It has been 20 years since yesterday “All your base belongs to us” was transferred to Newgrounds. Let it sink. And while you’re at it, feel free to watch the full video there. It is stored in the Flash emulation container, so even now it is safe from the inconvenient fact that Flash has been discontinued.
As Ars Technica Reports, the history of the “All Your Base” video is longer than just one upload. Most are taken from the tiny GIF of the game Mega Drive Zero Wing, which was widely circulated on the web due to its disastrous English translation (and the GIF itself existed due to the culture of early emulation). “The early online communities had fun sequentially creating and sharing gag images into which stupid text was inserted in a variety of ways,” he writes. Ars by Sam Machkovech. The meme didn’t actually launch until the video, uploaded on February 16, 2001, was released on Newgrounds. “The video shows the original Sega Genesis graphics, synchronized with monotonous, machine-generated speech that reads each phrase,” Machkovech writes. “” You are on the road to destruction, “in this voice are wonderful stupid things.”
Machkovech’s play goes into more history and context around the video itself, which is fascinating. It also correctly identifies video as a bridge between the early internet culture of memes – which was mostly text-based and how we got things like ROFL and the multimedia memes we have today.
Watching it now, 20 years later, what strikes me most is how culturally dated the video feels. It’s from an era of internet culture when the whole joke became a reference; then it was much harder to access the internet than the trend that defines culture, as it eventually became. Knowing the reference — and hiding it in places that didn’t belong to it — was ridiculous because not everyone could understand what it meant unless, of course, you were part of a tribe. That kind of humor felt like the dominant mode of internet discourse all the way to Dashcon; even now you can make people blink by typing something like “narwhal bacon at midnight” or “I like your shoelaces”. (Although “superwholock” would probably work, too.)
When social media became massively multiplayer, to borrow a phrase, that sense of belonging to the group became a fall. Now you need to upgrade the meme to participate.