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Memes that only true gamers understand

According to Merriam-Webster, a meme is "an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture." It's also "an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media." Those are some more general definitions of the word. But what is a video game meme, exactly? Believe it or not, it's quite often both.

It can be something inspired by a character or a scene in a game that circulates far and wide throughout video game culture. And more often than not, you'll see it spread via the usage of photos, videos, or GIF animations that are posted on websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit.

Much of the fun derived from a meme comes from being in on the joke. And in that regard, video games are a bountiful source of meme-worthy moments. Now that gaming is a more mainstream activity, memes based on video games are experiencing wider usage online — even if, hilariously, some who share them aren't aware of their video game roots.

If you use the internet, you might have seen or even shared one of these memes. If you're a true gamer, though, you'll know exactly where they came from.

An arrow in the knee

When it comes to memes in video games, few titles have contributed in the way The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim has. The game's massive world, open-ended nature, and plethora of non-playable characters made it a meme haven when it released back in 2011. Players of the game can likely point to a number of memes that originated in Skyrim, but back when it first came out, one was so prevalent online that you could barely visit Facebook, Twitter, or message boards without seeing it.

The "I took an arrow in the knee" meme.

Download Skyrim and play through the game's campaign, and you'll undoubtedly run into NPCs who repeat the same line again and again: "I used to be an adventurer like you, then I took an arrow in the knee." Players heard it so often that it ultimately took on a life of its own, with posts playing on the phrase by altering it to fit other life situations, or by referencing other media properties in the same style. "I took an arrow in the knee" hit its peak back in 2012, shortly after Skyrim came out, but it still pops up from time to time.

Or it would, if it hadn't taken an arrow in the knee.

FUS RO DAH

We told you that Skyrim was a treasure trove for meme-worthy content. Along with the meme above, Skyrim also provided us with the Dragon Shout that even people who've never played the game seem to know. In actuality, the Shout is partly learned by the player early in Skyrim, and later learned in its entirety after the player visits the Gray Beards in High Hrothgar. And it translates to "force, balance, push" – or, in non-Skyrim speak, it gives you the ability to blast the crap out of something with a powerful gust.

On the internet, however, FUS RO DAH is a fantastic excuse to reference Skyrim in a hilarious photo or video.

All you have to do is watch this video of a penguin seemingly using the FUS RO DAH on a human to understand the meme's appeal. You can bust it out in any situation where it looks like someone is being blown back or is falling over. Have a photo of your toddler screaming while you're tripping backward over a toy? Back in the day, you could've pasted a FUS RO DAH caption on that sucker and won a million internet points.

Like the "arrow in the knee" meme, this one hit its peak in the months after Skyrim's release. But it didn't fall off quite as hard, and it's still a favorite for photo and video captions if the situation is right.

Press "F" to pay respects

Leave it to the Call of Duty series if you want a game that'll make a mockery of something very serious. Death is no joke, and dealing with loss can be very painful for people. It was certainly difficult for those who lost loved ones on the beaches of Normandy in World War II — you know, the same beach that Call of Duty dropped loot boxes on in Call of Duty: WW2. And funerals — well, they're very somber affairs. Surely Call of Duty wouldn't …

What's that? Call of Duty desecrated that ritual with a ridiculous button prompt? Of course it did.

In the early goings of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the protagonist — Private Jack Mitchell — must attend the funeral services of his late best friend, who sadly lost his life while at war in South Korea. Had the moment just played out entirely as a cut scene, it might've had the right amount of emotional impact. But for some reason, Call of Duty decided to wedge some interactivity in there, placing a prompt that said "Press F to Pay Respects" on the screen for players on PC. The cringe-worthiness of the prompt, and the fact that the line nearly rhymes, caused players to roundly make fun of it and Advanced Warfare itself — and rightfully so. The memes soon followed.

Just watch this Conan clip and you'll get it.

ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US

You're probably wondering, "Isn't that bad grammar? All your base are belong to us?" The base in the sentence is singular, yet the sentence uses "are" as though the base is plural. That, my friend, is the joke. Games that make their way overseas to the United States don't always get the best localization work, and in the case of 1989's Zero Wing, someone clearly dropped the ball in the game's opening moments.

Thus, "all of your bases are now under our control" became "all your base are belong to us" — and spawned one of gaming's most popular memes.

