The Dumbest Cutscene

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Nov 12, 2019

Filed under: Column 121 comments

As I’ve mentioned before, the entries in this series exist as both articles and videos. You can watch the video version, or you can scroll down and read it. The one I’m showing you today was actually the first video we produced in this series. It was kind of a pilot episode so we could get a sense for what the series should feel like. I need a little personal time, so I’m posting this now to fill the gap. If it seems a little janky, that’s why.

Link (YouTube)

I want to share a cutscene with you. This is something really special. It’s the most nonsensical cutscene I’ve ever seen in a AAA video game.

The scene in question is from Hitman: Absolution. If you’re not into the series, the setup goes like this: Agent 47 is a genetically engineered assassin. His job is to infiltrate heavily guarded places and take out powerful people without causing chaos. If you play well, then you’ll only kill your assigned target. If you play really well, then you’ll make it look like an accident and nobody will be the wiser.

In this particular mission your job is to infiltrate the Terminus Hotel and gather intel on what the bad guys are doing. You’re not even supposed to kill anyone.

Terminus, get it? Huh? Because the Hitman kills people, right? Well, not in this mission. Or the next one. But he does terminate people. It's like a joke or something.
Terminus, get it? Huh? Because the Hitman kills people, right? Well, not in this mission. Or the next one. But he does terminate people. It's like a joke or something.

Agent 47 has to sneak into the presidential suite. (I guess you could also shoot your way in, if you like playing games wrong.) The goal is to crawl into a vent so you can eavesdrop on the conversation between our antagonist Dexter and Layla his personal assistant. At this point the mission is technically over. You’ve gathered the intel. 47 should theoretically leave at this point. But for some reason we jump into cutscene mode, and this is where everything goes off the rails.

Agent 47 enters the presidential suite. Inside is a guy that looks like Danny Trejo blown up to Hulk-sized proportions. This is Sanchez, Dexter’s bodyguard. Agent 47 tries to strangle him, and Sanchez throws him into the next room. 47 is knocked out.

47 has no reason to enter this room. Even if he did, he has no reason to attempt to kill this guy. And even if he did, why is he trying to strangle him with piano wire? It’s the one weapon in his arsenal that requires him to physically overpower his target. For crying out loud, his signature weapon is a silenced pistol!

Dexter and Layla get a look at Agent 47.

Nobody else in the world has ever recognized 47 based on his bar code. But even if Dexter somehow knows about it, there's a bandage over it. And even if we ignore that, 47 supposedly cut it off in the previous scene. And even if we ignore that, 47 is on his back and nobody is in a position to see this.
Nobody else in the world has ever recognized 47 based on his bar code. But even if Dexter somehow knows about it, there's a bandage over it. And even if we ignore that, 47 supposedly cut it off in the previous scene. And even if we ignore that, 47 is on his back and nobody is in a position to see this.

I should back up here and explain something. The Hitman has this barcode tattooed on the back of his head. It’s just this thing to drive home that he’s this manufactured killing machine. At the start of this mission, Agent 47 renounced the agency he works for, and as part of that move he cut the barcode off the back of his head. Now he’s got a bandage there.

So now Dexter gets a look at Agent 47. The camera focuses on the bandage, and suddenly Dexter knows what 47 is. Nobody else in the history of the franchise has been able to recognize Agent 47 based on this barcode, but now that he’s cut it off, covered it up, and he’s lying on his back, Dexter can immediately tell he’s a hitman. It’s like, after years of nobody being able to see through Clark Kent’s disguise, Kent puts on a mask that covers his entire face, and then someone goes, “Oh look, that guy is Superman!”

Next there’s a knock at the door. It’s housekeeping. I’m not sure why housekeeping is going around knocking on doors in the middle of the night asking to clean the place, but whatever. Dexter invites her in, murders her with his own pocket knife, and then puts the murder weapon into 47’s hand.

Did she glue her shirt to the bottom of her boobs? That looks SUPER uncomfortable.
Did she glue her shirt to the bottom of her boobs? That looks SUPER uncomfortable.

He says he’d love to kill the legendary Hitman, but that would bring him “too much attention”. What? He already thinks the Agency is after him. Does he think they’ll leave him alone if he doesn’t personally kill the Hitman? What is Dexter trying to accomplish here? Is he trying to frame the hitman for murder? How would that bring him less attention than just killing the dude and dumping the body elsewhere?

And just to be clear, yes, he’s trying to FRAME a HITMAN for MURDER.

The frame-up isn’t even needed. 47 tried to kill Sanchez when he entered the room. That’s attempted murder. That’s a real crime. Just call the cops and you’re done.

When he’s done framing 47, Dexter cheers and says “Yee-ha!” Why is he happy about this? What is he getting out of it? He’s got a dead maid in his room. Even if his stupid plan worked, he’s still got to pack his bags and stay in a different hotel tonight.

So then Dexter begins dousing the room in alcohol. He’s decided to start a fire, even though this contradicts everything we just saw. He’s going to set fire to his own hotel room, which ought to kill the guy he just said he needed to spare and also destroy all the evidence he just planted. What’s he going to tell the police? That this bald guy snuck into his room, assassinated the maid, then set fire to the room and took a nap in the middle of the floor? What is this? What am I watching?

If your goal is to avoid attention, then starting a hotel fire in your own room is the wrong way to go about it.
If your goal is to avoid attention, then starting a hotel fire in your own room is the wrong way to go about it.

Dexter and his entourage then flee the room with no luggage, leaving all their belongings to burn.

We cut to the moment when Agent 47 wakes up. In the first half of this scene his was on his back with his hands at his sides and now he’s on his stomach with his arms over his head and the knife isn’t anywhere to be seen. I wouldn’t make a big deal about little continuity errors like this, but the last three minutes of this cutscene were spent establishing the details of this ridiculous frame-up.

47 wakes up in a burning room and his first move is to BLOCK ONE OF THE EXITS. He wasn’t awake for the previous scene, so he has NO WAY of knowing the cops are coming for him. For all he knows, he’s trapping himself in a burning room for no reason!

But the cops are indeed coming. Dexter fled the hotel and called the police, and the SWAT team somehow made it all the way to the hotel and got to the top floor before the flames could cross the room?

Dexter lit the carpet on fire. In fact, he poured the alcohol on the floor right in front of 47’s face. But now the carpet is the only part of the room that isn’t burning. The police are now trying to break down the door so they can question Agent 47 while the building burns down around them.

How long does it take to exit a hotel from the top floor, call in a SWAT team, give them a statement, and have the SWAT team reach the top floor? Judging by this cutscene, I'd guess about 45 seconds.
How long does it take to exit a hotel from the top floor, call in a SWAT team, give them a statement, and have the SWAT team reach the top floor? Judging by this cutscene, I'd guess about 45 seconds.

The cutscene finally ends and we transition back to gameplay. I don’t know what the furniture in the presidential suite is made of, but the entire room explodes as soon as 47 slips out the window. Despite this, the police still seem to act like they saw the crime scene. A helicopter chases you around. As 47 stands on a ledge outside the exploding building, the police shout at him to, “Stay where you are!” (Like, really? Stay right here on the ledge? Is someone going to come out on the ledge with me to ask me questions?) Apparently they want to talk to you about “the woman in the room”, who they never saw.

Dozens of police continue to hang around inside of this burning building. Eventually the helicopter chases you around and fires into the smoke at random, because shooting indiscriminately into burning buildings at people trying to escape the flames is a perfectly normal way to manage suspects in the middle of a murder investigation of a victim they haven’t even seen yet.

Like, is the writer saying these police are corrupt thugs, or do the police somehow know they’re dealing with a legendary hitman? Or did Dexter pay them off? But if Dexter has that much power over the police, then why did he need to frame 47 for murder and burn down a hotel? What is going on here?

Okay, deep breath.

Right here is where the police scream at you to STAY WHERE YOU ARE!
Right here is where the police scream at you to STAY WHERE YOU ARE!

There’s a lot more.  This entire game with filled this sort of nonsense, but none of it is as deliciously moronic as this scene.

I’ve heard people defend this mess by claiming it’s satire. I’ll admit the scene is so bizarre that it’s tempting to look for these sorts of explanations, but there’s nothing really satirical here. There aren’t any jokes, references, or callbacks to other works. What movie is this scene supposedly satirizing? The only reason to think it might be satire is that it’s really extraordinarily bad. By that same logic you could claim The Room is satire.

This doesn’t even feel like a Hitman game. The scenarios are wrong, the protagonist is out of character, and the gameplay is off. It feels like Uwe Boll adapted Hitman into a movie, and Hitman Absolution is the tie-in video game for that.

The good news is that the series has recovered. The last two Hitman games have been really good. I don’t recommend playing Hitman Absolution, but it’s probably worth watching on YouTube. The whole thing is surreal, from the dialog to the level design to the premise itself.

So that’s the dumbest cutscene in video games. Maybe there’s something worse out there that I just haven’t come across yet, but I’ve played a lot of games and as far as I can tell this is the absolute best worst cutscene. If you’ve found something you think can top it, please tell me about it in the comments.

