Pewdiepie is a controversial figure in the gaming side of YouTube. Some people love him, think he’s a hilarious personality, and appreciate the work he puts into his videos. Others see him as lowbrow comedy, the driver of the hype train, and generally do not regard his persona highly. If I’m honest, he’s a guilty pleasure of mine.
But he recently announced something which cements my opinion that, while his content may not be complex or intellectual, he does a lot of good for the gaming industry. He announced, along with Game Jolt (a website which hosts free indie games) a game jam, named Indies VS Pewdiepie.
What is a game jam?
A game jam where one person or a group create a game in set period of time, often to a specific theme. For this one, developers have 72 hours, from November 21st at 12AM onwards. It has a simple theme: fun to play, fun to watch.
Game jams are relatively popular within the indie scene, but don’t have a huge presence outside of it. Two game jams you might have heard of are Ludum Dare, which hosts very regular jams focused on a different theme each time, and Molyjam, a jam which has only occurred twice, where games are inspired by the parody twitter account @PeterMolydeux. They are typically helpful for new developers to hone skills, try something new or just when developers want to have fun. Sometimes, the games are made into a full release later; the game Mini Metro is an example of a jam-game-turned-paid-release, created initially in a Ludum Dare jam, currently in Early Access on Steam.
Mini Metro allows you to build a metro/tube system, so it appeals to a Londoner like me
What Pewdiepie is doing, however, is an example of how he and other YouTube celebrities are a reason (of many) why the indie scene is growing so well. Many game jams don’t have any sort of prize, however Indies VS Pewdiepie has a prize some might call worthless. The 10 top-rated games made during the jam will be played by Pewdiepie and featured on his channel. This sounds like something simple, something a PR team could throw together if needs be. However really, for an indie development team, who might barely scrape by on paying employees minimum wage, this could be a massive break. Even Pewdiepie’s least viewed videos hit over 1.5 million views. This would bring attention to the team or individual behind the game in a way indie developers could only dream of.
How YouTube celebrities make a difference
That said, Pewdiepie isn’t the only catalyst for the growth of indie game development. Many other channels do videos at a glance on these smaller games. I spoke to the developers of Factorio, a game currently in early access, who had videos from NerdCubed and Sips (seperately), both profilic YouTube celebrities with around 3.5 million subscribers together, made. In two videos, one from each celebrity, a total of over 700,000 people saw the game’s features, with both personalities giving positive feedback. The developers of Factorio (two programmers from Prague) told me that these videos represented the “peaks in both sales and interest for the game”, accomplishing more than any regular word-of-mouth had ever done.
Videos from NerdCubed and Sips “were definitely the peaks in both sales and interest for [Factorio]”
Factorio, an indie game about building and maintaining factories
Another celebrity, Inthelittlewood/Yogscast Martyn, has a series on YouTube called “Have A Gander”, where he spends one video doing essentially a first impression on a game, typically (although not always) an indie game. These regularly receive over 100,000 views, a top comment on one even starts with “When I get a Wii U, I’m gonna play this game”. In fact, one of my top PC games ever is Bastion, which I bought on the recommendation of a YouTube celebrity after watching a video on it.
YouTube gamers receive a bad rap from some people, seeing it as simply people who like to scream at a webcam at game with jumpscares. What certain people don’t see is the huge influence these people have (generally used for good, as far as I can find). Even people who don’t focus on giving news or warning consumers of bad products do good, with examples such as Indies VS Pewdiepie, Inthelittlewood’s “Have a gander” series, and so much more.
As someone who loves the indie gaming scene, I salute you, YouTube celebrities, for being the catalyst in the popularity of so many fantastic games that deserve recognition.