For those who are not in the know: This is a screenshot from a side-scrolling arcade shooter video game from 1989 called Zero Wing, perhaps the most famous badly translated video game in history. The game developers: Japanese-based Toaplan (published by Taito) had no idea their inadvertent translation errors would cause such a lasting social sensation. During a cut scene (at the beginning of the game) the villain made hundreds of grammar nerds giggle with the threatening phrase “all your base are belong to us”. The cut scene back-and-forth below:
Captain: What happen ?
Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb.
Operator: We get signal.
Captain: What !
Operator: Main screen turn on.
Captain: It’s you !!
CATS: How are you gentlemen !!
CATS: All your base are belong to us.
CATS: You are on the way to destruction.
Captain: What you say !!
CATS: You have no chance to survive make your time.
CATS: Ha ha ha ha …
For nine years this gem stayed relatively dormant until an unknown DJ, Jeffery Ray Roberts (JRR) of Laziest Man On Mars came out with the tune “Invasion of the Gabber Robots” using music from Zero Wing and the iconic line “ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US”.
From there it spread like wildfire! BOOM! Wired magazine wrote an article (on February 23, 2001) mentioning the trend, then later that month, mention of “All Your Base” also appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian, Memepool and Metafilter. On March 7, 2001, USA Today mentioned it as well comparing it to the use of “WAZZUP” (from the Budweiser commercials). It is also reported that in February 2001 the US Military had borrowed the phrase and incorporated it into their marches.
“All Your Base” even appeared on a news segment:
The following list from “KnowYouMeme.com” chronicles important dates:
- 1989: English version of Zero Wing is released in Europe, featuring a variety of Japanese translation errors.
- 1996: Steve Caires, an American expat living in Tokyo, begins posting pictures of poorly translated commercial signs and designs on his website, which evolved into a unique genre of internet humor known as Engrish.
- Early 1998: An animated GIF version of Zero Wing’s opening cut scene is posted on Rage Games’ quote page (now defunct), then later reposted to Zany Video Game Quotes.
- June 5, 2000: OverClocked releases the ‘Zero Wing Dub Project’, adding home-rolled voiceovers and sound effects to the dialogue, suggesting what The Captain, CATS, and The Operator game characters might sound like.
- September 2000: All Your Base infiltrates the highly active Something Awful forums, a community well known for the users with pro-photoshop skills. The discussion thread explodes, growing to over 30 pages, spawning more than 2000 images.
- November 14, 2000: SA regular JRR releases “Invasion of the Gabber Robots”, a remix featuring some of the original soundtrack with Dub project voiceover. The song would eventually become the official unofficial All Your Base Belong To Us anthem.
- Spring 2001: The viral catchphrase hits the mainstream with coverage on CNET, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Register, and the Daily Mirror, one of the first instances of a web meme with major mainstream recognition.
- February 27, 2001: “All Your Base Are Belong to Us” makes its debut at #46 on the Lycos 50.
- March 2, 2001: The Dutch railways website is hacked to display the phrase, “ALL YOUR TRAINS ARE BELONG TO US.”
- 2003: The meme quickly crosses into the real world. Universities are bombed with leaflets declaring that all their bases now belong.
- April 1, 2003: In Sturgis, Michigan, a group of teenagers placed All Your Base signs all over town, interpreted by unwitting officials as a “borderline terrorist threat”.
- 2004: North Carolina State University students hack the phrase onto the news ticker of a live television news broadcast, FTW.
This whole thing touches me on another level, too, because, you never know which mistakes you make will be the ones that matter, so, make mistakes, be silly, be honest, be YOU! Learn, grow, do, move forward!