About This Series

I’m kinda frustrated with how this series is performing on YouTube. Each video gets fewer views than the one before. Sure, you could argue that maybe the videos aren’t very good and I’m getting exactly the views I deserve.  Except, the videos are getting positive commentsAmazingly positive by YouTube standards. and a very good ratio of likes to dislikesGenerally about 98% likes..  This is YouTube we’re talking about here. If my videos were terrible, people would tell me in the comments.

So people like the videos, but the viewership is forming a clear downward trend. The only explanation is that I need to be doing more to placate THE ALGORITHM. Based on what I’ve read, THE ALGORITHM doesn’t care about quality, it only cares about engagement. It doesn’t care if you push the thumbs up / down button, it only cares that you expressed a preference. It doesn’t care if you insulted the creator in the comments, it only cares that you left a comment.

Which explains why every damn video on YouTube has to start with an advertisement for itself, begging for people to interact with likes, subscriptions, comments, and the stupid bell icon. It’s such a stupid waste of everyone’s time, but this is the world THE ALGORITHM has built for us. If Bob and I have similar quality videos but he begs for engagement and I don’t, then THE ALGORITHM will lift him up and bury me. That’s really frustrating, since I liked keeping my videos clean and free of all the usual social media nonsense.

Ten years ago YouTube was a very different place. I could throw up a half-assed video of random crap and score 35k views with no trouble. I have multiple videos with millions of views. Now I put up a proper video essay and I struggle to hit just 1k! Certainly some of this is due to the overall rise in quality on YouTube and the sheer number of contributors, but I think a lot of the blame needs to go to THE ALGORITHM.

I understand why it exists, and I don’t have any suggestions for how to help viewers find good videos in this tsunami of content. Still, the only thing I resent more than sitting through these endless engagement commercials is having to put them in my own videos. Yuck.

I put a plea for engagement at the end of this video. We’ll see how it performs. I really hope things turn around. I really love this series and it’s really cool to be collaborating with my son. I love the work he’s doing, but it’s silly to pour all these hours into videos that are seen by so few people.

Fingers crossed.



[1] Amazingly positive by YouTube standards.

[2] Generally about 98% likes.

From The Archives:

121 thoughts on “The Dumbest Cutscene

  1. Lasius says:

    I really love your step-by-step deconstructions of stupid scenes, plots or scripts. Never quit making those!

    Also, is that how Uwe Boll’s name is pronounced in America? The Wikipedia article you linked gives the correct pronunciation in the very first line.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I really love your step-by-step deconstructions of stupid scenes, plots or scripts. Never quit making those!

      Me too. Shamus painstakingly pulling apart a dumb story like this is Shamus at his best.

      It’s a shame he never bothered with Star Trek: Discovery. There’s an absolutely wonderful scene in it that’s almost as dumb as the scene described above* – I cackled my way through it and had to pause the video to order my thoughts. it’d be an essay just like this one to truly detail why it’s so great.

      Anyway, keep it up, Shamus. We appreciate you.

      *Hint: ‘I’m going to cut off one of it’s claws”

      1. DeadlyDark says:

        Shamus’ head will explode by the end of season 2. It’s better if he’ll avoid Disco altogether.

        I still need to watch second batch of Short Treks. Already saw “that” video by Major Grin, comparing Short Treks scene to TNG, so my enthusiasm is rather low now.

        P.S. Can’t wait when SFDebris will finish reviewing season 2

        1. Warclam says:

          STD is so staggeringly, deliriously, passionately terrible that I can’t even get through the SFDebris reviews of it anymore.

          To put this in context: I like Voyager. Yes, I’m aware that it’s bad, but I kind of like it all the same. Then Enterprise managed to be even worse, and I couldn’t even watch it. And then, somehow, STD is even worse. It takes talent to suck so hard.

          1. Daimbert says:

            I recently decided to watch the Star Trek series that I hadn’t watched at least much of before: Voyager (I might have caught an episode once somewhere), Enterprise (I watched Broken Bow when it first aired and refused to watch any more of the series) and Discovery since I added a streaming service that had all of them. My main exposure to the first two was from SF Debris and my main thought was to see if they were as bad as he said, to have actually watched them, and to provide some fodder for my own blog.

            The verdict?

            Voyager wasn’t as bad as his videos made it out to be, while still being poorly written. But it was poorly written in a way that you could mostly sit down and watch it and it had some interesting points at times, and I did like some of the characters.

            Enterprise might have been worse than he made it out to be [grin]. I didn’t care for it at all, even the last season (since I thought the multi-part episodes were a bad choice).

            I didn’t care much for but didn’t mind Discovery season 1. I hated season 2 so much that I refuse to watch any more seasons of it.

            1. Warclam says:

              Well, to try being slightly more objective, Discovery happens to trip into some things I really dislike.

              I don’t like war stories, for example. My least favourite of the four watchable Treks (TOS, TNG, DS9, Voyager) is DS9, mostly because I don’t want to watch a multi-season war storyline (the other main reason is that I can’t stand Dukat).

              I also really dislike the Mirror Universe. Yeah. So that doesn’t help.

              And the whole crapsack, everything is miserable, everyone dies, Game of Thrones bullshit infuriates me. I HATE it. Like, even just thinking the words “they Game of Thrones’d Star Trek” leaves me unable to breathe because my diaphragm seizes up in rage. That’s how much I hate it.

              So, piling all that on top of the fact that it’s also just plain bad? Literally intolerable to me.

              1. Daimbert says:

                I don’t mind the war plots (DS9 is my second favourite after TOS) but the first season of Discovery doesn’t start with exploration at all — which even DS9 did — and focuses way too much on Michael, but I liked Saru and Tillie. Season 2 shoves them into the background, is nonsensical much of the time, misuses Spock and Pike (especially since the Spock in the series CANNOT be the one from “The Cage” as the Spock there seems too much older than this one and yet they highlight that this is indeed after “The Cage”) and ends with what was clearly a “This is the end!” moment that they are going to undo.

              2. John says:

                I dearly love Deep Space Nine, but I was ever so disappointed when it took a turn towards galactic conflict in the fourth season with the Klingon-Cardassian war. I was deeply invested in Bajorans, Cardassians, and the post-colonial situation on Bajor and unhappy with the way that those stories were pushed to the background. The funny thing is that the fourth season might actually be the most consistently evenly-written season of the show. The average episode quality for the fourth season is fairly high and the variance in episode quality is fairly low. (Or so I remember thinking at the time.) Even in retrospect I’m not willing to say that the Klingon-Cardassian war was the best thing the show could have done, but I am willing to say that it wasn’t a bad thing to do.

                Mind you, I’m not saying that your tastes are wrong or that you should go back and watch Deep Space Nine.

              3. Joe Informatico says:

                So despite all its issues, I was fascinated by Captain Lorca. Like a lot of people don’t realize, on the Original Series, Kirk is one of the few Starfleet Captains who doesn’t go evil or insane. So I thought it was interesting that they were showing life on a starship captained by one of those lunatics. Specifically he seemed a hybrid of Commodore Matt Decker, who watched his crew be wiped out by the Doomsday Machine and had a psychotic break, and Captain Ron Tracey, whose crew died of an alien illness in orbit while he alone on the planet remained immune and then turned evil. (Frankly Tracey is a dumb character in a dumb episode but the situations were similar.)

                But then they did the Mirror Universe reveal and I’ve hated the MU since DS9 ran the concept into the ground and then they decided to keep evil Georgiou the emperor-cannibal around? Ugh.

              4. Mephane says:

                I also really dislike the Mirror Universe.

                In my opinion, the Star Trek mirror universe is the most ridiculous, absurd and simultaneously boring scifi plot device I have ever encountered in all of scifi. It’s like someone took the absurdity of most stories involving parallel universes (how come they usually end up being just like our universe but with a twist, to the point of including the exact same people even though a tiny change in the course history a couple centuries back would mean that no one alive today would have ever existed) and decided it was not ridiculous enough. Now there’s not an infinite number of parallel universes that just happen to be merely slight modifications of ours, no, there is one and only one and it has the same people but somehow… politics is reversed. What the actual fucking fuck? How would this universe come into existence? Do the laws of physics that potentially allow parallel universes somehow only create exactly one and somehow know about stuff like politics and ethics in order to “mirror” them, even though this isn’t even how a mirror works at all, neither in a literal nor in a metaphorical sense?

                To be fair, this my #1 gripe with Star Trek in general, not just Discovery, but I can definitely blame the writers of that show for reusing this most awful scifi plot device, ever.

                1. BlueHorus says:

                  I can see the appeal of the Mirror Universe early DS9 it seemed like the cast were having a lot of fun playing evil-twin versions of their characters. It was a good idea for one-off novelty episodes.

                  That’s it, though; once it starts being overused or taken too seriously the concept gets annoying. And trying to integrate it into the main plot…

                  My personal theory as to why the keep the evil version of Capt. Georgio around is that they’ve got Michelle Yeoh to play her (yay!) but she realized how dumb the show was – so she said: ‘I’ll only stay if you find a way for me to a ham up my performances and wear stupid costumes.’
                  So they did.

