'Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.' -Laurence J. Peter, Peter's Almanac

Learn To like It

by Ethan Glover, Thu, Jun 27, 2019 - (Edited) Thu, Jun 27, 2019

Does anger really sell? Ian Sherr or CNet believes there is a trend on YouTube for commentators to find something to be angry about in order to rant. There are a lot of those kinds of channels floating around. But I think that trend passed around the time G4TV shut down.

This is certainly a trend in politics. (Although, may also be fading away.) The left and the right are looking at each other as enemies. “If you believe in X…” Or worse, “If you voted for X… then I can’t be friends with you, or you belong in jail, etc.”

There was a time when you could only find this kind of thinking in small, isolated communities full of people who have rejected the world as it is. Communities that act more as cults than anything else. Such as Scientology or anything that starts with “anarcho.”

I think it is social media that has brought this out in us. Algorithms designed to increase engagement have inadvertently (or maybe advertently) thrown people into filter bubbles that increasingly isolate them from simple, differing opinions. To such an extent that they become angry and hostile when they hear anything splitting from their chosen doctrine. Social media has made people weak minded.

YouTube is not so much a social media platform as it is a video platform. Comments are still given a low priority by both creators and YouTube itself. Most creators ignore them (at least the smart ones) and YouTube is more concerned with watch time than “social engagement.” However, it does have its fair share of weak minded people clamoring to join in on mobs on any trending angry subject.

Ian Sherr brings up Cleanprincegaming, LegacyKillaHD, AngryJoeShow, and Upper Echelon Gamers as examples of an angry “trend.” With the exception of AngryJoeShow, the channels all have less than 1 million subscribers. Don’t get me wrong, 300-650k is a lot. But of these four, I’ve only ever heard of AngryJoe. And I had no idea he was still around. The guys oldest video on his channel in 10 years. He’s been around long enough to earn 3 million loyal fans. …But remember what I said about the G4 days? I think this “angry” format, that Joe no doubt helped create, is past its prime.

Compare AngryJoe, the 10 year veteran, to the latest and greatest in YouTube gaming content. Jacksepticeye, 6 years uploading, 22 million subscribers. Markiplier, 7 years, 23 million. Game Theorists, 9 years, 11 million. Dunkey, 8 years, 5.5 million. And of course PewDiePie, 8 years, 96 million.

None of those channels depend on negativity. All are bigger fixtures on the YouTube gaming community than those who can’t pull themselves out of a habit of being angry. Even channels who do video essays like Game Maker’s Toolkit, Gameranx, and Writing on Games don’t fall into that angry trap. (Well, Writing on Games does sometimes, but he at least seems to have the sense to take a break when he notices bad patterns.)

In both the article and his response video, boogie2988 blames the industry and YouTube algorithms for forcing him to make angry videos. First, I find it hard to believe that YouTube just recommends these kinds of videos to everyone. What I think happens with people like AngryJoe and boogie is that they get caught in a pattern of being negative. Maybe they read comments, get stressed out. Or see a company they used to like transform into something they don’t like. And instead of finding a new one the like, they complain to a camera about what a company “should” be doing. These videos attract a certain kind of audience. The angry, weak minded people mentioned before. These people are certainly more likely to share a video, add their own rants on social media, and get into days or weeks long arguments in the comment section that bloats up video views. But these audiences are also fickle. Just as likely to get mad at the creator for saying something they disagree with as they are to get mad at a game company for doing something they disapprove of.

This is why I believe more positive YouTubers are able to create bigger, more loyal audiences. Angry videos may get temporary influxes of views, but they can’t keep people coming back.

I only subscribe to positive YouTube gaming channels. With one exception, Downward Thrust. And to be honest, I don’t know why, I can never make it through an entire video from that channel. I find bitching to be very dull. I get the occasional negative video in my recommendations but it is either a new and trending channel (one thriving on a temporary audience) or a Gameranx list. And let’s be fair, Gameranx “negative” videos are more cheeky than negative. Otherwise things remain pretty positive on my feed. Why? Because I don’t click on bullshit and I don’t thrive on flame wars and I don’t thrive on screaming at my computer late at night.

