Evolution of the Internet meme: 2001
By Joseph D. Lienjdlien. Wednesday, March 24, 2010 3:40:01 PM
A look at one of the most widespread Internet memes of all time, wildly popularized in 2001 and inspired by the 1991 Mega Drive game "Zero Wing".
While last week we looked at a classic meme from the year 2000, Today, we present the top Internet meme of 2001. Perhaps considered the king of Internet memes for quite some time, the phrase "ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US" became immensely popular in early 2001, and spawned a great many spinoffs, even garnering the attention of mainstream media. But where did this phenomenon come from?
In 1989 a game called "Zero Wing" was released in Japan. Successful in arcades, it was ported to Sega's Mega Drive console. The European version of this game was released in 1991, including the now infamous poorly translated dialogue that became the source of the "All Your Base" meme.
In 1998, an animated GIF of the game's introductory sequence was posted to the Rage Games website (linked right). Subsequently, the Zero Wing Dub Project video with humorous voiceovers of the game text was posted on the overclocked.org Website, expanding the meme's influence. Soon after, comedy website "Something Awful" had a forum thread in which with members posted thousands of humorous doctored images inspired by the game's text.
What really caused this to become a widespread phenomenon, however, was when Gabber band "The Laziest Men on Mars" made a techno track that remixed some of Zero Wing's game music with a robotic voiceover. The song was used as the backing track for a Flash animation that incorporated the original game's intro, complete with a synthetic voiceover, and an epic slideshow of humorous edited images that were inspired by the dialogue. A copy of the video lives on youtube. (Below)
The video had a perfect blend of the elements of retro video games, poorly translated "Engrish", techno, and humor. It wasn't long before nearly every geek on the internet was well acquainted with the meme, and it even spread through into the "real world" when it was covered by The San Francisco Chronicle, CNet, and the Daily Mirror. "All your base" inspired a number of real-world jokes and pranks as well, including an April Fools day 2003 stunt in Surgis, Michigan where seven young men placed signs reading "ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US" all over town. The prank ended up with them getting in quite some trouble when some (including the police commissioner) who did not get the joke thought that it was a terrorist threat.
This meme has been extremely influential, and over the years has spawned hundreds of images, videos, and is alluded to very often in internet forums, computer games, and media even today.
Zero Wing TranscriptOriginal English version, versus a corrected English translation.
Just in case you were curious as to what the quirky dialogue was really trying to say, here is a corrected translation of the original Japanese game script:
|Original English Translation||Correct English Translation|
|CAPTAIN: WHAT HAPPEN ?||Captain: What happened?.|
|MECHANIC: SOMEBODY SET UP US THE BOMB.||Engineer: It appears that someone has planted explosives.|
|OPERATOR: WE GET SIGNAL.||Radio Operator: We are receiving a transmission.|
|CAPTAIN: WHAT!||Captain: What is it?|
|OPERATOR: MAIN SCREEN TURN ON.||Radio Operator: The main screen is receiving a visual.|
|CAPTAIN: IT'S YOU !!||Captain: It's you!|
|CATS: HOW ARE YOU GENTLEMEN !!||C.A.T.S.: Hello, gentlemen.|
|CATS: ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US.||C.A.T.S.: All of your bases are under our control.|
|CATS: YOU ARE ON THE WAY TO DESTRUCTION.||C.A.T.S.: You will soon be destroyed.|
|CAPTAIN: WHAT YOU SAY !!||Captain: What do you mean?|
|CATS: YOU HAVE NO CHANGE TO SURVIVE MAKE YOUR TIME.||C.A.T.S.: Make the most of these last moments of your lives.|
|CATS: HA HA HA HA ....||C.A.T.S.: Muahahaha!|
|OPERATOR: CAPTAIN !!||Radio Operator: Captain, what will we do?|
|CAPTAIN: TAKE OFF EVERY 'ZIG'!!||Captain: Launch all of our fighters!|
|CAPTAIN: YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DOING.||Captain: You all know what you must do.|
|CAPTAIN: MOVE 'ZIG'.||Captain: Fly your fighters...|
|CAPTAIN: FOR GREAT JUSTICE.||Captain: it is our only hope for the future.|