Contempt based analysis of contemporary YouTube gaming.
You know, I almost always sound jaded and annoyed when I talk about YouTube, so I figured why don’t I just sit down and actually tell you why. Ultimately, also explaining why you could say I am in a rut, content wise.
This is a complicated topic for me, so this post will be long. Don’t read if you don’t want to.
- My YouTube Background
- The Problem with YouTube Gaming
- The ‘Esoteric Concept’ on YouTube
- How I Feel About YouTube
My YouTube Background
I’ve been doing YouTube for ~7 years right now. I’ve slowed down in the last couple of years, but on my main channel BK Brent I have reached 13,649 subscribers, 7,075,107 total views and made 437 videos. My content style is primarily boss runs and in-depth guide videos. I’m mostly known for God Eater and Sword Art Online.
On my secondary channel Super BK Brent which is intended exclusively for Fighting Games, I have reached 756 subscribers, 79,174 total views and 15 videos (grass). My content style here is tutorial combo videos, character guides and extremely high effort Combo Movies. I’m primarily known for BlazBlue Central Fiction Izanami stuff here, and Melty Blood Type Lumina in a smaller capacity.
I always hate writing these stats out like this. I don’t like bragging and the numbers really don’t tell the full story. But this has to be done if you’re doing an analytical post, because people don’t wanna hear an analysis from a nobody.
I think about this topic a lot and I been around the block a few times. This post may make you think a bit, but just hear me out.
The Problem with YouTube Gaming
Hey. You’re a person who is interested in video games, right? Open your YouTube feed right now. Tell me what you see. Tell me what kinds of videos that infamous YouTube algorithm shows you.
In my experience it’s something like this:
- 27 second shitpost
- Shorts feed: “The most perfect dodge in video game history”
- Evolution of X video game series. 1997 to 2023
- Top 10 gaming moments/list of whatever.
- Top 15 upcoming X genre games of 2023.
- Ranking X games in series from worst to best.
- Bury The Light/Undefeatable goes with anything.
- 31 second shitpost.
- Reuploaded video game trailer with misrepresentative title, especially with keywords Open World, Action RPG, New 2023, PS5.
- Video game OST re-upload.
- “Why this controversial opinion is actually right” video essay, but it’s 12min from someone’s unedited twitch stream archive.
- Official Video Game Trailer.
- Reaction to the above video game trailer.
- Newest game all bosses and ending, No Damage 4K 60FPS
- Funniest fails compilation video.
- X video game series: A 2023 retrospective. This one can also be disguised as “Is X worth playing in 2023?”
- Some Vtuber stream archive.
- Some guy translating snippets of some vtuber stream archive.
- Video game review.
- Newest hyped-up game, Mission 2 All Collectibles, 100% video guide.
- 13 second shitpost with a funny thumbnail, they almost had you.
- Full game speedrun Any% 2:01:69 Former WR.
- A stream archive of a smaller channel you used to like in 2020, but now they’re playing something you don’t really care about so you scroll on by.
- X game memes that will accelerate your trigger.
I can list more, but you get the idea. This forms the bulk of the highest viewed video game related content on YouTube. Even if you curate your feed pretty well, a few of these will still creep in. Hell, If you’re a gaming channel you probably even tried a fair amount of these video types already.
I know you read the heading of this section and saw me listing popular video formats and now expect me to say “Yeah, the problem with YouTube gaming is the lack of originality” or, “The popular video types lack in quality which leads to a spiral of mediocre highly viewed content.” Debatable, to be honest. But that would be a couple of generalizations and an implication that you can’t make a popular idea enjoyable to watch.
The core problem with YouTube comes from more of a set of psychological aspects with respect to both the content creators and the users of the platform. In other words, how people think about and use YouTube.
The YouTube Problem from the Creator’s side
From the creator’s side, there’s a problem when you think that you have to appease the YouTube algorithm to stay alive and relevant. When you think that you have to try to be first, and to keep up with a consistent release schedule forever. When you think that the identity of your content doesn’t mean anything because you aren’t getting clicks, likes or recommended in people’s feeds anymore. When you think up new or interesting video ideas, but your next thought is “This isn’t what people want to see from me though” and delete the idea. When you start to think that anything is OK as long as you continue to get a constant stream of views.