Ever since, everyday folks and famous people alike have repurposed the "all your base are belong to us" message for their own uses. Hackers have posted takes on the meme when commandeering a website. Elon Musk let the world know that Tesla wouldn't sue anyone by announcing "all our patent are belong to you." And US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even used the meme in a tweet, insinuating that the opposing party's political "base" agreed with many of her ideas.

While "all your base are belong to us" isn't quite as popular as it was in the early 2000s, as we've noted above, it still comes out to play from time to time.

Do a barrel roll!

Looking back on the Nintendo 64, there are few single player games as fun as Star Fox 64. From gunning down enemies, to discovering secret paths, to marking your own course, Star Fox 64 still stands as one of Fox McCloud's best outings yet. But wow, were Fox's squad mates annoying. Falco is kind of a jerk. High-pitched Slippy always seems to need your help.

And then there's Peppy, who is constantly insisting that you "DO A BARREL ROLL!"

Out of all the memorable lines from Star Fox 64, Peppy's will likely stand the test of time thanks to the meme that it birthed. Though Star Fox 64 came out in the late '90s, the "do a barrel roll" meme didn't really catch on until 2011, when internet users starting applying the caption all over the place. If a dog rolled over, it was doing a barrel roll. If a ship tipped over, it was doing a barrel roll. Even Google got in on the fun with a trick that still works to this day. Type "do a barrel roll" into the search box, press enter, and you'll instantly be treated to a rotating screen.

It's been a long time since we've had a good Star Fox game. But if we get one someday, we hope this classic line makes a return. To be honest, it's kind of grown on us.

Luigi's death stare

Speaking of great games, how about Mario Kart 8? There wasn't a lot to celebrate about the Wii U, save for some of the console's exclusives. And one of those was Mario Kart 8, a game so good that Nintendo wound up porting it to the Switch instead of making a new one. Everything about Mario Kart 8 was commendable, from the game's many characters to its inclusion of new and classic racetracks.

But in terms of meme-ability, nothing could touch Luigi and his death stare.

It all started with a YouTube video from a user named Rizupicorr. The video was a Mario Kart 8 replay of Luigi hitting Waluigi with a green shell, only to follow that up with the world's meanest glare. When another YouTuber added Chamillionaire's Ridin' to the video, the meme was — pardon the pun — off to the races. Other players started to post their own Luigi death stare videos with other songs mixed in, and suddenly, Mario Kart 8 was being covered all over the place. Not because it was a great game, which it was. But because people were absolutely fascinated with Luigi's death stare.

You're probably wondering, "What did Nintendo have to say about the meme?" Believe it or not, the company actually acknowledged the Luigi death stare in its E3 presentation that year, much to the delight of many fans.

It's dangerous to go alone! Take this!

If you've made it this far, you've probably noticed a pattern with some of these memes: mainly, that Nintendo has quite a bit of (mostly unintentional) involvement. And there's good reason for that. Nintendo is a historic video game company, and has provided the world with some of the most iconic games and characters ever conceived. You can trace The Legend of Zelda series all the way back to 1986, for instance. And it's in the original game that you'll find yet another unforgettable line that later became a meme among fans.

It doesn't even come from a named character. Instead, it's delivered by an old man in a cave, who offers Link a sword and says the following: "It's dangerous to go alone! Take this!"

That old man was the first contact for millions who ventured out into The Legend of Zelda's world, and many years later, he became the inspiration for those who wanted to offer help in more humorous ways. The line was added as a caption to photos of kittens, as though to say that life is hard, and a kitten can make everything better. It was added to scenes of someone handing someone else a weapon as a sort-of crossover tie between The Legend of Zelda and other properties.

Regardless of how it was used, there's no denying the roots of the meme: Nintendo, the gift that keeps on giving.

Praise the sun

It's almost impossible to play the first Dark Souls and not become somewhat intrigued by Solaire of Astora. He's a ray of golden sun in an otherwise grim and grisly world. So much of your time in Dark Souls is spent dying over and over again, navigating hordes of enemies while wondering if you have a friend in the entire game. But you do in Solaire, a warrior who has a somewhat unnatural infatuation with the sun.

Players of Dark Souls have shared Solaire's quotes far and wide. But it's his "praise the sun" line and accompanying pose that most are instantly familiar with.

The memes created in honor of "praise the sun" span far and wide. Some are photos that show Solaire trying to trap the sun in a box, much like you would a small animal. Others show characters from other franchises, such as Pokemon, adopting Solaire's "praise the sun" pose. And other games have even gotten in on the fun, too. Destiny, for instance, offered an emote in its Eververse store that paid homage to Solaire. Its name? "Praise the Light."

