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When art imitates ‘Call of Duty.’
In August 2013, young Dutch film maker Mick Gerards picked a copy of
Call of Duty: Ghosts out of a pile of sticky tissues, popped the disc into his console, and started guzzling Mountain Dew and Doritos. He then signed up for a
“I was so happy that I got so many people to watch my videos, I even
called one of my friends to tell him about it. It was probably the best day of my
life,” Gerards told the Daily Dot. “I continued making these videos since people really
enjoyed them, and that is basically how it all started.”
Two years later, AncientReality is one of the most familiar names in a cinematic
microgenre known as montage parodies. What makes a montage parody is
defined by a few, and sometimes all, of the following: footage of Call of Duty
multiplayer; references to Mountain Dew, Doritos, weed and its advocates, like
Snoop and Nate Dogg; blaring and often distorted songs from Linkin Park,
Skrillex, Darude, the Sonic soundtrack, and a somber violin instrumental called “Sad Romance,” taken from a Korean TV drama; and soundbites of fired up tweens
shouting into their Xbox headsets about no-scopes and kill streaks.
What they all
have in common is the biting satire of modern gaming culture in all its technicolor,
Maybe more than any subculture in history, gamers are self-loathing. The more
fundamentalist sects loathe attempts to make gaming a diverse and ecumenical
medium as rich as film, music and literature, while the progressive massif are
fighting hard to unburden gaming from its insular connotations.
Maybe more than any subculture in history, gamers are self-loathing.
parodies lie somewhere between. While they mock gaming’s aggressive
tendencies, they’re also made by people steeped in the same. Their tropes are
easy enough to discern for anyone who’s seen hyperactive video game montages
set to the aggressive dubstep and nu-metal that have dominated YouTube for
years, corporatized by the highlights reels packaged by esports organization de
rigeur Major League Gaming.
As its name suggests, MLG is the MLB of video
games, the multimillion dollar infrastructure through which any Counter-Strike
player has dreamed of passing on the path from hobby to career. Only where the
hypermasculinity of football players showing off in exaggerated highlight
packages is generally accepted as status quo, because MLG is trying to package
computer nerds as elite athletes, it’s become a ripe target for its self-conscious
“In the beginning, montage parodies were real easy to make and were supposed
to have bad editing. That was the joke, after all,” Gerards said. “But over time
they became more and more popular and more people started making them.
Because of this, most videos started to look the same, and people tried new,
Montage parodies evolved from spoofing gaming montages to
Most montage parodies are virtually unintelligible, but some of the best, like
“The Magic Weed Bus,” are almost coherent.
While others parody montage parodies themselves. “The Faze Clansman”, posted
on Reddit with the provocative title “Is this the first EVER montage? [Found
Film]” features a Call of Duty montage in sepia, soundtracked by ragtime-style covers of “Bangarang,” “Sandstorm,” and the X-Files theme.
One of the things that makes AncientReality’s montage parodies stand out in this hectic scene is
his use of original footage, combined with a warped imagination.
take video game dialogue as a prompt. In “How 2 become a wizard,” when one of the Weasley
twins asks Harry Potter for some “beans” for “experiments,” AncientReality makes
a vile jelly bean concoction that takes him on a rampage around the
In his Hotline Miami parody, AncientReality takes the influence of
Drive on the game further by portraying himself as the silent, violent
“I guess the reason why most of my videos are somewhat original is I want to try
something different each video. And for someone who makes these types of
videos, it’s not really fun to edit the same thing over and over again,” Gerards said.
If AncientReality is the Vegeta of montage parodies, Senpai Kush is its Goku. The
undisputed Greatest of All Time in some circles, if only for his MLG Mario video,
Kush started making videos when he was 14.
“In the beginning, montage parodies were real easy to make and were supposed to have bad editing. That was the joke, after all.”
“I would spend endless hours on YouTube as a kid. VFX channels like Freddiew inspired me to learn how to edit,” he said. “I would create short action films with my friends with terrible cameras and poor acting.”