            2. Taxi says:

              I should probably rewatch some Enterprise. I actually mostly liked it when I watched it when it came out.

              Yes there were stupidities in it, granted. But I think they were mostly justified by the fact it’s a prequel.

              I mean I know TOS was revolutionary at the time, but looking at it now, it’s mostly pretty dumb.

              So how could have ENT era humanity be fully competent in its endeavours and have everything figured out, and THEN devolve into the strange society where everything runs on cowboy logic and miniskirts?

              There was a lot of missed potential but as a whole I was able to suspend my disbelief a lot of time. Even the Vulcan zombies were fun. In fact, the whole series had a lot of fun with itself. I really liked how in one episode Archer’s tendency to stick his nose into everything bites him in the ass when he’s asked to participate in a civil war. But that’s what a prequel should indeed do – set up the things that came later.

              Why they had to try again with yet another prequel however… STD is just pretty terrible. Pike rocks, absolutely, but even he can’t save that broken base.

          2. BlueHorus says:

            STD is so staggeringly, deliriously, passionately terrible that I can’t even get through the SFDebris reviews of it anymore.

            Oh, if only it was. As a lover of bad movies, I have to say it’s rare that ST:D gets to the heights of enjoyably bad. ‘I’m going to cut off one of its claws’ was so dumb and failed so badly in what it wanted to do that it was beautiful – but usually the writing in ST:D is just competent enough to be annoyingly bad, not funny bad.

            …though there was a bit in Season 2 where they set up a minor character’s death – but then someone realised that they’d forgotten to give this character an actual character; she was literally one of the people on the bridge that the captain shouted orders at.

            So they loaded ALL her backstory into the beginning of the episode in which she died and held a funeral for her in the episode after that, where the other characters tried to (unsucessfully) persuade us that no, really, Robot-face was a real, established character and we should give a shit.

            1. Geebs says:

              To add insult to injury, they even swapped actors for season 2; the original person playing robo-chops never got to do anything at all with the character.

    2. Hector says:

      Use would be an incredibly rare name in the US (not sure if its common im Deutschland or not). It’s not that “Americans” pronounce it that way. We don’t pronounce it at all. I speak German myself and have a passing amatuers interest in linguistics.

      For anyone who may not know, say “Oo-vah”.

      1. Lasius says:

        Uwe is a common name in Germany for people of 30 years and older. I have since checked other youtube videos about Uwe Boll (kill me) and most Americans in those seem get reasonably close to the correct pronounciation.

        (Also it’s “in Deutschland”, you wouldn’t use the definite article here.)

        1. Hector says:

          And for good measure, I didn’t fix the autocorrect when it changed Uwe to Use.

      2. Syal says:

        Now to figure out Ewan McGregor.

        1. Hector says:

          You mean Yevin?


    3. Platypus says:

      Ah you goof Shamus, Hitman attacked Danny Trejo with his wire because he sold his pistols to the amazing info guy who found some loud mouth texan guys hotel room using his advanced pigeon brain intelligence agency, Hes like the Agency but with falling bird poop rather than falling (insert any heavy item above a target)!!!!

  2. mdqp says:

    Absolution’s script is truly spectacular, and the missions can be hit and miss, but I think the gameplay isn’t bad overall. With a better plot (or with less focus on the story, like in some of the previous games) it would be a decent entry (maybe minus the last few levels).

    The last two Hitman games are amazing (or at least, Hitman 2016 is, which is the one I played), although the script isn’t superb, just serviceable, but very well acted, in my opinion. A minor flaw might be that now the opportunities are a little too on the nose with the tracker on, and with the tracker off you aren’t given enough direction to find/follow them in some missions, but it’s hardly a huge issue. They kind of annoyed me by tying systems to the online for no good reason, however (unlocking new starting points and equipment for each mission only if you are online is silly, if you ask me). It feels like a soft form of online-only DRM, so I decided to skip the second one, even if it pains me.

    Heck, even the targets that can only be pursued once feel a bit silly, from a gaming preservation point of view. I can understand making the leaderboards only available for a limited time after you release the mark, but why throw everything into oblivion when the servers inevitably go down? This stings a lot, especially because I am the kind of person who buys games years down the line (when I first touched Absolution, the servers for the online part were already down for years).

  3. Clive Howlitzer says:

    I admit I only read your posts and never watch the videos so I am somewhat part of the problem. I will typically opt for a text article over a video most of the time.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Same here.

      But I might want to recommend that unless it’s taking a lot of time away from things that you need or want to do more that maybe not worrying to much about the hits might be best if you like it for other reasons. If it provides you with things you want to do and a nice collaboration with your son then why not do it, even if it doesn’t pay off immediately or ever all that much?

    2. Echo Tango says:

      I think I’m also part of the problem – do plain old views of a video help, or do I need to actually comment/thumbs/etc? I don’t normally do those things, since I’m not normally logged in, and it’s a bit of a hassle to type in a long password + 2-factor-auth, just to comment on one person’s video. ^^;

      1. RFS-81 says:

        Same here, I technically have a Youtube account but the password and associated e-mail are lost to time. I guess I could overcome my lazieness and make one to hit the bell and like the subscribe button, if it helps.

    3. slug camargo says:

      Same here. I prefer reading in general, and very especially for this particular kind of meaty content. I feel videos just have this hazy, transient quality where nothing really sticks; so I rarely watch videos, and when I do I only watch more or less comedic playthroughs from people with particularly quaint and/or alluring accents. But that might be me being weird with my preferences.

    4. Mephane says:

      I don’t get this whole talk here about being “part of the problem”. The problem is not that we prefer reading the text version or don’t bother going around handing out token “likes” on social media, the problem is how those social media are constructed in ways that produce perverse incentives for creators.

    5. Jack of Spades says:

      What Clive said. I tend to be on the interwebs in places and times where I don’t want audio, and need to be able to switch tasks to something else mid-word. That means YouTube just isn’t part of my world. Part of what I appreciate about Shamus’ content is that it is words that can be read without requiring me to switch to an alternate browser mode to silence the singing, dancing, blinking screen.

      So yeah. Death to YouTube. Write the words, and I will read them. (And at least load your ads.)

  4. Lino says:

    I actually loved Absolution (might have to do with my weird history with the series). While I was playing it, I didn’t notice any of the problems you talk about – I just liked the set pieces so much, and I had so much “trust in the storyteller” that I didn’t even pay attention to such glaring inconsistencies.

  5. Duoae says:

    I primarily read the article here and then “watch” the video and like it in order to help promote it. I’m still much more of a “words on a page sort of person” for long-form analysis. For stuff I’m not super interested in, like movies, I tend to watch the reviews and discussions on those. One aspect that may hold you back is that your style of presenting a monologue is quite low key – I know there are loads of channels with what sound like machine-read scripts that seem to do well but I wonder if their content is more specialist.

    I wonder how much of it is that you were not active on youtube for such a long time? Essentially, you’re sort of starting from “youtube scratch”… if you stop with the videos and start again, you’ll end up at the beginning again… if you keep putting the videos out then maybe one will get shared by someone bigger and you’ll have this whole backlog of content for people to consume and they’ll know you’re continuing to put stuff out there. Also, how much promotion are you doing? Are you putting posts with links on Twitter and on any forums (I think you mentioned that you browse Reddit a lot – could you start putting posts up there for discussion in those fora?). I know my blogposts get a lot more traffic if I cross-link on Twitter, despite only having 1 follower :D.

    The other thing I would peg it on is the fact that your (TDI*) lower performing videos are less currently relevant. Ray-tracing? Blizzard (I personally think you should have put “BlitzChung” in the title to get more engagement from searches) and Borderlands 3 are all quite relevant and you’ll be getting hits from google and such… Dumbest cutscene, skinner box and vulkan are more general things which perhaps are less immediately interesting to people but will have a longer burn. The other aspect is that a lot of us readers probably already are quite familiar with things like Skinner boxes and you covered this cutscene in the Spoiler Warning series. I guess my point in this is that, in your TDI series thus far, there hasn’t really been a video topic that was a recently “hot” issue, not previously covered by yourself or widely covered by the media and/or specialist content – except for the raytracing video.

    On your patreon, you had the poll about what content was potentially interesting. The long-form content won-out and I understand it’ll take time to even get the script together for each of those, let alone collecting the video capture…. but I really see those topics being more searchable and view-grabbing (if given the right title) than the other stuff. This Dumb Industry – Batman vs. Dark Souls, This Dumb Industry – Inert Protagonist Problem**, This Dumb Industry – Why are game economies so broken? and the This Dumb Industry – Deus Ex (2000) was so much better than the new Deus Ex games! all are more appealing to myself than the content released thus far and I think would do better in terms of generalised views and searches.

    It’s very difficult to separate out the “oh, look – a new thing from Shamus” blog support and that associated tail-off… but let’s say 1,000 views of that first introduction video were just curious blog readers who ended up preferring to read these posts instead of also watching the video. The last three videos seem to be hovering around the 1.0 – 1.5 k views mark, which assuming those 1,000 people didn’t stick around, isn’t far off the other views with the exception of your raytracing one.

