Let's Watch: Video Games on YouTube by Dorie Bailey
NOTES: Origins and Context | See Also
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Origins of this content
Written for LFYT 2015 final by Dorie B..
The YouTube users making a living through their channels are not the only ones profiting from the ad revenue and product placement. YouTube, or, rather, Google, is notoriously ambiguous when it comes to revealing many of the strategies or algorithms that help run the site, but they apparently take a 45% cut of user's profits for themselves, meaning some of these popular users are generating almost double the amount of money through their channels before Google takes their share. [cit]

Roosterteth, who's slogan is "Comedy | Gaming | Community," is much more than simply a video game channel on YouTube. Based in Austin, Texas, this production company has garnered a huge amount of support online, and through the popularity of their many YouTube series (Red vs. Blue, created by using the game "Halo," as well as their many different YouTube channels, covering things like the "Let's Play's" mentioned in the texteo, entertainment news, and other comedy sketches), have grown into a mutli-faceted company, with a fan base large enough to warrant their own convention every year (RTX, held in Austin, Texas every summer). Roosterteeth also made headlines earlier last year, becoming the highest-funded film campaign on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo by receiving over $2.4 million through the campaign for their first feature-length film, Lazer Team, set to be released in 2015. [cit]

"Imagined communities" is a term coined by political scientist Benedict Anderson in his book of the same name, released in 1983. Anderson describes how "imagined communities" are different from actual communities because they are not based on daily face-to-face interactions between the members. Giving the example of a nation, Anderson argues that nationalism creates imagined communities, because any one member of a nation will likely never meet even half of that nation's members face to face, yet there is still the connection between them of belonging to that nation. The same concept can be applied to social media, and especially YouTube communities. Many members of these communities talk and communicate with one another, but do not meet face to face--yet they still all "belong" to this community because of their shared interests in the content and people involved with its success. [cit]

Gaming has overtime become more mainstream then niche. Almost everyone knows about video games even if it's more of the mainstream like call of duty, Mario or fortnite. Many platforms thrive because of it and formed to host a massive amount of new creators and the content they make. A testament to this is twitch and YouTube where many different creators post videos of them playing games or even live stream the games itself to their viewers. It's gotten so big that streamers are able to get celebrities like drake onto their videos or live streams. "For gamers, the hysteria was real. It's not every day that you get to watch one of the largest names in music play a free video game that you enjoy live. But for Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, Twitch, and Fortnite, this moment was bigger than the 600,000 viewers it attracted" [cit]
There is no doubt that YouTube has provided the platform and groundwork to create and foster a huge variety of communities within the site. One of the largest and most profitable of these YouTube niches is the video game community, where both amateur and professional users post videos of themselves not only playing video games, but also reviewing them and providing guides and cheats for an endless variety of games on many different platforms. Such communities, often combining gaming with comedy, frequently extend beyond YouTube and branch out onto other social media platforms (such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), as well as onto their own personal websites. As a result of this multi-platform usage, many of these "gamers" have created a brand for themselves and rely on the advertising revenue and product sales from their various sites to make a living, and are among some of the highest paid users on all of YouTube.

YouTube user PewDiePie, a 24 year old Swedish gamer who is known for utilizing humor in his gaming videos, was the highest paid YouTube user in 2014, earning approximately $7 million from his channel, with over 36 million subscribers, and 311.2 million views in the month of May 2014 alone. As with most YouTube gamers, PewDiePie not only posts video game related content to his channel, but also makes comedy videos, collaborations with other famous YouTubers, and personal video blogs. But, as a gamer, PewDiePie has help to popularize a special type of video game content on YouTube seen on almost all of the biggest gaming channels called "Let's Plays," where users post videos that show them playing through a video game, often in its entirety, with videos lasting sometimes hours in duration.

Another popular gaming channel on YouTube, Roosterteeth, has capitalized on the popularity of these kinds of videos, and has a special subunit channel of the company (appropriately titled "LetsPlay") that posts multiple "Let's Plays" every week, playing a variety of games on multiple platforms. These videos are almost always over 30 minutes long, yet frequently surpass over a million views on each. One of their most popular "Let's Play" series involves Minecraft (Minecraft is an open-world adventure game owned by Microsoft). Players can build and create their own worlds, collect resources, and combat and play with their friends, and is available on a multitude of platforms, including XBOX, Playstation, the personal computer (PC), and they have created over 150 instalments of the series on their channel, One of their most popular "Let's Play" series involves Minecraft, an open-world adventure game owned by Microsoft and first released in 2009. Players can build and create their own worlds, collect resources, and combat and play with their friends, and is available on a multitude of platforms, including XBOX, Playstation, the personal computer (PC). Roosterteeth has created over 150 installments of the series on their channel, catering to the large Minecraft community on YouTube that make it the most popular game franchise featured on the site.

Horror games, another popular video game genre seen in many "Let's Play" videos, features users showing their real-time reactions to popular horror game elements such as jump-scares and excessive gore as they play them through. YouTube user Markiplier, another video game/comedy hybrid channel, is particularly known for his exaggerated, often colorfully-expletive reactions to scary games, notably the popular horror game franchise "5 Nights at Freddy's." ("5 Nights at Freddy's" is an indie horror-survival video game first released in 2014.) Loosely based on "Chuck-E-Cheese" and the animatronics utilized by the franchise, players must protext themselves from murderous animatronic characters each night by following their movements on security cameras, sometimes in very particular sequences. The popularity of the game, notably on YouTube, has spawned two more games in the series, with a fourth set to be released on October 31st, 2015. Similar to other popular YouTube channels, much of his channel's appeal lies in the "character" he portrays, and many of these YouTube gamers are considered celebrities in their own right.

So what is it about these YouTube personalities and their channels that have attracted such a huge amount of attention? These communities on YouTube thrive on the participation of their members to create and share their own content, and have cultivated a new wave of celebrities that are deeply entwined within the imagined communities that social media has created amongst the younger generations. Despite the longer length of these "Let's Play's" and walk-through videos, working against the generally-preferred video length seen more commonly in popular YouTube videos of around 5 minutes or less , the millions of views these videos receive each day indicates that there is a huge demand for content of this length, and the video game niche on YouTube certainly supplies it. Video game conventions, fan meet-ups, and tons of online content has come out of the YouTube's video game community, and as its popularity continues to rise, it will be interesting to see how these kinds of videos and the users that are watching them grow and change, and how YouTube will grow and change in response.