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Charli XCX, Crash
Charli XCX, CrashVia Replicate

The PS2 filter turning us all into 00s videogame characters

The AI-generated trend is going viral on socials – here’s how to try it for yourself

It wasn’t too long ago that people were pretending to be NPCs. Out on the IRL streets, users would post TikToks contorting their bodies in uncanny ways as if to emulate a videogame character, a trend that later maxxed out in popularity with NPC influencers such as Pinkydoll. Now, the latest trend is the PS2 Filter, a viral filter that allows users to transform themselves into a PS2 video game character using an AI-generated app called Replicate, in case you’ve ever felt the urge to look like a side character in Tony Hawk’s Underground circa 2003. 

The trend started in a Midjourney Reddit channel back in November last year, but was popularised early this month on TikTok and Instagram, with user @hurtabdu1 sharing a viral clip of himself that amassed over one million plays in 48 hours. The filter has unsurprisingly been making the rounds across socials, a personal favourite being these PS2 recreations of famous album covers, featuring iconic pop girlies such as Arca, Lana and Sophie.

For anyone who’s been online in recent years, the onslaught of AI filters taking over our feeds is hardly surprising. Whether it’s turning yourself into an anime figure or yassifying your face with Bold Glamour, the mainstreaming of AI through easy-to-access apps and filters is unavoidable, adding another level to our ongoing virtualisation. A pivot away from the BeReal-ification of pandemic authenticity, there is, admittedly, something very nostalgic about turning yourself into a videogame character, so old-school-Y2K-coded that it transports you to a bygone era before Roblox and fibre-optic cables, when gaming meant lugging your PS2 controller to a friend’s place to play the latest GTA 3 drop. 

Whether we’re main characters, side characters or NPCs, videogame-speak is creeping into our everyday vernacular, too, no surprise really when you consider the growing role of the virtual in our lives. From Apple’s Vision Pro to wearables and Elon Musk’s Neuralink, the boundaries between virtual and material are becoming smoother and increasingly blurry. Even the way we interact with representations of ourselves online – through avatars, emojis, face filters – is shaping how we perceive ourselves as no longer just human, but better resembles videogame characters trying on different skins in the shape of online trends or exploring virtual worlds through social media and VR. 

Just last week it was announced that Margot Robbie will be producing a big-screen adaptation of The Sims – another example of 00s gaming culture – following on from the incredible box-office success that was Barbie. Perhaps all of this is to say we’re on the brink of a videogame nostalgia craze. The metaverse was a flop, but at least AI is here to transform us into retro gaming characters ready to lock into our next side quest.

To find out how to use the PS2 filter yourself, check out the Tiktok below.

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