This Dumb Introduction

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Aug 20, 2019

Filed under: Column 77 comments

Here is the first entry in the new video series. This one is more aimed at my mostly-dead YouTube channel, so it’s not going to be terribly interesting to read. For the first few videos I’m going to be playing things safe and sticking to familiar topics. I have some proper episodes planned for when we’re comfortable with the format.

Like I’ve mentioned before, this is a collaboration with my son Issac. He’s going to be doing the editing and animating and I’ll do the scripts and still images. We’ll see how it works.

Anyway, here’s the script for the video:

This Dumb Introduction

Link (YouTube)

Hello there, The Internet. Do you remember those Reset Button videos I used to make? I know they look janky these days, but they were pretty good for the time. Anyway, if you’re one of the fives of people who subscribed to my channel hoping I’d make more of that kinda stuff, then I have good news. I’m doing that.

I’m going to change the branding a bit to fit with my other projects, but it’s going to be more or less the same style of content: Analysis of gameplay, game technology, story construction, and the gaming industry as a whole.

Why did it take me ten years to get around to making these things on a regular basis? Well, funny story about that.

See, I have basically three audiences:

  1. I have my YouTube channel where I post a video every six months or so. I have a couple of popular videos and one really viral one.
  2. I’ve also been a contributor to the Escapist for the last twelve years or so. My content there is currently on hiatus, but a lot of people from that site know me.
  3. And then there’s my main audience on my blog. Yes, blogs are still a thing in 2019. Oddly enough, this is actually my most popular work. The blog is where I do these super long-form retrospectives and analysis of older games. Also, I did that one webcomic that basically the entire internet read back in 2007.

So I have these three audiences. The problem is that they’re completely separate. People on the Escapist don’t want to click on off-site links, people on my blog don’t want to watch videos, and people on YouTube don’t want to watch anything that isn’t a video. So I’ve never been able to figure out a way to reach all three groups at the same time.

I’ve tried, but over the years I found I never had time for more than two of these three projects. The Escapist and the blog paid my bills, so that’s where I spent my effort, and my YouTube channel just sat here gathering dust. Even when I wasn’t getting demonitized, YouTube just wasn’t a good investment. For the time it took me to make the Do it Again Stupid video I could have written like six articles. Video editing is time consuming.

On the other hand, YouTube is where the people are. All my favorite creators are here. All the major gaming sites have some sort of YouTube presence. YouTube is where the publishers release their trailers, it’s where we react to trailers, it’s where people review games, and it’s where we go to watch people play games after release. It’s where we go for analysis and walkthroughs and tips.

YouTube an annoying platform run by an obnoxious company with the help of an oppressive mystery algorithm that uses a random number generator to enforce secret rules about what videos can be monetized. The recommendation system forces creators to spend 30 seconds of every video begging for likes and subscriptions so their hard work doesn’t vanish off the front page before people get a chance to see it. It’s a system plagued by copyright trolls. It has a Kafkaesqe claim system that punishes the accused before they can defend themselves and incentivizes frivolous claims, allowing wealthy corporations to skim money from independent creators like the mob shaking down local businesses. It’s a corporate dystopia. A sewer. A nightmare of injustice and frustration.


It’s also basically the center of gaming culture. That sucks, but that’s the way it is.

My hope is that by turning some of my content into videos, I can stay a tiny bit relevant in the YouTube space without sacrificing the long-form analysis that I like to do.

One last note: I like to remind people from time to time that I am not a journalist. I know the line gets pretty blurry here in the video game world and it’s not always easy to tell the reporting from the opining. It’s not my place to draw the line between the two, but I’m definitely the latter. I don’t review games in the sense of giving review scores, I don’t do consumer advice, I don’t investigate stories or report the news, and I’ve never been to J-school. I actually spent most of my career as a programmer and 3D artist. That was fun and interesting work, but game analysis is where my heart is and I’d like to keep doing this for as long as I can.

I’m a big believer in analyzing games in a holistic sense. I’m not one of those people who will overlook a garbage story because the gameplay is fun, or who ignores lackluster gameplay because I like what the game has to say. If the developer is going to spend millions of dollars making Hollywood-style cinematics then they should be willing to spend just a tiny bit more to hire a proper writer who knows how to tell a story. A game doesn’t need a story to be good, but if it does have a story, then it should be worth the audience’s time. A game with solid gameplay and a dumb story is fine, but it’s never as good as a solid game with a fantastic story. A game doesn’t need to have tacked on gameplay features, sidequests, item collection activities, and multiple romance options, but if a game does have those things then they should worth doing and integrate with the rest of the game not just exist to fill out a checklist of features.

So now you know where I’m coming from and what the plan is. I hope you’ll stick around for the content. The current plan is to release one of these every couple of weeks. We’ll see how that works out. If you’re interested, then, you know, do the like / subscribe thing.

Thanks for watching.

After-Video Commentary

Like I said at the top, I realize this announcement video isn’t going to be particularly captivating to readers.

To be honest, I’m not even sure I can make this work. Video and text are different mediums with different strengths and weaknesses. In text, I can link to stuff to cite sources, and you can copy & paste text to quote me. That doesn’t work in video. In a video I can easily show off animations and gameplay, but in text I need to spend a couple of paragraphs explaining it. Video can show rapid images over narration, but if I put all those images into an article body it would make it a pain to read. Jokes that work in one medium often can’t be translated to the other.

I can use articles as a starting point for YouTube scripts, but it’s pretty obvious some adaptation will be required. The above text is direct from the video, but I don’t want to limit myself to this transcript-style approach. I think in the future the video will diverge from the article.

