Failing to explain something old but funny to a 6 year old

The boy has discovered YouTube. With the aid of content filtering in several forms, he’s watched a lot of LEGO and Hotwheels videos, as well as the usual CBBC iPlayer stuff. So I thought it was time to introduce him to one of my favourite YouTube videos from a bygone era, All Your Base Are Belong To Us.

If you’ve just clicked the link and watched the video, it will make precious little sense to you so I will try to explain. Back in the day, the vast majority of awesome console games came out of Japan- you know the home of Sony, Nintendo and Sega (among others). Over here in the UK we battled manfully with our home computers, and some of them had a great selection of games, but none really lived up to the oompf of the likes of the SNES or Megadrive (yes I’m that old).


These consoles made their way over to our shores and were lapped up, even though the regional optimization was shocking. Games actually ran slower in the UK than they did in Japan due to different TV standards- we ran at 50hz, Japan at 60hz, and while it was possible to optimize games to run at full speed in the UK, hardly anybody bothered. Not that we noticed most of the time. The other area where locationisation was skipped was the translation from Japanese to English. Nemesis’ (Gradius) floating orbs (see left), were for some reason translated as “Option” originally. Makes no sense to me. Ghostbusters had this as it’s end game congratulation message:Conglaturation! You have completed a great game. And prooved the justice of our culture. Now go and rest our heroes!” DoDonPachi also threatened to prosecute people to “the full extent of the jam if they pirated the game. Of course the greatest mistranslation of all time is Nintendo’s first Mario game, starring Mario and a gorilla but definitely no Donkey but called Donkey Kong.

But the best had to be the translation for Zero Wings on the Megadrive. It was so astonishingly bad, someone went to extraordinary lengths to turn it into a video. The original exchange was translated to this:

Mechanic: Somebody set up us the bomb.
Operator: Main screen turn on.
CATS: All your base are belong to us.
CATS: You have no chance to survive make your time.
Captain: Move ‘ZIG’.
Captain: For great justice.

Just another bad translation but it spawned this:

So obviously I showed it to the boy, expecting him to find it funny. After all, it has music, some video game stuff and is only 4 minutes long. In fact it had all the ideal ingredients for a small boy to find captivating. But it failed miserably to amuse him, and that failure got worse as I dug myself into a deeper hole trying to explain why it was funny. As I explained more and more, I began to realise that the more you seek to analyse why somethings are funny, the more the humour drains utterly away from them.

So I gave up and decided to watch some Horrible History songs with him instead. At least we both find those funny.