Those of you who know me pretty well know that I tend to take this whole Youtube thing pretty seriously. That is, I like to analyze numbers, trends, and approaches to content. It’s just the way I’m wired – I love to analyze things. Naturally, I’ve always tried to In the past I’ve always thought that you needed to have an edge – an angle of attack for what you’re doing. With the gaming scene on Youtube (and to a lesser extent on twitch) so saturated, how are you going to get noticed if you are doing what everyone else is doing? So for the past six months that has been my focus. Gotta find my niche. Gotta have good quality content. Gotta be consistent. Gotta engage the audience. Gotta annotate, tag, network.
Turns out this approach is crap. Everyone is trying to find their niche. People making videos and livestreaming have probed damn near every orifice of video game content. Everyone has good quality video, audio, and commentary. Everyone’s grandmother can be consistent. Everyone says “comment, like, subscribe”. You think of it and everyone’s doing it. Surely there was something simple I was missing.
With this new push to really apply myself (last week not included due to Sony Vegas troubles …) I’ve been taking another long look at some of the people who I think have accomplished a lot both on Youtube and Twitch.tv. These are people I turn on to watch time and time again. Here’s a short list:
Swifty (specifically his IRL channel)
At their most basic level what do they have in common? I gone back through their old and new content and figured out exactly what makes them tick. I don’t know if I’ve found all the answers but I have found some similarities across the board:
They’re overwhelmingly positive.
They’re enthusiastic about what they do.
They give back to the community.
All these things are pretty basic but I think a LOT of people miss them when creating their content. Now that I’ve actually thought about it I can’t believe how essential each of these things feel when it comes to being successful making gaming content. IMO these are even higher priority than almost anything else a commentator can do.
In an effort to refine my thoughts on this I’ve decided to post a small series of thoughts on each of these points. Hopefully you’ll find some of this as thought provoking as I have. I’ll have a new post in a couple of days and will update this introductory post as I post additional parts.
I’m usually not one to gush about people – especially people I’ve never actually met first hand. However, those of you who may have followed me for a while probably know that I’m a big fan of X (davidr64yt). Without going into too much detail, I really enjoy his laid back style and the “purity” of his work. (That is, he’s never seemed to be someone who does stuff just for the monetary benefit on youtube.) Well I’ve been watching X’s videos on the game Powder and been enjoying the heck out of them. Well he did something in the latest episode that surprised the hell out of me. Watch this about 15:40 into it:
That comic in the middle of the LP? That was awesome. I’ve never thought about crossing over the two genera before and it gives me some ideas for the future. Well if that wasn’t enough he posted another video of him actually making the comic. The video is sped up a bit but you can see the whole process:
Yeah and that music in the background? If I remember correctly that was music that he composed himself. All part of the reason I love a lot of the content that man puts out. It also inspires me to possibly try the comic thing myself one day.
I can’t say I’ve ever really played a rougelike before. I mean, I own Dungeons of Dredmor and it’s expansion but it’s never been a game that I’ve played more than 5 minutes of. Well I watched all of X’s videos on Powder and immediately decided to look it up. It turns out it was created by Jeff Lait as a Game Boy Advanced game. After browsing his website (http://www.zincland.com/powder/) I found that he has made the game available on just about every platform out there. Everything from Linux to IOS is represented. HOLY CRAP! Of course I immediately downloaded it for my iPad and, after doubling the size of the screen got to playing immediately. For a game with no sound and very simple graphics I’ve got to say it really impresses the hell out of me. Even on IOS the controls are very intuitive and combine the use of an on screen controller and touch controls. I am DEFINATELY doing a one-shot of this game just as soon as I can put down the IOS version.
Check out Powder and download the version that suits you!
Last night I opened my youtube subscriptions to see that one of my favorite youtube commentators has uploaded a video … then I see IT’S FREAKING DONKEY KONG COUNTRY! Could X really be commentating on one of my favorite (if not my favorite) video games of all time? It’s even numbered – could that mean he’ll even finish it? NO WAY. NO. F*CKING. WAY. *Nerdstalgiagasm* 1 minute, 30 seconds into the video I suddenly realized the cake was a lie. Let me explain: First off I want to say that I LOVE watching you. Livestreams, youtube, it doesn’t matter – I’ve actually watched every one of your youtube videos all the way through (albeit over a long period of time). I love your casual outlook on gaming, your quirky sense of humor, and the fact that you don’t always follow the path that is expected of you. Before you think that I mean any of this in a disparaging manner please reconsider. I have nothing but the utmost respect for what you have done and I think that this respect is further magnified because I am walking down a similar path. Also, I’d like to say that EVERYONE who uploads any content to youtube (or anything similar) is doing so to SHARE that content. It doesn’t matter if it’s me uploading a Capsized episode or Seananners uploading another COD commentary, we are all doing it so that other people can watch it. Now, whether or not it is moral to have viewer and subscriber counts as your focus is up for debate but I wanted to establish this fact before I moved on. In short, I totally agree with you David. I wholeheartedly believe that people uploading video game content should be doing so for the love of doing it. More importantly, I think that people should upload because they want to share an experience. Anyone who’s uploading youtube content with the SOLE intent to make money or to simply garner “internet fame” is doing it wrong. Fortunately these people are pretty transparent and are easy to spot. I also agree that this attitude has recently become more prevalent and ultimately has a negative impact on the youtube gaming community as a whole. But each time you get on this rant you start saying that you’ve never had to market your content and people who do so these days are doing it for the wrong reasons. I’ve heard your rant twice now and both times I have left feeling frustrated because it makes me believe that you don’t understand how things have changed. You started doing youtube at a time when the game commentary scene was relatively young. There weren’t many people doing it and thus not much competing content. You produced videos that were of good audio, video, and commentary quality making it relatively easy for your content to rise to the top without any additional marketing effort. Plus the early Machinima contract, your connection with Seananners, and the fact you were one of the first to produce videos on what would become the biggest Indie games of our time didn’t hurt right? ;p Anyway, you produced quality content and everything else fell into place. The same can’t be said today. Just look at the sheer number of different Minecraft commentators there are. I mean really look. (0.o) I know what you’re thinking, “But you need to do something original. Fill a void somewhere.” Yeah … good luck with that. I’m not saying that opportunities for original content don’t exist (as I think I’ve found a few niches for myself in the last few months) but think about all the other people trying to find the same thing. Sure someone can get lucky and make a few connections with huge names or get an early start on another Minecraft and really blow up. Realistically neither of those situations are very likely. The truth is that for someone to have any sort of “youtube success” (and thus do the whole sharing experiences thing I talked about before) in any reasonable amount of time they have to have the following things:
quality content (audio, video, editing, and commentary)
consistency (video uploads, quality, etc.)
