EGX 2019: the trouble with creators

So many people want to be creators. Whether that involves publishing videos on YouTube, hosting streams on Twitch or making the next ‘indie darling’ video game, they want to pursue such a career path and even see it leading to them becoming an online celebrity.

It can be done. If you’re in the right place at the right time, own an idea or personality that captures the imagination of viewers and players, and have a sprinkling of luck on your side, you can make it big. We’ve heard stories this year of streamers restyling themselves and being paid undisclosed amounts (and therefore obviously huge) to jump from one platform to another; and game developers hitting the limelight with their first game when their only previous experience was creating hacks back in high-school.

It’s a difficult career to get into though. Online platforms nowadays are so oversaturated with creators of all types who want to be noticed, that it’s hard to be exactly that. You can spend every day making new content, putting your heart and soul into every piece of work, and still not attract a following after years of graft. It’s easy to understand how people in this line of work feel it’s important to take every single opportunity to promote yourself and make your voice heard, although that sentiment isn’t something I necessarily agree with.

While at EGX last week, my other-half and I were waiting at a stand to try a demo that had caught his attention in the Rezzed zone. Someone approached and began to talk to the developer – a normal occurrence at this expo, as one of the great things about it is having the chance to speak to them about their work in person. However, this guy wasn’t interested in hearing about the project or playing the demo for himself; all he wanted to do was hand over his business card and talk about his own game before walking off.

It came across as rude. It made me feel as though little respect was given to this developer who’d put effort into getting his game ready for the show, paid the money for a stand, made the journey to the ExCeL centre in London and then was prepared to be on his feet for four days straight. While the guy could be given a few points for having the confidence to approach and talk about himself, the way in which it was done left a sour taste in my mouth – and a confused look on the developer’s face.

I’m sorry to say this wasn’t the only example of such behaviour we saw last week. There was the YouTuber and his group who made a loud entrance at the Leftfield Collection because he wanted everyone to know he was filming a new video. There was the influencer who was scheduled to talk about gaming culture and what we can do to make it a more welcoming community, who seemed more interested in promoting her business and hinting she should be paid for her time. And there were others too, more than enough to dedicate a post to.

EGX should be a place where everyone with a love of gaming can come together to not only find out about upcoming releases, but also to celebrate the creativity of developers. In previous years, one of the highlights of the event was the atmosphere and the buzz of knowing you were sounded by thousands of other with the same interests as you. Sure, there was always a certain level of see-and-be-seen behaviour but it was less direct and came from a minority: most attendees simply wanted to play the demos on display and talk to the people behind them.

I’m not sure when it became acceptable to disregard the product in front of you, the product of someone else’s hard work, in favour of your own project. Or ignore the shared interests of the fellow attendees around you because you see your personal brand as more exciting; or push your merchandise to a crowd who actually thought you were going to share your expertise on a subject. The atmosphere at EGX is changing from being one of shared interests to self-promotion, and there’s a danger of it losing what made it special.

Perhaps such behaviour is caused by creators setting themselves the wrong goals or losing sight of what’s important. Create because you love making something and want to share your content with the world; not because it’s a career that will bring you attention along with the potential of money and fame. Once you lose your interest in the work of others and the curiosity which drives you to find out where there ideas came from and what makes them tick, your own work will lose its heart.

What does this mean for next year’s Rezzed? It will certainly be interesting to see whether the same behaviour spills over into this sister-expo and if its atmosphere changes as a result. The best piece of advice I can offer any creator due to event is this: stay curious, be respectful of others’ work and interests, and don’t be a dick.

Same old story: video games and replayability

Last month I asked readers how they felt about character-switching in video games. Do you enjoy seeing a digital world through the eyes of multiple protagonists? After playing The Little Acre and changing characters every five minutes, I was reminded of exactly why I don’t.

This month I’ve got another question for you: do you immediately replay releases you’ve just completed to make different choices or see other endings? The reason I ask is because of an article I came across on the website recently with the headline: In the past, YouTubers were very problematic… Suddenly they became our allies. This was about a discussion between Quantic Dream founder David Cage and Hazelight Studios founder Josef Fares at the Gamelab conference in July 2019.

They talked about the impact of platforms such as Twitch and YouTube on games which hang on a strong narrative. A number of developers have stated in the past that too many people will simply watch a release online rather than experience it for themselves; once they know how the story turns out, they no longer feel the need to play. I can’t deny I’ve never done this. There have been a few titles where I’m not so sure about the gameplay but have been interested in the plot, and so I’ve found a video (my version of watching a film).

The struggle to create a narrative game people want to play rather than watch was tackled in different ways by Hazelight Studios and Quantic Dream. The former took a linear story path in A Way Out, but its unique cooperative gameplay had an appeal which caused players to want to try it for themselves This was the case for myself and my other-half: we’d watched a chapter on Twitch before agreeing we should purchase the title. The ending may not have been what we wanted but it was an enjoyable experience overall.

Quantic Dream went in a different direction and created a narrative that couldn’t be easily captured in video form. Their solution was to focus on the situations players faced in Detroit: Become Human and provide choices where the audience was split at least 70/30 in their decision. It meant that although YouTubers and streamers could show one version of the title’s outcomes, they were unable to show them all; so viewers wanted to find out for themselves what would happen if other choices had been made.

Speaking of branches, players are given access to a ‘flowchart’ in Detroit which not only shows the decisions they made but the paths not taken too. This was a change from their previous releases where those alternative paths had remained hidden. Cage said: “Maybe that was not a good decision. Maybe hiding everything from the player is not a good thing. Detroit was a better compromise, because it was about showing part of what you missed, and that played a major role in the success of the game.”

EGX, expo, event, video games, Kim, Detroit: Become Human

He attributes this and the branches throughout his project as the reason why around 78% of players finished it, rather than the 25% to 30% that’s usual for most video games. He also said: “It’s the story. People want to know what’s going to happen next, and a story can achieve this for you. What’s interesting on Detroit is that we managed to make people replay, so they could see all of the different branches – which is quite rare in a narrative game. We achieved this because we showed all of the branches and the variations of the story.”

But if you discount those that can be completed in under an hour, I can’t recall a time I’ve ever replayed a game immediately after finishing it. The version of the narrative I’ve just witnessed is my story and I’m happy with that; I’ve never felt the need to go back and change it, even if I got the ‘bad’ ending. I might reload the last save-point if it’s right near the end and won’t take too much time or effort to see the alternate outcome, but it doesn’t feel right to use my free hours to restart a story when there are so many new ones to jump into.

Saying that though, I haven’t yet gotten around to playing Detroit so it’s always possible the branching flowchart could change my mind. I had the opportunity to try a demo at EGX in September 2017, purchased it soon after its release in May 2018 and installed the game on my PlayStation, but it’s still waiting there for me. Perhaps this is a good excuse to schedule another stream: let’s get something organised for this month, and see live on air whether I’m tempted by the prospect of entering into another playthrough.

In the meantime, over to you: do you immediately replay video games? If so, what elements of a title encourage you to do this? Let us know in the comments below, or in your own post if you’re inspired to write.

Blogging negativity: is my anger holding me back?

Last month I came across a post in my WordPress reader called Your Jealously is Showing. This was written in response to an article by Ian Sherr published on the CNET website on 06 June 2019. In Meet the angry gaming YouTubers who turn outrage into videos, the author discusses how content creators are using anger to increase their views and influence across the platform.

There was nothing particularly surprising about this event: I browse through posts while on my morning commute and regularly come across those arguing against a claim made by a journalist. I admit I’ve even written such articles myself occasionally. But there was something about these two that made me uncomfortable. For the past few weeks since reading them, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the online community, where my own blog fits into it and whether my own anger is holding me back.

Meet the angry gaming YouTubers who turn outrage into views, CNET

The CNET article mentioned above does have a point. Sherr wrote: “Now the gaming community is manufacturing outrage videos. If you’re trawling for game news on YouTube, anger is becoming the only emotion you’ll experience in your recommended feed.” The platform is an economy built around attention and participants are rewarded for viewer engagement with ad revenue. We’re hard-wired to be attracted to drama, and so it therefore tends to be the subjects that fuel fear and frustration which generate more clicks.

However, I didn’t see too much of this widespread negativity when I opened up YouTube’s gaming channel as a test while drafting this post. But what I was greeted with instead wasn’t much more welcoming: an onslaught of brightly-coloured thumbnails covered in exclamation marks and capitalised titles quickly reminded why I don’t often visit the site. Each video tries to shout louder than its neighbours in a clamour to get noticed and the result is a place where it’s difficult for me to feel at ease.