Unlike many of the memes on this list, "praise the sun" is still widely circulated. So if you inhabit video game message boards or subreddits — particularly those that focus on Dark Souls — you're bound to see it.

Leeroy Jenkins

We've all had idiot teammates in multiplayer games. Whether they're totally strangers or your closest friends, it doesn't matter. They're still idiots. They're the fools who rush in, drawing the attention of every single enemy imaginable. And suddenly, the calculated approach you and the rest of your team had is out the window. What could've been victory will now surely be defeat. All thanks to this one person.

This is the tale of Leeroy Jenkins, a World of Warcraft player who left his team behind in search of his own glory — and got everyone else killed in the process.

When a video of Leeroy Jenkins and his guild was uploaded to a WoW fan site, Leeroy became an instant sensation. And it was understandable. His battle cry of "Leeeeeerooooooy Jenkinssssss" was undeniably funny. And his "screw it" attitude — for better or worse — was somewhat inspiring. Leeroy instantly became a meme, giving those online something to yell as they dove into something head-first without any type of plan.

Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft, certainly seemed to enjoy it. The company featured the clip in many of its promotions for several years. And as to Leeroy's actions being staged? The man behind the character, Ben Schulz, says he prefers to let viewers come to their own conclusions.

My body is ready

Looking back at the American side of Nintendo, it's hard not to think of anyone who isn't named Reggie Fils-Aime. He joined the company in the early 2000s, quickly climbed the ranks to become Nintendo of America's president, and — for a long time — served as the American face of the company. And he was funny. Whether he was in on the joke or he was the joke, he could always deliver a laugh or two.

And that includes the infamous "my body is ready" line.

You've probably seen a bunch of different memes online that make use of this phrase. But have you ever wondered where it originated? As it turns out, those words came out of Reggie's mouth as he prepared to step onto a Wii Balance Board at E3 2007. The line didn't quite land at that moment in time, but years later, it was resurrected as Nintendo fans looked forward to the company's E3 2010 announcements by repeating over and over, "My body is ready." And Nintendo even referenced it in a later Nintendo Direct — one in which Reggie was played by a puppet. That one is definitely worth watching.

Reggie Fils-Aime is retiring as Nintendo of America's president in April 2019. And while we're sure Nintendo will be fine, we will definitely miss Reggie and his humor.

A winner is you

Much like the "ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US" meme, this one is much less the result of something being intentionally funny, but rather, what happens when another language gets poorly translated into English. In this case, the offending game is the Nintendo Entertainment System's Pro Wrestling, an unlicensed wrestling title with completely fictional characters and a rather unfortunate victory screen.

Instead of "You won!" or "You're the winner!", Pro Wrestling went with something a little bit different: "A WINNER IS YOU."

You can probably imagine how this line was eventually picked up by the internet and used for all sorts of different things. Photos of someone winning an award got a caption with that phrase on it. If someone mentioned winning, someone would respond with the message, "a winner is you!" The meme became so popular in the 2000s that, at one point, a string of games all jumped on the bandwagon to incorporate the meme in some respect. Red Faction included an achievement called "A Winner Is You," for instance. And games like Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story and Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales used the phrase in dialogue.

"A winner is you" isn't a meme we see a whole lot of anymore. But what goes around often comes back around online, and we wouldn't be surprised to see it reemerge again in the future.

Drew Scanlon's reaction

Out of all the memes on this list, this particular entry might have seen the most usage at its peak, even though many had no clue where it started. That's how it goes with memes, sometimes. They're almost impossible to produce purposefully. You have no idea what will take off and what won't. And when something blows up, it really explodes, reaching people who might not have seen it otherwise.

Like Drew Scanlon's reaction, a video clip that was eventually transformed into a GIF animation. You're probably wondering — who is Drew Scanlon? And how does this tie in to video games at all? Drew Scanlon, at the time his reaction was popular, was a video editor at game website Giant Bomb. The reaction itself — which consisted of Scanlon appearing subtly surprised — was filmed during a playthrough of a farming title back in 2013. However, Scanlon's look didn't really take off as a meme until four years later in 2017, when a student posted a GIF of the reaction in response to their biology class material. The meme achieved widespread use soon after.

To his credit, Drew Scanlon (who no longer works at Giant Bomb) took it all in stride, saying, "It's been weirder for the people who know me than it has been for me."