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June 9, 2016

Super Terrible Ideas Time: YouTube Arrange


I’ve resigned myself to a fate of being “behind the curve”.  I’m used to it.  People were using Facebook for years (and turning their backs on it) by the time I even had the thought of making an account.  When everybody was jumping on the iPod and mp3 player train, I still crammed a whole CD player in my pocket -- though I’m thankful I had some pretty big pockets on my pants.  The only thing I’m really up to date on in the technology world is video games, and even then I’ve got some pretty big gaps.  How many PC games have I missed by being strictly console-based?  Probably just under infinity.

I’m no trendsetter.  Honestly, I’m not even sure I want to be.  I’m fine with following the examples (and leads) of others, as long as I can put my own spin on things.  In the same sense that a painter won’t throw away a canvas and palette just because da Vinci already made the Mona Lisa, I won’t throw away the tools available to me just because the road’s been well-traveled.  Not that I’m comparing myself to a true Renaissance man, of course; I’m just saying that if there are tools that’ll let me create, I’ll go ahead and create.

And maybe I’ve been overlooking the biggest tool of all: YouTube videos.


Not quite like that, though.  I’m not sure I could ever bring such an apotheosis of art to life.

If you’re reading this, then you probably know me by now.  I talk about video games, and the particulars around them.  I’ll get really in-depth with them, and try to suss out what makes them tick -- what’s good, what’s bad, et cetera.  Sometimes -- well, more often than not, it’s about me glomming onto a certain idea or detail than it is about giving a binary “this game sucks because X”.  That seems more useful and entertaining to me than a straight-up review.  Though in all honesty, some of the stuff I write blurs the line between an analysis and a review, so I don’t blame anyone who pins me as a reviewer.  (For the record, I don’t consider anything I write to be a review.  Then again, I seriously hate the word “analysis”, so…yeah, losing battle all around.)

I’ve been blogging for a few years, here and elsewhere.  It’s true that my number one goal in life -- my dream, if you don’t mind me getting a little corny -- is to be a writer who pumps out novel after novel, and puts smiles on the faces of readers with some incredible stories.  That dream won’t die anytime soon.  Notably, I’m a guy who spent years writing half a million words organized into seven separate novels -- and then trashed them to write half a million more, just to make sure they were up to par.

And yet Twilight has long since become a cultural phenomenon.  #notsalty


It’s because of my time spent blogging and analyzing the media I consume -- video games primarily, but also movies, TV shows, and the like -- that I’ve improved as a writer.  The stuff that my past self tried to get published would’ve been faults ripe for lambasting by my present self.   Admittedly, my technique could probably still use work, but the important thing is that even if I’m working with what might as well be a box of crayons, I use those crayons to make something that’ll strike the fancy of someone, somewhere, someday.  In the meantime, maybe I should try using those crayons to serve a different purpose.

Like I said, I’ve been blogging for a few years -- not as long as others have, because I’m terrible at keeping up with current trends.  But if I had to guess, I’d say that people have begun making a pretty big jump.  Not content with, say, writing about video games, they’re out to make videos about video games.  Or movies, or TV shows, or whatever media or topic strikes their fancy.  Super Bunnyhop, Extra Credits, Game Theory, Zero Punctuation; Your Movie Sucks, I Hate Everything, CinemaSins, and the verifiable armada birthed from Channel Awesome.  That’s on top of the advent of LPs, which in itself is on top of streamers getting the most out of stuff like Twitch.  The game has evolved, and I want to be a part of it.


Okay, in all fairness, I’m not too keen on streaming or LPing.  It’s not that I don’t think they’re legit -- I’ll follow the Best Friends Zaibatsu to hell and back -- but I think I’d better play to my strengths on this one.  What can I do?  I can go in-depth with games and stuff.  How can I do it?  Well, I’m already basically a writer, and what is a scripted YouTube video without words to guide it?  Give or take a few features and habits, I could reasonably convert a Word file into a video, not just a blog post.  And since I’m under the impression that YT videos get vastly more traffic and attention than a bunch of -- pfft -- written words, then maybe it’d pave a brand new road to success.