Even WordPress has become more like this in recent years. The reader used to be somewhere you could go to find bloggers’ unique thoughts on their hobby or stories about special gaming experiences, but now it’s full of the same news headlines repeated over and over (E3 recently hasn’t helped). Developments in the industry are regularly met with outrage and discussed using expletives in posts often designed to be controversial – one of the reasons why I’ve chosen not to provide a link to the site mentioned at the start of this piece.

It’s said that negativity breeds negativity. That event last month has made me realise that this pessimism is starting to spill over into my own work and it’s now habit to reach for the keyboard when I’ve seen something that angers me. Sure, I’ll always try to trace the original sources and see the data behind news reports for myself; but this type of post is becoming too easy to write while more light-hearted and optimistic pieces are beginning to get more difficult. And that’s kind of scary.

I make a point of trying to promote bloggers who themselves promote positivity, sharing their work on social media to help spread the word. So if I can do that then why am I not being more positive myself? I’ve come to understand this year that my anxiety comes to the forefront when I feel as though a situation isn’t changing regardless of how hard I’m working to make it so. When that sense of going around in circles comes about, the negativity starts to bubble up and my reaction to the world around me twists into something cynical.

That’s no good at all. It’s not going to help bring about change and the only effect it has is making me feel even worse. In Sherr’s article, a longtime YouTuber told the journalist that we now ‘have a whole generation of kids who were raised on negativity’ who are trying to become the next generation of gaming commentators. I have to stop myself from being a part of that cycle. It might sound idealistic but I want Later Levels to be a place where everyone feels welcome and the benefits of gaming are shouted about. There’s got to be a way forward to make that happen.

Unfortunately this post doesn’t contain the answers and it’s something I need to think about further. But what I do know is that from this point forward I need to put more thought into the subject of each post and what ends up being published here. If it’s not something that’s going to enhance discussion, help the community or make its members feel good about themselves and their group, then really: is there any point in writing it? It’s an area I have control over that provides chance to stop the circle of negativity.

The planning for the next GameBlast will begin this week and that’s helping me stay motivated about this insight. Gaming can have so many great benefits and everyone deserves to be able to play, so what better place to start the change than with an event which promotes such positive thinking. Thank you for letting me get this off my chest, dear readers – I promise you’ll see a lighter, brighter Later Levels very soon.

KSI vs Logan Paul: leave us out of it

Dear KSI and Logan Paul,

I came across an article by Senior Tech Reporter Shona Ghosh recently when it was published on the Business Insider website at the end of July. News about online celebrities doesn’t particularly interest me but it was the author’s abstract which caught my attention in this case: “YouTuber Logan Paul called out KSI for his ‘disgusting’ remarks about women, and it’s a sign their pre-fight trash talk is going too far.”

It was this post which informed me about your upcoming boxing match in Manchester and I wondered how this whole thing had come about. Ghosh had kindly provided several links to other articles, which in turn led me to videos and other sources, and for several hours I was lost in the digital rabbit-hole that is the internet. But even after all that effort I was still no closer to finding out the real reason why the fight had been instigated.

You know what though? It really doesn’t matter, because during that time I gave up trying to find any sense or even truth in those daily vlogs you put out where you take verbal potshots at each other. It’s clear you’re living through one manufactured drama after another and all those videos are unbelievable, immature and draining to watch. You both act like ill-behaved, foul-mouthed children then throw tantrums when you’re referred to as such.

Don’t get me wrong: I completely understand this is a way to drum up interest in your boxing match, bring in new followers and create an additional income stream before you become irrelevant and fade into obscurity. And damn if physical tickets going for up to £516, along with a joint pay-per-view channel at £6 a go, aren’t going to be eagerly lapped up by your millions of followers and make a huge increase in your bank balance!

You know what they say though: money can’t buy you happiness. It certainly can’t bring you intelligence either and that’s kind of what I wanted to talk to you guys about today. Intelligence, honesty, empathy and other ‘sensitive’ words you may need to check out in a dictionary before we continue in order to make this conversation easier. I’ll tell you what, why don’t we take a break while you go do that and we’ll meet back here in 10 minutes?


Ready? Ok KSI: we’re going to start with you, as there are a couple of statements you’ve made recently that I’d like to draw your attention to. In a video published on 27 June 2018 entitled Reacting to Logan Paul fan cringe, you spoke directly to your opponent’s girlfriend about what would happen to the intimate side of their relationship after your fight takes place at the end of the month:

How’s he going to go down on you with a busted lip? I’m sorry Chloe but, after the 25th August, Logan’s going to have to f**k you like a prostitute if you know what I mean, huh? No no no, no kissing today aha! But hey, Chloe, you can always join the Wakanda side. You know what they say, we do it forever.

This was followed by a press conference on 18 July 2018 at which you made a challenge to Logan, once again involving Chloe. I feel it’s necessary to also point out here that this was after you’d jumped up and down on stage in front of the crowd, waving your arms in the air and encouraging your supporters to chant ‘She’s a ho!’ more than a few times:

So, why don’t you introduce me to her? Huh? Apparently you only have 85% of your testicle. Let me give her the other the extra [15%]. Let me show her a real man.

So are we to assume you believe these are the sort of comments about women that a ‘real man’ would make? It seems you’ve learnt nothing since that big mess back in October 2012. As if going to a gaming expo in London to sexually-harass the females there on camera wasn’t bad enough, you actually believed turning the resulting footage into a ‘hilarious’ video for your channel would be a good idea. It’s just idiotic and embarrassing.

Well… not as embarrassing as subsequently getting dropped by Microsoft and receiving a lifetime ban from the EGX event. Or as being seen hanging around the tube station opposite the expo when it took place the following year so you could get some attention (yeah, I saw you). Or as having your manager issue a statement about ‘moving away from any unfortunate content’ in November 2013 and then completely disregarding it.


Hey Logan, it’s your turn now. You’re not completely innocent either and this isn’t even about what happened in Japan in January (although that’s on the same level of idiocy as shown by KSI). You may have admitted being guilty of the objectification of women in the past, referring to your song No Handlebars in a video published on 28 July 2018, but there’s no getting away from some of the things that happened on the set for the music video.

Did you ever think about how the girls involved would feel when you abruptly announced you wanted them to form a ‘human bicycle’ so you could ‘ride them’? If not, you might want to take a look at this article on the Psychology Today website from March this year. It seems as though model Eliza Johnson wasn’t as happy with the end result as you were or how it left her feeling:

I definitely became uncomfortable when [Logan] wanted to just get on my back like that, because it’s rare that you’re on set and they just throw something at you… I felt kind of abused. Of course, I felt ashamed, and when something like this happens and we kind of become victimised, we don’t really realize it, we want to just block it out, or say maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s not happening. It’s a very confusing type of thing to experience.

But all of that’s excused because you repented for your sins on camera, right? If only it were that easy. You’re now trying to position yourself as some kind of knight-in-shining-armour for women everywhere, deleting the music video above and issuing statements to KSI like the following (before telling him he’s getting ‘too caught up in the media, the money, the views’ and then immediately promoting your pay-per-view channel):

My girl is not an object. She is a real life human being, not a girl who gets passed around to the dude with more ball percentage… This year I’m learning from my mistakes and honestly [KSI], the point is that you haven’t for six years. So please, stop objectifying women, especially my girlfriend.


Guys: let’s get this straight right now.

Women aren’t there for you to use when you need some ammunition to throw at your opponent. You’re really showing your lack of intelligence and creativity if the only comeback you can think of involves the sexual compromise of their partner or another female relation. We’re not objects to be utilised when you want to cause hurt or humiliation – and there’s a very good chance we wouldn’t be interested in you ‘proving yourself to be a man’ anyway.

We’re also not there for you to use when you want to be the champion to your opponent’s villain. Females have had a difficult time in the past in terms of achieving equality and, even though there’s still a way to go, we didn’t get to where we are in 2018 by needing you to rescue us. Promote the requirement for equal rights, support the cause, treat every person with respect regardless of their gender; but don’t use us to make yourself look good on camera.

It’s this sort of behaviour – the manufactured drama, the egos, the disrespect – that sums up everything I dislike about YouTube culture. And the worst of it is that your young viewers are seeing you behave in a terrible way they then think is acceptable. Don’t give me any rubbish about not signing up to be a role-model; you wanted fame, which comes with side effects both good and bad, and excuses aren’t adequate dismissals of responsibility.

You two boys are as bad as each other. Continue your feud and your stupid boxing match if you must, but please: focus on each other and leave the rest of us out of it.

Yours sincerely,


Checkpoint: a letter to Ethan

Dear Ethan,

You’ve probably got your head stuck in another Minecraft video right now, so I need you to tear yourself away from YouTube for a few minutes. I promise this won’t take long and then you can get back to what you were watching – just one final video before cleaning your bedroom, ok? I know you’re rolling your ten-year old eyes at me while reading this but you know the deal: chores equal pocket-money.

You and your dad are my world, I’ve told you that often enough. You make being a stepmum more easy than I deserve but sometimes, it’s more difficult than you’ll ever understand. It’s so hard to watch you feel the need to compare yourself to everyone around you and see you crushed when you consider yourself lacking; then even harder to hear you say you don’t believe us when we tell you just how awesome you are.

There are so many amazing things about you and maybe me putting them into words for all the world to see will finally convince you of them. I know part of you will blush and moan at me for being ’embarrassing’ but hopefully the other part will forgive me, and finally start to realise what makes you so special. I’m willing to take that risk.

Rezzed, video games, gaming, expo, Ethan

One area you should never compare yourself to others in is imagination. You’re more imaginative than anyone I’ve ever known and you’ve been making up your own stories since the day we first met. Remember how we were supposed to go to the supermarket to buy supplies for a picnic, but instead you had me running around the aisles with you while hiding from your dad? We were the brave soldiers and he was the enemy. He wasn’t best pleased when he finally found us hiding underneath rack of dresses in the clothing section, but it was kind of funny.

Now you’re getting older, you’re starting to make up plots for video games and keep your ideas for them in your notebook – and I appreciate the fact you’ve added a particular character to some of them, a female protagonist who’s clever and kicks butt at the same time. Maybe one day we can sit down together to write a post about all your plans and share them with everyone.

Those worlds exist inside your head only. Nobody else can create the stories you do or send us on the wild adventures you come up with. Don’t ever change and let that spark die because I tell you what, kid: it’s going to take you to all sorts of wonderful places when you get older.

Insomnia, video games, Ethan, Kim

Stop comparing yourself to those you watch on YouTube and getting frustrated when you can’t complete a game as quickly as they appear to do. Stop worrying when your friends at school tell you they’re better gamers and you’re so far behind them. Those YouTubers edit their videos but they can’t edit real life; and it’s highly likely your friends are fibbing when they shout about how great they are. (Also, if they really are playing Call of Duty at the age of ten, someone needs to have an urgent word with their parents and tell them they need to spend more time with their kids).

Video games are meant to be fun and we each play for all sorts of reasons – winning is only a small part of it. Your dad plays because he likes exploring every part of a game and looking for secret objects and trophies. I like getting wrapped up in the stories and trying to figure out what’s going to happen next. And you, I know you like pretending to be the characters and making them a part of your next plot. In fact, most people I know enjoy video games for reasons other than winning – maybe I’ll share them in another letter to you soon.

I know it’s hard but try to push all those doubts to one side and just keep being you. Keep playing video games, keep having fun, and keep creating your fantastical stories. Your dad and I think you’re awesome just the way we are, and the world wouldn’t be as bright a place without your wonderful imagination.

We’re proud of you.

All my love,

Your stepmum   x

Storm in a tea-Cuphead

At the end of August, I published a post about an experience we’d had with my stepson recently. He’d become agitated during a session of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, so much so we had to pull the controller away from him; and he revealed his frustration was coming from the fact he’d seen YouTubers complete it much faster than he was able to.

This got me wondering about the effect gameplay videos have on both our kids and ourselves. Do they have the potential to turn gaming from a hobby into something which is only fun if you’re succeeding, and pile on the pressure to complete a title without any fails? If that’s the case, it then follows that it could end up being easier to watch someone else play a game than attempt it yourself – and that sucks.

Shelby from Falcon Game Reviews left the following insightful comment on the post: “YouTube doesn’t make it any easier, that’s for sure. I know that while looking at my own streams, I’ve been tempted to cut footage that made me look like a fool before uploading it. Even on my normal videos I’m constantly debating what to cut and keep because I don’t like how it turned out.”