In essence, YouTube conditions you to feel a certain way on every video release. By looking at any video’s reception, you can gain an understanding of what people want to see and you tend to work to produce more of that. Simply because that is how success or the concept of “doing it correctly” formulates in your mind as you create videos.
Do this long enough, and it might not even be about what you want to do anymore. This is because it is generally easier to find success on YouTube by nestling yourself into a niche and creating focused videos on a topic. When the topic runs dry or when you want to extend outside of the topic, it starts to feel like no one watches and no one cares.
Worse, it even feels like the YouTube algorithm might drop you from your recent streak of being recommended to new viewers. This practically makes it feel like stepping outside of your comfort zone = voluntarily killing your channel.
Likewise, the battle for relevancy turns content creation into a sprint when it should be a marathon. A new game releases. People wanted to see all these videos weeks ago, so you better get stuff done and put it out ASAP. Getting the first video on a topic out there is a huge advantage. Effort? Quality? Uniqueness? Polish? Son, just put it out now when the demand is the highest. No damage is no damage. The average person probably can’t even tell the difference anyways.
This is what it feels like.
This is what you are conditioned to feel like. And I’m telling you pointblank that feeling this way and this way of thinking is a problem. This is a few steps away from thinking that low effort is best effort because of that whole “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” type of attitude you are made to feel. Aligning yourself with trends to stay relevant and actually grow becomes more important than trying to be unique and create a trend. This all ultimately leads to YouTube becoming a stagnant platform of rehashed ideas and unpolished content.
If you’re reading this as a smaller YouTube Creator struggling to break into the bigger leagues, I really feel you man.
The YouTube Problem from the User’s side
A couple of years ago, my late friend used to tell me when I’d get on these rants “But BK, why are you getting so mad at people that just want a quick laugh or a quick wow? Let the people have fun. ” It becomes harder to rebuttal when you think about it like that, to be honest. I’d always get so worked up from the Creator’s perspective, that I forgot what it was like to just use YouTube without any expectations.
But the more I thought about it, the more I started to think that user expectations, in and of itself, is the fundamental user side YouTube problem. People watch YouTube videos for tons of reasons. It may be to kill time, be informed, be entertained, sate curiosity, etc. No one even needs to have a reason to click on a video.
But I also don’t think there are many people that have high expectations for what they watch. No one opens YouTube with the intent to watch something that will change their lives. Like he said, the average person just wants a quick laugh or a quick wow, don’t they?
Suppose we make the assumption that users don’t really expect all that much from any given YouTube video unless they are familiar with the Creator. In that case, I think a fair amount of what the Creator is conditioned to feel gets put into context.
Thinking about this from a different perspective, doesn’t this assumption also mean that nothing is expected from a YouTube user? If a Creator expects you to be at a certain knowledge level, they always say something like “Hey, guys, this video is for the people that…” But every other time they don’t say this, they think that anyone would be able to watch and understand the video, right?
Scrolling up, and looking at the list of popular gaming video formats, the prospect of accessibility does indeed seem to be one of, if not the only thing those video formats seem to share. Anyone can watch a top 15 list of any topic and understand what the video is about, for example. The funny part is that these video types have come to be accessible due to them having been done so much that they have become comfortable formats to watch videos in. Even more so when someone you’re comfortable with is doing them.
You know what to expect when you click on almost all of those popular video types, but at the same time nothing is generally expected from you from the Creator side unless they state so.
Plus, with the sheer amount of content on YouTube, enticing videos that seem as if they may satisfy your mood and base expectations from a glance at the title and thumbnail are the most clickable. If you lose interest easily, that’s okay, there’s always more to watch, right?
That’s not to say that the average user does not appreciate high effort and high quality. But it’s more that quality is not an explicit requirement for clicking on, or enjoying a video. This is because the YouTube user probably didn’t expect quality in the first place. Or they may not even have an eye to discern what quality is.
Now, add to the equation a Creator trying to be successful by catering to potential expectations whilst not having any expectations of the user, and you have my perspective on how I think about YouTube.
But that’s not the full picture just yet. There are some YouTube Users we are not accounting for.
The ‘Esoteric Concept’ on YouTube
The impacts of the ‘YouTube Problem’ discussed above, result in what you see when you open YouTube today. The Creator side and the user side problems bleed into each other. The Creator wants to be successful and tries to create appealing content, accessible to people with wide but low expectations, and generally does not expect anything from the User. The User usually expects something from the video they clicked on but at the same time doesn’t expect the world. They will consider continuing to watch the Creator if their base expectations can continue to be satisfied. This can cause the Creator to paint themselves into a niche which further bolsters repetition of the creation of similar content.
