The term ‘Internet meme,‘ which is the original form of what we commonly know as ‘memes,’ was coined more recently than most people think. Its first official usage began in 2013. However, the history of memes goes way beyond that, especially in video games.
Before the advent of the internet, many catchphrases from various titles became what could be called the first ‘memes,’ being later rescued by modern players interested in video game history and officially given the status of Internet memes.
Some of them come from big franchises while others were born in indie or cult games. However, once they became memes, they got instantly famous and here are 5 of the most famous in history.
5. “The Cake is a Lie” (Portal)
‘Portal,’ released by Valve in 2007, is a first-person puzzle and platform game in which the player must complete many tasks to escape the laboratory.
The sentient computer which rules the lab, GLaDOS, repeatedly claims through the course of the game that if the player completes the experiment, “there will be cake.”
The cake exists but the player never receives it, this has prompted the catchphrase “the cake is a lie” to become one of the first video-game related memes. People often use it to talk about an individual who is trying hard to win a prize he or she will never get.
The phrase has spread so much on the English language that it could now be considered an actual (officially recognized) idiom, according to KnowYourMeme and Urban Dictionary.
4. “All your base are belong to us” (Zero Wing)
This statement belongs to the opening scene of the arcade space shooter ‘Zero Wing,’ released in 1989. It is probably the oldest recorded video game related meme, and it gained popularity at the dawn of the Internet age, in 1998.
The main antagonist utters the vile phrase at the beginning of the game, and he is not the only character who suffered from a poorly translated dialogue. The original game was translated from Japanese, probably by a non-native speaker.
The meme became so famous, so fast, that it even appeared on television in 2006. It is usually used, for example, by players on capture-the-flag games, but has evolved to acquire a variety of meanings which is unmeasurable.
3. “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this” (The Legend of Zelda)
One of the most recognized and beloved video game franchises, The Legend of Zelda saw the light in 1986. The title character, Link, receives a sword before starting his journey to save the world. An elder man gives him the weapon uttering the phrase.
People have been using it when they give something critical to someone else, especially before a big event.
The popularity of the game and the main character have made this meme particularly famous.
2. “I took an arrow in the knee” (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)
Usually changed to “I took an arrow to the knee,” this meme comes from Skyrim. The medieval fantasy action adventure game has become famous for its funny Non-playable Characters (or NPC’s).
One of them is a soldier that tells the main character he used to be a soldier, but then he took an arrow to the knee. But actually, the phrase is Scandinavian slang to say someone got married.
The ambiguous nature of this statement quickly allowed for it to become an Internet catchphrase that could come up in any situation. It is still used as comedic effect after someone talks about something he or she used to do
1. “Do a barrel roll” (Star Fox)
The reason this particular meme is at the top of our list has to do with reach and ease of use, two characteristics that this meme holds without question.
It is so simple, and so ambiguous that users do not attach any meaning to it, other than annoying their friends by saying it repeatedly.
The barrel roll is an actual technique used in aerial combat. It is a flat 360° spin performed by the pilot to avoid incoming fire. One of the characters of 1997’s ‘Star Fox’ (another classic Nintendo franchise) fastidiously urges the player in-game to perform it.
This meme has become so famous that Google included a unique function on its main search page in 2011. When users type ‘do a barrel roll’ into the search bar, their screen rotates 360° before showing search results.
Source: Know Your Meme