We Play: How YouTube is Creating an Interactive Community

Gaming has, quite obviously, evolved in recent years. Whereas in its earliest, arcade years, video games were about obtain the highest scores, games are now about “the experience.” Games try to incorporate you into their worlds, have you empathize with their characters, and positively change you as a person. Above all, though, games try to be fun or interesting, if not both. Regardless of the game’s goals, if you enjoy playing it, you’ll want to share it. In the past, you’d have to invite a friend over and either swap the controller every few turns or play a multiplayer game. Nowadays, modern consoles, like the Playstation 4, have “Share” functions that allow you to post a screenshot or video to the Internet. Video games are best when the experience of play, whether single-player or multiplayer, is shared. And this is best shown through the interactive community of YouTube.

I started using YouTube back in middle school, when a friend of mine videos that people had made of tracks in a game called Line Rider. I was shocked by the sheer skill that these people had in creating seemingly-impossible tracks. So, using YouTube, I began finding more Line Rider videos. And then more gaming videos. And then random videos. The Related Videos sidebar became a hypertext highway that I could access with my fingertips and a little thought power. I wanted to be a part of this experience. YouTube, and other content creation websites, allowed anyone to make an account and share their content with the world. So I made a channel, posted a couple of videos to it, and, after a few months where the majority of the views came from me refreshing the page, I closed it down.

Watching more popular channels like Smosh or the PBS Idea Channel, I realized how they could succeed in the over-saturated market of YouTube, where literally millions post videos every day. It’s because these channels engage with their own specific audiences in their own specific rhetorical styles. They aren’t trying to make everyone happy; they understand the audience to whom their videos are catered. These people, through years of practice (and sometimes failure), figured out the craftsmanship behind their field, and thus learned the psychological and marketing techniques that allow them to succeed. Anyone can post a video; these people are creating content. Content which anyone can interact with.

Credit to WikiHow.

Pick a random video on YouTube. Go ahead, I’ll wait; it’s not like this page is going anywhere anytime soon. Now, take a look at the entire page the video is located on. You’ll see comments, related videos, video responses; anyone who has a YouTube account can reply to a video (or say something completely different). The discourse community for the Internet has widened even further.

So how does this relate to gaming? Think about it: people can post videos sharing their gaming experiences! Whether in a game review or, now more commonly, Let’s Plays, anyone can share their experience with a game to the world and add their own viewpoints. