Insomnia61: merchandise, money and mistakes

One of my stepson’s dreams came true when visiting Insomnia 61 at the end of August, where he had the opportunity to see one of his favourite YouTubers in real-life. He has been watching DanTDM’s channel (previously ‘The Diamond Minecart’) for over a year now and it’s the first place he, and 16-million other subscribers, go to for regular Minecraft content.

Unfortunately for myself and my other-half, this means his voice is regularly heard throughout our house and we don’t really understand the fascination. He doesn’t appear to be a particularly good gamer (although that isn’t entirely important); his videos are poorly edited; and the jokes that pepper the gameplay aren’t funny. Some may say there are far worse things for a ten-year old to watch and point out DanTDM’s reputation for being one of the ‘safer’ YouTubers for kids.

That didn’t stop me feeling uncomfortable however as we queued up for his hour-long show at the event, and wondering whether the parents around us knew exactly what their sons and daughters were watching online. Minecraft seemed as though it would be a suitable game for the majority of the young audience at Insomnia 61; but what about titles such as Who’s Your Daddy? and The Escapists, which have featured on DanTDM’s channel since 2016?

Insomnia, video games, DanTDM

I didn’t know the father and excited little girl in the seats in front of me but something told me he wouldn’t consider a game where you can play as a baby who’s determined to take its own life as appropriate for his six-year old daughter. I didn’t think a title consisting of prisoners trying to escape jail while avoiding violence and sexually-suggestive comments from cellmates and guards would be high on his suitability-scale either.

As the show begun and it became apparent neither DanTDM himself nor his interviewer was going to mention these games, I found myself first understanding why they’d made that decision. After all, no parent was going to cough up for the merchandise plugged throughout the hour if they felt this person was showing their children things they shouldn’t see. Instead, we listened to them tell us about the tickets for his tour, his DVD, his book, and his exclusive Insomnia t-shirts and stationery – and just how awesome it all was.

Then as DanTDM started taking questions from the audience, I realised why he has been looking to expand his content outside of Minecraft for the past year. The five- to ten-year olds surrounding him would soon grow up and he’d no longer be relevant; so what better way to capitalise on your limited celebrity shelf-life than expanding your repertoire (and merchandise) as widely and as quickly as possible?

But were games such as Who’s Your Daddy? and The Escapists really the right way to go when his audience is so young? Celebrities make comments about how they never signed up to be role-models but unfortunately it’s not that simple: fame comes with side-effects both good and bad, and excuses aren’t adequate dismissals of responsibility. Children may be drawn to his channel for Minecraft videos but could very easily find other content.

Of course it’s down to the parents to monitor their online activity but, as they grabbed the hands of their kids and pulled them towards the exit, I looked around and wondered how closely they did this. Adults should make a point of knowing what their children are playing but PEGI ratings are often misunderstood or ignored; so it was with dismay that I realised the vetting of YouTube videos probably wouldn’t be much different.

As we managed to battle our way outside the hall I counted myself lucky. I had a stepson who understands that not everything online is suitable; who’s willing to talk to us about what he should and shouldn’t be playing; and who’s aware that not all of DanTDM’s content is suitable despite how much he adores him. I wondered to myself how long this would continue with his teenage years fast approaching, but realised the only thing to do was continue trying to be the best step-parent I could.

Insomnia, video games, DanTDM

There was however the benefit of Ethan now seeing DanTDM as a ‘real person’. Instead of the heavily-edited and exaggerated celebrity in his videos who achieves everything first time, he was a gamer who makes mistakes like the rest of us and died several times while playing a level of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy live on stage. Maybe now my stepson would start to realise there’s no need for him to be a ‘perfect gamer’ and to simply enjoy video games for what they are.

And with that, we forgot about DanTDM and his merchandise for a while. The rest of Insomnia 61 was waiting for us.