Stonks: How a community of gamers used reddit to destroy the global economy and take over the world

Self-proclaimed meme lords may have permanently changed the public perception of the stock market.

Redditors+from+around+the+world+joined+forces+to+launch+GameStop%27s+stock+price+into+the+stratosphere.

Matthew Walter '21

Redditors from around the world joined forces to launch GameStop’s stock price into the stratosphere.

Before the recent stonk explosion, GameStop appeared to be failing. (CNN.com)

On December 17, 2007, GameStop reached the highest stock price in company history when it was valued at $61.45. The market crash of 2008 quickly diminished this number.

As the reality of buying games digitally began to creep into the public consciousness more and more the following years, GameStop saw its stock prices slowly, yet steadily decrease.

The coronavirus only compounded this decline, and, over 12 years after that record high, GameStop found its stock price at just $2.57 on April 3, 2020, the lowest price in company history.

In the 13 years after December 17, 2007, GameStop was never able to surpass their record of $61.45. That was enough to scare away normal investors. Luckily for them, the investors on reddit are anything but normal.

Pushing a dying stonk

In September 2019, reddit user u/deepf—ingvalue (who will be referred to as DFV) began posting “GME YOLO updates” to r/wallstreetbets. At the time of his first update, GameStop stock was valued around the mid-four-dollar range and DFV’s holdings were worth $13,926.11.

The subreddit, r/wallstreetbets, transformed itself from a small online community to a juggernaut in the world of investing. (reddit.com)

On July 13, 2020, he began streaming on YouTube, which he used to teach people about stonks and give the occasional update about GameStop.

He would continue posting monthly and sometimes weekly updates on reddit and YouTube about his floundering GameStop stock. Around August of 2020, his posts began receiving more and more traction. His holdings were now worth just $8,391.84.

More redditors began to play along, helping boost GameStop’s stock price from $4 in August to $10 by the start of October. DFV’s shares were now worth over $250,000.

The price would continue to climb, reaching $20 per share by Christmas. DFV was now in possession of one million dollars’ worth of GameStop stock.

By January, more and more redditors had joined in the crusade. r/wallstreetbets was becoming flooded with posts and memes about GameStop. On January 22, GameStop reached $65.85 a share, finally breaking their thirteen-year-old record.

DFV had accidentally started a movement. He had gone from investing in GameStop as a joke to bringing GameStop stock to a record high. Now he and his followers had a goal: instead of making money by investing in meme stonks, reddit was ready to give Wall Street a run for its money.

Beating the shorts off Wall Street

In the months leading up to January 2021, GameStop had become one of the most shorted stocks on the market. Its COVID-fueled decline made it an obvious choice for a business someone would want to bet against.

Hedge funds had billions of dollars invested into the idea that GameStop was a failing company. As the pandemic continued to rage on and digital games continued to become more popular, GameStop, in the eyes of investors, was beginning to look like a relic of the past.

Stonks on the rise. (the interwebs)

Reddit, in its infinite wisdom, realized this and decided to take action. Redditors began to rapidly by up shares of GameStop, pitching it as a crusade against Wall Street. If Wall Street could take advantage of the market, like leading up to the 2008 crash, reddit could too. Except, instead of hurting the general public, this was going to hurt the hedge funds.

As more support from r/wallstreetbets began to pour in, GameStop’s share price began to fluctuate uncontrollably. On January 25 alone, the price opened at $89, jumped up to $120, fell to $69, and ultimately closed at $77.

As GameStop’s price went up, the hedge funds’ money went down. By January 27, their stock price had reached the $300 mark. On January 28, it reached its current record high of $468.49, briefly inserting itself into the Fortune 500.

Although the price began to level out afterward, the effect on hedge funds was devastating. When all is said and done, hedge funds will have lost over $12 billion from GameStop alone.

The antics of redditors has caused hedge funds to lose over $13 billion. (vox.com)

Redditors did not just invest in GameStop. They also invested in heavily shorted companies like Bed, Bath & Beyond, BlackBerry, and AMC movie theaters, costing Wall Street an additional billion dollars.

R/wallstreetbets was not satisfied, however. “Hold the line!” became the subreddit’s new mantra, as users urged each other not to sell their stocks to draw out the hedge funds’ losses.

With Wall Street finally defeated, it was time for a new villain to reveal itself: Robinhood.

Along comes Robin

In 1999’s Toy Story 2, Woody is captured by Al from Al’s Toy Barn. Imprisoned in Al’s apartment, Woody meets and befriends other cowboy toys, like Stinky Pete the prospector. However, at the end of the movie, Stinky Pete takes advantage of Woody’s trust and tries to force Woody into becoming a museum exhibit.

After Robinhood restricted users’ ability to buy GameStop stock, they were flooded with negative reviews, which Google has since deleted. (9to5google.com)

This is eerily similar to dynamic between members of r/wallstreetbets and the app Robinhood. Redditors used Robinhood as their app of choice to purchase GameStop stock. Unfortunately for them, Robinhood represents Stinky Pete in this overly long analogy.

On January 28, just one day after GameStop hit its record high, Robinhood prohibited users from buying stock from GameStop, AMC, Nokia, BlackBerry, and Bed, Bath & Beyond. However, users were still allowed to sell stock from these companies.

If the users were still allowed to sell their shares, who were they selling their shares to? The only investors who were still allowed to buy the shares were hedge funds. Robinhood closed off the ability to purchase popular stonks in order to protect the hedge funds.

This becomes even more suspicious when one realizes that one of Robinhood’s biggest clients is the Citadel hedge fund. Ironically, Robinhood was willing to steal from the poor to help the rich, who in this case was their biggest revenue source.

Even bitter political rivals like Ted Cruz and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez agreed that Robinhood’s decision was “unacceptable.” (twitter.com)

Lawsuits were immediately filed by angry day traders. R/wallstreetbets was flooded with Robinhood hate, the App Store and Google Play Store were flooded with angry one-star reviews for Robinhood, and Twitter was filled with complaints.

This decision was so universally panned, it managed to make Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ted Cruz agree—agree that the decision was unlawful and exploitative.

Robinhood eventually retracted their decision, but not before completely tarnishing their reputation. Robinhood’s CEO will have to testify before Congress on February 18, and legal action is still being pursued.

 

DFV has become a figurehead for the antics of r/wallstreetbets. (reddit.com / u/spargeletto)

When DFV started posting about GameStop in 2019, he had no intention of single-handedly raising the stock price. He had no plans on gaining a cult following. He, certainly, did not want to become entangled in a legal debacle.

He just wanted to have fun.

Despite now owning tens of millions of dollars’ worth of GameStop stock, he has no plans of selling anytime soon. “What’s an exit strategy?” he infamously replied to a commenter.

He, and the rest of r/wallstreetbets, play the stock market, not to make obscene amounts of money, but because they enjoy the game.

I believe that they have changed the way Americans view stock. Through their antics, they revealed the true nature of the stock market: it is little more than a big game.

And, you know what they say about winning games: teamwork makes the dream work.