The Out-of-Touch Adults' Guide to Kid Culture: Why People Are Playing a Banana-Clicking Game (2024)

Stephen Johnson

The Out-of-Touch Adults' Guide to Kid Culture: Why People Are Playing a Banana-Clicking Game (1)

Credit: Pony/Steam

It's summertime, and you gotta fill the empty hours somehow, so young people are clicking bananas, creating imaginary shows on Netflix, and developing very strong opinions about Star Wars.

Why gamers are spending all day clicking bananas

Video game companies typically spend between $60 and $80 million producing a single AAA video game, but a free-to-play game that probably cost about six bucks to develop is currently sitting at the number two position on Steam’s online chart and threatening to take over Counter-Strike's top spot. There are around 800,000 people currently “playing” Banana, up from about 400,000 last week, so it’s going a little bananas. As for what it actually is, here’s the official description: “Banana is a clicker Game, in which you click a Banana!” That’s really all you do.

Many users seem to be into it because it’s dumb and ridiculous, but there’s another driver for Banana’s popularity. If you leave the program running for three hours, you “own” a digital banana skin. Leave it running for 18 hours and you own a rare digital banana skin. These assets can then be sold on Steam’s marketplace. Common bananas sell for pennies. Rare ones can sell for over $100. So gamers are making a little money by playing it too.

While there’s something unseemly about how Banana strips the “game” part away from selling gaming assets, it doesn’t seem like a scam or an NFT-style pyramid scheme. The developers aren’t making any untrue claims about their game. People are willing shell out the price of digital bananas (for some reason), so everyone makes a few cents—Steam gets its cut, Banana’s developers get their cut, and the banana-clicking user gets their cut.

As Banana’s popularity continues to increase, it seems possible that Steam will decide its doesn’t want to be the internet’s home of clicking bananas and pull the game, but for now, you can still click bananas all day, if you’re that kind of person.

What is Smiling Friends?

Smiling Friends is this year's must-watch program for the younger set. The first season of the animated series premiered on Adult Swim, the Cartoon Network’s nighttime programming block, in 2022, but it started really catching on this May, when season two began. Like Adventure Time before, it’s one of those shows everyone likes, to the tune of a 95% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Smiling Friends combines traditional animation with stop-motion, live action, rotoscoping, and really any other technique, to tell the story of The Smiling Friends Corporation, a small business dedicated to making people happy. From that simple concept, Smiling Friends spins unexpected, innovative, and bizarre tales that are funnier, smarter, and more cutting than just about anything else on TV. Creators Michael Cusack and Zach Hadel started on YouTube before collaborating on Smiling Friends, and they bring the online sensibility to every episode. Definitely check it out if you like watching things that are good. New episodes of Smiling Friends air on Adult Swim on Sundays at midnight, and are available to stream on Max the following day.

Is there a Netflix show called My Best Day?

If you’ve been seeing promos on Instagram, X, or TikTok for a Netflix series called My Best Day and thought, “I’d like to see that show,” you can’t. It’s not a real show; it’s a meme. Last week, Instagrammers, Snapchatters, Xers, and others started inserting pictures of themselves, artwork, and videos into a fake Netflix homepage preview screen for a series called “My Best Day.” Here’s the Snapchat filter if you want to make your own. And here are a few examples for inspiration.

New meme stock alert: internet bullish on Grindr?

In the middle of Pride Month, the financial wizards at Reddit’s r/wallstreetbets are hyping a new meme stock: Grindr. Late last week, a ton of posts started appearing on the subreddit, with users promising to put “everything I own + my mothers chemotherapy fund into this stock.” Grindr’s price jumped from $9.23 a share to $10.37 in a single day on Friday, but I don’t know how anything works, so who knows whether that was due to Reddit or not. Today the stock is sinking back to earth, for what that’s worth. Whether Grindr will go the way of GameStop and become a financial saga that goes on for years and inspire a feature film, or is just a flash-in-the-pan online joke that will not be remembered eight minutes from now remains to be seen. Note: please do not take any investing advice from Reddit.

Viral video of the week: The Acolyte Episode 3: Absolute Garbage

This week’s viral video comes from YouTube channel Star Wars Theory. In “The Acolyte Episode 3: Absolute Garbage,” Star Wars Theory gives their unvarnished opinion about the latest episode of Disney+’s new series Star Wars: The Acolyte. The verdict: It's really bad.

A negative review from a fan isn’t that interesting on its own—no one hates Star Wars as much as Star Wars fans after all—but the review is part of a larger trend within Star Wars fandom. The Acolyte is a critical hit. It’s got an 83% “fresh” rating among Rotten Tomatoes critics. But the fans are seemingly rejecting it: the audience score is only 15%, and there's a lot going on here.

Part of The Acolyte's bad audience score seems to come from that depressing "white dude" faction of the fandom that doesn't like "wokeness" in "their" Star Wars—the series' diverse cast and its "space witch" coven proclaiming that the galaxy doesn't welcome “women like us" is the kind of thing that rubs cretins the wrong way (as if science fiction hasn't always commented on current culture). Star Wars Theory raised some controversy recently by saying that women don't like Star Wars, but his gripe here (if we take him at face value) is about the show's lore not fitting in with the established Star Wars universe.

"This isn't what Star Wars is supposed to be" has been a common criticism of the franchise since the prequels were released in the 1990s. A lot of fans don't like The Acolyte for the same reason I thought the prequels were dogsh*t: The movie/show/cartoon that defines the series for each fan is the one they happened to have seen when they were 11.

It's not a dumb criticism like "this is too woke," but the sheer volume of canonical Star Wars product, new audience expectations, and changing mores, make lore consistency impossible. Since Star Wars: A New Hope premiered in the late 1970s, twelve Star Wars feature films, six Star Wars live-action TV shows, nine animated series, and around 100 video game adaptations have been released, all at different times and aimed at different people. This isn’t generally a problem for critics or casual viewers, because it’s a just a show, so who cares, but if you’ve made your love of Star Wars part of your identity, and you have a lot of time to think about how it all fits together because you don’t have a job or family yet, it’s serious.

Lore creep isn't the whole problem, though. On the meta level, a critical mass seems to have been reached that is forcing Star Wars fas to confront the sausage-making behind the thing they love. Star Wars is special to the people who love it. It's personal. But whatever specialness is left in the series is being rapidly smothered under a mountain of mediocrity slapped with the Star Wars name. Along with the shows, books, movies, and video game tie-ins, there’s more official Star Wars merchandise—t-shirts, figurines, coffins, etc.—than anyone could collect in a lifetime. It's exhausting, and it's becoming impossible to ignore that whole thing is a money-grab, where fans are seen as walking wallets. See also, the backlash over the Star Wars Hotel.

The original films became merchandising opportunities after they became successful, but at least you could argue that the action figures and t-shirts were in response to people wanting them, not the other way around. Now the Star Wars cart is permanently before the Star Wars horse and selling dolls and sh*t is the entire point. The ruthless efficiency with which the intellectual property is managed is revealing an emptiness beneath the surface that's impossible to ignore.

The Out-of-Touch Adults' Guide to Kid Culture: Why People Are Playing a Banana-Clicking Game (2024)
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