Splatoon 2’s hub world of Inkopolis is a place to relax, try out new gear, and share awesome art. When the game launched in July, it was a metropolis brimming with positive illustrations. Five months later, it looks like a shitpost disaster town.
The quality of art in Splatoon 2 has long been dependent on the game’s players, because they’re the people Nintendo has empowered to fill it with art. The Nintendo Switch game lets users draw messages that other players can see if they encounter your character in the game’s hub world. Back in July, the messages often displayed amazing pieces of fan art. Dedicated fans would post new drawings of their favorite characters every day and nearly photo-realistic images.
Now Inkopolis is full of stuff like this:
There have always been some shitposting and injokes in Inkopolis. It’s never just been a museum for great fan-art. Inkopolis was both a gallery and message board. Post were often positive and part of interesting ongoing discussions. It was common for the lobby to fill up with LGBTQ-positive posts as well as art-heavy discussions about furries. This melting pot of art and in-jokes kept things fresh but the scale never tipped towards one end of the other. After a small break from Splatoon 2, I’ve found that the dynamic has dramatically shifted. Outside of art related to the competitive “this versus that” Splatfests, Inkopolis teems with bizarre in-jokes and memes that drown out most art. One of the most perplexing examples was a recent obsession with toe sucking.
Splatoon 2’s latest memes have devolved beyond art and into the realm of pure shitposting to rival the most cavalier message boards. It’s truly bizarre to watch daily Callie art and lingering Splatfest allegiance posts give way to an extended war about sexual fetishes. This is particularly strange within a Nintendo game aimed at all age groups. It’s largely harmless but Inkopolis’ tonal shift from celebratory art show to snickering in-jokes is one of the most bizarre transitions I’ve ever encountered in a gaming lobby.
Weekly memes reached their nadir recently as certain community members rallied around a player named Craig. Craig received a 14 day suspension from Nintendo for poor conduct during online play and and inappropriate nickname. At the time of his suspension, Craig was using the name “Bike Cuck.” The name meant to poke fun at an online comic about a stolen bike also incorporated a common insult of forum trolls and the alt-right. Craig told Kotaku that he deserved to be banned but his story nevertheless came to dominate Inkopolis. It only faded away with the arrival of the latest Splatfest: socks versus sweaters.
Perhaps I’m blinded by nostalgia for Splatoon 2’s launch or have missed some recent great art thanks to also taking time out to play other games. Nevertheless, returning to Inkopolis only to drown in the sea of memes takes some of the magic out of the Splatoon 2 experience. A few weeks ago, a gorgeous mural in my neighborhood was covered with a hasty piece of throw-up. Inkopolis evokes a similar feeling; something special feels like it’s been painted over and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get it back.