Of course, gaining and keeping an audience isn’t as simple as being positive either. If there is any trait that seems to have risen to the top as the thing people are looking for, it’s authenticity. Whether it’s PewDiePie on YouTube or Joe Rogan on podcasts, authenticity is king. Neither Joe nor Pewds are acting like anyone other than themselves. Both have enough self-awareness to recognize unhealthy thinking in themselves and take a break when needed. They don’t feel guilty about it, they don’t make what amounts to an apology video announcing that they’re taking a break, they just do it. Then they come back and get back to it without letting an unhealthy pattern of thinking overtake their content. And without allowing the bad apples in their audience to pull them down into a dark place.

I think the people behind the channels mentioned in the CNet article are honestly trying. YouTube is a thing they want to do. Video games are their passion. So they want to work to make that their living. They make an angry video about some news they dislike and want to talk about it. They see a big uptick in traffic as a result. They put voice to something everyone was thinking. People love that, I get it. But is that kind of thing needed every day? Not really. Anthem and Fallout 76 were bad games. Don’t buy them. Move on.

When these creators make it such a habit to always find something to complain about they are recreating their audience. They get big upticks in subscriber counts while the more loyal audience slowly drifts away. (As I did with Downward Thrust.) And because these angry audiences are so fickle, some will unsubscribe in rage because the video said the wrong thing while others will subscribe because it said the right thing.

Creators get stuck in a trap of losing a significant portion of their subscribers every time they say something a little off. boogie2988 and Downward Thrust are losing subs just for talking to CNet. So they keep going, working harder to make more angry videos to get that hit of new subscribers once again. But like any drug, each new hit isn’t quite as good as the last. However, they fear the withdrawal from the angry patterns. Indeed, if they stopped making angry rant videos, they would lose most of their audience. That’s because most of the old, loyal audience is long gone. Rebuilding what they once had would mean starting from scratch. It would mean pulling a Final Fantasy XIV by destroying what they have to rebuild things the right way.

Ian is right to point out that there is a problem with angry YouTube gaming videos. While it’s not exactly equal, he’s right to bring up the issue of conspiracy theory and hate videos on YouTube in the same article.

Normally I would say something like, “If you don’t want to see angry videos, don’t watch them.” But gamers are a unique audience. The loud minority that is addicted to negative emotions take pride in it. They defend their angry thinking and support each other doing so. They take the same attitude boogie takes in his response video. “The game industry is in the worst state it’s ever been.” You can’t tell them to calm down and try to focus on the good, they will always excuse their behavior with exaggerated claims. Such as the industry being in the worst state it’s ever been.

Loot boxes are an ongoing problem. I understand that. But there are so many amazing games coming out, so much good news. That industry and community is more alive and vibrant than ever.

I can’t tell angry people to stop watching angry videos. They’d just get angry at me and get defensive. In fact, if any of the people I’ve been talking about through this article started reading this, they’ve already rage quit. So I can only end on a note for the people still hanging around. Check out Judgment and Outer Wilds. Give Markiplier and jacksepticeye a chance. I used to think Let’s Plays were lame but they can be really fun to watch. I’ve discovered a lot of awesome games through their channels. For example, Don’t Escape, Papers Please, and Observation.

Have you read anything about EA or Activision in the last year? Why? They haven’t done anything of note. Those two companies are basically old memes that a small group of very annoying people won’t stop spamming. They’re not relevant. Jedi Fallen Order isn’t due out until November. And it may or may not be a good game. It’s EA, they haven’t made a good game in awhile. Why anyone would be bothered by that fact or get their hopes up for Fallen Order as it it’s going to be the best thing since hot cheese is very odd.

There are good games and good developers out there. We need to recognize that. Support the good and stop giving attention to irrelevant companies and irrelevant YouTubers. Our focus needs to get away from the mistakes of a few developers. We need to get back to enjoying and appreciating good games. Turn your back to the shit, find the developers and YouTubers you like. Leave it there. If you stop liking them, either you changed or they did. Doesn’t matter, move on. There’s something for everyone. It doesn’t make sense for the thing you love or have a passion for to make you so damn angry or frustrated all the time.