Despite what a popular Ring of Elden meme might suggest, Cleveland’s skyline doesn’t stand out against an ominous red sky, Lake Eerie isn’t filled with blood, and Cincinnati isn’t overrun by giant, monstrous bears.
But for a brief glorious moment online, asking Google where the new Lovecraftian video game is set yielded a surprising answer: Ohio.
While it might seem like little more than an internet glitch or a smart dunk on the Midwestern state, the story behind Google’s gaffe is rooted in a longstanding regional rivalry that’s more heated than the feud between Ring of Eldenby Malenia the Severed and Starscourge Radahn.
Where does Ring of Elden take place?
On March 5, an anonymous Wikipedia user changed the Ring of Elden page to say the game is set in Cleveland instead of the nightmarish “Lands Between”. Although the update was quickly rolled back, it didn’t stop Google from indexing the details whenever someone searched for “Where is Ring of Elden take place.”
“Wait the hell,” one user wrote in a tweet that quickly went viral. “Ohio” appeared as the answer in the featured snippet.
Ron Iver shared his absurd discovery on March 5.
“We identified this @ronnui_tweet as the main viral post that took off after the Wikipedia edit,” said Don Caldwell, editor of the internet history repository Know Your Meme. Reverse.
But it didn’t stop there. Ohioans and other pranksters were quick to join in on their own comments about the state’s similarity to the Lands Between, sharing Photoshopped images of armored soldiers standing under red skies with “Cleveland” and “Cincinnati” typed through the images.
As one Redditor explains, “People like to joke that Ohio is one of the worst states, so the joke is that Ohio is so bad it’s like living in the Ring of Elden world.”
Reverse consulted several Ohioans past and present for a more accurate account of how much land between de Ring of Elden actually looks like their fair state. And, in the end, the comparisons may be more legit than expected.
Dean Cooper, who lived in Cleveland for two years, compares the suburbs of South Euclid to the bleak landscapes of Caelid in Ring of Elden, who is plagued by the fictional disease known as Scarlet Rot. Chemicals from steel production drove South Euclid’s wealthier residents out years ago, but those who couldn’t afford to move suffered from the pollution.
“Add in decades of political corruption, redlining, subprime mortgages, and you have a huge swathe of the city stuck in a dying land,” he says.
Reverse Contributor George Yang, who lived in Ohio from 6th grade through college, compares the suburban plains to the Lands Between. He says Ring of EldenThe messaging system resonates with the infamous “hell exists” signpost between Columbus and Cincinnati, too. He also notes that Touchdown Jesus, a statue north of Cincinnati that was fried by lightning in 2010, bears an unlikely resemblance to the Radhan statue in Ring of Elden.
Ash Parrish, a video game journalist with The edgehas a more positive view of the state where she has lived for over a decade, mostly around Cleveland and now in Akron.
“The Lands Between is like Ohio because first hearing the name inspires revulsion,” she says. “But after spending time here it’s actually quite enjoyable, so much so that you never want to leave.”
In his eyes, the state is one of the few places where it is still possible to live the “American dream” on an average income. According to the 2015-2019 Census Bureau, the median income for an Akron resident is around $38,000. (It’s unclear how many runes this translates to.)
The origins of a meme
It’s not really possible to know the identity of the first joker of Elden Ring-Ohio. However, we can infer some information about its origins from Wikipedia’s edit history and a public IP address search.
Searching for “Ohio” in Wikiblame, a site that allows users to investigate the editing history of Wikipedia pages, brings up a list of revisions that includes insertions and deletions. At the very bottom is the first instance of an edit quoting “Cleveland, Ohio”. This was later removed, but changed back to “Ohio”.
“The original publisher was from Pittsburgh.”
It appears that the initial change took place at the start of March 5, but the follow-up change took place (quoted on Know Your Meme) later that same day. The original publisher’s IP address also appears in the edit history, which you can then connect to an IP search engine.
From there, it becomes clear: the original publisher was from Pittsburgh. This alludes to the meme’s ties to a decades-long rivalry between the two cities.
A tale of two cities
The rivalry began in 1950, when the Cleveland Browns joined the NFL and began competing in the same regional division as the Pittsburgh Steelers. Over the past 72 years, it has become the AFC’s oldest and richest rivalry, in part due to the close proximity and similarities between the two cities. In Pittsburgh, one can easily find shirts, mugs, and other memorabilia trashing Ohio and especially Cleveland. (Ohio also knows how to throw its punches, as evidenced by the popular hot sauce “Pittsburgh Sucks.”)
Reverse Writer Bryan Lawver has lived in both cities and notes that Cleveland has a more one-sided rivalry with Pittsburgh. Redditors from both cities also referenced it. (Although it’s clear that someone in Pittsburgh cared enough to edit Wikipedia.)
“I would say that young people in Pittsburgh have very little opinion on Cleveland, and older people hate Cleveland because of Jim Brown and the rest of those Browns teams,” writes a Redditor. They also mentioned that the Pittsburghers also mocked Cleveland for “being bad at football.”
According to official records, the Cleveland Browns have struggled to maintain a winning percentage above .500 since the 1970s, while the Pittsburgh Steelers have a more positive record. (With 138 games played between them, it’s also the oldest rivalry in the American Football Conference.)
Cleveland resident John Learned compares his city’s sports teams to non-player characters in Ring Elden, a “cavalcade of lies, sad stories and wasted potential, not unlike decades of professional sports in Cleveland”.
He adds: “As eternal losers, it’s hard to justify a rivalry with anyone.”
Ring of Elden is available for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. See for yourself how Lands Between compares to suburban Ohio.