I mean, I’ve already kind of dabbled in that realm before.  I made a Patreon video using some basic tools and tricks, and it came out all right.  I’m not exactly pushing the limit on production values, but I don’t need to; the only thing I really need to do for my purposes is to upload videos that match the style of Bob “MovieBob” Chipman.  That is, I can have my voice playing as the main draw, pictures/slides to support me, and a script to back it all up.  That’s it.  If it works out, then (much like the average podcast) people will be able to listen to and enjoy my wares without having to risk turning their eyeballs into crumbling husks by reading so many words.


I don’t think I’m talking about anything revolutionary here.  I’ve thought about producing video content before, and I have made a couple of videos in the past.  Unfortunately, what I’ve found is that producing said videos is a complete pain in the ass.  It’s one thing to write about video game topics, but another thing entirely to commit a voice to them -- which requires multiple takes in case you’re like me and keep stumbling on a word or two.  Per paragraph. 

Then you have to string those lines together via editing.  Running it through Audacity is a good way to go, especially if you want to add in background music and, critically, improve the sound quality of your voice clips.  But that’s a hassle in its own right, compounded by the need to reduce background noise, convert files into the proper format, and more.  Then you’ve got to make those slides, which provide a new set of complexities -- and even when you finish, you’re not finished.  You still have to sync up those slides with your voice and/or music within tenths of a second, which can involve multiple passes just for a quick transition. 

This is where I’d say “It’s fine.  Nobody will notice if something’s a fraction of a second off.”  But I think they will.  And even if they don’t, I will.


The moral of the story here is that you should respect the effort of anyone and everyone who has creative content to show off.  A single ten-minute video from me takes between three and seven days to have ready; imagine how much work it takes to put out something that’s actually good.  Not to go off on a tangent, but that’s part of the reason why I’m reluctant to call game developers lazy, no matter how much it seems like their game is phoning it in.  We mere mortals have no idea how much time and energy goes into making even a basic 2D platformer, so let’s not pretend like there aren’t humans that have slaved away at their keyboards for years at a time.

I’m not planning to give up writing posts anytime soon; ideally, video content from me (such as it is) would be shorter and cover a specific topic, while the in-depth stuff would stay committed to writing.  No guarantees on that, of course; maybe if I really take the plunge with making videos, then I’ll reach a point where I get enough skills to have a dramatically faster turnaround rate.  Also, if I somehow become popular from it, then that’d be an incentive to switch gears.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though -- or pretend like there aren’t any problems in the way.


There’s a part of me that’s legitimately worried about doing anything with YT.  From what I can gather, it’s kind of a mess right now; copyright claims, DMCA takedowns, and general chicanery have made what should be a breeding ground of creativity into a battlefield.  Granted it still is, but there are so many problems that there are whole campaigns trying to protect what should be obvious.  If there are videos from tiny guys getting hassled by companies and individuals alike, then what chance have I got?  A couple of years ago, I made a video for The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and I had a mini-heart attack when the YT uploader put up a red flag because I used less than a minute of “Through the Fire and Flames”.  What would happen to me if I did the same thing now?

Presumably, making videos with concrete information -- with trailers from video games, for example -- is enough to cause a major hassle with ornery companies.  There are guys out there that have used no footage and still got hit with copyright strikes, which can end up jeopardizing their production (if not their livelihood).  So again, what chance have I got?  Would I have to follow Jim Sterling’s example and create a deadlock?  How soon would the whole thing blow up in my face, all because “fair use” has become synonymous with “yo, let’s trash this sucker”?


