Imagine for a moment that you are at a rock concert at the largest venue in the world. As a fan, you came to the concert to get an autograph from your favorite band, but you weren’t able to get backstage passes to make this happen. Now you are lost among a sea of similar-minded individuals and the music is too loud for anyone to hear you.
I use this analogy to represent the current environment for gaming YouTubers. The market for this type of content is so oversaturated, that it becomes almost impossible to get noticed and grow a gaming Channel, especially if you are a newcomer. In this article, I’m going to attempt to change the way you think about YouTube, and help you gain some well-deserved recognition.
Step 1: Step Outside of the Box
First, you have to stop thinking like everybody else. Forget doing Minecraft Let’s Plays and Call of Duty montages. These types of content are a dime a dozen. If you want to stand out, you’re going to have to do something unique, creative, original, and inspiring. This isn’t easy to do either, as YouTube is filled with millions of ideas every day. Find a niche, train yourself to think differently, and don’t forget to write your ideas down–even if it may seem silly or stupid.
Step 2: Know Thyself
The only way to truly separate yourself from the crowd is to utilize your personality. Every person is different, so use this to your advantage. This means you’re going to have to convey your persona through your content in some way, whether it’s through great voice-over, a web-cam, or a combination of both. Be honest with yourself; understand areas where you are weak and play to your strengths. If you don’t have a very entertaining personality, then be informative instead.
Step 3: Acceptance
Understand and accept that you aren’t going to be successful by yourself. Most successful YouTubers get some kind of help along the way. Then accept that, even with help, it’s not going to be a cakewalk. Nothing is ever easy, and being successful on YouTube is no exception. This “hobby” or “career” is going to require most of your time, so make sure that it’s something that you love to do. Lastly, the final (and by far the harshest) acceptance you’ll need to undertake is simply: what you are doing now is probably not good enough. Up your game and find a way to take it to the next level.
Step 4: Promotion
If you’ve made it through the first three steps and you still want to be a gaming YouTuber, then you are now ready for recognition. However, nobody can recognize you if they’ve never heard of you. So how does this work? In reality, making content and posting to YouTube is only half of the battle. You need to get the word out about your Channel in some way, and that method is paved on the merits of social media.
Advertising is the name of the game, but most of us don’t have the extra money laying around to buy it. Thus, despite your philosophies on how Twitter is the devil, it’s a necessary evil and you’re going to need to spend a lot of time being “social” on it. Connect and interact with your fans on a human level. Let them know about what you’re working on, the hardships, the pitfalls, and the victories. Network with other YouTubers on projects that you both share an interest in, and form relationships outside of just the solo YouTuber. These relationships will build and mold your future success in a far greater way than you might expect.
In conclusion, I might say good luck, but luck won’t have much to do with it in the end. Instead, I’ll say “bon voyage,” as the journey of a gaming YouTuber can be a long and arduous one, but one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences you may ever undertake.
20 May 2013
That’s right, what do the “Top Dogs” have that the others don’t? Do lustrous graphics and high profile story plots earn games their player allegiance? Is it massive marketing budgets or a long-standing franchise installment? In this article we’ll examine what makes the popular games popular and whether or not the secret is in the code.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular PC games in the past five years. World of Warcraft had a peak of approximately 12 million subscribers in its heyday. That’s 12 million people that not only purchased at least the base game (prior to expansions) and paid a monthly fee to keep an active account. League of Legends can keep 5 million concurrent players online at once, with over 12 million logins per day. Its player base clocks over 1 billion gameplay hours per month. Over 10 million people have purchased a legitimate copy of Minecraft so far.
THE THINGS ON THE SURFACE
Do these games have amazing graphics? Actually, if you really think about it, they have some of the worst graphics in the industry. Could it be the compelling story? Wait… Minecraft doesn’t have a story. I don’t think. And League of Legends has a half-page article explaining a champion’s lore and some sorry attempts at creating a fantasy world through news articles, etc. I think it’s safe to say that Riot Games isn’t really focusing on the story of their game. WoW… kind of has a story, but compared to its RTS predecessors and books in the franchise, it’s pretty much a joke.
Okay, so marketing, it has to be that. Well, I don’t think Mojang hired Billy Mays to sell Minecraft, and Riot Games cares more about advertising for other companies through eSports than they do for their own product, so I don’t think you can attribute their sales to marketing either. Blizzard/Activision does a fair amount of advertising, but I’m pretty sure their executives leave a trail of “Benjamins” wherever they walk as well, so that might as well be a moot point.
Yet, all of these games have a seemingly fanatical player-base that would sooner dodge their taxes than cease their commitment to the games they love. So, why are these games so popular? Well, considering that these games have more players than 30% of the world’s countries have people, we need to start thinking on a national scale. Nations can speak the same language, they can have people of the same heritage, and they can wear the same clothes. But as soon as you put an imaginary border around that space, something magical happens. There’s some phenomenon produced by that large community that we can all recognize, but can only attribute to some all-binding subconscious that those people share.
