Games and journalism; Welcome to the wild wild west

YouTube is the biggest social media website in the world. James Carroll explores the growing influence of ‘gamers’ on the platform.

They have dominated the gaming review bubble for over a decade but now giants like IGN, Gamespot and Polygon are under threat by a new form of media, as millions of gamers and fans tune into Twitch and YouTube to get their gamer information.

Those looking for an obituary to be written here will look in the coffin and find no body because giants like Polygon still have plenty to offer but certainly there has been a shift in power to gamers on YouTube.

One has to ask why there is such a shift in power? Video is a powerful medium and it is extremely well suited to video games because they are extremely social and visual.

To put it mildly, video is simply a better medium to explain what games are like to play.

Gamers and children are trusting the ‘games journalists’ less and one of the reasons is that journalists are under pressure from their companies to upload content and articles, whereas YouTubers are under no obligation to produce or upload content quickly.

They are free to explore a game for as long as they want before uploading a video and because journalists are under commercial pressures to upload content, they can only do a review after a single play through.

No interaction with subscribers, 30 minutes of gameplay . . .

It seems logical that gamers and children are shunning journalists reviews in the gaming industry because in theory, YouTubers are uploading quality over quantity.

The ‘mainstream media’ tends to cover games using the traditional PR cycle of reveal, preview, review, post-mortem.

This does not appeal to people anymore, as with the majority of review’s, the  content is carefully controlled pre-release trailers and preview footage.

Instead of watching a preview trailer that could be mixed up as a advert for a movie, people can watch a streamer on Twitch and see the meat and bones of the gameplay to decide whether or not to buy the game title.

What is the issue?

Journalists act as information gatekeepers, while streamers act as a part of the general conversation.

Although, there can be a downside to having no gatekeepers because now people can go YouTube and say what they want.

It is frightening when you think about people going on a medium, where they can air their views, whether it is good or bad.

A angry gamer upset at the ‘mainstream media’,

The largest of demographic that watch gamers streaming on Twitch and YouTube are 16 and under.

This leads us to the question – Do parents know what their children are watching on YouTube?

At the start of 2017, a controversy erupted over an article that was written by three journalists at the Wall Street Journal, who reported that the biggest YouTube star in the world, PewDiePie, had uploaded at least nine anti – Semitic videos to his page and this in turn caused YouTube and Disney to withdraw their sponsorship.

Who is PewDiePie?

Pie, is a 27 year old from Sweden, whose real name is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, and is a gamer streamer and so-called ‘comedian.’

He set up is his YouTube account in April 2010 and has since amassed 54,971,055 subscribers and 15,240,554,117 views. 

It is clear he has an audience and an influence.

When he first started his channel, Pie was renowned for playing horror games like Amnesia and action games like, The Dark Descent.

His content has been described by many often as goofy and insufferable, filled with swearing on camera.

Unfiltered content can be powerful to give a convincing and honest opinion but here lies the predicament, children and minors are watching him say silly things but also watch him casually and regularly swear throughout his videos.

The controversy

In response Pie, made a new video and “apologised,” (See below)

“Some higher ups at Fiverr, Jewish, they didn’t like the humour … in Fiverr’s defence I can understand, they don’t want their website to be used to spread anti semitic messages but it was also not serious, and I mean it was clearly a joke.”

“I am completely self made and managed to make myself pretty successful and maybe that could be worth celebrating but no, it always comes back to the money,”

To be clear, one, he apologies but crucially uses the famous word for an unapologetic person or, has yet to take responsibility for their actions by saying; ‘but’ right after his apology, and secondly, he said, “it was clearly a joke,” I can remember how many times I have heard someone else say that, to justify a humorous joke they have made.

Minors who watch this kind of content, can easily be swayed into thinking that what he  ‘making people do’ as correct but when in reality it is not only insulting, it is an indirect form of hate speech.

At the end of the video above, Pie, wastes everybody’s time with more anti semitic content, this time about Hitler.

You sense that he is goading his ‘haters’ and the ‘old school media’ at the end of his so called ‘apology’, without explicitly saying it but ‘screw you guys, I can do whatever the hell I want.’