    On a side note, I know you mentioned you’d put your deal with the escapist on hiatus but it seems to me that this video content might be attractive to them as well. You’d get a lot of hits by being “hitched” to a larger entity. Okay, sure then I’m not sure the videos would be hosted on your personal account – that could be a negative… I don’t know if you’ve thought about it or talked to them about the possibility…

    My thought is, don’t give up – it’s too early to make that decision and to feel bad about low or stagnating views. You guys are still probably getting up to speed with the content creation pipeline so that might be something you’ll see improve over time? Of course, the longer you’re at it, the more “stock” footage you’ll have to draw upon which will make producing the videos easier too.

    In terms of footage, if you’re finding it a bottleneck, have you considered crowdsourcing stuff here on the blog? There’s a lot of people who play a lot of games. Your readers are a resource too.

    *This Dumb Industry
    **Needs a catchier title. :) I’d go with something like, “Why don’t games let you do anything but kill?!”

    1. Duoae says:

      Uh, it just occurred to me you might not have wanted those titles stated outside of patreon. I’m outside the edit time so can’t take them out now. I’m sorry about that if it was the case! Please remove them if you want.

    2. ElementalAlchemist says:

      I wonder how much of it is that you were not active on youtube for such a long time?

      Very little probably. Youtube’s algorithm is about revenue generation potential. This is what Shamus is referring to when he mentions “engagement”. As he says, it doesn’t matter if people like or hate the video, leave good or nasty comments, all that matters is that lots of people watch it and show a proclivity towards watching more of his content in the future (engagement), because such videos have a higher potential for ad revenue. Videos with poor engagement are quickly dumped to make way for videos that can make Google more money.

      1. Duoae says:

        Okay, let me reframe my thought:

        DigitalFoundry has 789k subscribers and their videos can average 50-70k for the less “interesting” topics and 140-300k for the more interesting and current topics. Then there’s specialist content like the Minecraft raytracing video where there’s a huge install-base of interested potential viewers (Minecraft was over 100 million unique accounts, and 91 million monthly players as of May 2019) which garnered >400k views. At best they’re getting 25-30% of their subscriber numbers and at worst they’re getting 7%, with the exceptions at around 50% – and these guys have cross-promotion through Eurogamer and various presentations at gaming conventions.

        RedLetterMedia has 1.07m subscribers. Their “best of the worst” and “half in the bag” themed review shows vary between 800k-1.00m. The more specific /niche “re:view” show tends to around 500k. Their Star Wars stuff had highs of 9.0m and trailed off, episode by episode to around 1.3m. At best they’re getting 74% for their usual output and worst 45%… with exceptions for super targetted stuff bringing in more than 8x their subscriber base.

        LastWeekTonight has 7.35m subs and their shows vary between 2.0-7.0m views (with an average of around 5.5-6.0m) for not too controversial current stuff to >10.0m with super pertinent stuff like “trade” and “Brett Kavanaugh”. These guys get 81% for a good topic and 32% for a not so interesting one – and this is a comedy show without a central premise except that it debates (usually) current and controversial items. Maybe this could be seen as an unfair addition to this analysis because the show also has a television presence…

        Let’s contrast this with one of the most popular people on youtube (in subscriber terms): Pewdiepie has 102m subs. He has a lot of long-burn content and, the general trend is for his videos to increase with increasing time since they were uploaded. But let’s take the more recent stuff so we can compare and contrast with Shamus’ output. When he’s not doing minecraft stuff he’s averaging around 7.0m views. Minecraft stuff goes much higher, especially when he’s doing stunts like getting married in it (I presume he did, I didn’t watch the video since I can’t stand the guy!) where he’s basically guaranteed >10.0m views. That’s 6.8% average and 9-12% for minecraft content.

        Shamus has 14.5k subscribers. He gets around 1-2k views for the average stuff and 5k for the big stuff (within the last year – can’t compare from stuff that was ridiculously big several years ago). That’s around 10% and 35% respectively.

        I know you are focussed on the algorithm but the algorithm responds to user behaviour. You can see the difference between really engaged fans (RedLetterMedia), specialist content which appeals to fans some of the time (Digital Foundry/NoClip/ScottManley), current affairs (LastWeekTonight) and casual indifference supported by a huge userbase (Pewdiepie). Sure, the algorithm will help with the random clicks but, unless you’re some sort of clairvoyant SEO/YAO then you’re also pretty reliant on those people who subcribed because they will preferentially get your content in their “suggested” feed.

        Shamus’ views based on his subscriber numbers aren’t bad. The real question is, given some of his huge videos in the past, why aren’t his subscriber numbers higher? I would suggest the haphazard updating of the channel would be the cause. People saw a cool video but then not much else to click through to. – which I guess is also reflected in “enagagement”. Shamus has 41 videos and 14K subscribers. That’s a pretty good ratio for most channels. In fact, his average per-video views are pretty good compared to subscribers – on the low end he’s getting attention for casual videos (10%) and on the high end he’s getting to “specialist” channel levels of content attention (DF and NoClip).

        Noclip has around 112 long-form videos (some of them are teasers for the actual video) 439k subs that’s 3.9k subs per posting. Shamus has 341 subs per posting which doesn’t sound like a lot but there’s also little consistency in the content of each video (which will drive engagement down) and certain videos (such as Pixel City) had promotion from outside sources with much larger followings.

        I mean, look – the latest TDI achieved 1.1k views in 5 hours. That has to be driven by the blog and his subscribers, not the random click-throughs. That’s why people beg for subs – not because they will help with the algorithm directly but because people who subbed will click on the content because it’s served up to them – subbing beats the problem of the algorithm, hence why it’s preferred. If you get those subscribers clicking on the videos and addressing the content then it’ll have the knock-on effect of improving the response of the algorithm for the random views which can drive more subs.

        My point stands and I think you backed it up even more – a single large video won’t help with improving the algorithm’s response to Shamus’ content, it has to be a constant engagement with the channel. You get that by releasing videos consistently or having promotional activities outside of youtube that feed traffic into it…. and you get that traffic by having content aimed at your fans/subscribers.

        1. GoStu says:

          Man, you have some spot-on analytics here.

          Marketing and the like is way outside my area of expertise, but I still have to speculate. I think Shamus is not helped by his own branding. “Twenty Sided” is the name of the blog, but the site is, while the URL says twentysidedtale. The series that’s trying to get traction on YouTube is “This Dumb Industry”. The YouTube channel is just “Shamus Young”.

          Just going directly to brought me to a site where the top three posts are “The Best of 2013”, “The Best of 2017”, and Shamus’s series on the semi-obscure and long-dead superhero MMO. The blog that contains the actual meat of the site is behind a single link in the textbox next to Shamus’s face. I’m no expert but I think this either needs to be improved or replaced. If I’m linking/sharing anything by Shamus, it’s the twenty-sided blog.

          Apparently, is currently available. Maybe it can be grabbed as a redirect to the blog. If “This Dumb Industry” becomes a breakout hit, you want that name anyway.

          I’m starting to ramble. TLDR some cleanup might be in order.

          1. Duoae says:

            I think you’re correct. Shamus has this issue of switching between branding WAY too often and without the content backing to really follow through. Is there a reason why TDI couldn’t have been new episodes of Reset Button? Is there a reason why his youtube couldn’t have been Twentysided? (I realise that first and foremost he’s “Shamus Young” and that’s fine for me but maybe it hurts the branding of his projects…)

            IMHO, that’s all in the past. Don’t worry about it and “we can fix it in post”. The really big issue, for Shamus is that he doesn’t feel comfortable marketing himself or his endeavours (at least as far as I’ve seen him post on the blog) and, Shamus, as a fan, I really feel sad for this because you’re not reaching your potential. The worst part is, I’m terrible at selling myself and my creative stuff but I can see your output and see that it has WAY more potential for engaging with people.

            I bought ToKoL both in electronic and hardback (I bought your other books too). Okay, I ended up sending the hardback to my mum but both my parents read it and both really liked it. With any luck, I can get them and others onboard with another book you’ll write. In fact, I think I might point one of them to Free Radical because it’s freakin’ awesome (the other won’t like it). But none of that really matters because it’s not multiplicative… I don’t have a market influence over these things and, really, I’ve never been able to be a salesperson – it’s just not in my repertoire of skills.

            You know the comparison I would make for Twentysided? It’s that of Penny Arcade. Tycho and Gabe needed Robert Khoo to actually move their things forward. I wonder if Shamus needs another party to actually let him focus on the creative side and leave them to explore the business side of things.

            I feel kinda shit for even typing this comment. I really like all of Shamus’ output but there’s something in them thar hills that’ll let you drill for oil. I guess that brings me on to collaborations: Shamus’ individual content is really top notch but there’s another level when he collaborates with other creatives. Working with Bob, the podcast, Spoiler Warning, the old podcast…. and I wonder if there’s a possibility of some collaboration that can elevate the potential audience he’s expecting for the youtube side of things?

