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No, we’re not talking about GamerGate, because I’ve said I’m not talking about that. And oddly enough, we’re not talking about traditional games websites either, because I don’t go to them, and don’t really care what they do. When I talk about games media, chances are I’m talking about the youtube sector, because they’re the ones that are relevant, and they’re the ones that people don’t already have sufficient skepticism of. Specifically, today on The Anime Harvest, why I can’t enjoy ProJared’s Stairs play through.

Now I want to make this abundantly clear right away. I am not mad at ProJared, I do not have anything against him, and I do not have any evidence they he’s done anything wrong. That being said…

YouTube has really blown up in the past several years as a place where gamers who can appeal to some particular audience can earn a living, in many cases a prosperous one, simply doing something they enjoy. Some have used it as supplementary income alongside a more stable job, other have managed to make it a full time careers, and still others have become exorbitantly wealthy through it. I’m not here to talk down on anybody for doing it, or say that it’s easy or they’re lazy and should get a “real” job. I’ve never done it, nor do I know in detail the experience of anyone who has. That being said…

There was a time when if you said, “someday people will be able to make money uploading videos to youtube,” people would laugh and say, “right, what’s next? The world is actually round?” But despite the lack of financial compensation, some people still made YouTube content as a hobby. When the website gave them the option to make some money off their work, it’s perfectly understandable that they would accept. However, that opened the flood gates.

Now that YouTube was a job rather than a hobby, tons of people went and are still going there for work. I’m not so cynical as to say they’re all just looking for money -there are more profitable ventures-, but it’s fairly intuitive that the more perks something has, the more people will be interested in it.

But suddenly, there are content creators out there who have their livelihood staked on their channel. It’s a risky business, and for most people not extremely profitable. But it is influential. People trust YouTubers more than traditional games media, because they’re a single person, a fellow gamer, they have a face.

So, it’s not surprising games marketing departments stepped in. To industry, these YouTubers offer some of the most effective PR, and to the YouTube, doing paid promotional ads are an effective way to make their business more stable and profitable. I get why it happens. That being said…

The internet, and particularly YouTube, is not well regulated to handle this type of business, and content creators have demonstrated that they’re not responsible enough to self-regulate. Corporations don’t like their ads to come off as ads. People know when they’re being advertised to, and are able to, to some degree, filter that shit out. So, taking advantage of the lack of regulation on YouTube, advertisers pay for promotions that don’t look like paid promotions.

An example I always think back to is the Shadow of Mordor thing from a few months ago, where, unless you went out of your way to expand and check the video description, you wouldn’t have known was paid for. But there are plenty of instances where it’s not even disclaimed in the description, though generally not for big titles or on a large scale because big name developers aren’t quite stupid enough to take that risk.

This brings us back to ProJared and Stairs. Stairs in an indie horror game, currently in alpha and attempting to crowd fund via Kickstarter. I know all this from watching the first episode ProJared’s walkthrough of demo the developer sent to him. The episode is titled, “THE NEXT BIG HORROR GAME”. In it Projared, who generally is not impressed by horror games, gives generally positive commentary of the game, with little to no specific criticism. In the description of the video I found the first line, “I swear, this WILL be the next ‘big horror game’ that every YouTuber is playing!”, followed by a link to the game’s Kickstarter page. What I did not find is a disclaimer saying that the video was a paid promotion for the game.

Now, I do not believe ProJared was paid, in anyway, by the developer of Stairs, to promote the game. I do not believe anything he says in the video is anything less than his honest opinion. That being said…

For my own safety, as a consumer, I cannot trust his video.

This is sad because, if ProJared is honest, and was not paid to promote the game, he’s done nothing wrong. In fact, he’s probably done everything right. Find a struggling game/dev with potential, help them out by sharing their game, get another good dev and game into the industry. But, through no fault of either myself or him, I cannot just trust him.

Over the last year I have had to stop following several YouTube gaming content creators who I thought I could trust, because of evidence that they made undisclosed paid promotional content. They lied to me and all their other fans, convinced us to spend our money on games that, had we not been lied to, would not have bought, and then took a cut of the profits. I will damn well be skeptical of YouTube content after that. And it sucks that my skepticism means honest YouTubers are made victims of this stuff too.

Don’t Lose Your Way