“Gamblecore” And “Casino Irony” Are A Post-Post-Ironic TikTok Masterpiece
“Keep Gambling” And You’ll Wind Up In The Depths Of Post-Irony
Although it’s not often conceptualized, ironic memes serve a purpose: to label a cliché as stupid and then make fun of it. For over a decade now, ironic memes have flooded social media, so much so that many consider the modern state of memes as post-ironic. This means that irony can be expressed through abstract, visual signifiers because irony is implied and expected when viewing any meme. Through this reliance on the presence of irony, the most absurd and taboo of concepts are also fair game for post-irony exploitation. Mix these two factors together and the imagery of “casino irony” and “gamblecore” begins to take shape.
Back in 2012, 2013, or any time that the average Zoomer was in middle school, children across the world watched YouTubers like Pewdiepie play video games that their parents wouldn’t let them buy. It was like watching an older brother play Xbox minus all of the sibling rivalry. Through the progression of watching “let’s play” videos, one kid could learn a lot about a video game despite never touching a controller themself. Of course, the same scenario still exists today. It’s even amplified by the virality and accessibility of new video content hubs like TikTok and Twitch. However, with the new territory comes new and more abundant subcultures that finally get to extend themselves to a new, impressionable and voyeuristic audience. Namely, subcultures like gambling have finally shifted into their pseudo “let’s play” video arc.
Casino content comes in a couple of video styles. First off, there’s the average Twitch gambler, who plays entirely online in online casinos, spinning slot machines while they’re green screened in front of it all. Other gambling streamers are actually present inside the casino, walking around with a selfie stick and, again, spinning nameless slot machines. The gambling side of Twitch is filled with hungry-for-jackpots viewers. To add onto that, clips of the streams land elsewhere, on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, for a different audience to consume.
For a while, gambling streams on Twitch went largely unchecked as many of Twitch’s biggest names tapped into the growing market. Names like xQc and Trainwreckstv became widely known for their gambling streams, however, it wasn’t their money that they were playing with. Instead, the casino websites were handing them money to gamble freely, basically acting as free promotion. This wasn’t a great look for the websites or the streamers. It read as manipulation on the behalf of every audience demographic.
Gambling addiction is a detrimental condition and like any addiction, it consumes a life. However, like any addiction, many already know that it’s bad. The funny thing about the gambling streams, is that before a bunch of news outlets put the spotlight on Twitch gambling, a lot of people were already thinking, This is obviously bad and probably propaganda.
Enter the meme called “keep gambling.” It seems like a simple request: if you’re already gambling your life away, keep doing it. It follows a satirical inner monologue that goes: Does your daughter really need that $20,000 for her college funds? You need that money for another freakin’ jackpot! Come on baby! Gabagogillion buckaroos!
The “keep gambling” meme specifically centers on one image that shows two men mining underground. One man is seen stopping in his digging, slinging his pickaxe over his shoulder and walking solemnly out of the tunnel he’s already dug. Little does he know, that just inches away from where he stopped is an ungodly amount of diamonds; an ungodly amount of diamonds that the man above him (who’s still digging) is going to reach in a second. Below the image, written in all caps, are the words “KEEP GAMBLING” which highlights how he was so close to that jackpot.
For people who aren’t gambling addicts, this image is hilarious. It highlights the deep, inherent absurdity of gambling addiction, like, Why would you “keep gambling” when the jackpot is never that close?
In terms of post-irony, it’s a meme that’s just barely not post-ironic; it still remains at the horizon of plain irony. This is because it only satirizes the cliché; the cliché of nonsensically indulgent gambling. It doesn’t also satirize the expectation of irony in memes. With this being said, it still exists at “the edge” of plain irony, mostly because its subject matter, gambling addiction, is rather taboo; it makes fun of a detrimental and almost unstoppable, mental condition.
“Keep gambling” has a twin meme trend called “ironic drunk driving memes.” In the same vein, driving drunk is an objectively bad thing to do. It obviously endangers the life of everyone involved. No right-minded person would champion drunk driving, therefore, making memes that champion it is the perfect ironic meme that also teeters at the edge of plain irony. Just like “keep gambling” it doesn’t fully cross over into post-irony, but it’s close.
As TikTok has become the main hub of internet memes in the early 2020s, It’s therefore become the main hub of post-ironic memes too by law of elimination. It passes the eye test as well, in that, when scrolling a curated “For You” page, one is bound to come across some obscure, post-ironic content that’s visuals make it look like your screen is putting a hex on you.
Enter modern “hood irony” content. It’s a subset of memes that satirize “hood” comedy, Black Twitter and the mass adoption of AAVE. The meme genre predominantly manifested on Instagram in the late 2010s. Nowadays, TikTok has become commonplace with the genre, where creators perpetuate a weird concoction of visual signifiers, ranging from silhouettes walking to the most tertiary of Vine sound effects. With all of its moldy, glitzy and deep-fried visuals, the “hood irony” video style has cemented itself as a post-irony staple, in that, to a viewer expecting irony in the video, they’re met with many nonsensical visuals that they can learn to establish as ironic, building a pathway in their own head to an abstract, inside-joke-of-a conclusion.
Within the first few months of 2023, the “hood irony” video style has become very well-known, so much so that its encapsulation of post-ironic aesthetics has seeped into other ironic meme concepts that require an extra evolution to enter post-irony completely. Ironic gambling memes are ripe for that extra step.
Through these associations, meme creators on TikTok have started making post-ironic gambling videos that read like hood irony. The videos compile multiple “jackpot!” sounds, horny slot machine mascots and clips of Twitch streamers freaking out over big wins. When mashed together in a cryptic, 15-second video, the signifiers make gamblecore, also referred to as casino irony.
Through many free associations traversed by the meme hivemind, casino irony evolved from “keep gambling” and cemented itself as a poignant and inventive way to satirize modern, online gambling and the corporations that are pumping it into Twitch and elsewhere. These Zoomer meme creators, who are supposed to be impressionable, are seeing right through the facade of gambling propaganda. Out of the dust, comes a video artform that their parents would likely never understand.
click here to read this article in the April 2023 Meme Insider issue.