            1. Shamus says:

              I don’t know why you feel like shit for saying this. It’s all good feedback. It’s really hard to appraise your own work and it’s good to get different perspectives on it.

              1. Duoae says:

                I feel bad because I feel like I’m laying into you – I’m really not. Also, I’m too verbose… wish I could be more concise.

                1. pseudonym says:

                  You are very hard on yourself, but I see a constructive and to the point comment. It’s not overly verbose at all. Also you were able to voice your discomfort with the post in question in just three short sentences. So I think you did a great job, especially on the verbosity.

                2. Nimrandir says:

                  For what it’s worth, the tone of your comment didn’t come off as aggressive to me. Also, criticism is more useful if the critic supplies detail.

                  1. pseudonym says:

                    Thank you for always being so nice to other people Nimrandir. In fact, you replied to either my first or second post on this site ( I can’t remember exactly which one). I had a great posting anxiety but your kind reply helped me overcome that. So I want to take this opportunity to thank you for that.

                    1. Mistwraithe says:

                      See? That’s exactly the problem around here. How are we going to interest the AI algorithms if we are always nice and we go about praising each other? What sort of way is that to run an internet?

        2. Lino says:

          In general you’re right, but there’s the annoying fact that subscribers don’t always receive the videos of channels they’re subscribed to. That’s why everyone is pushing people to hit the bell, and why a lot of channels are gravitating towards engaging passers-by by using clickbait and gaming the algorithm.
          But apart from that, I totally agree with you – you need consistent content in order to build up an audience.
          Another thing I would add is that the titles of the videos definitely don’t do him any favours – it would me almost impossible to find them by just searching for videos on a current topic.

      2. RFS-81 says:

        So the correct solution would be to start talking about politics and get those precious hate clicks!*

        *Please don’t do that.

        More seriously, maybe it would help to show your face more? Also, you could let the game speak for itself a bit. Show something stupid in the cutscene and then cut to your face for commenting on it. (For the article, you could quote or paraphrase and put a link to the corresponding timestamp in the video.)

        EDIT: I just realized that having the audio of the cutscenes too might get your video demonetized… is your goal ad revenue or simply growing the audience?

        1. Duoae says:

          From my own perspective, showing a person’s face doesn’t make me want to engage with the content. Of course, I’m not the typical person and there’s a post below that’s espousing begging for likes and subs and bell-ringing like it’s Dark Souls 1 time (I may have messed up that reference, please let me know in the comments – like this blurb so I can let you know of more things that could ease the monotony of you day-to-day existensialism).

          I am unable to engage with the whole “streamer” thing since I find it very untargeted and boring. I tried to watch some Fortnite gameplay relatively recently and I just could not stand the start-up time. It just took too, damn, long to get to the action. I thought this was supposed to be the generation of the short attention span! :/

          1. RFS-81 says:

            With the face thing, I was talking more from the perspective of what I imagine is the typical Youtube user. Letting the game speak for itself more was also my personal point of view, though.

            I don’t usually watch streams, but I do like the edited videos that ryukahr (spelling?) puts up for Super Mario Maker (Super-Expert, no skip).

      3. Thomas says:

        YouTube’s algorithm isn’t actually about revenue generation (although some sub systems are). YouTube’s algorithm is based on long-term time spent on the platform. When they say ‘Engagement’ they mean ‘time on the platform’.

        If you think about it, it makes sense from YouTube’s point of view. As long as they’re at the top of the heap the money will come, so the algorithm keeps them at the top of the heap.

        There are a lot of things about Shamus’ video that might accidentally or genuinely interfere with that algorithmic goal though. Shamus isn’t a ‘Youtuber’ he’s bringing people to his site rather than their channel. A lot of the people who watch his videos aren’t surfing YouTube and won’t click on another video after they’ve watched his.

        Also, everyone who is watching his videos probably subscribed to his channel a long time ago, so Shamus isn’t bringing an offering of fresh blood to the platform.

        Potentially, if people are just going to the video to like it, based on enjoying the article, then the average watch time of the video will be low, which is another penalty against ‘keeping people watching stuff on Youtube’.

        And if Shamus is keeping his own fanbase happy, but new people don’t click on his videos because they’re not click-baity enough, then YouTube might penalise the videos for that – even if people haven’t watched the video itself.

        1. Duoae says:

          And if Shamus is keeping his own fanbase happy, but new people don’t click on his videos because they’re not click-baity enough, then YouTube might penalise the videos for that – even if people haven’t watched the video itself.

          True, but if Shamus is targetting a niche audience, that overlaps with his blog audience then he will maximise his viewing potential without needing to be overly click-baity… but again, this needs constant output.

        2. Radkatsu says:

          Bit late to the party here, but yes, you’re 100% correct. Youtube wants people to stay on Youtube, that’s basically the #1 thing for keeping your place in the algo. All those end cards where people push viewers over to Patreon? Those hurt your ranking. Links in the description? Ditto.

          I watched an interesting video by someone who’d figured this out and was using it to advertise his own products once. What he does is make interesting YT videos relevant to his business and all that, but then he runs Google advertising for his own products on his own videos (as in, he pays Google Ad-sense to advertise a product of his, then manually sets Youtube to play those ads on his videos).

          He never ever sends people off of Youtube, except insofar as anyone clicks an ad of his. By keeping people steadfastly on the platform, his ranking remains high in the algorithms, and he makes a ton of money from advertising his own products in the process. Quite clever, heh.

          For Shamus, he could commission an ad for Good Robot, say, then pay Google to advertise it and run the ad against his own videos, thereby keeping people on his channel instead of sending them elsewhere, while also raising awareness for a game he would profit from more sales of. Just as a random example, I don’t actually expect Shamus to do this, but still, it’s a useful thing to know about if you can take advantage of it.

    3. Thomas says:

      I do the same thing with going to YouTube to watch the video and like it – but we might actually be part of the problem when we do it.

      The algorithm is sophisticated and designed to stop abuse. A bunch of people coming from a website and liking the video without behaving like normal viewers might make the like count look artificial and the algorithm starts discounting it.

      I think embedding can also have an affect on views / ratings, because Google needs to trust it’s legitimately embedded on a site and not some kind of view manipulation technique.

      Shamus might be better off getting rid of the text and shoving us off to YouTube via a link, even if some of us prefer reading the text. At least as far as discovery goes.

      Edit: Just to add, I personally would be okay if you got rid of the text Shamus, at least as a trial for a month or two to gain YouTube viewers.

      Your articles have been a regular source of diversion for me for years, so I’m invested in your long-term success

      1. Duoae says:

        The algorithm is sophisticated and designed to stop abuse. A bunch of people coming from a website and liking the video without behaving like normal viewers might make the like count look artificial and the algorithm starts discounting it.

        It’s possible… but then no one would be embedding videos in their sites, no? I would presume that the algorithm takes that into reconsideration. If it were me – I’d be looking at percentage of the video watched per view from a single referring source. For example, some scummy sites open a window with a nonsense youtube video for them to get large viewing numbers (presumably to try and get ad money). However, I’m pretty sure that none of them are watched properly by users who instead cancel playback and close the window. Compare this to embedded videos where a good proportion of the content is probably watched.

        1. Thomas says:

          Oh totally, I’m sure embedded videos do sometimes count (although I’m also sure 99% of full-time YouTubers don’t rely on embedding). But we don’t know what tests YouTube does to filter out ‘good’ embedding from bad ’embedding’.

          If it’s anything like spam, the ‘bad’ embedders will be devoting a lot of ingenuity to try and fake normal usage patterns to try and trick the system. So the filter is probably very obtuse and hard to understand.

          Perhaps, for example, Shamus’ website could be under ‘quarantine’ and after a certain time YouTube will suddenly decide it’s legitimate and his videos will get boosted over night. Or perhaps not. No-one knows.

          Its one of those things where if Shamus breaks through the quagmire somehow, everything will suddenly start going in his favour. YouTube will decide everything is legitimate, more views will bring more subscribers which will bring more views… But how do you kick that off?

          1. Duoae says:

            Oh, definitely, there will be “whitelisted” sites whose behaviour is allowed, no matter what…. I don’t know if that’s able to be checked on the user side though…

            1. Thomas says:

              I doubt they let you check, transparency would only make the bad actors job easier.

              In the end, I think my speculation isn’t useful because it’s beyond anyones control. All the fantastic stuff you wrote above seems the best strategy in face of all the noise. Producing consistent content that keeps your audience happy and not being shy about promoting it.

              1. Duoae says:

                I’m not a programmer but is it possible for a javascript element to track whether a video is playing in an overlapped window or on a passive window? I found this but it seems it would not apply to a half screen layout or a two monitor setup where the user is actively using a second browser window with video passively playing in the first.

                I just wonder if that also affects “engagement”… though this is how I watch most of my youtube content (and I can’t be the only one) so maybe it wouldn’t make sense to check this from youtube’s perspective. However, saying that, a LOT of videos autoplay in webpages and even with those little widgets that follow you down the page. I’m not actually watching or engaging with any of those. Maybe they don’t get counted? It’s a very messy issue!

