20-year-old Brian Haugh has spent the past six years purchasing thousands of “:steam2016:” emoticons, which Valve created to promote the 2016 Steam Summer Sale and looks like a hot dog wearing little shoes. On Steam, you can purchase emoticons from other users in the Community Marketplace or create them by playing games that generate Steam collectibles. You can use them when chatting in Steam, to spruce up your profile description, or to create Super Mario art. Steam emoticons are typically $0.10 curios with limited practical use and aesthetic value, but they mean much more to Haugh.
“I will never stop looking for or at wieners,” he told me. “Wieners will be on my mind until the day I die.”
Haugh is on a mission to buy every :steam2016: hot dog emoticon available on the Community Marketplace, and has been doing so since the day he turned 16 in 2016. He routinely refers to them as “wieners” or “the wieners,” and as of June 30, he has 2,525 of them in his collection, which cost him over $250. He tracks these numbers in a fastidious spreadsheet, which contains all wiener transaction history and visualizes data in a graph named “Wieners Purchased Over Time.”
The wieners were a joke, at first. “I used to be a part of a small gaming group that met together to play Mount and Blade: Napoleonic Wars,” Haugh said. “During the summer of 2016, the Steam wiener emoji was released, and for whatever reason, I was stupid hyped over it. I kept spamming it, and our leader got fed up because other people were starting to join me. So he banned the use of it, stifling my rights to use the wiener emoji.”
In response, Haugh and his friends started drafting plans for a “wiener resistance,” which consisted of multiple people spamming :steam2016: until they got kicked from the server. He started buying the emoticon in bulk shortly after in celebration of the successful trolling, he says. Do you remember what it’s like to be 16?
But if you look beyond the teen boy shenanigans, Haugh’s attention to detail cannot be overstated. He’s dedicated to his craft, which happens to be collecting wieners. He’s so dedicated that he still performs routine checks on Steam’s wiener load even after feeling like he already made his “final purchase,” which bought up every available :steam2016: emoticon at that point in time (aside from one priced at $400).
“It has become a religion for me,” he said. “It’s always in the back of my mind.” And it has changed his understanding of real hot dogs forever—Haugh says that it “might sound strange, but occasionally I’ll see one, and this whole experience will flash into my mind and I’ll laugh.”
In addition to motivating schematic shifts, his mass wiener purchases might also be influencing the Steam market. They’re likely to be the sole determinants of :steam2016: emoticon prices, and because of the spreadsheet and Steam’s own data visualizers, Haugh has proof that his bulk purchases often lead to price spikes.
It checks out. “If I bought every single emoji worth $0.03 – $0.10 on a specific day, for example, the next day, the only [emoticons] being sold would be $0.11,” he said. “The average value would have increased, and other people would begin selling their own wieners at $0.11, which could be seen as the average trading prices for that day in the Steam market.”
“Steam’s marketplace is similar to that of a stock market,” he said. “Things are only able to be bought if someone else is selling,” which is why he let the $400 wiener live.
Our world seems to get darker and more filled with monkeypox every day, but at least one man’s loyalty to wieners stays good and strong.
“I don’t ever plan on stopping,” Haugh said. “There will always be some poor fool to list a wiener for a few cents on the market, and when he does, I’ll be there to buy it.”