Here is his response to his videos which caused outrage and were removed from YouTube;

“Old school media does not like internet personalities because they are scared of us. We have so much influence and we have such a large voice and I just don’t think they understand it.”

Kjellberg, on first glance does not look like a racist, he is good looking, goofy and calls himself an entertainer and a joker, but in reality, a person who has 55 million subscribers on YouTube is an influencer.

Kjellberg, acknowledges how much influence he has but he won’t accept that his tasteless videos could be seen as racist or anti – semitic to unsuspecting viewers,

“I am completely self made and managed to make myself pretty successful and maybe that could be worth celebrating but no, it always comes back to the money,”

“Money is all I have ever been acknowledged for, but I literally raise millions of dollars to charities and that is rarely ever spoken about.”

“If there is anything I learned from the media from being a public figure is that they blatantly misrepresent the people for their own personal gain,” he said.

Think of the children

This problem is not going to go away because, after the Wall Street Journal’s article on Pie, his channel gained nearly another million subscribers on his channel and the article was supposed to be seen as victory for the mainstream media; the take down of PewDiePie.

So should parents be more vigilant or invasive with what their children watch online?  Previously, everything children would watch would be the television, where now kids can watch anything they want on YouTube, headphones in, and out of sight of their snooping parents.

“The media in the political landscape is dying anyway, the decline is happening, the WSJ, did a piece saying; that per capita, viewership on television is actually starting to be outpaced by YouTube. So that is over now, and that is not video online or video on demand, that is just YouTube”

YouTube prefer advertisements based on family friendly content and this is what Pie’s content was classified as on YouTube, incredibly!

A large company favouring money and profits over standards, that sounds familiar. . .

Very few came to the defence of Pie,  but of course, the ‘new age media’ did.

The Joe Rogan Experience, a podcast hosted by the famous Ultimate Fighting Championship commentator, Joe Rogan, defended Kjellberg with his guest Colin Moriarty,

“The PewDiePie one was really egregious, and I don’t mean PewDiePie was egregious, I meant the attacks on him were,” Rogan said.

This is because Pie’s videos were taken ‘out of context’ and that the mainstream gaming journalists are fighting for their lives because the YouTubers and gamers are gathering so much traffic to them, rather than the journalists.

The ‘new media’ have persistently used that phrase, “taken out of context”, when it comes to the ‘comedian’s’ supposed ant- semitic content but hear lies the problem; Kjellberg, not only is he a comedian but he is also an influencer, and not only are they being entertained; they are being influenced directly or indirectly by the video’s.

Kjellsen, is making racism slightly more mainstream and giving a voice to Neo Nazi groups. Andrew Anglin, of the Daily Stormer (Neo Nazi website), wrote a blog, lavishing praise upon Kjellberg, “I hereby endorse PewDiePie for President of America, 2024”.

Although this is the evolution of media, safeguards should be put in place in the online world to protect children from this misogynistic, denigrating and hateful innuendos.

Worryingly as said before, there are no editors looking over the influencer’s work on YouTube about what is acceptable or what is too controversial, and this must be seen as the most dangerous aspect of the evolution of this multi million dollar industry.

Children have idols, they style themselves on people who they admire, and now they can style themselves as a casual racist like PewDiePie without knowing the consequences.

“The media in the political landscape is dying anyway, the decline is happening, the WSJ, did a piece saying; that per capita, viewership on television is actually starting to be outpaced by YouTube. So that is over now, and that is not video online or video on demand, that is just YouTube”, Moriarty said.

If this is true about the political sphere, then of course the gaming journalism industry that we now is going to die or evolve.

Why would someone who wants a review of a game want to read a 600 word article on it, when they could watch a 20 minute video of a gamer exploring the title that they are unsure of buying? This is only a logical evolution.

But the industry needs to be better regulated and have higher and more sophisticated  professional standards,

“We have so much influence and we have such a large voice,” and an even greater responsibly to know where the line is from being controversial to down right insulting and degrading.

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