I was browsing the internet today, as I am wont to do, and stumbled across a 26-second YouTube clip titled “! ?”. It’s simply a piece of unedited gameplay footage from Mario Kart Wii and has upwards of 4.6 million views.
The footage shows someone playing one of the Rainbow Road courses as Funky Kong, and while they pull off some fairly sweet moves, it ends with them falling off the track. You can suss it out for yourself below.
It’s not an amazing video by any stretch, but its comment section is absolutely wild. At the time of writing, there were 19,652 comments and most of them are, weirdly, users saying that they have been “chosen”. Take a look at a few screenshots below.
Now, I’m well aware that this could just be some kind of weird meme, but YouTube’s recommendations algorithm certainly plays into it, as the comments suggest. The question is, why has an average 8-year-old video suddenly shot up in recommendations? If you believe a lot of the comments – including one of the highest rated one – you’ll see it because the channel has chosen you.
The channel in question, 121 kn, is not particularly big. It has just under 7,000 subscribers at the time of writing and contains 26 public videos, the most recent of which was from 5 years ago and is titled, “t e s t”. Most of the videos have between 700 and 10,000 views except for one with around 300,000 and another with 1.4 million, both of which have comments sections full of people asking why they were in their recommendations from YouTube. Content-wise, it’s all Mario Kart Wii.
It looks like those hungry for answers have scoured the channel, as well, with comments on the latest video ranging from “This is where his legacy ended,” to “The fact that I get no closure when it comes to how this channel ended makes me sad”.
The channel’s ‘About’ section simply says, “The play movie of my MKW is contributed,” followed by some Japanese characters which, according to Google Translate, says, “I will mainly raise videos related to Mario Kart”. Not a word of a lie there.
I found the video whilst browsing the ResetEra forums in a thread named after the clip itself. Made by the user, hoju, he posted the link and followed it with the same questions I have.
“Did anyone else get this video in their YouTube recommendations? why does it have so many views and what does it mean. The comments are saying that I’m a chosen,” he wrote.
Some responses say they were also recommended the video, whilst others seemed to play along with the whole “chosen” gag. The thread was locked a short time later by a moderator who said, “Make a better OP next time, please”. OP generally means original poster or original post.
I’ve been far too enthralled by the mystery of why this seemingly average video is getting recommended to so many YouTube users, so I reached out to the company to see if they could shed any light on it for me.
“Our recommendations systems have changed quite a bit over the years, moving from views to watchtime in 2012, then from watchtime to satisfaction in 2016,” a YouTube spokesperson said via email. “We measure satisfaction using things like likes, dislikes, dismissals, shares, and surveys — we get millions of survey responses every week.”
In other words, it’s possible that the video saw a spike in likes from people who just happened to stumble across it and as a result, YouTube’s algorithm decided to promote it to folks who watch similar videos. But according to one commenter, the video is notoriously difficult to find via the search function.
“I swear this video is impossible to search for. It only appears every few months in recommend then vanishes,” user Pr0ject Zero wrote.
I tried a number of search terms including the name of the video, “Mario Kart Wii,” “Mario Kart Wii Rainbow Road,” and a bunch of other combinations including those terms and “Funky Kong,” but couldn’t seem to find it organically. The only way I could successfully search for it was by using the name of the channel, “121 kn,” but I doubt people who are unaware the clip are punching that into the search bar.
The most likely answer to the mystery is that it’s simply a strange quirk produced by the YouTube algorithm and the only reason it’s been noticed is because of the bizarre comments below it. Were it to pop up without people losing their minds about being chosen, I’m almost positive no one would notice it.
YouTube says it also made huge changes to how the algorithm works earlier this year.
“In January of this year, we launched one of our biggest ever changes to our recommendations system and announced we’d begin reducing recommendations of borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways,” the spokesperson said. “Work on this change began over a year before launch.”
If copping a recommendation to watch ‘! ?’ is as rare as people are making it out to be, perhaps it is a sign of good luck. But with 4.6 million views and counting, perhaps its luck is fading.
Either way, Mario Kart whips sack.