Ugandan Knuckles Have Taken Over: Inside VRChat’s Strangest Meme

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A lone knuckles in front of an effigy to mod Gatzons Player.One

The newest fad on Steam is VRChat , a Second-Life inspired hub world where anyone can be whoever or do whatever they wish (as long as the game engine allows it). Players communicate with each other in an avatar skin while riding giant roller-coasters, dueling with Tron frisbees, or even playing a life-size game of Yu-Gi-Oh! with movable cards. It essentially creates a world where you could be anything you want, like the new Ready Player One movie without all the polish and immersion.

Like reddit’s April Fools Day prank r/Place, VRChat has allowed certain oddities to flourish. In The Hub or any of the other world’s in the game, you’ll find groups of small avatars that look like a cross between a tomato, a balloon and an echidna, clicking or asking “do you know the way?” The Ugandan Knuckles might be the oddest organic movement on the platform and it’s taking over VRChat like Tribbles on a Star Trek space ship. No matter where you go, you just can’t escape these little monsters, gazing at you with their soulless blank stare and telling their fellow brethren that they have to go find the queen.

Finding out where a meme this specific comes from can be difficult, though Know Your Meme has done a pretty good job of collecting the pieces. In March of 2017, YouTube animator Gregzilla posted a clip of a deformed Knuckles from Sonic The Hedgehog singing, which the internet ran with and remixed a bunch. The avatar of the abomination was created by Deviantart user tidiestflyer, whose creation seemed to gather a community on VRChat. What’s more,  Stahlsby created a viral video where these chubby little monsters walked in a pack toward strangers and made slurping noises at girls while they asked them if they knew the way.

After that video, more people started to join the movement, donning the Knuckles skin and running around. Streamers, like Pokelawls, started to stream their misadventures on the platform. You can actually play VRChat without a VR headset, but you can’t control the arms or limbs of your avatar. Since the Knuckles skin is so small and portly, it makes for a perfect skin for anyone looking for a better way to get around with a mouse and keyboard. Over the past week, hundreds of terrible Ugandan accents have stormed the game and made the Uganda server (having no actual correlation with the actual country) one of the most active worlds on VRChat.

Why makes the Knuckles meme “Ugandan” is a bit harder to explain. Forsen, a popular Twitch streamer, showed the Ugandan movie "Who Killed Captain Alex" on his stream. In Playerunknown's: Battlegrounds, some stream snipers, who join the game of a popular streamer to learn their position for an easy kill, would pretend to be Ugandans, spamming sound clips from the movie like "he knows the way of using a gun." Variations like the “ZULUL” nation wanted to get a reaction out of  Forsen, so they would spam a terrible African accent that anyone with a sense of decency would find extremely offensive. They weren’t trying to make logical sense, only get a reaction from their favorite streamer.

In order to better understand the Ugandan Knuckles phenomenon, I downloaded VR Chat and headed straight for the Ugandan world. Small Knuckles avatars sat in treasure chests, easily available for anyone to wear. Almost immediately, a group of four red avatars appeared by my side to ask, “Do you know the way?” I responded back with the same thing, which seemed to send them on their way, almost like I had passed their initiation. I did try and interview a couple, but saying the same meme over and over again doesn’t make for a very compelling narrative.

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VRChat's most popular worlds. Photo: Player.One

There never really seemed to be an answer to the question, though some continued the racist theme and said “ebola” while others said it was to find the queen. There was no real seriousness or animosity in these interactions, just a bunch of strangers on the internet bonding over one of the weirdest memes online.

Though it’s hard to tell, every deformed Knuckles with a microphone sounded like an adolescent or teenager who has never actually heard a Ugandan speak before. It’s a group that offers an immediate way to connect with someone while also being a complete ass.

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There are tons of custom Knuckles avatar skins. Photo: Player.One

The Ugandan Knuckles of VRChat are an odd bunch. Speaking in a fake African accent and spamming the same voice lines all while wearing a monstrosity of a marsupial can’t be fully understood. Though it all seemed harmless, the whole thing is incredibly racist and offensive to anyone outside of this niche subgroup, but that’s not going to stop it from growing—at least until the mainstream media or parents start to ask, “Brudda, do you know the way?”

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