Let’s face it folks, we are the new wave of the bored. It fucking sucks out there right now, we all know it. So I thought I’d take a dive back into some classic internet history. This may be the first of several articles of this sort.
Today, let’s revisit the original viral video. Some twenty years ago(has it really been that long?), the internet was still in its infancy. Those of you who were around for this will remember that we were only just starting to learn the behaviors that are now commonplace; finding strange shit and sharing it all over the place, gathering in forums to talk to similarly weird people with about the same amount of limited social lives. It was still the heyday of places like Usenet, and Something Awful had begun to become the major internet hub that it ultimately would be for a long time.
Something Awful, being a pay to enter site, avoided a number of the problems that would plague free sites; that of the spam bots. Users could be guaranteed that they were interacting with real people. About a decade later, SA would gain fame for the origination of the Let’s Play, which then in turn eventually gave rise to Twitch streaming.
But even in 2000, long before slowbeef knocked over the first dominoes that would update gamer culture and bring it both into the mainstream, and make it the way that people like PewDiePie, Ninja, and Chuggaaconroy could make their livings, SA was already leaving a cultural imprint.
To the point, the reason we are here. It is this video:
According to Wikipedia, the genesis for what became All Your Base Are Belong To Us began with a Something Awful user named Jeffrey Ray Roberts, who was a part time disc jockey and a member of the gabber band The Laziest Men on Mars. Roberts did up the tune with a voiceover reading one of the badly translated lines from the opening of the Japanese import game Zero Wing for the Sega Genesis. Zero Wing is a side scrolling space “SHMUP,” or shoot ‘em up in the vein of R-Type and Gradius, but did not gain traction in the States and was never given a full release.
This is where the internet lore comes in; there is at this time no way to be certain how it happened, but someone who had the game shared the opening scenes with Something Awful. In this sequence, the game is set up by having an attack by the villain “Cats,” who declares in the worst kind of mistranslation, that “all your base are belong to us” to the stalwart captain of a starship, who then mobilizes “zig,” and the game begins.
But when Roberts, who created the music and titled it “Invasion of the Gabber Robots” and Tribal Wars forum user Bad_CRC, who created the video you see above using photoshop work from a dedicated forum on Something Awful, were done with it, the result became the first true viral video.
With the rise of game emulators, Zero Wing became revisited by gamers who had not heard of it before this event. I played and beat the game upon my first opportunity, and it is a legitimately tough game! This is likely part of the reason it never jumped to North America; at the end of the 80’s in particular, game companies were leery of releasing difficult games in the States for fear of losing the market. This is why Super Mario Bros. 2 happened the way it did.
Zero Wing, on the other hand, and its terrible intro scene that led to all of this, is now the stuff of legend and fond memories for those of us who witnessed its rise. This was a time where YouTube didn’t really exist, which made the sharing mechanism that much harder. That it gained the traction, following, and secured its place in internet history is a testament to how dedicated people were to do the legwork and make sure others saw it. I kept a copy of the flash animation, which is how this video was primarily distributed, on my hard drive for years before YouTube became a thing and the video was accordingly posted.
In this age of connectivity, it’s remarkable in many ways to remember how we got here. It wasn’t always as easy as it is now to get people to find something on a large scale, but All Your Base is a major piece of how we got here. For great justice.