The ongoing GameStop stock situation, which we’re all learning about through a combination of reputable sources and an onslaught of memes, has captured the internet’s attention for reasons ranging from “WTF?” to “LOL.”
One of the most common things you’ll hear about the whole situation is that it caught everyone by surprise. Even those closest to this story from the beginning would have a hard time honestly telling you that they ever thought a group of investors on Reddit who trade stocks as often as memes would have been able to predict that GameStop, one of the worst companies in gaming, would turn the financial world upside down.
Then again, maybe we should have seen this coming. As many fans on Twitter are already pointing out, this whole thing is weirdly reminiscent of what happened last year when Animal Crossing: New Horizons became the biggest social phenomenon of 2020.
In case you somehow missed out on the Animal Crossing: New Horizons movement that captured many people’s attention in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, then that means you also missed out on the game’s “Stalk Market” which allowed users to buy turnips in large quantities on Sundays and sell them throughout the week. Depending on the day and the time of day, players would be offered a different price for their turnips.
New Horizons made it difficult to lose everything in the Stalk Market, but the variable rates of return proved to be quite addictive indeed. People were finding excuses to check the AM and PM prices of turnips just to make sure they didn’t miss a good deal. I can tell you from experience that many houses had many tense arguments over whether or not the current turnip price was good enough or whether it was better to push your luck and wait.
While Animal Crossing: New Horizons proved that gamers everywhere were interested and occasionally obsessed with the stock market (as if Wall Street Kid didn’t prove that already), the biggest takeaway from our collective time with Animal Crossing‘s economy is that gamers aren’t entirely satisfied with abiding by the ebb and flow of the market. They’d rather just cheat.
It started out simple enough as New Horizons players quickly formed social groups so that they could travel to each other’s island and sell their turnips on whoever’s island had the best price. While purists argued that defeated the drama of the game’s fluctuating markets, others stated that the social nature of those transactions was very much in the spirit of the Animal Crossing experience. They were basically starting hedge funds.
Well, as the GameStop stock situation has taught us, not everyone is happy to see hedge funds have all the power. Some prefer to use similar tactics but in a way that makes profits much more accessible to individuals and general users on the outside of such formal groups. That’s why it didn’t take long for gamers to find alternate solutions.
Through websites such as this one, it was possible to input your existing Stalk Market prices and receive predictions regarding the potential sell prices for the rest of the week. As these services grew and more information became available, Stalk Market websites were able to offer nearly perfect predictions of an otherwise unpredictable market. Once again, there were many who felt that such websites ruined the spirit and fun of Animal Crossing and was roughly the same as time skipping exploits.
That being said, nobody was really surprised to see these websites pop up. After all, gamers have been finding the shortest path between two points through whatever means available for as long as games have existed. From cheat codes to speedruns, large chunks of gaming culture are devoted to beating the system. Remember that scene in Ready Player One when Wade Watts decides to drive backward at the start of the race and try to reach the finish line faster? The most unrealistic thing about that story is the idea that at least half the racers didn’t try the same thing.
If Wall Street takes nothing else away from this whole thing, it should probably be the lesson that generations of gamers have been raised to find whatever shortcuts are available and utilize them until they’ve essentially changed the way the game is played. It was really just a matter of time until enough got together and used the shortcuts that brokers have been using for years.
Honestly, the only major difference between the GameStop situation and Animal Crossing is that some Animal Crossing players found that beating the stock market and earning nearly infinite money kind of took the fun out of the whole thing. Based on what we’ve seen so far from these so-called “meme stocks” and the millions of dollars at stake, we somehow doubt that real-world market exploits are going to lose their entertainment value for so long as the market holds.
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