No doubt most of you have heard of Gamestop, or GME for short. How a few retail investors over at /r/wallstreetbets read the due diligence posted by user DeepFuckingValue and looked at how an entrepreneur with stellar track record bought into Gamestop and laid out plans for a bright future for the company. How hedge funds like Melvin Capital had shorted the stock for way more than actually had ever been issued, to the tune of 140%+ of the total stock. How the short squeeze took hold, how hundreds of thousands of small investors and everyday people jumped on the train to squeeze the hedge funds… only to have it all fizzle out – or at least seem to fizzle out – as stock trading apps such as Robin Hood swept the rug out from under the squeeze by halting trading for retail investors, while hedge funds were still allowed to trade freely.
Some weeks on, as hearings in congress are about to kick off and as a myriad of more-or-less knowledgeable investors try to make sense of the sums, the data and the confusion, we’re now – in my mind – witnessing a kind of Collective Journey narrative such as there’s seldom been before.
The Collective Journey
Let’s take a brief step back for some context. The Collective Journey is a new modality of storytelling, featuring participative, non-linear narratives as a result of emerging pervasive methods of communication. In short, while we’ve previously been content to sit and watch a story unfold, cheering the protagonist on, we now want more. As audiences, we want to be part of the story, face the challenges with the hero of the story, be heroes ourselves and reap the rewards at the end of story.
We no longer want to stay passive, and the avenues of communication – from Twitch chats to other social media platforms, from memes to forum threads, from Discords to TeamSpeaks… all of them allow us to have our voices be heard and put us in a totally different position than earlier generations of audiences. There are several examples of the Collective Journey playing out in franchises such as the Marvel universe or Star Wars. One person in particular who has been highlighting this new phase in human storytelling is Jeff Gomez of Starlightrunner.
Gamestop as a real-life based Collective Journey
What are the characteristics of this story that make it so special?
- it’s real-world, real life with very real implications for everyone involved. It’s not a story, a franchise, anything out of a writer’s mind or out of Hollywood. It’s real and extremely tangible for everyone involved
- it’s partly driven by one of the most powerful fuels in the online world – memes. The diamond hands. The stonks. The shilling, the paper hands, the apes-together-strong. The non-financial-advisors that eat crayons for breakfast. They are all there, a lingo of their own, helping build the feeling of community and collective.
- it’s a risk-together-win-together situation. If the people holding GME stock today can still manage the short squeeze that this particular narrative revolves around, hundreds of thousands of peoples’ lives could change. If not, for some it could be devastating. While everyone is for themselves, everyone is also together in this one struggle, reaping any possible rewards together.
- the antagonists are almost too stereotypical. Hedge funds with billions and trillions at their disposal, allegedly breaking laws and coercing people and organisations without hesitation or remorse. Could there be anyone more suitable to struggle against in an unfolding narrative where you would like to feel like one of the good guys?
- the platforms, suited perfectly to the online person of today. Reddit as a catalyst, Discord for real-time analysis and networking, Twitter for direct communication with the whales of the story – the Musks and the Cohens, for instance
- all driven by an online-savvy group of people, in their hundreds of thousands, who all have something on the line. While some are looking for a big payday, others are looking to stick it to the man. Right-wingers, left-wingers, politically agnostic people – many are in this together that otherwise would not give each other the time of day. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, as the saying goes.
I had a chat with Jeff about these thoughts as I’d written them down. His points are extremely valid:
Think of what GameStop represents to all of those individuals. While antiquated and doomed, the generation of investors who did this were the same people who used to go to GameStop as a kind of land of dreams, where the things they loved most in the world were for sale. So, the specific catalyst was a business for which all these people once had an abiding affection. It was warm and aspirational and being dismantled by these hedge funds. That in itself was a powerful motivating factor, from a narrative standpoint, that no one talks about.Jeff Gomez
The hedge funds are simply blatant about how they are the vast beneficiaries of the damaged system as it stands. So the individuals who responded are from all walks of life and saw a unique opportunity to reveal the flaws in the system, which could theoretically lead more people to question its validity. While this may backfire on them in Congress—a sad ending to the Collective Journey story—it still was an important story to tell.
Put all of this together, along with all the subterfuge, the lies and the deceit, the nihilistic approach to potentially devastating obstacles and the belief that there just might be something in it still… I would say it makes this a kind of Collective Journey to rival any that has ever been created in the mind of writers and creators. It will be extremely interesting to be able to watch it all unfold.