I don’t know. I’ll see if I can make it work. I hope you’ll be patient while we figure this out.

One final note: On Patreon, I announced that you can get your name in the credits as one of the reward tiers. It felt silly and self-important to list credits for this simple announcement video, treating it like a full video when it’s basically an announcement that the channel isn’t dead. So we didn’t do that this timeAlso, the Patreon system seems to only recognize backers after they’ve been billed. I assume that’s to prevent people from signing up for a reward and then cancelling again before they’re billed. I honestly wouldn’t care. I seriously doubt that would be a major concern in our case.. Next time will be the first real entry in the new series and that’s when we’ll be doing full proper credits.

Also, the Patreon reward system is apparently pretty obtuse. People keep getting confused because they want the $2 reward, but they want to give more than $2. They click on the “Name in the credits” reward tier, and it will LOWER their contribution to $2. Ridiculous!

This is the fault of the web designer. Someone is so enamored of their sexy layout that they’re willing to sacrifice usability. It looks like this:

It’s not obvious, but you can just change the number when you sign up. Before you hit “Confirm”, just click on the $2 and change it to whatever.

The problem is that there’s nothing to indicate the $2 is an edit field. For proper usability, it ought to look like this:

I realize that’s not as sexy, but sexiness shouldn’t be the top priority for a page designed to handle financial transactions.

Aside to PayPal: Everything I just said goes double for you. Your once-intuitive interface is now attractive and horrendously inconvenient.

Anyway, sorry for the confusion and hassle.

If all goes well, the first real entry of This Dumb Industry should go live on September 3rd or 4thI’m not sure if I want to go with Tuesdays or Wednesdays..

In the meantime, I’ll be posting more Steam Backlog, I have a programming series coming up, and a few other rando articles to fill things out.

Fingers crossed.



[1] Also, the Patreon system seems to only recognize backers after they’ve been billed. I assume that’s to prevent people from signing up for a reward and then cancelling again before they’re billed. I honestly wouldn’t care. I seriously doubt that would be a major concern in our case.

[2] I’m not sure if I want to go with Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

From The Archives:

77 thoughts on “This Dumb Introduction

  1. Lino says:

    I like this new format – you’ve got a pleasant voice, and very interesting things to say. The only suggestion I have is to make the script read more like one your articles (I suspect this is going to be a major criticism from people following the blog). I think the main reason some people on the blog weren’t following your Escapist content is because you were speaking to different people, and your “voice” sounded different than the one we’re used to in your TDI articles, and is probably why they viewed those articles as inferior to TDI. Posting the the script of the video wholesale might seem like even more of a downgrade to those people.

    Also, maybe you could put the after-video commentary before the script? I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but in this case, I think it makes sense – once I saw the text was just a script, I assumed there was nothing else (which is why I typed the paragraph above, without getting to the after-video commentary). I know that your readers are patient, but I think a non-trivial amount of people might check out of this entry (and future ones) once they see that the majority of the article is just a script…

  2. Liessa says:

    Thank you so much for posting the script! I will watch the videos as well, but reading the script takes about 1/10th as long (plus I can do it at work…)

    1. Bob says:

      If you put the video on 2x speed, it’d only be 5x slower than text instead of 10x. ;)

    2. Mistwraithe says:

      Amen. I think I will just be reading the script, so if a video is really great to watch then I hope people will say so in the comments so I can try to find the time to watch it.

  3. tmtvl says:

    The outro music is a bit loud compared to the monologue. Other than that the video hit me in all the feels.

    1. ngthagg says:

      Yep, the credits music was too loud. But items than that, it was great. I like that you included your thesis on gaming. One you have a good library of videos, that would be nice to have as a separate video. Something that new viewers can click on to get a quick feel for how you do things (without all the historical stuff that this video contains).

  4. Hector says:

    Shamus, I’m curious as to what you think of Noah Caldwell-Gervais, or if you’ve seen his videos. They are… long. But I love his in-depth style of literary analysis, even if I don’t always agree with his conclusions.

    Apart from that, I would like to see videos with a technical look at game engines or hardware, or commentary on the corporate side of the business. I’m hopeful for the new videos.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      I think Noah needs to edit. He has good material, but the impression that he is literally reading an unedited first draft out loud is STRONG. Just like… edit out the deep swallows, gasps for breath, pauses to find the reading place in the script again, etc. He also covers the same material in several places in the same video, which adds to the considerable length. Come in with a tighter thesis, get in and out by the 30-45 minute mark. If necessary, do multiple videos. Making one Call of Duty video that’s 4+ hours long is incomprehensible to me rather than splitting it into “eras” and doing like 4 or 5 parts.

      1. RichardW says:

        Splitting his work into smaller segments would definitely make it more digestible, but there’s something to be said for long form videos. There aren’t as many around anymore and it can honestly be quite interesting to hear someone talk about Fallout’s design history or whatever for an hour plus.

        As for the production quality, something I’ve seen through reading comments on Noah’s videos and on reddit posts linking to them is that the off the cuff nature of his recordings, complete with mouse clicks for when he pauses and unpauses the recording, makes him feel more authentic / genuine. To a certain extent I agree. I just wish he’d use his voiceover microphone when doing the to-camera pieces, since he’s almost unintelligble during most of those.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          It’s not that I find the content uninteresting, it’s that if you’re going to describe 9 Call of Duty campaigns in a row, why not break by era? Or maybe by developer? An hour+ is different from 4 hours and 40 minutes. Since it’s a video, you’d think that you’re meant to watch it, but I don’t think anyone would WATCH a 4 hour + video. Listen to it like a podcast over several sessions, sure. But then he’s wasted all his time editing a MONSTROUS video when people watch maybe 20 minutes of the actual visuals on screen.

