The Lure of Video
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about doing videos. I realize that something like four days worth of video is uploaded to a place like YouTube every minute (not an exaggeration) and that wading into that tumultuous Kraken-infested ocean of content in hopes of making a meaningful splash is agonizingly laughable — and I’d relent to that argument if the whole “making a splash” part were my motivation — but the more I watch videos and get joy out of what others are doing, the less it looks like a murder-ocean and the more it looks like the biggest, best wading pool in the whole world.
This tends to be how I operate, and how I am inspired to create content. A lot of people really like to be at the cutting edge of things, trying out new mediums, new ideas, new concepts for delivering content, and I am glad they are there to do those things in the same way that I’m glad there are already people who like to do things like farming, carpentry and operating toll booths. I like to come in later and stand on the shoulders of giants, because it is the creation of content in a stable medium that keeps me engaged and excited.
It happened for me this way with podcasts, and to some degree even with the willingness to be part of building Gamers With Jobs to begin with. The mediums were already long and well established when I showed up late to the party, and I arrived more eager to join in the fun than to be some kind of trailblazer. I worry that seems sycophantic, but I don’t worry so much that I’ll have trouble getting to sleep tonight.
Anyway, that’s the place I am rapidly approaching with video. I watch all kinds of content now, and I think more and more to myself, “that looks like a lot of fun to do. Why am I not doing that?” Which, is how I’ve found myself thinking a lot less lately in terms of whether I should try to get into the video game (see what I did there?) and more in terms of “I wonder what kind of video I should make.”
Obviously as a site we’ve been dipping our toe into the video waters here and there this year, and from my point of view it’s been wildly successful. That may seem like an odd statement if you actually look at how many views (fewer than 8,000 total for all videos) we’ve received or how much advertising revenue we generated through them (rounded up, it comes to zero dollars). I point out those numbers because those are not at all uncommon metrics to measure the success of content-creation endeavors. In fact, it would probably be very easy for us to look at the results of our efforts and think, “Eh, it’s probably not our thing.”
I wouldn’t say no to 800,000 views or a big wad of YouTube revenue sharing dollars, mind you. Those things would be nice, but when I think about what defines success for us in video, what I think about is whether it was fun to make and whether I’m proud of the results. On those fronts, the answer to date is an unqualified “yes.”
A lot of people tell me that they like listening to our podcast because it feels like hanging out with a group of friends who really like each other and are talking about games. This is my favorite comment, because essentially it is a completely accurate description of why the show exists and why, after 350 episodes, weekly recordings remain something I look forward to. The show is exactly what it seems to be. It’s my chance to hang out with my favorite people in the world, make some jokes with them and talk about playing video games. There’s really not much I’d rather be doing.
What you’re listening to each week is just a small framework of structure around what each of us would likely be doing even if there wasn’t a microphone jammed in our faces. Every year, for example, when I go out to Rabbitcon, Rob Zacny and I inevitably steal away from the games and the music with a bottle of gin and sit and talk about e-sports or games publishing for a couple of hours. They are complex, layered and ambitious discussions, and I always walk away thinking we could have recorded that and essentially had 3 podcasts worth of discussion — though the last third after the gin really kicks in might be touch-and-go. It is in those moments that I’m reminded why I do the shows I do, and it’s because the act of doing them, the act of getting to engage with brilliant people, is what motivates me.
I bring all that up because I don’t know that everyone out there who makes a podcast or content of any kind really is thinking about the medium that way, or has the luxury to do so. I’m not trying to claim moral authority here, somehow casting aspersions on anyone who isn’t themselves casting for the purity of the conversation. Besides, I clearly realize that after more than a decade, GWJ is far from a power player in the games space. What I do know, however, is that if we didn’t do it this way, I don’t think any of us would still be doing it at all.
So, when I look at video, I think about it in those terms. I think about it in an almost selfish way, as though to say, “If I started doing video, how could I do that in a way where I just get to play more games and talk more about games with my best friends?” And, obviously, that’s a pretty easy way to get motivated.
A few months ago Shawn and I did a StarCraft II video. You can find it here. It is one of my favorite pieces of content of any kind that we’ve done so far for the site, or frankly that I’ve worked on anywhere. It’s not that it is exceptionally elegant in production, and we were far from making a strong case for how great we are at StarCraft, but I can watch that video and instantly feel the fun and joy I had when we made it. It is a conduit, an emotional mnemonic device, that can take me instantly to that place in my head that feels like having amazing fun playing a game. I find myself smiling at the screen the entire time I’m watching it.
It makes me want more. It makes me leap from the place of thinking about video in the abstract as a new opportunity for content delivery on a website, to thinking about video as something that I just really want to do regardless of how it relates to the business of GWJ. Which, not coincidentally, is how I can not bother thinking about views and likes and revenue. Those immediately stop being the metrics for success in my head. Luckily, I know myself well enough to know that when I’m thinking about trying something — particularly something which is time-consuming and which requires genuine effort and planning — I will never really be committed to any medium unless I’m driven by the joy of creating in that medium.
So I think about video a lot now. I think about the kind of content I would want to create. I think about how I could get better at making something worth watching. I think about what that content even looks like. Is it me playing games? Is it me and my friends playing together? Is it discussion based? What do I need in order to record, to edit, to render? Those are big, outstanding questions that remain a kind of barrier for me, but I feel myself getting closer and closer to figuring it out and creating something on a regular basis.
At this point, it really is just a matter of time.