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In MEMEorium: All Your Base are Belong to Us

Rich Clancey February 16, 2018


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Every so often a piece of media comes along that is so important, so influential, it captivates a generation and leaves its impact on ones to come. You’ve probably heard it said aloud before… or maybe you saw it written on the web somewhere… But what does it mean? What significance does it have?

The phrase “All your base are belong to us” is a poorly translated piece of “Engrish”, which is another way of describing a form of English characterized by bad translation from Japanese by someone who is decent at translating vocabulary but has a poor grasp of English grammar.

Back in 1992, a video game was being ported and translated from Japanese to English for the MegaDrive. This game was called Zero Wing. The game had TERRIBLE English translations. Now normally this wouldn’t have caused a fuss, as a lot of games got rushed translations that came out wonky for english speakers just like this one:

It’s hard to say exactly what’s so funny and memorable about AYBABTU, other than it being quotable nonsense. However, it was one of the first examples of an early ᵐᵉᵐᵉ. It began circulating internet forums and websites as early as 1998! That predates just about any classic internet meme example that’s out there. In fact, no one was even using the word ᵐᵉᵐᵉ when this reached peak popularity, sometime in 2000. While it is hard to state its exact origin, it’s know to have gained explosive popularity on the Something Awful Forums where over two thousand photophopped All Your Base images were contributed to a thread. AYBABTU initially made appearances on other sites like ragegames and zanyvideogamequotes in the form of the an animated GIF of the opening cutscene.

The opening cutscenes humor wasn’t just limited to The classic all your base line. The entire thing was full of funny quotes.

[su_slider source=”media: 2660,2658,2650,2657,2651,2659,2662,2661,2652″ height=”400″ title=”no” pages=”no” mousewheel=”no”]

If you’ve never really heard of all of this before, you might be saying to yourself, “so what? Some obscure translation error from a video game back in the 90’s, where’s the ᵐᵉᵐᵉ? Where’s the History? What’s worth talking about?

It was the mainstream explosion of AYBABTU that made it one of the first examples of an obscure online joke crossing the threshold into real life and popular culture. Online news outlets like CNET, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Register and Mirror.co.uk picked up on the trend going on within the internet. They saw how much attention this particular ᵐᵉᵐᵉ was getting and published articles on it.

Website OverClocked.org launched the “ZeroWing Dub Project” in 2000 the give the text some life by dubbing its poor translations.

Electronic Music artist “The Laziest Man on Mars” created this song, accompanied with many of the S.A. forum images that brought life into the meme.

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRzBVv2CSE0″]

Before long, the public was getting involved. thousands of All your base are belong to us flyers are posted around colleges, kids are hijacking signs and replacing the text with the phrase (which was initially taken as a potential terrorist threat– think: Mooninite LED signs in Boston from 2007) websites are hacked with ZeroWing images and even Fox News chimes in, trying to figure out just what the heck is going on:

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQnDkgdIn_A”]

Before long, All Your Base Belong to us become a mainstream ᵐᵉᵐᵉ in 2000/2001. It’s interesting how it made its way through the various internet channels, on to the big media folks and into the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world. At the end of the day, it’s funny to say and think about. The juxtaposition of a serious situation with ridiculous sounding dialogue clicked with people and cause this phrase to be cemented into ᵐᵉᵐᵉ history.

Of course, the other notable part of this meme is the exploitables. the transformations and remixes of the original. Many spin offs were created, and some manage to stay relevant to today’s topics of discussion, some 18 or so years later. A true testament to a legacy meme that I won’t soon forget.

Whether you remember this one or not, let’s take a moment to pay tribute to an OG.

For Great Justice,

 

Rich Clancey

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