Dear game publishers: what's up with all the cringy memes?

Did you know that the cake is a lie?

Memes: they're the lifeblood of the internet. In our best moments, they're a shared language that we can use to make each other smile, and even to process complex global events. However, they can also be really annoying — especially when they're foisted upon you by a massive corporation that doesn't necessarily understand how to use them to their best effect. And unfortunately for gamers everywhere, that's exactly the case with many big video games these days.

Meme dream — An alleged dataleak from the recent Halo Infinite beta posted on Reddit shows some tantalizing details from the upcoming shooter, but it also contains several references to internet memes that you might not have seen since the first Obama administration. There are in-game emblems in this leak that parallel a famous photo of The Rock, the Ancient Aliens guy from the History Channel (remember that one?), and KC Green's always-relevant "this is fine" dog. There's also a weapon charm that quotes the "pretty cool guy" copypasta, which may actually be older than some of you reading this.

To be fair to Halo Infinite, fan response to these emblems appears to be pretty positive, at least based on the comments on the Reddit post. (Plus, these are a handful of emblems out of dozens - it's not like the game is forcing you to engage with them.) That said, some video games have really gone out of their way to embrace memes in all their forms in the past few years.


Memetic meltdown — For example, the online game Fallout 76 contains many overt nods to internet memes, including a picnic table that clearly references Loss.jpg, a much-parodied Ctrl+Alt+Del comic strip that's more than a decade old. Even Nintendo games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild contain veiled jokes based on ancient memes like "All Your Base Are Belong To Us," which is in itself one of the most-referenced memes in all of gaming.

While there's nothing wrong with harmless Easter eggs put in by bored developers, there's something a little strange about these giant gaming companies successfully adopting the casual language of the internet for the sake of profit, especially when it comes to marketing. I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that the official Sonic the Hedgehog Twitter account has produced many tweets that I found legitimately amusing.

Some of these companies have maybe gotten a little too good at using memes to get positive attention from press and fans, like how Sony Santa Monica crafted special in-game animations based on classic reaction gifs for God of War fans to use online. (In their defense, they're really well-done!)

Fake gamer brands — Still, while it may be a bit unpleasant to see your friend rock a Halo Infinite emblem that references a meme that you legitimately forgot about, nothing that video game developers do can compare to the constant "how do you do, fellow gamers?"-type marketing that carpet-bombs social media every day. Fast food companies like Arby's and KFC have become notorious for tweeting out-of-touch references to #CertifiedGamingContent in a quest to shore up their demographic synergies. Putting in the Konami Code at the Arby's drive-thru might not unlock secret hidden meats, but it might make the attendant cringe so hard that they spill your Mountain Dew.

Let's be honest: memes are an unavoidable part of life in the 21st century. But while they're good for a laugh every now and then, perhaps it's time to be a little more skeptical of big companies using the language of the internet to sell you stuff you don't need. Or maybe we should all just give up and put it all in DogeCoin.