          And I get the concept of him being “genuine”, but find that a bad argument. This isn’t improvised poetry or music, it’s a prepared speech. Why not present that in the best light possible? If there was a dog barking loudly, that might be genuine, but it would also be shitty to listen to, so he would edit it out if possible. I think he should do the same with honest mistakes, like misreading a whole sentence, stopping, swallowing, and restarting. What I don’t want: wacky skits, made-up character voices to portray his ideas, craaaazy photoshop transitions. What I would appreciate: professional caliber video and sound editing for his vocal essays.

          I also think he has strange taste for the most soulless corporate crap out there, but actually appreciate a perspective on why he does and wouldn’t want him to change that at all. It makes his analysis stand out to me, among other material I consume.

    2. Ben Matthews says:

      He does a lot of good content, yeah. His real life Fallout locations video was fantastic.

  5. Benden says:

    The smallest of critiques, which I hope is also constructive: in the video, I would enjoy having a brief pause and a switch of footage between paragraphs where you change topics. Such as at the space between “…without sacrificing the long-form analysis that I like to do.” and “One last note…” — I feel like your breathing room was edited out, which may be okay (or even required in YouTube aesthetic), but it doesn’t really match your delivery style to not have some natural breathing room. A change in the visuals at that point (maybe putting the cut from Batman to Spider-Man there, with a quick black between?) would help substitute for (or enhance, if the space was restored) the transition time, that “breathing room” that I’m missing.

    As a member of all three audiences, I’ve always loved your YouTube content. I’m thrilled to see more of it!

  6. Lee says:

    I liked, commented, subscribed, and hit the bell icon.

    I’m actually much more likely to watch youtube than I am to come here. I watch *way* too much Youtube. On that note, now that you’ve teased us, you need to give us a Minecraft playthrough. It’s a Youtube thing. ;)

    I do look forward to the videos.

  7. CrimsonCutz says:

    I for one am glad you’re posting the script here, as much as I’d like to follow the stuff you do I already have so many videos to watch that I don’t have much time for more, but I can breeze through the text way faster.

  8. Florian says:

    I completely forgot that I was subscribed to you on YouTube.

    Btw, do you know MandaloreGaming? I really like the way he talks about games, I find it both entertaining and insightful.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      I like MandaloreGaming! I think Limbo of the Lost: The Greatest Bad Game is his best one.

      Shamus should avoid the War of the Ring video though, or he’ll have an aneurysm. (“The dwarves have a WMD???”)

  9. RFS-81 says:

    Good luck!

    In the Diecast from last week, you said that you’ve been trying to reactivate your Twitter account so that YouTube users can contact you more easily. Have you considered making a Discord channel instead?

    1. Shamus says:

      I have. It’s on the ToDo List™!

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I can’t wrap my head around how people function on Discord with literally everyone and their dog having a channel*. That said with the forums down… (I miss you “What have we been playing this week” megathread)

        *Not that I’m against you starting a channel, it’s just so hard to follow all of these communities that everyone is creating.

        1. James says:

          Discord reminds me of the old days of IRC, except the mainstream Internet found it. I’m on a few small servers with maybe 20-100 people, and it’s OK, you can find people worth talking to. I am also on a server which has over 2000 people all in the same room, all talking over each other, and nobody actually saying anything of use. There’s no two-way conversation, it’s all output. It’s a bit like the early days of Twitter and this endless stream of unedited noise from people’s brains. I don’t write anything in that server because nobody will read it and 30 seconds later it’s vanished.

          It’s a bit like real-time Reddit, except people are polite ;-)

  10. Alberek says:

    This is nice!
    It’s great having you back on Youtube. I take your son is going to do most of the video editing and such, so it’s going to be somewhat different than your previous videos?

  11. ccesarano says:

    I will be sharing your videos, as I have in the past, because really, I think it’s word-of-mouth that helps YouTube channels grow. People keep saying the algorithm, but I’ve seen others explode overnight simply because they were spotted and shared by a bigger YouTuber or something. Given your blog audience, I think you’ll have good fortune being shared across Reddit and the like.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you put together. I don’t have much advice on this one, but having been in your seat, I also know that the advice you receive is most often stuff you already are aware of yourself. It’s always an interesting experience of discovery.

  12. Olivier FAURE says:

    The way a lot of people seem to absolutely despise Youtube always confounds me.

    If I’m being uncharitable, it really feels like a lot of people are, without realizing it, kinda expecting Youtube to recommend to everyone what they like, and get mad when something they don’t like is recommended to them or anyone.

    Also, the things people are mad about (videos being demonetized, or not showing up on recommendations) really seem like symptoms of the fact that Youtube is the best/only viable platform around for video makers. 15 years ago, the idea that random people could post videos on the internet and semi-reliably get advertising money for them was ludicrous. Now, not only it exists, you have a demographic of people who depend on it so much that any problem in the system seriously impacts their livelihood.

    On one hand, it’s easy to empathize with these people who are extremely small compared to this giant company, and can get screwed over for reasons that are often opaque to them. On the other hand, it’s not like Youtube put a gun to these creators’ heads and forced them to rely exclusively on them to monetize their content. Part of the problem is that Youtube made monetization look so easy that people often forget the conflicting incentives that Youtube has to juggle (eg advertisers don’t want their ads on controversial content) and expect it to “just work”.

    (similarly, it feels a little odd when people get mad that Youtube is not putting some videos on “Recommended” page; like, what happened to “checking your RSS feeds” and “talking about things you like on forums and looking at the things other people talk about”?)