Depending on the kinds of video games you like to follow, you can see these interactions manifest in different ways. If you’ve spotted a trend of a content type inside a game’s sphere, this is may be what is happening.
But here’s a question.
What about people who appreciate it when the Creator provides high quality work? What about people who like it when the Creator expects something more from them? What about the YouTube Users who have more than just basic expectations from a video? What about people who are really into a game and want to be stimulated on a deeper level?
Well, I hate to break it to you, kid. But being a Creator on YouTube conditions you to feel like these people don’t exist. Or if they do, the numbers are so negligible that making content for them is a mistake.
Simply because making a video specifically for people to enjoy on a deeper level, can potentially alienate the prospective viewers who aren’t at that level. Unless you make efforts to try to bring anyone up to that level. This is an extension of the expectation based YouTube problem.
If you are a skilled Creator, you can balance this well enough to appease all groups. An inside joke here, an in-depth explanation there, you can be creative about it and still deliver something people with varying expectations might enjoy.
But generally, if you make high level tech videos for a very focused group of people and expect the YouTube User to have a lot of foundation knowledge and X hundred hours on the game, you are already swindling yourself out of a lot of total viewers.
This is what I call Esoteric Content in my head. Google definition for the term Esoteric reads “intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest.” Content that not everyone might enjoy or understand, but the people who get it, really get it.
Sounds familiar, huh.
But even so, it’s not as black and white as this. It’s not just about Hardcore audience vs. Casual audience and not it’s cut and dry to define whose who without any cross-pollination. Earlier I said that most people can appreciate quality. But also what about the people who don’t even own a game, but still want to see it played at high level and take time to learn about it so they can genuinely be impressed when watching an Esoteric video?
Precisely because no one needs to have a reason to click on a video, there’s no surefire way to quantify groups of YouTube viewers. Which means that catering to the widest possible set of expectations is the safest and most effective bet. Therefore Esoteric content becomes seemingly less desirable and is more few and far between, because it’s comparatively less successful despite having the potential to do more.
Or at least that’s what it feels like.
How I Feel About YouTube
Hm. I feel like people should be allowed to enjoy whatever they want to enjoy. But I dislike what low expectations has done to what people accept as the standard of content on YouTube. I dislike how catering to low expectations yields results and has made it seem like you’re stupid for actually trying to do more than that.
It makes me annoyed every time I open YouTube and see the same kind of shit that’s there just so you can waste time. Makes me think about the weeks of effort I put into that Anubis video guide and it felt like no one really cared.
That’s the other thing though, people really do care. Assuming they don’t is another problem that stems from what you are conditioned to feel. This is because the only feedback you see are numbers like views, subs, likes and at what minute people lost interest in the video. You get comments too but how many people actually stop and write you something that not only tells you how they consume your content, but tell you what they appreciate about you?
Look, man. The intent behind this post was not to make you think a certain way nor lead you by the nose into the cynicism I feel, it was to give you an insight into how I think about YouTube content creation.
I tried to structure this post as if I was talking to an intelligent adult capable of thinking for themselves, because that’s how I want to treat people, and how I want people to be.
I talked about the YouTube Algorithm so much but purposefully didn’t attempt to explain how it works because it’s not the point. It’s a technology that weighs values and compares them to individual profiling to try to show you something it thinks you want to see. What’s important is the human interaction between user and creator that governs this and I tried to explain that as best as I could.
With all of this perspective I’ve given you, this whole YouTube Problem thing is why I don’t want to take YouTube content creation seriously.
I genuinely like making videos, helping people and trying to get good at video games. Also memes occasionally. But I don’t want to put myself in a position where I’m fighting to stay relevant if I am not genuinely passionate about the game I’m covering.
But sometimes I feel like I’m wasting the audience I do have by not doing anything and being stubborn about trying to be relevant, so sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself. You can probably tell from the way this post was written, but I really do tend to overthink a lot of stuff.
Well, I guess all I’m really trying to say is that if you ever see my new content and feel like I sold out, come read this post again and then get to know how I feel on the inside.
Thank you for reading.