Students cash in on Gamestop frenzy, question legitimacy of the system


Photo courtesy of Alan Senkus

In an extremely volatile market, Gamestop’s stock value rose two-thirds of its value in one day.

Alex Perry, Reporter

If Medill sophomore Jack Izzo hadn’t been taking a psychology test, he could have sold at GameStop’s peak, turning his initial $270 investment into roughly $1,230. If McCormick freshman Alan Senkus didn’t panic-sell on that same day, his returns on GameStop stock would also have been over four times his initial investment. 

While Izzo said he was initially in it for the money, it has morphed into something greater — a Reddit-induced movement bordering the same magnitude of 2011’s Occupy Wall Street.

Video courtesy of Alan Senkus.

GameStop’s week-long stock quick rise from $43 to over $300 took over social media the week of Jan. 25, driving investment apps like Robinhood and Webull to the top of both App Store and Google Play store download charts. The origin of the movement, the raunchy subreddit r/wallstreetbets, added 1.5 million subscribers overnight, as people wanted to see firsthand who exactly these amateur investors shaking the market were.

“The best way to describe it is a shrine to capitalism and the American dream. They treat Wall Street like it’s a casino, which frankly, I think, is the correct mentality,” Izzo said. “It’s absurd to me that there’s an entire industry that’s based on predicting the stock market, like filling out like a freakin’ March Madness bracket or something.”

Weinberg freshman Andres Rojas has been aware of r/wallstreetbets ever since he started investing in high school and  initially joined because users would post huge wins, huge losses and extreme reactions to extreme bets. 

Although the Gamestop hype did originate from there, none of the men joined r/wallstreetbets for serious investing advice. 

“It’s not about the money. It’s just about going against Wall Street,” Rojas said. He put a third of his portfolio into GameStop after he first saw posts about it on Reddit.

According to Rojas, investors on the subreddit make detailed posts stating their case for a stock, while commenters may spam below saying “to the moon” or “hold hold hold.” The culture is largely meme-like, with edited videos and inside jokes about “monke holding banana,” a reference to how subscribers refer to themselves as simple-minded investors. “Diamond hands” is another popular phrase used to refer to never letting a stock go. 

Senkus, who uses the brokerage Robinhood, actually received his first share of GameStop when he signed up on his birthday in Feb. 2020. Back then, it averaged between $3 to $4. He sold it for $3.66 the same month. Now, it’s worth upwards of $300. 

Medill freshman Lauren Huttner, who was only briefly on the Discord server, said as the stock prices would peak and crest, Space Odyssey music would blast through the channels in sync with the live-time graphs rising. In the chat, people would spam rocket, moon, diamond and hand emojis, encouraging each other to buy and hold the stock. 

After Huttner’s first day, the server got banned for hate speech, later bringing back a moderated version. 

Medill freshman Josh Miller confirmed this culture, citing racist and anti-semitic language.  He added he is put off by how democratized trading “just doesn’t feel like real money,” which to him is the problem.

“There’s a fundamental disconnect between Main Street and Wall Street,” Miller said. “I think the issues here go a lot deeper and are a lot more complex and sort of the David and Goliath story that people are telling.”

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