A GAMER NATION
It’s called culture. Every country has cultural differences, slight though they may be, they are all noticeable. These games all have cyber-populations of an average sized nation – so, logically, the same rules must apply. It just so happens they do. But in the case of a video game, which comes first – the populace or the capacity? Well, let me bring the chicken or the egg proposition to a close. All animals evolved from single-celled organisms – organisms that replicated asexually to create what became the chicken’s ancestors. The chicken then proceeded to lay that egg. Why is this relevant? Because one cannot expect to grow a game of 12 million users without first having the creative intendment for a game to develop a cultural adaptation. You cannot spawn a game with a preconceived culture, you have to create the space for enough players to create it on their own.
Everyone remembers the “Gear Score” mod in WoW that caused a giant elitist uproar. How did that happen? Because Blizzard developed the game with an embedded LUA script to support user-generated mods. The same script that created a more useable UI that transformed the inherently broken and impossible-to-navigate one Blizzard launched the product with. This led to the inevitable demonization of “clicking” your action bars. Raids are so damn time consuming and tedious that they led to huge scheduling and time investment requirements for a Guild, which results in compromising social lives and established the connotations that WoW players bear today. And the damage meters – the ultimate raiding competition tool. World of Logs and the “Server Firsts,” arena rating, the gear grind… the list goes on.
MORDE ES NUMBER ONE
League of Legends inspires sentimental attachment to champions. There are so many of them and their skins change their personality so much that people get genuinely attached to them. When Riot makes significant changes to them, people change their attitudes on an emotional level, with the “nerf Irelia,” the not-so-stealthy Evelynn, and Brazil’s undying embrace of Mordekaiser. We witness an always-changing “meta game” where concrete strategies quickly become outdated and innovative ones become the norm. With an eSports initiative that leads to the idolization of professional teams and their players, what would seem like very odd behaviors to an outsider, are well-known and encouraged within LoL’s community.
Minecraft – the lord of game mods. This game would be a one-dimensional and boring survival game without the behemoth contributions its players have made. With the eye-burning 8-bit visuals of the default texture pack and completely absent plot or advanced tutorials, not to mention a non-existent advertising campaign, the players have truly embraced this title and made it what it is – a work of art. It’s almost like the game’s engine was just heartedly given to creative gamers to do with what they will. This game embodies culture. Virtually everything is user-generated, forcing players to interact and work together to build the game they all want to play.
NO TURNING BACK
Even games like Call of Duty build cultural characteristics around nasty game lobby interactions, 360-no-scope-headshots, almost comical “dubstep” montages, sniper clans, and the whole bucket of alternate reality that comes with. Skyrim gives players the freedom to choose, with absurdly random and recurring arrow-in-the-knee lines and over-the-top “Fus-rod-dah” shouts.
We’ve reached the rise of internet culture, with memes, games, and discussion websites spearheading the transition.
So to all the EA developers and terrible movie game knock-offs, the best things are made by accident and are out of your control. Give your players the freedom to decide what to do with your product, and they’ll bring a culture not even the heftiest advertising budgets could affect. Give us a piece of art, and we’ll help you paint its legacy.
Most people believe there is a holy grail of hidden tricks to success on YouTube. Sure, you can make sexy thumbnails and put Justin Bieber in your tags, but how long can you get by with cheap tricks and an ever-changing YouTube API? Flashy 3D intros, lens flares in your transitions – sure, they’re all eye-catching, but what really inspires people to click that subscribe button and continually check your feed for something new? What causes people to become emotionally invested in your content and stand up against the endless waves of “trolls” across the interwebs? I’ll give you a hint, it has nothing to do with the “HD” in your channel name.
Unfortunately, or, fortunately for passionate YouTubers, there is no secret ingredient for success. Some of the highest quality material on the site is uploaded by some of the smallest channels, and many technical abominations have the highest view counts. Which begs the question,
WHAT DO PEOPLE REALLY COME TO YOUTUBE FOR?
The answer: to learn or to be entertained. It just so happens that the most important factor in both of those objectives is how personable the subject is. People pay huge sums of money to learn from professors what they could learn from a machine – because the medium of expression is easier to relate to.
You can’t teach someone to have a personality, because they are born with one, and the experiences in their lives adapt what is embedded in their DNA to something you and I call people. And the simple truth is, not everyone was meant to be in front of a microphone – just as everyone was not meant to be in front of a camera. No amount of SEO manipulation, exclusive interviews or “dubstep” intros will gain you the respect that you seek without forming a bond with your viewers. This is furthest from a technical experience and closest to a spiritual one.
SO, DISREGARD QUALITY?
Although technology does play a fundamental role, hearing the “I Have A Dream” speech as an 8-bit audio track doesn’t really change the significance or the meaning versus hearing it through 7.1 HD Surround Sound. And in fact, your audio quality effects the personality of your YouTube video far more than the number of pixels do. If you use a Cracker Jack microphone, people will associate that low fidelity sound with your physical voice – a part of you being deemed weaker or less impactful than the more meaningful, fuller sound they would receive from your larynx in person. Does that mean you should spend some money on a condenser microphone and learn about post-processing audio? Which yields the better learning experience; listening to your professor’s lecture from across a 1000-square foot classroom with the background sound of a hundred students, or a one-on-one conversation with that professor in a recording studio? In fact, you might even comprehend what he/she is saying better if you close your eyes – get the “picture?”
So, what is the most important element? Some would say soul, others passion – both require dedication. And that says enough about your character to manifest a personality that I’d pay heed to.