                I know that on PS4 when watching youtube, I sometimes switch off the TV since I’m just listening to music or a podcast to save energy and the app detects that the TV is switched off after a while and stops the playback, asking me to verify I’m actually “watching”. Sort of like how Netflix does it… It does this after many hours when I’m watching stuff too but it happens much sooner when the TV is switched off.

  6. ngthagg says:

    I prefer videos with this promotional bit at the end, and I’m glad you’re doing it. I’m having a hard time putting into words why it’s important. Part of it is I prefer good salesmanship, when you put up a video, you’re selling the whole channel and your blog to boot. So the way you did it earlier “requisite subscription begging” and “everyone has to eat” made it sound like you didn’t really care if I watched another video. Part of it is that seeing you in person asking for likes and subscriptions makes me feel more engaged. And I mean real engagement, not YouTube engagement. This isn’t just an interesting video, it’s a real person making a career out of commentary. Supporting a person is completely different than supporting a video.

    Regardless, I hope you stick with these videos. YouTube popularity send to follow a ratcheting effect, and once you get one video that hours a new level of views, I suspect you’ll stay there.

  7. Decius says:

    Hitman: Absolution is a parody of its own franchise and industry.

    The plot closely follows one of the writers at IO Interactive’s experience with trying to get out of the Hitman business, after seeing a bright-eyed intern and realizing that they were being groomed to write for the same series perpetually, the writer gave his akimbo silver pens away for no good reason, eavesdropped on a senior writer from the ventilation duct, tried to burn down the building to cover up murdering the night cleaner who caught them…

    Yeah, that’s implausible, but the alternative is that a professional writing team was associated with writing that plot from scratch.

    1. Duoae says:

      Hey, it worked for the rebooted Tomb Raider Franchise! ;)

      1. RichardW says:

        I don’t really see that, and still maintain that the initial 2013 reboot was a great game (replaying it now actually). I enjoyed its story and characterization quite a bit. It’s the sequels where things went horribly wrong, with plots that were just terrible. You could tell there’d been a shift in management, changing the entire tone and feel of the experience. The writers definitely *tried* in parts, there’s some good stuff in both Rise and Shadow about Lara’s family history (albeit relegated to the Croft Manor side-missions) but the character arcs were more like character circles, and it all ended incredibly unsatisfactorily.

        As to Hitman, it continually astounds me to think that the same writer worked on both Absolution and the new games. Problems from on high is what it feels like. I think this was a Casey Hudson situation, where one person is given so much creative power they’re able to completely skew the game’s direction. You could say that’s what a director is supposed to do, but things generally work a little differently in game dev. Tore Blystad was art director on Blood Money and became head of Absolution, I have to wonder if he felt the pressure or was working through something, considering some of the places that game goes to. Since leaving IO Interactive I believe he’s gone back to art direction.

  8. Joshua says:

    “Dexter fled the hotel and called the police, and the SWAT team somehow made it all the way to the hotel and got to the top floor before the flames could cross the room?”

    In The Dark Knight Returns, a SWAT team appears about five seconds after a phone call is made using a congressman’s phone. I guess the SWAT team in this game had to stop for donuts first.

    1. Jeff says:

      Police generally are forbidden to go into burning buildings by policy, since unprepared personnel (ie. anyone not a firefighter in proper gear) just means you’re going to end up with more casualties.

      Fire departments (and EMTs) generally are forbidden to go into unsecured locations, so they’ll just stage until the scene is secured by police (who can’t actually secure the scene because it’s on fire).

      If there’s an armed and dangerous suspect in a burning building, they’ll basically wait for the shooter to come out or the building to finish burning.

      1. Joshua says:

        Uh, this is quite a random reply that has little to do with my comment.

        1. Fon says:

          Nah, he is probably trying to say that a real SWAT team probably wouldn’t enter the building at all, so the fact they show up inside a burning building at all is already unusual.

          I don’t quite remember what happened in The Dark Knight Returns, but if the scene didn’t happen inside a burning building with a dangerous suspect at large, then it might not be good comparison in terms of SWAT arrival time, especially since it’s probably not a congressman who made the call for SWAT in Hitman Absolution.

    2. Chad Miller says:

      The Dark Knight Rises movie had the excuse that the congressman was already missing, that a manhunt had already progressed to the point that there was televised news coverage, and even then it was more like a full minute.

  9. Ninety-Three says:

    I thought this was a solo project, who is the “we” in “we produced in this series”?

    1. Lino says:

      Him and his son Isaac who edits the videos and sometimes captures some of the footage.

  10. Karma The Alligator says:

    I remember that cutscene with the Spoiler Warning crew, it was… interesting to watch.

    Although, as I said in the video comments, I think the fake flashback is worse, because it breaks the fourth wall instead of just being about stupid characters.

  11. Ninety-Three says:

    I appreciate the “Dance for your corporate masters” segment, it feels somehow more dignified than simply doing the dance. I’m reminded of a few years ago when Loading Ready Run made a “like share and subscribe is dumb haha” joke and their next video featured them going “So we made a joke, but we’ve been told that stuff is actually super important” and doing the dance unironically while awkwardly walking back their joke. By emphasizing that Youtube has you over a barrel, not only do you avoid looking like one of like share and subscribe zombies, but you get a bit of content out of explaining why. If you keep running the call to action, I think you ought to leave in the whole two minute explanation you’ve got there.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      I’m on board with leaving the call to action as you did it this week. Heck, I’ve joked that if I ever tried my hand at YouTube, I would make the call to action my channel’s banner video — with just as much contempt as your wrap-up.

  12. CJK says:

    I think a big part of your problem is running the two versions – I watched the first couple, read the article to compare, determined I wasn’t really missing anything by going for the text version, and have stuck with that going forward. So…yeah. Sorry. Messed with your metrics there.

  13. tmtvl says:

    So Shamus, are you joining the Youtubers’ Union? I doubt they’ll get much done, but can’t hurt to give it a try.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      I don’t understand how the Youtuber’s Union even plans to get much done. Their current strategy seems to be a mix of Raising Awareness™ and complaining on the internet, but at some point you have to exert leverage. Normally a union does that by striking (or threatening to) but I don’t think even the optimists are picturing the union getting big enough to seriously hurt YT’s bottom line with a strike, and even if it did, Youtube has Google money behind it. They’re not the ones who will worry about paying the bills in a strike. The idea of a strike is further complicated by the fact that people are falling over themselves to put content on Youtube for free, striking Youtubers would find their viewers taken by scabs in an instant.

    2. Lino says:

      I thought you were joking, but no! It’s a real thing! Having had a cursory glance at it, a Union seems like a much better idea than a Multi-Channel Network (e.g. Machinima, Polaris, etc.). But I think the main problem it has is the lack of big-name YouTubers to support it.
      However, this might change – there’s been some drama over YouTube deleting Google accounts and rejecting appeals over some users “spamming” an emote during a stream by Markplier (from what I’ve seen on the news I wouldn’t even call it spamming – it was just a way for users to vote during the stream).
      There are also changes to YouTube’s Terms of Service which might make this sort of thing more common.

  14. Xeorm says:

    As far as the algorithm is concerned, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s looking at you negatively for getting such low numbers even though you have major successes on your channel. You’ve got 14.5k subscribers as of today, and can only manage a few thousand (if that) views on your newer content? That’s terrible. Probably something wrong with the new content. Things I can think of to help improve:
    1. Engage the viewer. I recently watched one video that really highlighted just how much twitch streamers and the like will treat their viewer as a person that they interact with, instead of passively viewed like traditional television. Take a look at say, the Jimquisition where he always starts off with a bit with himself at his pedestal before jumping to the proper segment. I’ll see similar bits too in the other successful channels that I watch.
    2. I know I’m not the only one, but I’ll gladly read the text on this site without watching the video. So the best advice is to get more people to switch over to watching the video instead of only reading. Say extra stuff that can’t be done in written form, or perhaps putting the written essay out at a later point in the week.
    3. Regular content. Youtube has emphasized just how important regular content can be. Making sure to hit that deadline seems pretty important.
    4. “Better” titles. Your titles are really good at being short and to the point. But they lack that pizzazz that draws in people. The clickbait is real! Though not really. Doesn’t need to be clickbait, but I’d think it does need to draw interest. “The Dumbest Cutscene! What were they thinking?” draws in my attention and still gets across what the video is about.
    5. Comment interaction. I scrolled shortly through some of your recent videos and I’m not seeing any interaction from you in your own comments. Which leads into point 1, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if this factored at all into how your channel performs.

  15. Benden says:

    In fairness to your previous YouTube works, these newer videos are more smart than funny, giving them a smaller audience by default. And then there’s the negative interaction thing —most of them don’t seem to have a lot of potential for riling people up (though I assume your BL3 video got at least a few naysayers).

    And none of them feature rollercoaster bowling!

    Thinking of ways to placate the algorithm and pull in some of the audience that is consuming content not entirely dissimilar to yours…Any chance you have any listicle-format videos in your plan? The 4 runner-up worst cutscenes or the top 5 things wrong with VR or whatever floats your boat? Not that you need to make all lists all the time, but one now and then might help draw viewers.

