When A Video Game Rumor Grows Out Of Control
About four months ago, internet users began to suspect that a studio called BLUE BOX was making a new title with acclaimed game developer Hideo Kojima. Gamers originally believed that BLUE BOX was working with Kojima to make a new installment of the Silent Hill franchise. What set off the conspiracies was this now-deleted tweet from June:
Kojima’s games have largely been made by his company Kojima Productions and Silent Hill, specifically, was put out by Konami. In the past, though, to throw fans off his trail, Kojima has used fake studios. If you don’t know anything about Kojima or his video games, he’s extremely eccentric and his fans are absolutely rabid and have been trained by the developer to constantly be on the look out for clues and hints as to what he could be up to.
Shortly after the tweet above was posted, a subreddit was created called r/TheBlueBoxConspiracy. Users quickly began collecting “evidence” that BLUE BOX was a fake studio being used by Kojima to promote a new Silent Hill game. Users made timelines and even tried calling the studio’s headquarters.
As users became increasingly convinced that BLUE BOX was some weird viral stunt created by Kojima, a series of increasingly unfortunate coincidences started to pile up. The studio’s YouTube channel banner was a picture of hills. The first name of the head of BLUE BOX, Hasan Kahraman, kinda-sorta-not-really seemed to maybe be an alias for the Japanese name, “Hideo”. And Kahraman had a YouTube channel called Twentyseven27, which fans thought was a reference to April 27, 2015, the date that Playstation announced that it would not be moving forward with a Silent Hill sequel called Silent Hills.
Then, about a month in the viral frenzy, BLUE BOX tweeted this promotional picture that appears to be a blurry photo of a man with an eyepatch.
BLUE BOX Kojima truthers immediately thought this was a reference to one of the main characters from Kojima’s other video game franchise, Metal Gear. For some reason, no one seemed to wonder why a fake studio promoting Silent Hill would be publishing stuff related to Metal Gear.
“The eyepatch,” Kahraman said in an interview with NME. “The eyepatch. Everyone immediately linked it to Solid Snake. But I was like, ‘People think it’s Silent Hill so it wouldn’t make sense if people linked it with Snake’.”
Around August, it became increasingly clear to gamers that BLUE BOX’s game, Abandoned, was actually just what they had been saying it was the whole time — a fairly basic survival game created by a small Dutch video game studio. The reactions from users, particularly on YouTube, were mind-bending, with big accounts blaming BLUE BOX for “trolling” gamers into believing that they were making a Silent Hill game.
Except, right from the beginning BLUE BOX repeatedly told users that it was not in any way related to Kojima. The studio’s official Twitter account tweeted on June 15th, “We wanted to set things straight. We have no relations with Konami. Silent Hill is owned by Konami. We do not have any relations with Hideo Kojima. It was never our intention to tease the name as Silent Hill. We sincerely apologize for this.” But, obviously, fans didn’t believe them.
Things came to their tragically inevitable conclusion this week, when BLUE BOX put out a statement saying that they’d be working with Dutch law enforcement to take action against users that have been sending the studio death threats and other threats of physical violence.
“We have been dealing with death threats the past few months and the last few days we have been dealing with it again, especially physically,” the statement reads. “This not only affects us as a team, but everyone within our environments. Other businesses, families and everyone surrounding us.”
Reddit threads about the recent statement have been locked due to even more threats of violence. And users on r/TheBlueBoxConspiracy are posting about how surprised they are by all of this. But what’s saddest of all is that, in their statement begging people to stop threatening to kill them, BLUE BOX apologizes for the “negative situation they caused.” Caused how? By making a video game that users randomly believed was a completely different thing for basically no reason?
This kind of frenzy is becoming increasingly common across the entire internet, though. In August, I wrote about how leakers and spoiler subreddits for Marvel movies had unanimously decided that the next Spider-Man movie will feature former Spider-Men, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, reprising their roles. It seems likely that that will happen, but it’s not confirmed yet. And what happens if that doesn’t?