original content (new or niche games, innovative ideas on the medium)
nonabrasive marketing (participatory forum posts, social media, collaborations)
I LOVE Recidivist Dork. She and I started about the same time and with the same game. Overall, her videos have the quality you would expect from someone much more “popular”. She may not have the original content but she sure does bring a lot to the table in terms of quality. Unfortunately she was forced to stop making videos due to personal reasons. End result: 38 subscribers and 707 total upload views verbalprocessing http://www.youtube.com/user/verbalprocessing
Ian surprises the hell out of me on a daily basis. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a good friend of his since meeting through our youtube channels in April. Regardless, I’m sure that his many fans would agree that he produces some of the best videos on youtube. His videos have amazing quality (and editing), he consistently uploads, produces original content from new and interesting games (Terraria motion comics I’m looking at you!) and has marketed himself well through several different methods including a forum in which he is an active poster. He works hard on what he does – sometimes as much as 30-40 hours on a single one minute video. I know from conversations with him that he’s doing this for all the right reasons … he just wants his hard work to be appreciated. He realizes that in order for that to happen he needs a bit of help along the way. End result: 4,115 subscribers and 497,487 total upload views lordsevein http://www.youtube.com/user/lordsevein
Of course this letter wouldn’t be complete without throwing my own name into the hat. Now I started the whole youtube thing partly because I had exhausted all of the content on your channel as well as Seananners and thought, “Eh, it can’t be hard amirite?” Yeah … about that. I had no idea how difficult and time consuming it is to produce a video on youtube let alone with any consistency. I also had to learn everything from scratch and it is sometimes painfully obvious when you take a look at my earlier videos. Fast forward three months and I think that I produce videos of comparable quality to many of the “big names” (not to blow my own horn or anything). End result: 1,207 subscribers and 122,222 total upload views In your video you specifically mention requests collaborations and dual commentaries as a source of frustration on your end. Personally, I believe that dual commentaries are some of the best ways for new commentators to showcase talent. Take, for example, my Terraria dual commentary with Ian from verbalprocessing: The Legend of Blackbeard’s Castle:
IMHO this whole series is amazing. I’m sorry. I know I’m not being too humble but really. I challenge you to find another series (other than the Totalbiscuit and Jesse Cox LP obviously) that meets the above criteria and is better quality. Each episode takes planning, hours of editing, and of course the requisite uploading – all told probably 10ish hours. Ian and I pull MAYBE 2k views per episode. Even this is a fair sight better than my average solo video views of ~500 or so. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. Really I’m not. But it all goes back to the fact that people like Ian and I are trying very hard to share experiences with the viewer. At the end of the day you should know exactly what it’s like to upload a video and wonder how it’s going to do. To wonder if people are going to watch it or even like it and thus share in the experience you are trying to create. You know the amount of work – the sheer number of hours it takes to create even one single video. So can you really blame the honest and genuine people for wanting to gain even a fraction of the same viewership as you enjoy yourself? Sure there are some (or these days more like many) people who seem to have the wrong motivations in mind when making videos. That’s going to happen any time money – even extremely unlikely money – is involved. Yes – telling people that they should be worried about the quality of their content is important. Yes – some people have come to youtube with the wrong motivations and are negatively impacting the youtube community. But is marketing your content wrong? NO! In today’s competitive youtube scene effective marketing is essential to getting people to see you in the first place. Finally, I’d like to encourage you the same way that I tried to encourage Seananners before my comment was swallowed by the void that is, “MOAR MINECRAFT!” (please forgive the cliche quote – it was late):
“With great power comes great responsibility … You are a key member of this community and as such you hold quite a bit of power in your hands. Please don’t allow the negativity of the vocal minority keep you from posting videos. In a time when the youtube gaming community is balancing on the knife’s edge between becoming the conduit through with gaming becomes mainstream or devolving into a cesspool of self promoting bullshit your participation is absolutely paramount. Stand as an example to every aspiring youtuber so that he might use you as an example. Failure to do so only helps ensure that the morally corrupt win out in the end.“
If you read any of this, I hope you’ll understand where I’m coming from and that I still have the utmost respect for what you’ve done. I’m still going to tune in to every possible stream, watch every video, and even squeal like a girl if you play Donkey Kong Country again. (In before MOAR DKC!) I just wanted to address this in hopes that I could convince you to go a little easier on the new guys and continue to be a positive presence in the community. I hope you continue doing what you do and I wish you all the best.