How I Got Here III - Rob Plays That Game
On August 12th of 2012 I kicked off Rob Plays That Game with this lesser known action/adventure game called Sleeping Dogs. It’s still on YouTube, and as of the time of writing this five years later, it’s sitting at just under 1000 views.
While I decided at the time that I was not going to play Minecraft, it only took a month or two before I started to miss seeing my videos get actual views and fell back into playing Minecraft. I had taken a long enough break by this point that I was enjoying the game anyway. I quickly invested $100 into a better microphone and scaled up the channel from one video a week to four videos a week, ranging from let’s plays to iPhone game reviews to Minecraft videos.
I was living with my roommate by this point, and I felt pretty self conscious about talking to myself while recording, so I would typically wake up an extra hour before I had to leave for work and would record while he wasn’t home. Then when I’d get home from work at night I’d get to editing. It was tiring, but again, it was fun and satisfying in a way I had never experienced before. This time it was even more so, because it was my channel, not some company’s.
One week early on I was really not in the mood to play Minecraft, and I was feeling particularly psyched for an upcoming trip to Disney World. I just wanted to talk to someone about it, and so I figured I could cleverly kill two birds with one stone by doing it in a Minecraft video. There was a server for the game called MC Magic, which was known for its near 1:1 scale recreation of all of the theme parks in Walt Disney World, complete with working rides. So I hopped onto the server to record it and show off what it had to offer while also talking about what little facts and tidbits I knew about the parks.
It ended up doing really well (for a channel of that size), and so I quickly did a few more videos in which I visited the other parks and covered what I knew about their history. When I had finished all of them, I figured the fun was over and I’d go back to normal Minecraft videos and more gaming videos.
What I noticed though was that a lot of viewers were asking for me to go back and cover specific rides I had overlooked in the videos and talk about them. That’s when the little corner of my mind that was indoctrinated at Howcast took over. The part that demanded more videos, no matter what. What if I did a separate video for each ride at the parks? The long list of rides at Disney meant that I’d have content to put up for at least a year, and splitting them into separate videos would mean I’d have the time to go in-depth into each ride.
So I kicked off the Minecraft Disney World series and with that my channel began to grow. Over the next four years the channel would slowly accumulate more subscribers while it suffered a self-imposed identity crisis. I was still making video game and Minecraft content, but more and more the Disney side of things would grow.
Looking back I think I was just greedy. I saw that there was this audience for Disney content, and I saw that audience for gaming content was massive, and I had decided that I was going to be able to win both audiences and make both types of content while still juggling a full-time day job, relationships, and some semblance of a social life.
It turns out that I could not.
The social life part of that was on and off. There were months over that four year span where I literally did nothing but work at work and work on the channel. Often times I would get home from work at around 7pm and go right into working on videos until midnight. Sleep. Wake up. Repeat. I don’t regret it though. At that point in the channel I was so dedicated to the grind that I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. It was that same sense of purpose that I felt back when we did the first Howcast walkthrough.
Unfortunately from a YouTube perspective, my greedy outlook of trying to tackle both types of content to win both audiences was a terrible idea. Without getting too technical, part of what YouTube uses to determine how much it’s going to promote your videos is how much of your subscriber base is regularly watching your content. The more they do, the more YouTube throws views your way.
With two wildly different audiences, gaming and Disney, it pretty much assured that with every video I put up at least half of my audience wouldn’t care. Starting at that 50% mark was doing me no favors. I tried to run a second channel for awhile, Rob Plays Those Games, but the issue there is that each channel’s audience then expects the regularity of content. The fact that I have a second channel to juggle doesn’t matter. As difficult as it was to cover both my life and the channel, covering my life and two channels would be even worse. So after about a year or so the second channel went dormant.
Then, a little over a year ago, I decided to finally bite the bullet and commit to one audience. I got tired of making videos I wasn’t proud of because I didn’t have the time to focus on quality. I got tired of seeing these concepts fall flat because half of my audience just didn’t care about the topic to begin with. I ultimately got tired of being mediocre in multiple fields when I really wanted to be great at one. I also just kept looking to big popular channels and noticed that you don’t really see these wide variety channels get huge. They usually stick to one format or hook and go with it.
So I commited to Disney content and decided that I wasn’t going to make gaming videos anymore. I cut back to three videos a week, and just kept laser focus on getting good at the one passion. To my surprise, it started to work. Views weren’t exploding or anything, but after a year-long slump in views and a near stop on growth (~40 subscribers a month) I started to see things turn around. I finally hit 15,000 subscribers, and more importantly I was becoming more proud of the content I was making.
Around six months later I experimented with a format that I can now say changed my life. After becoming a big fan of the YouTuber, Tom Scott, I decided that I wanted to try and make content similar to his, but through the lens of Disney fandom. If you haven’t seen any of his videos, you should check them out. He travels to various interesting places around the world and tells their story in short 4-6 minute videos. They were digestible, they were interesting, and self contained enough that you could share it with nearly anyone.
I tried to make a couple of videos in a similar style with regards to Disney park history. I’d speak into the camera and tell a very specific story. It wouldn’t be an entire history of a ride or event, just a short and easy anecdote. They’d be scripted so that I could make sure I stayed on point. While I would have to use B-Roll from the parks for most of them, the series I would kick off with would actually be one I could film on location. It was a four video series on the four Disney attractions at the New York World’s Fair in Queens. Luckily I live in Queens, so all it took was short drive on a snowy weekend afternoon. I’m so thankful for that snow.
My original plan was to just straight-up rip-off Tom Scott. I’d stand in the location or walk around a bit and tell the story I had written, and occasionally intercut some b-roll of the location. It was going to be just like his videos. However the heavy snowfall and the cold that came with it made shooting miserable that day. Kat was already doing me enough of a favor by coming out with me to record, and I worried about the camera getting too wet.
So rather than shooting all four videos, we only shot two, and rather than recording the entire videos, I only shot a few paragraphs of the script. I decided I would just narrate the rest at home and put it up against b-roll from the actual fair. Shooting another day was out of the question because we had an upcoming trip and time was tight.
The end result was the format I mostly still follow today. I liked the video so much that when we returned the following weekend to record the other two, I kept the same setup going. So I set up those four videos and when they went live they performed… alright. I mean, they didn’t do poorly, but they didn’t do any better than my usual lineup.
I didn’t care though. I was sold on the format from the moment that first video was finished. It was fun to research and write. It was fun to film and edit. Most importantly, I was so proud of them. After years of more or less putting up videos that I needed to put up for time reasons, I was finally making content that I was proud of. Even today, while I can see plenty of areas with room for improvement, I’m still proud of them.
I’d continue on with the format for the following few months, trying to get a new video out every week or every other week. They were in addition to my normal videos, so for a while there my social life took a bit of a hit.
Then I would take a trip to Disney with Kat and Christine, where I would find myself experiencing two important moments at almost the same time.