Welcome to Da Share Z0ne, a weird part of the internet run by ‘Admin’, a socially anxious, horny (but ultimately nice) skeleton
Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog, as the old saying goes. You understand it better, but the frog dies in the process. And sometimes, whether it’s at school or at your job writing articles about the internet, you have to do it even if you don’t want to. That’s especially true for a gag operating on so many concentric levels of irony as Da Share Z0ne, for whom the frog metaphor here, a mixture of badass and depressing, is particularly apt. The popular Twitter and Facebook account is indeed, as its name implies, a place for sharing memes and image macros. The difference here is that they’re almost exclusively centered around a main character, Admin, a skeletal figure fond of swords, lava, machine guns, and purposefully excruciating graphic design, who happens to suffer from social anxiety among a host of other maladies.
The surface level appeal of the account, which launched an immediately successful fundraiser last week for a tabletop card game based on Admin’s exploits, will be obvious to anyone fluent in the world of absurdist, shit-posting meme pages on Facebook and Reddit and the like. But as the juxtaposition of traditionally hyper-masculine signifiers and Admin’s foibles at the heart of each post points up, there’s a significant departure from the norm here: Da Share Z0ne has heart. Unlike so much other internet humour, there’s nothing malicious about it, unless you count yourself among the type of brutish bore it’s parodying in the first place.
Essentially, Da Share Z0ne is a riff on the style of toxic masculinity that can be found on specific corners of the meme-based internet. The type where dudes are dudes, motorcycles and guns kick ass, and everything you need to know about a guy can be crammed onto a horribly designed image macro of clashing fonts, unreadable texts, and shoddy looking graphics. Usually it will be something like a thinly veiled post-divorce screed about overcoming adversity, or elaborate fantasies about the type of ass-kicking that will befall anyone who disrespects his daughter. Admin, a skeleton suffering from IBS and depression, has one foot of his persona rooted in that wretched swamp, and the other in a completely contrasting contemporary sensitivity, taking the subtext of the loneliness of the outlaw tough guy and pushing it front and centre.
“Da Share Zone is a riff on the style of toxic masculinity that can be found on specific corners of the meme-based internet”
“If you dive deep into Facebook you’ll get into this land where these guys are reposting stuff from pages that are like a skeleton riding a motorcycle, and it will say, like ‘Ride for Life and if you don’t like me fuck off,’” explained Drew Fairweather, aka Drew Toothpaste, one of the artists who contributed artwork for the card game, alongside other popular internet humorists and comics artists like @Dril, @Bakkooonn, @weedguy420boner, Sarah Dyer, Natalie Dee, KC Green and more. “On Da Share Z0ne, there was something like, ‘If you don’t like me, then please tell me so I can work on my character.’ It kind of takes that idea of people un-ironically expressing these really aggressive things using memes and kind of subverts it.”
“I think what people like about Da Share Z0ne is Admin is nice,” Ryan Cuggy, another of the artists said. “He likes stuff and he says he’s sorry and he’s got it all out there.”
“He’s dumb as hell too, people love that. He’s Homer Simpson kinda,” he added. “You’ve got those meme pages all over Facebook and the guy always turns out to be a racist or something and, like, hates women. This guy only hates bosses and cops.”
“If you dive deep into Facebook you’ll get into this land where these guys are reposting stuff from pages that are like a skeleton riding a motorcycle, and it will say, like ‘Ride for Life and if you don’t like me fuck off” – Drew Toothpaste
Da Share Z0ne: THE DEVIL’S LEVEL game translates Admin’s neuroses, tribulations, and essentially decent ethos into a playable format, where players have to accomplish a series of tasks that parallel the familiar mundane affronts most of us contend with on a daily basis.
“You have to go to the mall,” the crowdfunding video explains, following a walking skeleton from behind. “You can’t find your car in the parking lot. You’re terrified of elevators. And the mailman just saw your ass.”
It’s something like Magic, minus the convoluted rules, or Cards Against Humanity, stripped of the casual cruelty.
“Da Share Z0ne kind of takes the Cards Against Humanity idea of saying shit that is transgressive, and turns it on its head,” Fairweather said. “Really the transgression comes from, Hey, I shit myself at the mall, or something like that. These indignities, but the kind of stuff that happens to everybody. This is sort of a response to that where the whole idea is you have empathy. Not just, ‘I’m sorry you lost your job’, but ‘I’m sorry that life just fucking constantly sucks all day long’.”
In the game, players are presented with a number of scenarios like the above, and have to cope with them by attempting to balance out their respective Depression Level, Horniness Level, and Genius Level at 6 points each, or 6/6/6: The Devil’s Level. If that all sounds Extremely Online, you’re not far off, but it’s a deliberate, well-controlled absurdity that fans of the reliably hilarious and melancholic account have become accustomed to.
“You do probably have to be online (to get it),” Cuggy said. But everyone's been online for like 10 years now. If you've been on Facebook you're probably fine.”
When bad things happen to you in the game, your Depression Level goes up, just like in real life. And to balance that off, you have to do something to chill like eating edibles, or grabbing a cold one out of the fridge. You also want to prevent yourself from becoming too horny, and can complete tasks that increase your Genius Level at the same time. That might mean playing a card where you get stuck in the mall but use the mall directory to find your way out. Like a genius would.
“It’s a whole list of things for somebody who’s experiencing all these minor indignities all the time and trying to get his depression and horniness in check by self medicating and getting cool shit that makes his life better,” Fairweather said. Maybe that’s getting a can of peanut butter, or playing a bass guitar. Maybe it’s something bad, like your IBS acting up again.
Basically, Admin is all of us. Trying our best to navigate the cruel hell of late capitalism, technology-born isolation, confusing sexual dynamics, and internet-born brain damage.
“If we can get Admin’s life in order, we can get our own life in order,” Oliver Leach, the artist and Twitter personality known as @BAKKOOONN says. The game is an attempt to reconcile this. “Become a moderate amount of horny, don’t get too depressed. It’s like a self-help game now that I think about it.”
“ITS NOT LIKE OTHER CARD GAMES ITS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN,” Admin, whose real identity is unknown, explained via email. “AND NOT LIKE MONOPOLLY WHERE RANDY GETS MAD IF YOU DONT KNOW ALL THE STREETS IN IT 2.”
The game, like his account, “IS FOR ANY ONE WHO WANTS TO CHILL OUT AND HAVE A GOOD TME,” he went on. “THANKS SORRY IF THATS NOT GOOD ENOUGH JUST TLEL ME IF SO.”
Considering the in-house consensus on bloggers attempting to turn jokes into content, something Admin is decidedly against, I felt fortunate to get such a relatively coherent response. At the very least, unlike this reporter, I wasn’t emailed a picture of Admin’s nude ass. That probably would’ve wreaked havoc on my horny level.