Richard ‘Lowtax’ Kyanka, the founder of Something Awful and an important influence on aspects of modern internet culture, has died at the age of 45. The news was originally sent to Something Awful by longtime forum administrator Fragmaster, who was a personal friend of Kyanka and The motherboard managed to confirm with Lee’s Summit Missouri police department that Kyanka died of suicide on November 9th.
“I think I should start this by saying that this is not a joke, especially since I’m writing for the first time in 10 years or something, but I got the bad news today directly from Rich’s family,” Fragmaster wrote . “Lowtax is gone. I did not ask for details. I do not know details. I do not know what the current opinion of Rich here is. Not here to answer questions, I share the news. I really hate to share this news. But that’s the way it is. Goonspeed golden manbaby 555s 2 heaven. “
Fragmaster also shared the video below, where he delivers a fuller tribute to Kyanka, urging people to donate to a GoFundMe to support Kyanka’s daughter.
Kyanka’s influence on the internet and modern social media, good and bad, is impossible to deny. Something Awful was intended as a comedy website, but its origins can be traced back to Quake.
“I dropped out of school my younger year because I hated engineering and took a job as a system administrator for the Vanderbilt Vision and Research Center,” Kyanka told Vice in 2017. “In my spare time, I would play a lot of Quake 2 and write about Quake. Around ’98, GameSpy said, “Do you want to run PlanetQuake?” So I said, “Yeah, okay,” and moved to Orange County. I got paid $ 24,000 a year to write about Quake 2. “
Something Awful appeared in 1999, thought of as basically a personal comedy website and a place for Kyanka to comment on GameSpy, but with functionality that allowed users to share blogs, photos and shit posts on forums. The motto: “The Internet makes you stupid.” And it’s probably the shit posting more than anything else that saw Something Awful – and its influence – explode.
One thing that would later annoy Kyanka was its role in the popularization of internet memes (he considered sharing someone else’s humor as unoriginal), where SA gave birth to things like “All your base are belong to us” and later Slender Man city legend. Other important aspects of SA were the idea of weekly Photoshop Phridays, the emergence of Let’s Play videos and being the starting point for groups like Mega64. The site’s “Fuck You And Die” forum is a notorious troll haunt from which internet figures like Dril have emerged.
ARMY: your nickname reflects badly on all of us. we change it to something like “raven” or “switchknife” ME: no. “Hostage killer” is goodApril 28, 2015
But there was always a toxic side to Something Awful. Its members wanted to brigadier people and organize harassment campaigns. It encouraged some of the most basic online behavior imaginable, and when these groups became too toxic for even SA, they went out and founded sites that were much worse. Kyanka’s decision to ban hentai from SA led to a person going off and finding 4Chan. Hence this picture.
The worst part of Kyanka’s biography is allegations of domestic violence that surfaced in 2020, which he denied, and the way they were discussed in the Something Awful forums: in recent history, he had become a somewhat hated presence on the site, and in 2020 it sold to longtime admin Jeffrey of YOSPOS (who six months later banned Kyanka’s account).
Kyanka’s legacy is thus both undeniable and extremely mixed. If you were interested in games and the internet in the early 2000s, like I was, SA was simply a ubiquitous part of the experience: this is where you went to see the jokes and the silly pictures and chatter about Sonic Adventure . Back in the days when people still shared memes via email, I would swear that most of the ones I got came from that site.
Or, as the SA poster Breetai put it: “It’s like, low tax certainly belongs on Mt Rushmore on the internet, but he would also be wearing a Confederate general’s uniform and then immediately be dynamized.”
As you might guess, many of the answers to Kyanka’s death come in the form of black humor: which we can at least in this case say the man himself would have enjoyed.
“I can not comment on the dirty things I have read about Rich in the years since I left since, but he was never a stranger to controversy,” writes redditor Vertigo3PC. “It’s no nonsense to make him seem like a divisive genius; he was a scumbag. But he was our villain, so to see that he’s gone is like finding out the stupid dog that used to bite your ankle 1 out of 5 times you saw him, but you still associate feelings of home and nostalgia with him, were hit by a car and died. “
The thread Something Awful announcing Kyanka’s death has now been locked. “The thread went from funny jokes to recurring idiots who got bored of the jokes to intense furry / monster girl debate to qcs crank in just 150 pages,” GrimGypsy wrote in one of the last comments, “and now nothing is funny or satisfying and it all. just feels annoying. Really a fitting memorial for Richard. “
In his later years, Kyanka became disillusioned with what he had a hand in creating, and the Internet more generally, looking back on the early years of Something Awful as something of a golden age.
“I would wake up and instead of falling asleep again like a normal person, I would start writing. Most of the time it would be silly, but it would be things that entertained me,” Kyanka told Vice in 2017. “That’s all I’m really worried about. Parody, satire, things about … I do not want to say current events, but shitty things on the Internet. I would find a site about horrible, scary dolls, and I would review parodies of wonks who said the Internet was the future without saying, ‘Well, there could be a possible downside to the Internet.’ I’m clearly not a visionary, but I predicted that the internet would be shit back in 1999. Everyone was talking about how the internet would revolutionize everything and everything would be great, but no one ever talked about how shit the internet was. . “
If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, get in touch National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S), Crisis Services Canada (TO), Samaritans (UK), or Livline (OFF). If you are outside these regions, check out this list for a hotline in your country.