So there’s one headache I’m not too keen on dealing with, but it’s far from the last.  If putting my stuff on YT (or making videos in general) was the instant guarantor of success, then everybody would be doing it by now.  And it seems like more and more people are doing it, which means stiff competition to get that slice of the pie, which means nobody’s getting that pie.  The chances of getting noticed are, if I had to guess, hellishly low.  That’s not the most comforting thought, given that if I’m going to lose hours upon hours meticulously clicking through menus, I’d prefer for that effort to be rewarded.

I wouldn’t be asking for the numbers that PewDiePie or TotalBiscuit command, of course.  I just want to talk about video games and stuff, and reach out to a wider audience.  I’m not saying that I’d reject the end benefits -- popularity, credibility, and the occasional pretty penny -- but to me, what matters more is that I offer up something substantial to people that want it, and satisfy their desires.  I know there’s a demand for it; I’ve seen comments around the internet asking where they can find in-depth discussions of games and their particulars.  And there are times when I wanted to shout “Hey, look at my stuff!  I’ve been at it for years!”  But A) that’d be shameless self-promotion, which I’d imagine is pretty frowned upon at this point, and B) I’m not 100% convinced that people are willing to give text the time of day anymore.  Not unless it’s a straight review with a number at the end.

I’m generalizing, of course.  Written posts have garnered attention and sparked controversy before -- but sometimes it seems like the only thing to really draw attention is giving an 8.5 to a game that “deserves” a TENOUTTATEN.


I don’t know.  I guess I’m just wondering if I’ve reached the limit on what the written word can do, especially in a 2016 climate.  It’s not as if I’ve given up on blog posts, because it’s where my expertise lies.  Plus, I still think there’s something to be had from purely writing about video games instead of banking solely on audiovisual tricks.  But enjoying the best of both worlds seems like a good route to at least consider, even if I don’t have the speed or skill to indulge.

It’s not as if what I do or plan to do is anything too original or too spectacular; others have long since taken the plunge, and they probably do it better.  But even if that’s true, there’s a niche that can still be filled by guys like me.  People take their fiction very, very seriously, and they need people to pay tribute to said fiction.  Granted that’d invite hell upon me if and when I trash some popular franchises (I would NOT give any of the Uncharted games an 8.5, that’s for sure), but you know how it is in America.  Freedom of speech, liberty, et cetera.

So I guess the next question is a simple one: what do you guys want to see from me?


It’s not as if I’m going to commit to anything right now.  I’m just weighing my options here, and thinking about what I can do to reach more people.  Videos seem like a good way to do that, so the next step would be surveying others to see if they have any preferences.  My gut instinct is that there would be at least some time delay between a major event in the gaming world and me producing a video for it, so that’s something worth considering.  So would you prefer to hear me talk about a specific example from a video game -- like a nice theme, or story beat, or character?  Should I focus on ongoing controversies and arguments?  I can already think of one topic that could fill multiple episodes, so it’s certainly possible.

There are a whole lot of things that are possible, arguably.  That’s the ideal state; there are things I want to do, and avenues worth exploring.  Am I gunning for success?  Yes.  But I want that success to come from my ability to consistently serve, enlighten, and amuse those who give my wares a shot.  That’s how it should be; the better I am, the better off others will be.  So I’ll find a way to build bonds with audiences, in whatever means are available to me.  If I’m not yet allowed to tell stories about undead ghost-punching high schoolers, pyrokinetic fanboys plagued by endless misfortune, and gigantic single moms wrestling kaiju across a Nordic wonderland, then I’ll just have to branch out a bit.  It’ll be fun, probably.


Until then, thanks for reading.  Weigh in via a comment, tell some stories of your own, and…well, pray that I’m dust in a jar before I ever get to write about the really crazy characters.

You know.  Unless you want me to do that.  I probably could.  What would it be like if they were in video games?  I can imagine, because of course I’ve already spent a million billion hours imagining that in advance.  As a friend once said, my mind is like a steel trap: rusty and illegal in 37 states.

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