    1. Benden says:

      And…I don’t know if this will help with the algorithm, but I really wish for more visual humor / details / production in the videos. For example, in this video, there’s a moment where you have the opportunity to show us a shot of Superman (ideally the most majestic and serious one possible) and then in the next beat cartoon a Luchadore mask over his face. Soon after is a chance to do some beat gags over your vocal emphasis on “FRAME. A HITMAN. FOR MURDER.” Like, it could be as dumb as picture frame (maybe, if you can get it, in an actual H:A scene background with an arrow pointing to it). Agent 47 still shot, maybe from a previous game or anything super stereotypical. Dead body, ideally the most ridiculous shot from H:A you have. Or, over the part where you say jokes, references, callbacks to other works — shots from games that do these things.

      I understand this is actually your sort of unaired second pilot so I don’t mean to suggest it’s underproduced. It’s just the example I happen to have for where you could work in sight gags that would make the video content more engaging than reading the words, plus make the most of your delivery style!

      1. Benden says:

        And last of all, for what it’s worth, I pushed lots of interaction buttons on this video. Let’s see if that helps. ;)

      2. Turtlebear says:

        You mentioned the clickbait title, but what about the clickbait thumbnail?! A giant red circle around a picture of the bondage nuns from Absolution with a few unnecessary arrows thrown in. And plus, when someone angrily comments about the bondage nuns not showing up in the video, it counts as engagement! It’s a win-win situation. Apart from sacrificing your integrity, I guess.

      3. Duoae says:

        Ohh, there’s defintely more room for humour in these videos…. but that tends to come out when Shamus collaborates rather than when monologuing.

  16. Olivier FAURE says:

    I’m pretty sure if there was a fundamentally better way for Youtube to find which videos are worth promoting, they would be using it by now. We’re talking about Google, the single most experienced company in the field of automatically ranking things based on abstract metrics.

    I don’t think the like/dislike ratio would work. Dislikes are so rare on most videos that they’re essentially random noise, and using the ratio would produce essentially random result (and would be much more open to a small number of saboteurs tanking a given channel, kinda like review bombs on Steam).

    And even Youtube used a ratio system (or, let’s get crazy, went back to 5-stars ratings), you would still need to make calls to actions, because you would be competing against other youtubers calling their audience to give them a 5-stars rating or whatever.

    Face it, calls to actions aren’t going away any time soon, unless Youtube makes some major breakthroughs in artificial intelligence.

    1. John says:

      I’m pretty sure if there was a fundamentally better way for Youtube to find which videos are worth promoting, they would be using it by now. We’re talking about Google, the single most experienced company in the field of automatically ranking things based on abstract metrics.

      I don’t think that’s true at all.

      For one thing “best” is a completely subjective concept. It’s theoretically possible that Youtube really has discovered “the best” algorithm for its purposes–I’m not so sure they have, but it’s possible–but Youtube’s idea of “the best” is by no means guaranteed to match that of the average Youtube user. Youtube likely wants to maximize ad revenue, whereas the average Youtube user doesn’t care about that sort of thing at all. A money-making algorithm is not at all the same thing as a “promote Shamus’ videos” algorithm or even a “promote good content” algorithm.

      For another, I think you’re mischaracterizing (a) how research works and (b) the maturity of “algorithmically ranking things” as a discipline. I would dearly love to get into it more, but I don’t have the time right now. My apologies.

      1. Olivier FAURE says:

        Alright, I’ll reformulate: if there was an obvious better way to rank things, they’d be using it.

        The part about conflicting incentives makes sense, but at the end of the day even straightforward rules lead to the same fundamental problem: the algorithm needs some way for the audience to signal that they liked something, therefore creators need to constantly remind their audience to signal to the algorithm that they really like whatever the creator is producing.

  17. Chekhovs_Gunman says:

    Long-time reader, occasional commenter. Personally, I far prefer reading an article like this to watching the same thing in a video. If Shamus stops putting up the text version of his content and instead shoves it all on YouTube, that won’t force me to consume it on YouTube – I just won’t consume that content. Just my $0.02.

  18. Maryam says:

    For what it’s worth, this video was at the top of my suggested videos on YouTube today. As far as I can tell, this is based on the fact that I have watched and liked two of your videos before (I wasn’t subscribed, but that was an oversight — I am now). Personally I just prefer reading text articles over videos, especially if one is just going to reiterate the other. I did watch the Raytracing video previously, because for that particular one, video added something that text alone couldn’t depict.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      The video was also YouTube’s first recommendation to me yesterday evening. Life had me too busy to watch the Skinner box video until right after the newest one. I only follow a handful of channels, though.

  19. Alberek says:

    I only watch this videos here so… I will have to make a trip to YT
    And for dumbest cutscene… well is not “dumb” but in Devil May Cry (the original game), there is a final scene where the voice actor drops the ball and is hilarious

    1. The Wind King says:


      It is a classic

  20. Dave Rolsky says:

    Given a choice I nearly always prefer reading to watching videos. Reading is just faster and more enjoyable for me. Videos are great for things that are physical, like rock climbing, or for things like showing game strategies or content. But your description of the cutscene works really well for me.

  21. Ermel says:

    For the first time ever on this site, I clicked through to Youtube and watched the video.

    I would like and comment, but I don’t have an account there. (Last person on the planet not to have one, or so it feels.) And Shamus, I’m really sorry, but I’m not going to change that.

    Still, I liked both the article and the video. Even though I’m not a video gamer at all. So there’s that.

  22. Inspector Gesicht says:

    The biggest badass in Human Revolution is Gameplay Jensen. He can sneak, shoot, hack, and melee his way effortlessly his through any obstacle. The biggest wimp in Human Revolution is Cutscene Jensen. Somehow a brick-shithouse of a man can get the drop on him and deck him in the face, and an obviously evil executive can play damsel long enough to jump into a panic-room and call the guards.

    1. RichardW says:

      Shamus should make a montage compilation sometime of all the great Captured in a Cutscene moments we gamers have been subjected to over the years.

      1. Duoae says:

        I don’t think I have the time to watch a 15 hour video…

  23. Liessa says:

    I can’t watch the video right now (stupid hotel Wi-Fi), but I will as soon as I get back home, and will try to throw a few likes your way to feed THE ALGORITHM. In any case, I remember this scene from your Spoiler Warning series. The only explanation I can think of is that the dialogue was written and voiced way before release, they changed the plot later on in development, and didn’t have time or budget to re-record everything so had to work with what they had.

    For another example of terrible/nonsensical cutscenes, my gold standard has to be Dead to Rights: Retribution. I highly recommend watching the entire LP, despite the crappy low-res videos. The writing may not be quite as bad overall as Hitman: Absolution – though it certainly has its moments – but for sheer blatant, almost flamboyant contradiction between story and gameplay mechanics, it simply can’t be beat.

    1. Syal says:

      Honestly I don’t think Retribution’s cutscenes are that bad. The only thing wrong with them is that Jack Slate is a monster with no self-awareness, which is both plot and character consistent.

      1. Liessa says:

        It’s not the cutscenes themselves that are so terrible, but the inconsistency between the type of character Jack is stated to be (a ‘by-the-book’ cop fighting to restore ‘old-fashioned’ policing after a fascist coup) and the type he is as per the gameplay sections (a rabid psychotic mass-murderer who slaughters countless people in the goriest, most brutal ways possible). It’s not just that he lacks self-awareness; no one else in the game ever brings up the contradiction between what he’s doing and what he’s supposedly trying to achieve, and the story treats him as a hero from start to finish. It’s like the gameplay sections don’t exist from a cutscene perspective and vice versa.

        1. Syal says:

          Not many points where characters get the chance; Redwater and Frank are both obviously biased, and after the coup he’s the lesser of two evils.

          (Plus he’s a psychotic mass-murderer and probably wouldn’t take well to being called out on things.)

          1. Liessa says:

            The writers could make the point if they wanted to; they just don’t, whether in dialogue or narrative or anywhere else. It’s not impossible that they’re deliberately portraying Jack as a monster with no self-awareness, but if so then where is the evidence of it? It’s like Shamus’ comment about satire in the article above: “The only reason to think it might be satire is that it’s really extraordinarily bad.”

  24. Duoae says:

    And now the video is 1.5k views after only a few hours. Is it higher than average for this time period because of Shamus’ post or because people engaged with it more than other videos?

    This is the part I hate about analytics!

  25. Fudgebomber says:

    I apologize in advance for my eccentric grammar and possible typos. I’m a long time reader, but my English is not very good, which is why I didn’t comment before.

    THE ALGORITHM has little to do with your current struggles. One fairly popular content creator even ends his more recent videos by saying “go away now!” You don’t have to beg for likes and views, Mr. Young.

    The problem is that you have spent years trying to avoid controversies and conflicts in general – online, that is, I don’t know how you behave IRL. What is your first reaction when the comments become a bit too spicy for your liking? Close the topic, step away from the computer, take a break. Oh, and make your statements as non-inflammatory as possible.