    On the other side of this, I also have a lot of empathy for Youtube. They’re in the middle of a constant tug-of-war between people screaming “Youtube is recommending / monetizing / not censoring this video featuring conspiracy theories / racist discourse / weird exploitative video with pedophile commenters” on one side, and other people screaming “Youtube censored / demonetized / didn’t recommend my video and accused me of being a conspiracy theorist / racist / pedophile!”, and often these problems come up because there’s no way Youtube can have humans manually approve each video, and automated filters are always going to make mistakes.

    That being said, they could really be doing better on the copyright front. Right now it’s ludicrous how rigged the game is in favor of copyright holders, and how few mechanisms Youtube seems to have to defend content creators.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, they are in an un-enviable position.
      To extend your empathy, recall that intellectual property laws (patents and copyrights) are right there in the US Constitution. Since Google is a USA based company, it would be essentially impossible for them to legally not enforce IP restrictions. I’d be glad to see IP fall out of the scope of government all together, but short of an amendment to the US constitution I doubt it’s going to happen. So, they are kind of stuck there too.

      1. Olivier FAURE says:

        I’m not familiar with the specifics of the copyright system, but I suspect Youtube gives rights holder way more power than the law requires.

        Like, there’s no penalty for making repeated mostly-spurious claims (that I know of), no “trusted creator” system where Youtube says “Okay, I know you guys make Abridged Series, and our official policy is that Abridged Series aren’t copyright violations, so we’re going to default to refusing any copyright claims on videos from your channel that meet a few internal metrics”, no system for a youtuber to say “okay, so this 30min video uses a 20s music bit that is *technically* a copyright violation, can I just blur the music in that segment and not be demonetized and/or forced to re-upload the entire video?”.

        So attacking videos is cheap and defending them is arduous, which kinda incentivizes right holders to default to reporting everything that might possibly be a violation.

        1. Shamus says:

          There’s good news on this front!

          YouTube is actually suing a flagrant copyright troll:

          That’s good news. Of course, that guy had to lie, cheat, use alt accounts, and submit BRAZENLY false claims against multiple people for YEARS before YouTube lifted a finger. This guy was nakedly extorting people and left an obvious paper trail. It’s ridiculous that he went so far for so long.

          It’s nice to know that YouTube has some limit. Of course, the field is still wide open for copyright trolls with even a speck of common sense, but I guess this is a tiny step in the right direction?

          1. Olivier FAURE says:

            Yeah, I saw the news.

            I was referring to cases that are more like “Foobar Studios issues takedown to literary analysis video that includes clips from their latest movie. Content creator appeals, video is found to be fair use two weeks later and de-banned. Content creator posts new video with clips from Foobar Studio’s movie. Rinse and repeat.”

            I don’t think Youtube has made any kind of move against that kind of copyright trolling.

            1. Algeh says:

              The basic problem is that fair use is a defense you can use in a court of law if someone sues you for copyright infringement, but there’s no system for proactively certifying something as fair use so as to make the claims go away without a lawsuit. Since YouTube is not a court of law, they can’t protect something that’s “obviously fair use” from copyright claims unless they decide they really want to be a party to a lawsuit about it even when they’d otherwise be protected from such lawsuits under the DMCA as long as they follow takedown notices. YouTube has made some additional choices about tactics and trying to placate corporate IP holders that may or may not be making things worse than they have to be for potential fair use issues, but there’s a limit to how much they could do about protecting fair use even if that were a goal of theirs.

              To further muddy the waters, it’s rare that copyright claims involving potential fair use issues actually go to trial, reach a verdict, and become settled case law (they are often settled out of court, usually because the person agrees to take down the whatever-it-was), so there isn’t really enough in the way of clear precedent that might let everyone better guess who would win the lawsuit and decide whether or not to issue (or dispute) a copyright claim in a possible fair use case.

              This is not a good system for protecting either commentary or transformative works that are theoretically allowed under the law, and there are certainly a lot of things YouTube could do to do a better job within the constraints they’re stuck with, but the root problem is that current intellectual property law is heavily weighted against the commentators on and transformers of ideas, and heavily weighted toward the idea that corporations can own and control ideas.

              1. Steve C says:

                The real problem is that what Youtube is doing is not following the law. Youtube has come up with it’s own system that is law adjacent. In fairness, Youtube almost cannot follow “the law” because there isn’t just one law. For example “fair use” of guilty until proven innocent is a US legal concept that does not exist in other jurisdictions. The DMCA is not the be-all-end-all of laws. There was a good video by a Youtube creator that gave a good overview a few months ago. I strongly disagreed with the conclusions of the video but the framing of the problem was good.

                Primarily youtube is doing it’s own thing when it comes to copyright.

                1. Steve C says:

                  I accidentally found the youtube copyright video I was referring to above:
                  I agree with his summary. In fact I think it is the best there is. Strongly disagree with the editorializing, conclusions and value judgements of that summary.

    2. Moridin says:

      Even without going into the creator’s side of things, there are lots of things wrong with Youtube. Why can’t I disable auto-quality? I don’t care that my connection just had a hiccup, I want to keep watching the video on 720p(or the highest quality available, if 720p isn’t an option). I changed it for this video, so STOP CHANGING IT BACK. Why can’t I have my subscriptions listed in some sort of sane order? Give me chronological or alphabetical order and get rid of the idiotic algorithm that makes it harder to watch content I want to watch.

      And the real kicker? These are both features Youtube used to have. They got removed, as far as I can tell, because the people in charge of the UI are evil trolls.

      @Paul: Youtube doesn’t just do what they’re legally required to, they go above and beyond that, harming content creators at the expense of copyright trolls.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Have you read the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?

