TikTok isn’t just an algorithmic time waster for discovering viral dances and new memes. It’s also full of new niche genres like grindset grifting, chefs doing cooking commentary, and ASMR deep cleaning. Oh, and challenge-based trends like dudes playing with cups of water.
The “water cup challenge” category is now well established on the short-form video platform, but a new variant mixing chill vibes and lowkey fashion broke out earlier this week. Four guys hovering quietly in what looked like an indistinct Ikea-ish kitchen poured water out of a tap into a stemless wine glass, each one trying to get still more water into the already very full glass without it overflowing. All it took for it to blow up on Elon Musk’s Twitter was one random user re-sharing the video with the description “Ya see how simple men are? This shit entertaining as fuck.”
Over 30 million views later, the “boys will be boys” TikTok is the latest of many internet Rorschach tests, either sublime or tedious, wholesome or necessarily evil. “new task idea,” the Among Us murder party game tweeted. “no ending. brutal watch,” tweeted a haunted Chrissy Teigen.
“People are posting this and saying men are really simple/childish,” wrote men’s pill hawker Dr. Cam. “But if you read Maslow’s ‘Towards a Psychology of Being,’ self-actualized people are not immature, but retain their childlike sense of wonder.” Most people were just like, damn, dudes be having fun.
And according to one of the dudes in the video, it really was that simple. Stefán John Turner, a fashion content creator who posted the video, convinced his friends to mess around a bit before heading out for the night. “Even knowing basic physics around surface friction in water it still amazes me,” he told Kotaku. “But yeah anyways we were just some lads having fun together and sharing it on some of our platforms and then suddenly it just exploded.”
For anyone who missed it, dudes doing exactly this blew up last March on TikTok. NFL pro JuJu Smith-Schuster’s nail-biting game was probably the best-known example at the time, though the water cup challenge had been going around in 2021 as well. This latest incarnation, however, introduces some important new twists.
Instead of a solo cup that gets wider as it gets taller, the wine class gets narrower. In addition, using a tap is a lot less precise than pouring from another cup. You have to have a feel for the water pressure and how quickly the fluid will move through the pipe after opening the valve before shutting it off again. Plus there was the fact that the men involved all looked like unassuming variations on the Ryan Gosling “hey girl” meme.
Vibes aside, the popularity of the video attests not just to how even the most simple games can create tension, build drama, and completely consume us, but also how the smallest variations can breathe new life into them. The water cup challenge will endure, just like I continue to load up my Steam library with new roguelites.