Little did we realise how timely our conversation was. A few days earlier on 24 August 2017, VentureBeat lead writer Dean Takahashi published a video of himself playing Cuphead at the Gamescom expo in Germany. Then just over a week later on 02 September 2017, gamers all over the world were calling for him to hand in his notice and questioning just how good a gamer you need to be in order to legitimately review video games.

So what happened?

In Takahashi’s own words: “I played the tutorial so ineptly – failing to read the onscreen instructions to jump and dash simultaneously – and then went on, failing to conquer a single level.” It’s fair to say he struggled with the title: he floundered in jumping and dashing to a high platform in the opening section; bumped into enemies running towards him once he got into the actual game; and then fell down a hole to his death.

The Daily Caller journalist Ian Miles Cheong then decided to highlight a section of the video and attach this to the following tweet: “Game journalists are incredibly bad at video games. It’s painful to watch this. How do they think they’re qualified to write about games?” His message has since received around 1,500 replies covering not only Takahashi’s lack of skill, but condemnation of video game journalism as a whole.

In a follow-up article on VentureBeat on 08 September 2017, Takahashi wrote: “Before [Cheong] got to it, my video had maybe 10,000 views. Afterward, the Gamergaters, or hard reactionaries – or whatever we would like to call them – believed this narrative fit into their views about game journalists just fine. They called for my head. They said I should f**k myself. I should be fired. I had brain damage. I was retarded. I should kill myself.”

Cheong then countered with his own response on The Daily Caller later that day, stating: “Just as sports journalists don’t have to be professional athletes, game journalists don’t have to be esports champions. Such expectations are unreasonable, and the only ones making that claim are game journalists upset that one of their own was made fun of by yours truly earlier this week.”

We’re playing video games, not ping-pong

So whose side am I on? You know what: it’s actually not important. What I instead want to bring attention to is this pointless game of ‘ping-pong’ which takes place each time a new controversy raises its ugly head within the gaming industry. Both sides call the other out for damaging video game journalism – and all they succeed in doing is making the entire community look stupid. For example:

  • Round one: Takahashi publishes a video of himself playing Cuphead badly in what was, in his own words, a post which was ‘intended to be funny’ and ‘not a serious review’. Cheong then posts a delayed reaction over a week later by tweeting this evidence that game journalists are bad at video games, and therefore should think they’re qualified to write about them.
  • Round two: Takahashi responds in an article and drags up past controversies with his claim he was used to ‘condemn all game journalists, raising the smouldering issues around Gamergate and its focus on gaming journalism ethics’. In return, Cheong publishes his own post stating that ‘facts aren’t [Takahashi’s] forte’ and complains he’s now being painted as a cyberbully.
  • Round three: popular YouTubers jump into the fray, declaring that game journalists watch their videos rather than playing the titles themselves; and their ‘lack of a basic level of competence’ means they’re ‘misrepresenting the game badly which is an actively harmful level of incompetence’. Once again, forums such as Twitter and Reddit become awash with hurtful comments and cries of ‘but it’s about ethics!’

    Video games are meant to be fun

    Video games are supposed to be enjoyable, yet I can’t see how situations like this – this constant tit-for-tat and all the vitriol that goes along with it – are anything of the sort. An open discussion about professional standards within the industry we love isn’t a bad thing and is actually welcomed; but when we allow it to escalate to such harmful levels, how is that in any way professional?

    It’s not the titles, their genres or the skill level of the people playing them that are the problem. It’s our own attitudes, lack of tolerance towards other and desire to take the humour out of our gaming failures that are the real issue here. Instead of creating ‘an environment that looks down on players who don’t conquer content at its penultimate challenge levels‘, we should allow everyone to play games in a way that makes them enjoyable for them (thanks Shelby).

    So to the games journalists, YouTubers and other professionals: grow up. You should be showing your support for your industry and those within it, not slinging dirt at each other in a war to prove who has the highest ethics and bring in the ratings. To the gamers, bloggers and spectators: stop allowing yourself to be dragged into these controversies. Aim to tear down the walls within our community and be prepared to constructively discuss your views with others.

    And to everyone out there reading this: get a life. In fact, get several. Go play some video games and get back to having some good old fun.