        1. RFS-81 says:

          My understanding was that YouTube is going above and beyond the DMCA so it doesn’t have to deal with actual DMCA takedown requests, because these would have to be handled by humans. (Source: No clue, probably read it on or something.)

          Is that incorrect?

        2. Majromax says:

          The DMCA is responsible for the ‘copyright strike’ system and copyright-related video takedowns. Youtube is doing its own thing with the Content ID system, and there it’s applying criteria only loosely related to copyright law. That’s why it’s more difficult to appeal Content ID matches, and in particular why there’s no “put the video up and dare the copyright owner to sue” option as there is for the DMCA.

          It’s widely believed that the latter is the outcome of Youtube’s settlements with various copyright consortia.

        3. Steve C says:

          I have read the DMCA. What RFS-81 and Majromax wrote is correct.

          However why should the DMCA apply at all when it comes to operating other countries? For example if someone uploads content in Canada from a Canadian IP, I log into and I watch that content in Canada served by a Canadian ISP, why should the DMCA be a thing? The stuff that is a ‘grey area’ in the DMCA is *explicitly* allowed by Canadian law.

          Epic is a subsidiary of a Chinese company. Wouldn’t users in the USA object if Chinese laws applied to their activity? If chat discussion in Fortnight about China was censored based on Chinese law, wouldn’t it irk Americans that their own laws do not apply?

          Youtube is international. It is why referring to the DMCA every internet discussion is counterproductive.

      2. baud says:

        I feel like my subscription are arriving in chronological order, but I have no idea on how it’s happening and how I did it or even if it was from an action of my part and not a random action from the borg. But now I’m wondering if I’m not missing videos, especially from channels that don’t publish as many videos. Argh.

      3. Philadelphus says:

        As far as I can tell, all my subscriptions (under the “Subscriptions” tab) have always shown up in chronological order? Though I admit I’m not quite sure how to check, given it only reports to the precision of a day; I guess I’ve just never seen something explicitly chronologically out of order (like numbered episodes in a series).

    3. ccesarano says:

      As both a nobody YouTube creator and an avid user of the platform, I think you’re being too charitable to the company, but I also believe there’s a lot of assumptions of the company’s evil intent. For me, I think the core issue is not exclusive to YouTube: they don’t want you to have any control over your own browsing experience.

      Which sounds silly, I know, given that you can always choose what to watch next, and you can even tell YouTube to stop recommending stuff to you (for a while, at least). However, when you’re done a video, YouTube has stopped trying to lead you back into more of that same creator’s content. It tries to get you to the content of other creators. Sounds great, right? Gives more people a chance… or, it would, if it had any deeper way of knowing who to recommend.

      YouTube is owned by Google. These people specialize in algorithms. Yet for some reason the only other creators recommended to me are those completely unlike who I’m subscribed to. This is in part due to YouTube’s own limitations. If you’re a Gaming channel, then… well, that’s it. You list your channel – or video, even – as “gaming”. But that doesn’t differentiate between Let’s Play channels, critical deep-dive channels, news channels, and parody channels. So if I get done watching MrBTongue’s discussion on violence in video games, I could get some Game Theory brain-wank on how ripped Samus has to be to move inside of her armor. Which, I loves me some Metroid, but I don’t care. I don’t find that stuff intellectually stimulating or rewarding.

      The only reason I’m getting recommended that is because I just watched a video on gaming, and now I’m being recommended something that’s also about gaming and has a lot of views which means it clearly draws money. It’s a soul-less system about as intelligent as a computer attempting to schedule employees based on dollar amounts rather than the inconsistent reality of a Taco Bell’s rush periods. Google has the resources to develop an algorithm that instead considers that user’s other subscriptions, and what other viewers of that video are commonly subscribed to, and a variety of other factors to better determine what sort of content was being made. They have the ability to give creators more thorough categorical options beyond keywords to help sort their content and make it more easily recommendable based on what the users want.

      But there’s gotta be reasons that they don’t. Same goes for providing users more control of their own subscriptions. I’m subscribed to over 100 channels. Many of them are game news, many are analytical videos, some are exclusively games focused while others focus on film, and then I’m also subscribed to maybe seven or eight heavy metal record companies so I can more easily discover new bands or hear about new albums coming out as I don’t follow music news as enthusiastically as I do game news. Then I have company channels like PlayStation, Nintendo, Square Enix, Bandai Namco, SEGA, Capcom, etc. that I like to follow for new game trailers. But when I go to check my subscriptions, it’s overwhelming. Are you telling me no one else has this issue? Impossible. Are you also telling me no one at YouTube has considered putting together ways to sort your subscriptions into folders so you can browse based on what content you’re in the mood for? It’s so obvious an idea, but you need a Chrome extension for just such functionality.

      There’s probably several reasons for this. “XX% of our users are viewing content via mobile devices, SmartTVs, and FireSticks or Chromecasts, where adding such functionality would only be more troublesome. We’re not going to add functionality that a minority percentage of users on Desktop computers would take advantage of”. That’s me being charitable. The most likely reason is that the people in charge of YouTube just don’t care anymore.

      Which, really, is what it comes down to. Every week or month YouTube is putting out a bunch of videos convincing the entrepreneurial creator that they care, but then you have daily reminders that YouTube Red exists (or whatever the new name is), and you can subscribe to it, please subscribe to it, don’t you want our exclusive not-even-good-enough-for-basic-cable content? We have Will Smith!

      This then gives everyone the bizarre sensation that YouTube doesn’t even know what to do with its greatest asset, as they’re the only ones with this entrepreneurial content that has exploded. They perceive Netflix as their great competitor (who also has removed control from the user’s experience (as has Amazon)), but anyone actually using YouTube is going to the platform for a very different type of content. Overall, you have to wonder what it is that YouTube really wants.

