Photo: Sofía Jaimes Barreto
“Venezuela isn’t Twitter!” is a common truth around the internet, which is sort of a shame considering how fun the past two weeks have been at the social network: Four engineers, all around 24 years old, created a Celebrity Deathmatch type of Twitter game, with 350 Venezuelan figures “fighting” each other. The result: Famous Venezuelan War Bot.
It was quiet at first, not that many followers until baseballer Ugeth Urbina eliminated journalist Nelson Bocaranda (the 13th most followed account in the country, if you don’t count websites or dead duets like Chino and Nacho). On day three, it got political—and viral: First Lady (e) Fabiana Rosales “killed” Delcy Rodríguez, and the comment section went on fire. “She has done more than Guaidó,” reads a reply, while four chavistas dunked it out: Mario Silva took down Los Narcosobrinos and Tarek William Saab gave Roque Valero a high five across the face. The account jumped from 3,000 to 5,500 followers, but Rosales (Fabiana, not Manuel—unsurprisingly slain by fellow Zulian María “Dame una ayudaíta” Bolívar) wasn’t done. She savaged the usurper Prosecutor General before falling at the hands of Yorgelis Delgado (just google her).
The first lady wasn’t the only star: Norkys Batista made a comeback, winning eight matches, including July 18th’s against Nicolás Maduro. That tweet has 7.7K likes and more than a thousand comments. In all fairness, she also dispatched Maduro’s most extremist opposition leader (María Corina Machado), reigning supreme until Edgar Ramírez’s charms got her. Comedian and host of the Escuela de Nada podcast, Leo Rojas, emerged in the end as the ultimate champion.
How did this work?
Luis, José, Daniel and Joel, Venezuelan War Bot’s creators, were inspired by WorldWarBot, a simulated world war with a computer-generated outcome. “We went for it just for fun. People are hilarious on Twitter and we made the bet, hoping people would jump on the train.”
“It’s a non-deterministic algorithm,” explains Luis, “that’s two names randomly facing each other. With every win, the chances of ‘dying’ decrease if you fight another name with less victories.”
That randomness accounted for the unintentional comedy that Venezuelan Twitter adored. Teenage pop princesses killed each other, social media stars eliminated high-profile politicians, and old comedians reigned above newer figures. Some of those portrayed took it with a sense of humor, commenting the outcomes and enhancing the game’s spirit. When mainstream media is neutered and tragedy is the eternal taste of news, things like fitness queen Michelle Lewin striking down Vladimir Padrino López are absurd, unexpected and just what many need to crack a laugh.
On Sunday night, people made La Baranda del CNE a trending topic, waiting for the results of @FamousVzlaBot. Today, waves of accounts following the same premise are rising and the game’s popularity is growing fast, the result of digital media occupying the entertainment spaces that people feel they can’t get from radio or TV.