Video game and nerd culture spaces on the internet are, of course, toxic, which explains a lot about how this sort of thing happens, but I think more broadly, these kind of movements are popping up because no one knows who’s in charge of media anymore. There’s this increasingly powerful expectation that what people post online should determine what happens in real life. This is as true as it is for QAnon beleivers as it is Hideo Kojima stans. If enough people on the internet come together and decide that the next Spider-Man movie should have three Spider-Men, then that’s what has to happen. All the posters have been photoshopped. The upvotes have been cast, so to speak. And all of this has brought us to this very weird moment where every time a bunch of people are able to successfully manifest something they want — like GameStop’s stock price surging in value — other groups will assume that their shared online hyperfixation is as equally possible. And, I believe, when that doesn’t happen, these groups will react increasingly violently.
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TikTok Misinformation Still Bad, Probably Getting Worse
…Speaking of online misinformation. Let’s talk about TikTok! According to a transparency update the platform released last week, from April to June, over 80 million videos were removed from the app. According to Tech Crunch, that’s about 1% of uploads.
The majority of the content removed is what TikTok defines as “Minor safety,” which includes things like sexual abuse, grooming, and content that promotes underaged alcohol or tobacco consumption. Only about 2% of the content removed was related to extremism or misinformation.
Meanwhile, the app is becoming a bigger and bigger vector for internet-wide hysteria. Earlier this week, Rolling Stone published a piece about a particularly noxious rumor spreading on the platform that sex traffickers are leaving abandoned children’s car seats on the side of the road as a way to lure people into a trap.
I also recently came across a really interesting account called @traegorn. They’re a nonbinary neopagan from Wisconsin who is using their channel to expose other TikTok users who are preying on the platform’s young new age community, attempting to groom them or pull them cults or other kinds of predatory schemes.
It’s All Kicking Off In West Yorkshire
This screenshot from the Shadwell Village Community Group is currently making the rounds on Twitter. It’s from a private Facebook group in West Yorkshire, England. What do we think? Should this fungi thief have been more repentant when confronted for his mushroom crimes?
A Taiwanese Pop Song Gets Yanked From Weibo
This song is titled, “Fragile,” and it was released by Namewee, a rapper from Malaysia, and Kimberley Chen, an Australian singer based in Taiwan. The song is in Mandarin and satirizes online Chinese nationalism. The video has been watched over five million times in the last three days.
Meanwhile, behind China’s Great Firewall, streaming sites are scrubbing the song from the internet and Namewee and Chen have both been banned from Weibo, one of China’s largest social networks. The video opens with a message that reads, “Please be cautious if you are fragile pink,” which is a reference to the term “Little Pink,” which is an internet slang term for young Chinese hypernationalist trolls.
An Existential Question About Timothée Chalamet
I Am Unsure What To Do With This Discovery About Female Wojak Memes
As I wrote above, I am unclear what to do with the new, and frankly, troubling information I learned recently about female wojak memes. The memes shown above became particularly popular on 4chan around 2016. They were included in threads that were typically titled, “pretty princess threads,” and the general idea was to invert the normal wojak or Pepe threads about being weird 4chan shut-ins. You can see an archived “pretty princess” thread here.
Well, as one Tumblr user noticed, these memes, which all appear to have come from the same user or group of users, are full of extremely detailed references to the Book of Revelations in the bible. Hidden in the background are numbers that correspond to specific bible verses, along with quotes from science fiction writer Anne McCaffrey and the book The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to follow the Bible as Literally as Possible.
From what I can tell, these references were never noticed by the brain geniuses on 4chan when these memes were originally posted. As one Tumblr user wrote in the notes, “this is thousands of times more terrifying and foreboding than anything else ive seen come out of 4chan.”
This Is Incredibly Well Done
It’s just real well done! Classic viral internet content.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a good tweet.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***