      And I think the criticism comes from a lot of misinformed opinions, yes. People only able to see the world through their biased lenses, be it in taste or politics. Yet there are some very basic decisions YouTube could make that would make the experience far more pleasurable to both creators and users that they refuse to make. The only reason that makes sense to withhold those changes is to remove user control. The only possible reason to remove user control is so you can try and manipulate the experience to be more profitable. But that’s part of the problem, because it feels like their choices aren’t working and I cannot see a through line.

      As for competitors, I was hoping Amazon would try and set Twitch up for that purpose, but no go. Mixer is too busy competing with Twitch. We have far more choice in terms of streaming platforms than something as broad as YouTube. Vimeo would be awfully costly for any aspiring creator to break into, designed more for professional purposes than the entrepreneurial and amateur of YouTube. Vidme could not find stability and closed down. Blip is also gone. In fact, Googling for YouTube competitors either brings up other platforms that died, or websites offering TV like Netflix and Veoh. Or, of course, Twitch. DailyMotion? Please.

      That’s the real problem. A proper competitor would need to have a huge company (like Amazon) behind them, but with a spirit to cater to the entrepreneur and amateur instead of the professional and corporate. Until then, you have no other choice. Which is going to make YouTube seem far more evil than they are and for things to feel far more unfair, but it basically means the next choice is to just not make content at all. So YouTube gets to do whatever they want, and it drives a lot of us insane because we have no control over the content we sift through.

      It’s pretty lame.

      1. Olivier FAURE says:

        I dunno, Youtube recommendations have been pretty good to me.

        I’m pretty sure they’re the reason I’ve discovered:
        – Korra Bridged
        – Architect of Games
        – Lily Orchard
        – Smarter Every Day
        – Tom Scott
        – 2kliksphilip

        And probably a bunch of others I’m forgetting. And these last few months, Youtube has gotten pretty good at listening to me when I tell it “No, I don’t want you to recommend any more videos from this creator, move on already!”

        Like, it’s not perfect, and about 75% of my recommendations are video clips from Avengers Endgame and a bunch of Freeman’s Mind episodes I’ve already watched 34 times (and I still click those), but from my end I see no evidence that Youtube is sabotaging / neglecting their recommendations algorithm. It’s just getting me more of what I watch, plus new things every now and then.

        But when I go to check my subscriptions, it’s overwhelming. Are you telling me no one else has this issue? Impossible. Are you also telling me no one at YouTube has considered putting together ways to sort your subscriptions into folders so you can browse based on what content you’re in the mood for? It’s so obvious an idea, but you need a Chrome extension for just such functionality.

        Fun fact that nobody knows unless they’re a RSS nerd: Youtube exports RSS feeds for all its channels. You can even convert your subscription list into a RSS feed export file (I thik; been a while since I did that).

        Personally, my biggest gripe with the Youtube UI is that it its keyboard shortcuts for accelerating / slowing down videos can’t be used with non-QWERTY keyboards. I’m pretty sure there’s not browser plugin that can fix that :(

        1. ccesarano says:

          Unfortunately the world is forgetting RSS about as much as it’s forgetting web forums and other methods of long-form communication. I may be jumping back into that world myself as I’ll be leaving Twitter soon, but given that Windows itself stopped such useful widgets like RSS readers right on my desktop in a convenient fashion after Vista’s failure, I’m not holding my breath for it to be as useful as I’d like.

          Basically, though, each channel having an RSS feed doesn’t help me unless I then sort those feeds in a reader, and it would be fewer clicks and less work for YouTube to do that for me. In fact, the plug-in I linked was easier as well. To me, RSS feeds are YouTube outsourcing convenience and user control rather than providing it.

          As for your own experience making discoveries, it’s nice to know that it’s worked for you, but that hasn’t helped me at all. My discoveries are always made outside of YouTube’s algorithm. Then again, maybe I’m also just far more picky about the content I absorb. I don’t know. Or I watch enough different kinds of content that the algorithm doesn’t know what to recommend (after all, I also watch Videogamedunkey, as I find him funny when he’s not trying to make an actual review). But that only increases the reason for YouTube to provide greater user agency and rely less on their one-size-fits-all algorithm.

          1. Olivier FAURE says:

            As for your own experience making discoveries, it’s nice to know that it’s worked for you, but that hasn’t helped me at all. My discoveries are always made outside of YouTube’s algorithm.

            I mean, that’s kind of the default, and I think it should remain so?

            It feels like people complaining about recommendations are both complaining about Youtube being this big overarching monopoly, and complaining that it’s not smart enough to decide all your media consumption for them yet.

        2. Lino says:

          There are very few new creators I’ve discovered thanks to YouTube recommendations. For the most part, it’s just videos I’ve already watched or videos by creators I already follow. There are times when I think there just aren’t any interesting creators on YouTube. Which is quite a feat on their part…

        3. Steve C says:

          I think Youtube recommendations are brain dead terrible.

          It is recommending to me videos I have watched! That I have disliked! That I have tagged as “not interested”! How does that make any sense? I don’t mean related content, I mean specific videos. It shouldn’t need an algorithm for that. It’s a binary 0 1 flag. Throw it into a ‘watched’ list if it must (and it does do that).

          I would love to dig down watching videos for old content of creators I like. Except there is no way to do that that isn’t frustrating. Which personifies the youtube experience.

      2. Veylon says:

        What YouTube – or really any side with a huge pile of content – needs are better community curation tools. People can and would organize and promote YouTube’s collection for them for free if they had the means.