Kush made his first montage parody in April 2014: “Kicked in the head by a train (MLG version),” a parody of a viral video showing a man filming himself as a leg sticking out from a passing train collected his face. In August, Kush created “MLG Mario” It begins like any Super Mario Bros. game, with the orange-and-red plumber sprite running through the two dimensions of the Mushroom Kingdom. Only when he jumps on a pipe, he’s sniped by Bowser.
From there, it becomes a side-scrolling parody of Call of Duty, in which Mario is powered up by the disembodied head of Valve’s Gabe Newell, travels through a pipe of Mountain Dew, transforms into a Runescape wizard, and eventually defeats Bowser.
“The meta was forever changing,” Kush said. “Montage parodies lost their way
and had begun to parody themselves. The jokes became less original and
eventually the majority of new content was just a screen shaking vigorously with
absurdly loud music, which even I’m guilty of including in some of my videos.
That being said, there are still a variety of montage parody creators that produce
decent, original content. It was very interesting watching the huge impact the
fast growth of the community had on the meta.”
Kush grew tired of montage parody tropes so quickly that it began to take a toll
on his own work. Pushed to make something possessed of the originality he
wanted to see in other videos, he became a perfectionist.
“My own videos were
never finished, in my opinion,” Kush said. “There was always something I could add. When I
saw mistakes in my uploads it drove me absolutely crazy.”
Now, Kush is branching out, working on “a variety of comedy-based VFX videos”
to further his editing skills.
“These could potentially still have montage parody
elements implemented in them,” Kush told the Daily Dot. “Only time will tell.”
This is the hidden bonus in
montage parodies. Just as MySpace gave kids a shot at learning HTML, montage
parodies have put the onus on some folks to learn their way around an editing
suite, teaching themselves skills that might turn into a career their moms could
be proud of.
This all culminated last year in a montage parody video game. Titled GAME OF
THE YEAR 420BLAZEIT vs xxXilluminatiXxx [wow/10 #rekt edition] Montage
Parody The Game, it was created by Australian developer Andy Sum.
“I just had
this idea for the game sitting in my head for months and months,” he said. “It was
something I was really interested in making for my own amusement,and I
thought the people at r/montageparodies would enjoy it.”
Sum cites quick edits and thick collages of memes as the reason montage
parodies first appealed to him: “As silly as it sounds, there’s actually a high level
of sophistication and intelligent humor to some of these videos. They make
references to multiple icons, subvert well-established expectations, and give
total sensory overload—all within the span of a few seconds.”
One of those icons is a Belgian performer named Eddy Wally. A two-second clip
of him saying “Wowww!” in his distinct accent has become a staple of montage
parodies, but last month, r/montageparodies found out Eddy Wally was dying. For
a forum whose comedic heartline is mockery, the tributes were surprisingly
sincere. “He will be missed as a great character in the MLG community, and as a
great person IRL. When he dies, I can guarantee his meme will still be thriving in
the community,” wrote one commenter.
So while Wally might have been renowned in the
last century for his hit songs and flamboyant outfits, he will live on through the
current generation as the “Wowww!” guy.
Montage parodies have a broader legacy to leave as well. They’ve gazed so
deeply through the looking glass that subreddits like r/montageparodiesparodies have enough material to sustain themselves.
Montage parodies have a broader legacy to leave as well.
snake is eating its own tail, of course, and it can only be a matter of time before it reaches
the neck. As gaming’s brotacular memes cease to be relevant to a new wave of
gamers, the community is running out of things to parody. It’s telling that the
most common games to parody are aging franchises; they’re becoming as stale as
jokes about other masculine artifacts like Michael Bay and Nickelback. Everyone
got the point and now gaming is moving on.
Maybe one day the only thing left
will be these videos, commentary and commemoration at once, of a point in
gaming history best left forgotten.
Photo via AncientReality/YouTube