Birth of the Meme: The 20th Anniversary of ‘All Your Base’

Next week is the 20th Anniversary of the birth of the meme ‘All Your Base,’ one of the most well-known viral memes of the pre-social media era. The original link is here, but you can also watch it on Youtube. Feel free to catch up first, and then let’s talk about what ‘All Your Base’ taught us about Internet culture, social objects, and nerdcool. Watch, and then let’s discuss:

When All Your Base Are Belong To Us (shortened to AYBABTU because I don’t want to keep typing that) dropped in 2001, the entire world took notice. As Wired pointed out, AYBABTU exposed “the Dada ‘reality’ of a medium that refuses to be tamed into predictability.” While that’s true, it’s not the whole story. AYBABTU was a meme, one of the first really popular ones. Like other memes, ‘When All Your Base Are Belong To Us ‘ ‘represents something timeless that continually rings true for people, such as parenthood. Other memes are specific to a specific event or idea.’

So what was the truth of AYBABTU? Before 2001, gamers and gamer-related culture were still on the down-low. Thousands of kids grew up thinking they were the only one who understood how video games could be both endearing and cringe-worthy. Then, like AYBABTU hits like a ton of bricks and they realize: “Hey, we aren’t alone. Like yesteryear nerds playing D&D or quoting Monty Python, we have a ‘thing’ of our own!”

Was it meaningful? Of course not. Was it stupid? Absolutely. But ‘All Your Base Are Belong To Us’ was something all these kids could relate to, what @GapingVoid calls ‘a social object,’ a tangible reason for why we socialize.

Our cultural understanding of memes and Internet culture has leapfrogged itself over and over again in the past twenty years. All Your Base Are Belong To Us dropped in the last few months before 9/11, now that I think about it. It’s a meme that represents the optimistic, irreverent future we were trying to build. I wish we could somehow be that innocent and hopeful again. I’m going to talk more about this, after I think about how it applies to Mesh.