        1. Olivier FAURE says:

          The problem you have with any curation tool on the scale of Youtube is that it ultimately ends with “Oh my god, Youtube [controversial video] from [controversial creator] on their curated list, even though they keep refusing to put any video from [creator I like]! Youtube is censoring conservative discourse and playing favorites!”

    4. Oscar says:

      “On the other hand, it’s not like Youtube put a gun to these creators’ heads and forced them to rely exclusively on them to monetize their content.”

      No but they did encourage making a living by making videos for them because they rely on this content for the success of the platform. I agree that youtube is in a difficult situation as well, as I hear it they’ve not been profitable this whole time, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say they bear a responsibility to ensure their content creators are treated fairly.

      “(similarly, it feels a little odd when people get mad that Youtube is not putting some videos on “Recommended” page; like, what happened to “checking your RSS feeds” and “talking about things you like on forums and looking at the things other people talk about”?)”

      Well, Youtube deciding not to recommend a channel is almost guaranteed to kill it. Word of mouth (“forums” etc) is useful for reaching new people, but the Recommended page is also the primary way to reach established viewers. The Subscription functionality is so broken that most people don’t use it, and only the most dedicated fans will be following social media announcements for each video, so the only way for creators to reach a large proportion of their viewership is to create videos and hope Youtube shows it to the people that usually watch and like them. In other words: it doesn’t matter how many word of mouth viral videos a person creates. They won’t be able to maintain an audience if Youtube doesn’t “Recommend” them.

  13. Michael W. says:

    I’ve read pages after pages of your content on both this blog and the Escapist and I’ve even seen a few of your YouTube videos. I must say that you are one of the smartest people who talk about the video game industry and analyze video games. I have read your entire Mass Effect retrospective and read this column regularly. In fact, I constantly try to get my friends to read your content too.

    On the other hand I am subscribed to many gaming channels that talk about the same stuff on YouTube. These people make really smart videos but I have to say they aren’t ad smart as you. I truly believe that if you put your usual content into YouTube videos with high production values, you could reach a much larger audience. Like I mean you could regularly get several hundred thousand or even a million views on each video. Your commentary is that good and more people should hear it.

    1. Steve C says:

      Shamus wrote a blog entry about that very issue years ago. The quick and dirty summary is that he’s given it a solid try. The result is that it is too much work. The tradeoffs aren’t worth it.

      Though it does sound from this post that Shamus is dipping his toes back in to some limited extent.

      BTW I disagree with the assertion ‘If he makes it, they will come.’ There are already a lot quality content creators that are being hedged out by the crap. Shamus talked about it on Diecast #266 with the cooking channel example.

      1. Michael W. says:

        Maybe I was a little naive with that statement, but I do believe that Shamus’s content deserves greater reach and YouTube could very well do that.

  14. pseudonym says:

    Nice video! I am looking forward to see more of them. I like the editing work, the videos match well with the spoken text. Also the spoken text is very pleasant to listen to.

    Some feedback on the text at the end of the video.

    You know the drill

    If you like this content, you can help me out by hitting the like button. Or subscribe. Or leave a comment. Whatever. Seems like every youtube video has to end with this crap.

    The part with “whatever” and “crap” hurts the “you can help me out” a bit in my opinion.
    A bit on the fonts: the “You know the drill” part is readable on a mobile phone letterboxed. The rest not so much. But the actual message is in that rest.
    I hope this feedback was helpful.

    I hope your channel becomes a success and you get lots of likes, subscribers, commenters and new patreons!

    1. Nimrandir says:

      You have a point about the tone of the call to action, but I kinda dig it. The best part is how if you had made this a comment on the video itself (in fairness, you may have done this — I watch YouTube via my PS4), it helps him out while you critique it!

  15. Wiseman says:

    That reset button series is pretty good and memorable. You could really turn some of your long-form video analysis into one of those videos.

  16. Olivier FAURE says:

    Honestly, I’m not sure that publishing your articles both in blog and video form is going to be worth the trouble. You’re probably doubly your workload for doubtful benefits.

    1. GargamelLenoir says:

      A few successful videos like the one he had could bring thousands of new readers to the blog, like DM of the Rings did. I think it’s a smart move.

  17. Nimrandir says:

    Like others have said, I’m grateful for the transcript. I’ll do all the call-to-action shenanigans once I get a chance to watch the video.

    Best of luck!

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Okay, now that I’ve watched the video, I’m doubly glad for the transcript, because I got hypnotized by the Arkham gameplay.

      Also, out of curiosity, did you write the outro music? I didn’t see a citation at the end.

      1. Shamus says:

        Yes, the music was just some dashed-off junk I made to fill those few seconds. I have a longer bit of music that will be used as the regular outro, since the credits will have more information.

        1. GargamelLenoir says:

          I must say I didn’t care for it. Maybe you should use the one from the podcast? It’s really fun and energetic, it leaves me on a good impression.

      2. Simplex says:

        Arkham gameplay also hypnotized me. Was this played by Shamus?

  18. anaphysik says:

    Haven’t gotten around to reading the blog in several years, but I look forward to the vids, Shamus :)

    (In case you were wondering about whatever happened with that Alpha Protocol LP you guest-starred on 5 years ago ( and ), we recently reconvened, rebooted, and completed a much better long-form LP of it — look up ‘Closure Alert’: )

  19. Christopher says:

    I liked the editing on this video, so good on Issac! A lot of the quality of these videos is gonna rest on his shoulders. Reading through a transcript of a Shammy or Zero Punctuation video, they tend to stand on their own as articles. And then the video complements it by showing the examples you’d usually link, demonstrate gameplay etc, or in the case of these two specifically, show a lot of funny visual imagery that plays off the text.