    YouTube is a bit different. People must adore you. People must hate you. Strong opinions are the only opinions. Every channel is a dictatorship, every video is a dire offence to someone. Does that sound like something you want?

    Your current channel is small, but comfy. I’d advise to keep it that way. Just do your thing and stop looking at the numbers. THE ALGORITHM can go screw itself. Even one viewer is enough – as long as it is the right kind of viewer.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      I always get a smile when people begin a comment with “Pardon my bad English,” and then proceed to write a thoughtful missive in nigh-flawless English better than a distressingly-large fraction of native English speakers can manage. :)

    2. shoeboxjeddy says:

      “Even one viewer is enough – as long as it is the right kind of viewer.” Eh, that’s not true at all. Perhaps Shamus is hoping that the Youtube channel could become a reliable secondary source of income. That’s impossible without a medium-high viewerbase. There was also the recent drama of Youtube corporate saying they could (and would) shut down channels that didn’t have a “commercial purpose” aka small channels that raked in no money. So if Shamus doesn’t make the channel popular to some degree, it’s possible Youtube will just shut it down.

  26. galacticplumber says:

    I mostly focus on reading the articles, because analytical content tends to gel better with word than it does video.

    You can follow at your own pace, which may be faster than the video if you’re good at reading or familiar with the material.

    If something interrupts you, you jump back in with minimal continuity interruption or fiddling with video position.

    Finally, and most importantly, habit plays for the article from starting from the site instead of your youtube channel.

    As to explain what’s happening with the videos…. assuming you linked both ways maybe people are just switching to the article? Maybe similar reasons.

  27. Charles Henebry says:

    Now I feel bad for reading these rather than watching them on YouTube, liking and subscribing. I wonder how many of your longtime readers are, like me, fans of reading you. If so, you might get better engagement on YouTube if you forced us to engage with your content over there.

  28. Dreadjaws says:

    Maybe embedding is a problem. People are watching the embedded video, which YouTube surely can register, but any comment made on it will be made in this website, so YouTube won’t count it as engagement.

    Obviously, many people use embedding in Patreon and such, but those people generally started building their fanbase in YouTube, so they can get away with a lower comment input. You, on the other hand, have generated an audience based on written content, so if you intend to start building an audience in YT you might want to start finding a way to draw them there instead of keeping them here.

    I don’t know, I’m just saying. Maybe it has nothing to do with it and I’m talking out of my ass.

  29. Joe Informatico says:

    Yeah, I found Worf on TNG fascinating because he was a member of an alien culture raised among humans, and thus all his information on “the old country” was from writings that romanticized glory and honour. And then he actually starts having dealings with his birth culture and realizes they’re actually duplicitous and conniving and the honour and glory stuff was in part a sham. And as a second-generation immigrant, that really resonated with me.

    And then DS9 basically made Worf’s version of Klingon culture the correct one, and there were all these eye-rolling patriarchal rituals and members of an advanced space-faring species preferred to charge energy weapons with their big knives and I was just done with the Klingons.

    1. Boobah says:

      Pfft. It’s not like TNG had whole arcs about the dichotomy between the Klingon ideal and the Klingon reality; heck, the Duras family (who were significant both as the reason Worf was an orphan and as Klingons who had no belief in honor) was front and center enough that the family’s survivors were supporting villains in the first TNG movie.

  30. Syal says:

    I’m trying to come up with a competing dumb cutscene, but I can’t think of one. There are games with really stupid plots, but not so concentrated and self-defeating. The closest single cutscene I can think of is the final showdown from Realms of the Haunting (end-game spoilers for Realms of the Haunting), but I don’t think it’s as bad as Absolution, and being much later in its game it needs a lot more context besides.

    Anyway, other stupid stuff.

    FF8 has a whole heck of a lot of dumb things, but I think the assassination attempt sequence is the high point. By which I mean the low point.

    Tales of Berseria explains there are places so dangerous the authorities never go there. Then a couple cutscenes later the heroes need a base of operations, so they… storm the most famous prison in the world to use as their base, instead of going to one of these places the authorities never go.

    Zero Time Dilemma has… let’s just call it “complex motives”.

    (lots of anime here; don’t know if that’s on anime games or on me for mostly playing anime games.)

    …I’ll admit I haven’t watched any of the videos. I’d much rather read analysis than watch a video on it; I use videos for background noise while I’m doing other things, and ten minutes isn’t long enough to make good background noise.

  31. RCN says:

    I remember when this cutscene came up in Spoiler Warning.

    One of the most memorable episodes of the run.

    It really irks me that you have to face this big dumb grunt not once, but twice, in the dumbest way possible that goes against everything that the Hitman games are supposed to be. It can hardly be believed this is the same franchise where you could poison the sushi that would be served to a target with blowfish poison.

  32. Melted says:

    Okay, I can understand why they just stuck a bandage object on the back of his head instead of making a whole new, barcode-less skin for him. But you’d think that a)they could make sure the bandage actually lines up with the barcode and covers it completely, and b)they could make the “gauze” part big enough to cover the alleged injury. Come on, you don’t put the sticky tape part on an open wound.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Ironically, copying his skin and removing the bar code would probably be a five-minute job in Photoshop (and they might even be able to to work smarter and copy just his head, I don’t know), while adding the bandage requires a whole new 3D model be made. (Even if just of the bandage, that still requires modeling it and a skin for the bandage model.)

      1. Melted says:

        Yeah, but at this level of detail it seems like(?) they needed to make the bandage model anyway–if they just made it part of his head texture I think it’d look noticeably bad, like he had a bandage tattoo there. And if they just replaced the barcode with regular skin or scar tissue, that would be weird if it’s not supposed to have been that long.

        So if you do have to make the 3D model, and it’s supposed to cover something up, I can see not bothering about (or overlooking) making sure the allegedly covered-up part has actually been changed.

  33. Nimrandir says:

    It feels like the correct move here is manufactured controversy. Have the Spoiler Warning crew start sniping at you over how you did this video already with them. Then you can point out the superiority of your Mass Effect retrospective to the hours of video required to get through the games with them. Everybody wins*!

    *for a suitable definition of ‘wins.’

  34. Jason says:

    I think there are some Kai Leng cutscenes in Mass Effect 3 that are pretty bad

    1. Nimrandir says:

      The temple scene on Thessia is probably the champ for me there. It doesn’t feel as disjointed as Absolution’s surreal trainwreck, though.

  35. SkySC says:

    I just want to say that even if you aren’t getting the results you want from your YouTube channel, it might have benefits that are hard to measure. I think I first learned about this blog from watching a video of Bob’s (which had already been out for several years before I saw it) where he mentions one of your columns on the Escapist. And I’d only learned about the MrBtongue channel because some other critic mentioned one of his even older videos.

    Your newer videos aren’t getting a ton of views yet, but who knows what effect they might have down the line? The content is good. Eventually, that’ll pay off.

  36. Taxi says:

    This rings a bell. I played Hitman 2: SA back in the day and liked it a lot, for the time. Later I gave Absolution a shot since it was supposed to be pretty story driven and I like stories, but it indeed turned out to be nonsense drivel.

    BTW IO is such a weird developer. They are certainly able to think of new interesting things and also of complete bullshit. Then a game ends up being some random ratio of these aspects.

    As an example, I did actually like K&L a lot unlike most people, so I was rather looking forward to KL2. The demo was really really good so I got the game right as it came out (as just the 2nd game ever) and it was… Awful garbage. The demo level was the only good one. Kinda like with the original Halo, but that at least had 2 good levels.

    As for videos, well for me I just prefer to read your stuff rather than watch, which is rare these days because I’m too lazy to read anything else game related. With other creators it’s the opposite. It’s just your strengths are better expressed in writing I think. Like in this case, I can imagine the cutscene just as well as I was watching it, and it’s even funnier that way.

    But then I haven’t watched your vids in a while so I’ll look at some I guess.

  37. Duoae says:

    I couldn’t reply to the thread above but I just wanted to say thanks to pseudonym and Nimrandir for the nice comments. :)

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Don’t let word get out to my students; I need to maintain my veneer of being a heartless beast of logic. :-)

  38. Drathnoxis says:

    3k average views and 14k subscribers isn’t bad. My favorite let’s player has been doing weekly or more updates for over 10 years and doesn’t average much more than that

  39. Radkatsu says:

    Highly recommend Many a True Nerd for all things Hitman on Youtube.

    As for your own videos… yeah, sucks that you decided to get back into it right as Youtube is self-destructing. They’re moving away from independent creators and towards corporate crap, basically TV 2.0. I’m busy downloading all my favourite creators’ best videos because frankly I don’t give Youtube much longer as a relevant platform.

  40. Discendo Vox says:

    Excellent coverage, though to be fair I think this cutscene has stiff competition in…other cutscenes also in Hitman Absolution. I did a series of detailed posts identifying how the development of hitman absolution contributed to its atrocious…well, everything, to accompany a Let’s Play of the game here, in case you’re interested in further context.
    The development of the game was a garbage fire from every direction simultaneously. Remarkably, what we wound up with was many times less bad than was originally planned!

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