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I still find it hard to believe that I was 15 years old when I released my first video on YouTube under the name ‘will173.’
When I was introduced to YouTube earlier in the year, I had no idea how much the platform was going to grow. I knew that it was gaining in popularity, but at the same time, my 15-year old mindset could not possibly comprehend it’s potential reach.
I had yet to join Facebook, and Twitter hadn’t even reached the masses, so in reality, YouTube was the first real platform I was exposed to that I could truly reach out and touch the world with my content.
I spent the better part of the summer of 2006 watching videos. There were tons and tons of AMVs, which drew my eye. These videos were music-video style with songs playing behind a montage of video clips or screenshots; a number of my early videos, including the ‘Silent Hill 4 ‘Only’ video and ‘An Eggman Solo Debut‘, were just ideas that had come to me that I just wanted to get out there without fear of judgment or ridicule. I look back at some of those early videos now, even I cringe a little bit, but at the same time, I’m proud of the effort I had at least put in to some of those videos.
One series that I feel stands above all else was my “Kingdom Hearts: The LOL Parodies” video series. I was largely inspired by another similar series aptly called Kingdom Hearts on Crack, which at the time I thought were hilarious. One day I thought…well hey, I can do this! So ahead I went, downloading every last cutscene from Kingdom Hearts 2 and every hilarious audio file I could find, and I pushed forward with my own series.
And for a while, I actually garnered a small following. I remember seeing people who would come back for every episode, provide critiques, quote their favourite bits from the episode, and even beg for more and more. The LOL Parodies ran for 9 episodes, and that’s when I decided to stop. It wasn’t necessarily that I had run out of energy, but I ran out of audio clips, and I genuinely could not imagine going through the hassle of downloading another batch of files. I do remember people leaving comments on my Finale video, asking for more, wishing I didn’t have to stop. It was very sweet, but still, I didn’t fully understand how important that core group of followers could have been to my overall fan base in the early days of YouTube.
Again, this goes back to not really knowing what was to come for the video streaming service. Some of the bigger players today like PewDiePie, JonTron, Game Grumps, Markiplier, they didn’t hit the platform until years later, so I often wonder if I had just continued to stick it out and make videos…could I be farther ahead in my career on YouTube? I guess I’ll never know.
Between my last video in 2007, which was a Super Smash Bros Character Montage, to my return three years later in 2010, YouTube continued to grow and grow. More and more players joined the table, and so audiences scattered to new lands, as more and more rising stars clouded the platform. I happened to be pushing through a high school breakup and entering my first year of college when I decided to re-brand the channel as ‘Will173 Productions.’ However, the channel carried no general focus. The best way to describe it would be throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks.
I wanted to be able to record video game let’s plays, but I didn’t have the technology capable enough to run it properly. So instead, I recorded more video blogs, video reviews and the occasional short, oftentimes accompanied by my brother Carter, or in some cases, talking animals. Any video game footage I did record, it was recorded through my Sony handycam. Some of these videos still garnered pretty impressive hits, but they stand no chance against somebody like the Angry Video Game Nerd, who mostly likely recorded a lot of his gameplay through a Hauppauge PVR.
I ran Will173 for a good year and a half, until the new year of 2012 when I decided I didn’t want to run solo anymore.
In my second year of college, I started a new channel with my best friends Anthony, Chris and brother Carter, under the name ‘GTA Gamers.’ I created a website through WordPress, and we officially launched the Stardust Drive Podcast on February 15th, 2012.
GTA Gamers was modeled after 4PlayerPodcast, whom in the early days were heavily into written news, reviews and feature articles from guest contributors, as well as maintaining a weekly video podcast. I wanted us to model ourselves after them.
For a little while at the beginning, we had a consistent posting schedule. We would release one podcast per month covering big topics and discussions from that month, and on the website, we would post news, reviews and the occasional feature. Oftentimes, I would push my contributors to assist me in publishing more content, but ultimately, the drive just wasn’t there, and so the content began to suffer for it.
GTA Gamers shifted away from news and reviews to focusing on the podcast as well as additional video content driven by myself and Carter. This included podcast highlights, video blogs, gaming content, and live-action shorts.
In 2013, we dropped the GTA Gamers name, officially re-branding as ‘Stardust Drive Productions‘, and we attempted to shape the channel as a ‘mini-Rooster Teeth,’ producing new shows, just without the consistent schedule.
From this, shows like the Comic Soup Podcast, Cooking with Will, and Unexpected Pleasures were born. These are projects I am still proud of to this day. As the years progressed, shows dwindled, and new shows would be produced. In the last two years, we produced three more successful runs with series such as the Year of Goosebumps, BreakDown and Poor Man’s Gaming.
However, once I moved to Milton in 2015, it became much, much harder to keep working on some of these shows. As somebody who was the sole producer of a lot of the content that went up on Stardust Drive, the channel began to suffer as I took the next step into adulthood. This included paying rent, commuting to Toronto for work, and taking on a second job. I had no time and no energy to want to make videos, especially when the reality had set in that my heart was just not in it the same way as it was several years prior.
Fast forward to August 2016. I stepped away from YouTube at the end of the summer to focus on a new job I had started, and waited until October to tell people I had taken a hiatus from making videos.
This brings me today: where do I want to go in 2017?
I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Game Grumps video game compilations and Rooster Teeth podcast compilations that I’ve practically convinced myself I need to return to making videos.
While I don’t feel like I’m ready to fully commit to making video productions to the scope of Cooking with Will or Year of Goosebumps, I really do have this urge to return to podcasting, which I feel was my proudest achievement in my 10 years on YouTube.
I’m proud of a lot of the things I have accomplished over the course of 10 years. I’ve tried so many things, produced over 600 videos across my two channels, and was able to host and produce a hilarious and semi-informative podcast with my best friends.
I do want to make writing a prime focus in the new year, and that’s part of the reason why I’m giving such a long winded post. I do miss the journalism aspect that was brought to the early days of GTA Gamers, and I want to bring that here to The Outbreak, along with podcasting on a monthly or biweekly basis.
I do want to thank my family and friends who have not only supported the content I’ve produced over the last 10 years, but have also taken part in some of the content. There’s too many people to name, but I think you all know who you are, and I hope you will continue to support me for another 10 years and beyond!