    The classic example being that old Moral Choice complaint where Yahtzee meantions it always comes down to either baby eating(shows image of sad baby with a chew mark edited on its head) or Mother Theresa(shows image of Mother Theresa) and that some middle ground would be nice(shows the Mother Theresa image eating the baby image). The point comes across perfectly in text and then the video just illustrates it with a good joke.

    Anyway, point being, I think it’s alright to just treat the video writing as a regular article besides any specific timing/video only stuff you have in mind. When the visuals work as a supplement, you’re not stuck doing double the work by making one version for video and one for text only. This maybe won’t work for all video content, but it should work for the essays.

  20. evileeyore says:

    ‘So I’ve never been able to figure out a way to reach all three groups at the same time.”

    As one of the 6 people in the Venn overlap of all three of those groups, I’m feeling so not called out right now. ;)

    1. Sarfa says:


      Although due to not visiting the Escapist I would only read those columns when they were linked to here (and never looked at anything else on the site), so maybe I only count as being part of two of the groups.

  21. Mark Cheverton says:

    Adding to your list of favorite Youtubers, you should definitely check out Mr.BTongue, though Im sure you’ve never heard of him (he’s underrated) but he’s great and is one of the few media analysis channels that are on par with RLM

    1. anaphysik says:

      Assuming you’re not being facetious: MrBtongue (Bob Case) actually writes columns published on Twenty Sided. There doesn’t seem to be a good way to search by author (@Shamus, is there?), but it appears that his most recent series here is

  22. Fon says:

    I’m kind of nitpicking here, but you have more than 3 audiences, Shamus. Or rather, your blog audiences is actually pretty diverse– Some of us like programming stuff. Some of us wants to read about games. Some of us likes tabletop games, etc. Oh, and some of us overlap, like some people could like programming, games, AND D&D all at the same time.

    Perhaps your other two audiences are like that. I can’t really say, since I only follow your links there but I don’t exactly visits YouTube or Escapist on a regular basis.

    Either way, I just wanted to say the topic of your content might be more important. If the topic is something they’re really interested in, I think they’d probably be willing to follow your link even offsite.

  23. Clive Howlitzer says:

    I often wonder how much interesting content I am missing because of how much I don’t want to watch videos on youtube. I like text because it gets to the point faster. Everyone waffles too much on videos and it is more difficult for me to peruse it quickly and skip over crap I don’t care about.

    So yeah, I hate youtube but text is dying or dead and it seems that is where it all ends up.

    1. Ben Matthews says:

      You’re definitely missing stuff. It helps if you can find the Youtubers who have an actual personality, such as the excellent SsethTzeentach. Check out his Starsector review for a solid idea of his style:

      There’s also the likes of Ross Scott’s Accursed Farms channel, home of the fantastic Freeman’s Mind, among other game-related content, skewing mostly towards older and more obscure titles.

      Those two alone should start filling your recommendations with additional cool stuff ;p

  24. James says:

    Blogs still are a thing in 2019, I find quite a lot of programming help from people’s blog posts – it’s easier to find specific content in text, rather than having to sit and watch someone typing in code.

    YouTube’s unique selling point though is the recommendation system. Nothing else has it. You can post on Twitter and someone might notice it before Twitter’s strange timeline algorithm makes it vanish. You can post on Facebook and your six friends might read it and click “like”, but there’s nothing that says “hey, you read that blog post, so we think you might like these other people’s posts”.

    There should be though.

    1. Ander says:

      That’s an interesting point: YouTube’s curation might be more important than its media format.
      TV Tropes, if nothing else, is good evidence that accessibility to related content is sticky enough without video.

    2. tmtvl says:

      The old webring format needs to come back. (e.g.

  25. Kestrellius says:

    Last night, I dreamed that Shamus played and critiqued* a sort of MMO-y sci-fi game**.

    At first, he had a lot of praise for the game’s setting and atmosphere, but there were some criticisms, too. Over time, the game grew spiteful, and began sending forces to hunt him down. Eventually, this led to a climactic showdown: a last-minute gathering of allies***, a desperate last stand in a fortress — and then a daring escape from the game itself, leaving the obnoxious designated love interest locked in a vending machine****.

    I felt it was important that I share this.

    * I’m not totally sure because, you know, dream, but I think that while the critique posts were text-based as usual, they contained links to video footage (which made up the bulk of what I was seeing). This means that the dream was at least plausibly inspired by this post, so it’s not off-topic! …Right?

    ** It was an imaginary game, not a real one, but given the visuals and environments I think my brain was basing it partially on Planetside 2, with a dash of SWTOR’s plastic-y graphics and ME3’s enemy design thrown in.

    *** Including Rory Williams, for some reason?

    **** I’m basing this on a bit of commentary after the fact from dream!Shamus, which went something like “My character spent this whole game saying and acting like he would do anything for this annoying lady, so why did I leave the key to the vending machine behind when we left?” This…doesn’t make very much sense, but I’m interpreting it to mean that the character in question was locked inside.

    1. Lino says:

      That must have been one hell of a dream!

  26. Ben Matthews says:

    “then they should be willing to spend just a tiny bit more to hire a proper writer who knows how to tell a story”

    So… not Emil Pagliarulo, then? ;p

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Today I learned that Fallout 3 managed to win a writing award other than Shamus’ own Goldun Riter.

      Well, this week is now ruined.

  27. Kai Durbin says:

    Paul Spooner seems to be picking Tuesdays to post his articles, so Wednesdays are probably a good choice in the content on the blog. Keep up the good work!

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