The best video games are imaginary. Often they exist completely in our heads, or in the dreamy space between their initial announcement and what we finally end up playing. This is where “Arkham World” exists. Born from a 2011 Video Game Awards gag, the completely fictitious entry in the massively popular Batman Arkham series is now all some fans can talk about.
Earlier this month, posts about a supposed Arkham World began taking over the Batman Arkham subreddit. Despite being dedicated to an aging single-player series, this particular internet watering hole remains surprisingly vibrant. It has over 150,000 members, with hundreds or more active at any given time. “This subreddit is dedicated to the discussion of all Batman Arkham Lore,” reads the subscription. “Including the Rocksteady Trilogy, Arkham Origins and all tie-in games and comics, including the Newest Edition Arkham World.”
Arkham World isn’t real, but that didn’t stop the subreddit from celebrating the one-year anniversary of its launch on August 2. “I loved the open world in this game the most because it was a literal world,” Reddit user FrozeninIce248 wrote. “A world full of criminals and insane people and the updated gameplay from Arkham Knight makes this game the best superhero game of all time.”
Dozens of other commenters responded with their own critical takes, sharing their favorite moments and biggest surprises. “Dude I am currently high at a Rob zombie concert and I’m 90% sure that this game isn’t real and I’m scared to know if it is,” read one comment buried deep among the critical praise.
The one-year anniversary was just the start of Arkham World’s weeks-long tribute. The lore around it has since expanded to include a special mission where you play as Alfred, a crossover with Spider-Man, and even a Darth Vader boss fight. Players from the Spider-Man community have even joined in, treating the crossover as canon. Reddit is full of shitposting, but it’s still rare to see fans rally so aggressively around a bit and maintain it for weeks. So why go to all the trouble to manifest a game that never existed?
FrozeninIce248 told Kotaku in a Reddit chat that they stole the idea from the Titanfall community, where pretending that Titanfall 3 already exists is an ongoing part of the subculture. The name Arkham World, meanwhile, was an obvious choice since it was a codename teased by The Joker in a cutscene created by Rocksteady for him to claim the best character award at the 2011 VGAs. The eventual game that was released was Arkham Knight, leaving “Arkham World” free to fill the void in players’ imagination when they had no actual Batman game to look forward to in the near future.
In the forthcoming game Gotham Knights, made by Warner Bros. Montreal, the studio behind Arkham Origins, Batman is already dead. It’s also not technically part of the Arkham-verse. Rocksteady’s next project, Suicide Squad, is set in the same world as the Arkham games, but Batman hasn’t been revealed to be part of it, and it’s a shooter rather than a stealth brawler.
“Suicide Squad is set in the same universe but is not centered around Batman at all, we don’t even know if he’s going to appear at all,” Reddit user BigSexy17 told Kotaku. “r/ArkhamGames and Arkham Fans in General gravitated towards the series because of Batman, Batman fans all around the world praise and worship these games as the true Batman Experience.”
Now unleashed, Arkham World has taken on a life of its own. “You have this entire group of people claiming that we’re all talking about a game that ‘doesn’t exist,’” Unhappyworker77 said.
Reddit user LukeDBZ2 compared it to the fascination with the Morbius meme “it’s Morbin’ time” from earlier this summer. It was dumb, wonderful, and became so popular it may or may not have convinced Sony to set millions of dollars on fire bringing Morbius back to theaters so it could bomb a second time. “Morbius never said ‘it’s Morbin’ time’ and there is not a sequel to Arkham Knight...or is there?” they said. “One thing is confirmed tho, after years of no new content, the sub has became the Arkham Asylum itself.”
There’s also precedent for Arkham World in other fandoms. When Elden Ring went years during development with no new details, some fans feared the worst. As with Titanfall, The Elden Ring subreddit at one point started pretending the game had already been released, making up famous boss battles and more. “It exists because the fans starve [for] content and enjoyed the time when they anticipated the release of the next Arkham title,” TheXpender told Kotaku.
The shitposting is still going, and even resulted in some Reddit users trying to spin Arkham World off into its own subreddit. Some fans want to offload the memes there. “If we are going to flood the sub with more Arkham World and less actual posts about the real games, then it should all be moved to its own sub r/Arkhamworld,” wrote Fanboyxxx. “We do need to take a step back and think about what we are doing, and honestly, if it’s clever and amusing it’s good with me, just leave it on its own sub now.”
But that doesn’t seem likely. Arkham World was birthed on r/BatmanArkham and that’s where it will likely stay. At least until Gotham Knights, Suicide Squad, or an actual Batman Arkham sequel launches. “Arkham World means the world to me,” Redditor Nadongus told Kotaku. “Nothing brings a community together quite like a collective fever dream fueled by incoherent shitposts. I’m out here having the time of my life.”