If you were just unfrozen from a massive block of ice ala Chris Evans in Captain America or Bill Clinton in real life, here’s what you need to know: people make money playing video games on YouTube now, and the latest game they’re into is one about playing video games to make money on YouTube.
Youtubers Life (no, there’s not an apostrophe; yes, it drives me crazy too) hit the Steam top-ten best sellers list over the weekend. It’s zeitgeist-y as fuck—not the first of its kind, but probably the most elaborate. You play as an aspiring YouTuber, balancing school, home, social, and work life with your dream of making sweet, sweet #content. You’re essentially a Sim, except being locked in a tiny room and slowly starved somehow doesn’t kill you.
Right now, the game is OK. It’s still in Early Access, but it mostly works. You can only be a video game YouTuber (there will be others in future updates), and the game crashes sometimes. Otherwise, it’s a slow-paced but occasionally inventive tycoon game. It’d be pretty unremarkable if not for the fact that it’s become a reflecting pool worthy of its own Greek myth for some professional YouTubers. What does the game get right? What does it fuck up? When you stare into the (playable) abyss of what somebody else thinks your career’s like, what do you see?
StevenSuptic seemed to think the game was alright. After a couple early successes, he jokingly said, “This game might feel better to me than my actual channel.” The first upgrade he went for was a better mic. He said that matters even more than good games, if you’re angling to hit it big on the ol’ To-Yubes. He also used tons of clickbaity titles on his videos, portraying the scene in a somewhat cynical (but mostly joking) light. The game kept jabbing at him for poor editing, so he slotted a clip of himself saying, “Damn, I have bad editing!” into his own real-life video, like, five different times. I laughed.
Nothing too shocking in ZerkaaPlays’ video, but there were a couple insights I liked. While the game scored his video on “acting,” he observed that, “As a YouTuber, you’re kind of an actor, but you’re not. It’s weird. YouTube has taught me to be more confident. I can talk a lot better than I used to talk.” He was also pretty upfront about the content grind. “This is how you grow. Get in there, hammer it home. Ram videos down their throats,” he chuckled. And when his avatar returned from school exhausted and bleeding YouTube subscribers, he decided to push him even harder. “What YouTuber has a good sleep pattern?” he asked.
While Steven Suptic and Zerkaa approach Youtubers Life with tongues firmly in cheek, yammy xox seemed to really dig it. “Look at how sick I’m doing on YouTube,” she said as her in-game subscriber count went up. “My mum will be so proud.” She also offered practical YouTube advice that seemed to contradict the game. “When you start a series,” she said, “you can’t end it. People will get mad.” Youtubers Life, though, seems to push for lots of game purchases and variety. If you play the same game too much, you quickly get diminishing returns. Perhaps somewhat cynically, it’s all about chasing the new hotness. But then, tons of YouTubers are now playing Youtubers Life, so maybe it’s not wrong.
A nice moment: when yammy hit 100 in-game subscribers, she told the story of when it happened to her in real life. “I literally had to lift up my laptop and use the camera on it to record a thank you video,” she laughed. “It was so embarrassing.”
Vikkstar123 took a cynical approach. He played it for laughs, but sometimes things got dark. For instance, as soon as in-game comments started flowing in on his videos, he said, “Wait a few days, mister. Wait a few days for ‘Kill yourself,’ ‘You suck at this game,’ ‘This is the most shit video I’ve ever seen.’ Because it’s gonna hit you! Look at [my avatar]. He’s smiling away. He won’t be for long. Haters are gonna get to him.” He also displayed the artisinal craft of a proper clickbait headline. “HALF LIE 3 CONFIRMED GAMEPLAY - NEW GAMEPLAY - (Half Lie 2 Gameplay),” he said. “So then you’re not clickbaiting too hard.”
Jim Sterling, professional critic and Steam curmudgeon, didn’t love Youtubers Life. “This whole thing makes me cringe,” he said. It was kinda funny, though, to watch him embody the grouchier elements of his persona both in and out of the game at the same time. In the game, he refused to grab points by adding things like “singing comments” (where a YouTuber sings something they’d normally say) to a video, even though those are popular. He also named all of his videos Chungus.
“This is the truth behind YouTube. We’re all depressed. Why would anyone want to become a YouTuber? For the fame? For the money? For the mom yelling at you? Look at me. Look at where I am. Look at my shitty content. Was it worth it? I don’t know. I’ve gotten so many views, but at the same time, I’m PewDiePie. You know what I mean? I just feel dirty. I used to be so young and innocent. Look at me. Look at me now. You don’t want to be a YouTuber. Get a real job.” - PewDiePie