By Ryan Syrett
Towards the final years of being a games ‘journalist’ at The GameJar.com, me and the team put a lot of effort into creating video content and earning some of that glorious and much sought after YouTube monies. Which in all honesty is one of the most candid, viable and un-intrusive ways to make a living off videogame content. We invested in cameras and capture kits then set to task creating video reviews, we started simple ‘first 15 minutes’ gameplay videos, captured funny clips, produced conceptual indie game interviews and towards my exit a few member of the team made the amazing ‘Look Around You’ inspired ‘British Guide To Gaming’. None of these were peculiarly successful bar the odd bit of gameplay footage that ‘took’ and amassed 20k+ of hits. We most likely hit those figures due to the video being posted on a forum which already had a large fan base and although welcome can sadly be determined as non organic growth or a ‘spike’, The sad truth of these random high peak videos is that most of the time these hits never translated in to the golden nuggets of YouTube – Subscribers.
Our problem was we never quite figured out how to reach our target audience. Jim Sterling has his opinionated, conscious gamers who love a little argument. Matt Lee’s has his morally correct banter and KIS has his utter…well utter idiots. We had to find our niche and although we tried factual, we tried humour, we tried deadpan and even Minecraft videos, we just couldn’t quite get the numbers to grow in the way we wanted.
I left the industry to focus on being a grown up and I’ve slowly winded down my gaming and I haven’t particularly felt the urge to dive back in, bar the odd game of FTL to pass time while I wait for the recent penultimate episode of Wolf Among Us. That is until recently, because my situation has changed and I now find myself spending more and more time with my partners seven year old son. Which for those of you not in the know now means I have recently become the ‘all knowing mystical savour of gamingTM’, who shows up round the child’s house every now and then to do the ‘hard bits’ of whatever title is the flavour that week. Sometimes I might kick his butt on Halo, complete a section of Assassins Creed or throw the odd gem of Minecraft knowledge his way but the moment anything actually fun comes up I have to give the controller straight back to him and await the next ‘hard bit’ because I am “the best at games”. To put it simply, anyone who has or interacts with children regularly will understand that I am seen as merely a source of information, a tool to keep their fun flowing.
It’s the ‘tool’ aspect of this I like the most. Not to be used in the derogatory sense, it is the simple art of a young child understanding and implementing what means they have around them to get a desired result. It shows cognitive thought, problem solving and more importantly the ridiculous lack of knowledge my generation have on how children use modern technology to achieve their requirements. We as late 20-somethings/early 30’s remember arcade cabinets in cinemas, pubs and even at swimming pools. The ol’ glory days when some cooler older chap or chapette would pump a quid into Mortal Kombat, The Simpsons or The Punisher and we would stand there in awe, mesmerised by what was happening on screen, vicarious playing video games for as long as time (our parents) would allow.
That’s what YouTube is now, the ‘tools’ have changed and method has changed but the aim for results still remain. To learn, improve and get as much out of a game as possible. A bunch of YouTubers seem to already know this, more importantly they have stumbled/realised/struck gold on how children play games and have the platform to give children what they want whilst making it fun and massively profiting. They have changed the quest for information from standing around an arcade or reading pages of walk throughs and replaced it by copying and pasting words in search bars, using wacky voices and intrinsically ‘teaching’ the younger generation the complicated (yet fun) aspects of video gaming. It’s a whole new world and children see these media creators as modern hero’s and I cant help but feel the ‘adults’ are totally missing the boat. I’ve overheard my partner’s son talking to his friends about iBallisticSquid, their loom bands are Stampys YouTube channels colours and the he even recently had his hair cut like him (it’s better than David Beckhams 1998 style curtains that we had I guess?)
There is of course a negative side to all of this, as well as all the poor parents out there who have to deal with hearing Stampylongface/nose’s squealing on a daily basis as he slowly replaces CBBC, gaming websites and magazines have begun to feel the brunt of not getting invited to previews/reviews. I once spoke to a Community Manager who stated “What’s the point of bringing journalists to an event/review for 5 to 10k of page views Vs. a YouTuber who frequently his 500,000+ views per upload”. This quite frankly is nigh on impossible to argue with from a logic standpoint. However the much more ‘real’ issue lies of the content values and parental control systems of YouTube. Sure you may not buy your child GTAV due to its age restrictions and content but what is going to stop your child accessing walkthroughs on YouTube and seeing all that content anyway? What’s going to stop your child stumbling over a Robbaz video and, as funny as he is, hearing something they really shouldn’t.
The kneejerk response from most gamers for under-age kids watching/playing things they shouldn’t be is to argue that parents need education and control into their child’s accessible content. As easy as it is, it’s not fair to pin soul ownership of a child’s reachable media onto a parent. It’s not realistic and you simply cannot expect someone with a pre-teen youth to have understood and grown to the same aptitudes of someone who spends a large chunk of their time indulging themselves with the constantly evolving world of video games. Both consoles and YouTube are a variable minefield of rules, restrictions, work rounds, family settings, peer pressure and education on a fast moving, ever developing platform.
If we all took a step back for a few seconds we can realise that media content is at its largest it’s ever been and as integrated we are, we are all learning at the same time. Honestly if I told Dominic Diamond and Patrick Moore that in twenty years time the most popular videogame related media of the 2010’s was going to be some (semi) faceless annoying berk overreacting on videos of digital Lego I would have been laughed at. But its how it is now, Andi Peters has been replaced by tablet devices and Stampy. Lego has become Minecraft and the instructions on how to build it are as open as they are entertaining. Its mass media at its infancy for the infants and sadly the ignorance of aged vocal ‘gamers’ doesn’t allow them to understand it. It’s seen as an annoyance rather than a realisation and the only press it’s going to get is negative because it goes unmonitored by those who have the knowledge to comprehend and educate the masses.
In short, being a parent is hard in this digital day and age and ignorance wont fix a thing.