As of yesterday, it’s been 20 years since “All Your Base Are Belong To Us” was uploaded to Newgrounds. Let it sink in. While doing so, you can also watch the full video there. It has been kept safe in a Flash emulating container, so even now it is safe for the impractical fact that Flash is discontinued.
Which Ars Technica reports, the history of the “All Your Base” video is longer than just a single upload. Much of it is taken from a small GIF from the Mega Drive game Zero Wing, which had circulated extensively online due to its disastrous English translation (and GIF itself existed due to its early emulation culture). “Early online communities had fun with the sequence by creating and sharing gags that had the silly text inserted in different ways,”
Machkovech’s play delves into more of the story and context surrounding the video itself, which is fascinating. He also correctly identifies the video as a bridge between early internet meme culture – which was mostly text-based and how we got things like ROFL – and the multimedia memes we have today.
Looking at it now, 20 years later, what sets me apart the most is how culturally dated the video feels. It is from the time of internet culture when the whole joke got the reference; back then, the internet was much harder to access, and not the kind of culture-defining trend machine it eventually became. Knowing the reference – and sneaking it into places it did not belong – was fun because not everyone could figure out what it meant, unless of course you were part of the tribe. That kind of humor felt like the dominant mode of internet discourse leading up to Dashcon; even now you can make people’s eyes smoke by writing something like “narwal-bacons at midnight” or “I like your shoelaces.” (Although “superwholock” would probably work, too.)
As social media became massively multiplayer, to borrow a phrase, the sense of belonging in the group shrank. Now you have to promote the meme to participate.