There’s a new game on the horizon: Dudebro 2. As you might guess from the overly-macho name, it’s a nod to all of the lazy, testosterone fuelled shoot’em up sequels you ever played, and it’s headed our way soon. But it’s not from a big name publisher prepared to make fun of its own history: it’s an entirely grassroots game that started with an internet meme.
It all started with a joke on a forum. One NeoGAF forum user, annoyed with how lazy shooters had become, complained that he was tired of games like 'Dudebro 2: It's Straight-Up Dawg Time'. It grew from there.
The phrase became a byline for tired, me-too games, but it was so absurd that it got people thinking. Soon, it had mock cover art and a storyline. Before long, a team of fans were working on an entire game, a 2D platformer, and it’s on the way soon. It even stars Jon St John, the actor famous for voicing Duke Nukem.
But as surreal as this origins story is, this isn’t the first time an internet meme (think silly sayings, thing viral videos, think animated GIFs of cats doing unexpected things - all the things you’ve ever heard someone say in a chatroom or instant message) has inspired a video game. Here are five more games with a surprising background in the internet’s more obscure corners.
Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People
Strong Bad, the dorky Mexican wrestler who answers fan emails, wasn’t even the main character of the Homestar Runner cartoons, which gained cult status in the early to mid-2000s. But he quickly became the most popular character in the series, and even earned his own PC, PS3 and Nintendo Wii game, Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People. A point and click adventure game in the same vein as Monkey Island, the series received no fewer than five instalments, culminating in a finale with another Homestar legend, Trogdor The Burninator, the deadly dragon with only one arm.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
My Little Pony wasn’t the spawn of an internet meme. But you can thank the internet for it becoming a game. The new series of the kids’ TV show began airing in 2010, and quickly (and bizarrely) gained popularity an adult male audience online (“Bronies”), who loved its universal sense of humour. It was the source of inspiration for thousands of meme images and mashup videos online, and those fans were likely the reason mobile game developer Gameloft decided to create a game of the series for Android phones. The game boasts an astonishing average rating of 4.6 out of 5 on the Google Play Store - almost unheard of for an Android game, let alone one about children’s toys.
Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-Slick Precipice Of Darkness
Penny Arcade is another web comic turned industry: the regular comic series by gamers Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik has turned them into two of the most influential games journalist online. In 2008, the pair decided to try their hand at their own game, starring their comic personas, Tycho and Gabe. A 3D adventure game that worked in plenty of characters and jokes from the series, it was a hit on Xbox Live, and spawned two more episodes.
Before Twitter, before Tumblr blogs, Flash-game and movie site Newgrounds was the site that spawned the internet’s earliest memes. In 2007, the site’s most ambitious game ever was posted: Newgrounds Rumble. Think Super Smash Bros with the most popular internet stars of the 2000s, including legendary British animator David Firth’s disturbing, cult creation: Salad Fingers. It was no small undertaking either: the game took a year and a half to make, and even supports four-player combat, rare for a beat’em up. Five years on, it’s still the highest rated game on Newgrounds.
For The Win
This one hasn’t just gone from meme to video game, it’s jumped from the virtual world into the real: it’s a board game. For The Win works a bit like chess, only every single character is an internet meme staple: you play as zombies, pirates, ninjas, aliens, and monkeys.
In the creator Michael Mindes’ own words, “For The Win is an abstract game at heart, with a solid theme of internet memes applied.” If that sounds too obscure to sell, think again: it smashed its Kickstarter fundraising target, raising $31,085 (£19,600) for development earlier this year.