ri. “If I mention anything about being a lesbian there’s immediate slurs.” She said that sometimes men steal her pictures for their own “scamming.”
“That sucks a lot.” Ri said.
“If I mention anything about being a lesbian there’s immediate slurs.”
Fate, a 23-year-old gamer, former uwu girl, and master of the notorious voice, emailed me about their experience as a femme-presenting gamer on Discord. They used to use the uwu voice in Overwatch lobbies as voice acting practice, never for the now popularized purpose of getting free gifts. “Honestly I would,” said Fate, “the only thing is, the type of people attracted tend to like... girls on the younger side.”
They said that the uwu voice reminded them a lot of “lolicom,” a term that plays off of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita and, in English, is often used to refer to porn representing prepubescent Japanese girls. “I don't think ‘uwu girls’ are the reason why people are into pedophilia, though, they are just playing a role that gets them likes, which is fine,” said Fate. “My only concern is for these girls to be careful because the internet is full of weirdos.”
Thinking back to their own weirdo experience, Fate remembered a few moments tied to the use of their uwu voice specifically. “I've had a guy admit to me he didn't want to hear my actual voice and that he was a lolicon and wanted me to be his little loli sex slave,” they said. “Another guy continuously asked me to be his sugar baby when he was in a committed relationship.”
“I’ve had a guy admit to me he didn’t want to hear my actual voice and that he was a lolicon and wanted me to be his little loli sex slave.”
Every femme-presenting gamer, uwu girl or not, that I spoke to shared similar stories, especially when it comes to Discord’s voice chat function. You can find a lot of them in r/GirlGamers, which strives to be a safe internet space for women in games, under their “venting” tag. Frustrated by the combination of harassment and flirting she receives when Discord server members find out she’s a woman, u/Systemix_Glitch considered using a voice mod as prevention, eventually deciding that it wouldn’t be fair to punish herself for other people’s shitty behavior. Another r/GirlGamers member u/aninterestingcomment shared with me a similar experience, describing being extra-picky in joining servers after a bad experience in a Sims server. “While I made a lot of good friends there,” she said “I also met a lot of racist and sexist people. I had to leave after they directed some slurs and racist statements towards me (I am an Asian bisexual woman). When I tried to confront them about why they said those things, they say it's all banter. It isn't really banter when it's so frequent and when it's all ganged up on one person.”
Given the verbal abuse, unwanted attention, and occasional real-life threats that femme-presenting people are forced to deal with in gaming spaces, it’s actually pretty exciting that some of them have found ways of using the system against the greasy boys that created it. But many men, and unfortunately, some women, attempt to poke holes in the sails of Discord uwu girls by criticizing them for using pre-existing, problematic beauty standards to their advantage. There are plenty of Reddit threads of guys begging each other to stop giving girl gamers money “for nothing in return.” But one user who seemed to have at one point paid gamer girls for their time explained the appeal in a comment. “I used to be the type of guy who would get sucked into thinking I'm basically their SO or online boyfriend,” he said. “Some of these guys can't make friends in real life. I used to be on streams on Twitch and other Discord servers where guys would wait for their paycheck and spend 20% of it on someone they don't know who just plays games all day.”
While that does sound a little bit sad, there’s no way to avoid that, for gamer boys, uwu Discord girls offer a sense of camaraderie while fulfilling their fantasy. And because of men pushing boundaries, being an uwu Discord girl can be dangerous, and many are subject to verbal abuse, as well as criticism from both women and men for their supposed “scam.” Reaping monetary rewards in this environment is a way for women to take advantage of the sludge of male-dominated gaming spaces, band together, and bring attention to the hypersexualization of young women in gaming. With their pink PCs and clever hustle, the uwu girls of Discord aren’t afraid of what you think.