How Chanbanhi is Turning Video Game Memes Into an Artform

How Chanbanhi is Turning Video Game Memes Into an Artform

We catch up the editor behind those viral Animal Crossing edits you've probably been seeing around lately.

We've all done it. Laying in bed late at night, staring at our phones, we scroll through endless bite-sized videos. Once it was Vines (R.I.P.), now it's TikToks—maybe even one of those Instagrams that pluck funny videos and post them as their own. Lately, I've found myself browsing the well of video editor Chanbanhi's Twitter feed.

At first, his edits were relatively simple, like a classic video of someone falling off a swing, only edited so they disappear into the ground while the Super Mario 64 music chimes in as if they just fell into a level. But lately, the production value has skyrocketed. Some of Chan's edits are in fully rendered 3D now.

Chan has taken to Cinema 4D rather than Adobe After Effects to make his latest memes of memes. His follower count on Twitter at the time of this writing teeters over 214,000. His feed is a one-stop shop for if you want to see Tom Nook drift a U-Haul truck as bells spill out of the back, or K.K. Slider sing, "Why you always lyin'?" (The latter falls at nearly 100,000 retweets and almost three times that in likes alone—and that's not counting where else the watermarked video has ended up.) It's perfect fodder for those chuckles in bed as you scroll through your phone before dozing off. It's two kinds of nostalgia working together for folks in their mid-to-late 20s: video game nostalgia, and viral Vine nostalgia.

"I generally just watch a lot of videos and try to open my mind to different ways the videos could be interpreted as," Chan tells me over email, "but it isn't very easy for me and gets a little exhausting trying to come up with ideas that I consider acceptable. I tend to avoid really obscure references and stick to more iconic game references just because I don't want to leave people out of the joke."

Chan is "100% YouTube taught" as a video editor. He watched tutorials and messed with miscellaneous programs, with some help from his graphic design studies. Chan also got in a motorcycle accident some time ago, which inadvertently led to his silly video experiments. ("I had a lot of time.")

Chan's Twitter and Instagram accounts becoming a hit was a happy accident. It all started on Reddit, where someone was joking about how a video of a person falling reminded them of Sonic the Hedgehog. Chan replied to the thread with a video making that a reality, having just recently started studying graphic design and some other programs. It got thousands of upvotes, but it didn't stop there.

It was there that Chan experienced plagiarism for the first time: his video was posted on someone's Twitter and got 100,000 likes. Chan messaged the person to ask them to tag his account, and they obliged. From there on out, Chan was stuck with Chanbanhi, initially just a throwaway online account. Still, Chan embraced the new viral hobby with both hands.

Chan's own videos are just as short as a lot of the viral videos he spoofs. As for TikToks and Vines themselves, Chan enjoys them because short videos are just better at facilitating comedy. "Vines were amazing in that they could tell a story and deliver a punchline in 6 seconds. I think the internet was a little more forgiving and less judgmental back then too," Chan says. "So people weren't hesitant to try out weird and goofy ideas." They're America's Funniest Home Videos for the attention-sapped, debt-ridden generation, only shorter, stranger, and, well, funnier.

"I think making memes of other memes is more nuanced than people tend to think," Chan says. "Not that it's super deep or anything, but there is more to it than just seeing a video and making a video game reference edit on it. Yeah, you can take any video of someone or something falling and turn it into a Mario 64 enter level meme, but there has to be something to it, like it being very unexpected or there being some sort of physical comedy involved or just something that doesn't make it feel as forced."

There is always an unexpected edge to Chan's edits. One of Chan's biggest videos, and also one of his own favorites, riffs on a dog running an agility course. Only in Chan's twisted vision, it's a scary, baby-sized Shrek in place of the tiny dog. (It's not all video games for the editor; Shrek makes another appearance in an edit of that one video where a tiger chases a man on a motorcycle. In Chan's version, it's Shrek running after them, with Smash Mouth weaving in to soundtrack it.) Most of Chan's edits lean on video games, though. Super Mario 64, Minecraft, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and now Animal Crossing are popular appearances on the feed.

"I'm proud that people see my edits and are interested enough to want to see the original videos to see the context," says Chan. "Not only am I introducing people to my memes, but a lot of times I'm introducing them to the original meme too. I'm even more proud of how people get interested in the game I'm referencing and I introduce them to games they might not have given a chance or even heard of. I really do think my videos strengthen meme making culture and even video game culture. There are so many people that have told me how Animal Crossing wasn't on their radar and now it is, as well as a lot of other games I've referenced."

There's been another bright side to Chan's unexpected viral fame too. He's unexpectedly inspiring others to want to join in on the memes upon memes club too.

"Amazingly, since I started making more Animal Crossing videos, there have been a ton of girls who have reached out to me expressing their interest in video editing," says Chan. "At least from my experience, the video editing world has been mostly guys so it's awesome to see these girls become interested in something they might not have considered before."

Chan will be delivering more and more laughs over the months, and maybe even years to come. "I still have a long ways to go!" he bookends his email to me jubilantly. There will be more K.K. Slider house party antics, more people falling into Super Mario 64 levels in hilarious ways, more of everything in our near and distant future from Chan, the most reliable video game memester out there. I'm just hoping he makes something with the "I wanna be a cowboy, baby" Vine next.

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Caty McCarthy

Senior Editor

Caty McCarthy is a former freelance writer whose work has appeared in Kill Screen, VICE, The AV Club, Kotaku, Polygon, and IGN. When she's not blathering into a podcast mic, reading a book, or playing a billion video games at once, she's probably watching Terrace House or something. She is currently USgamer's Senior Editor.

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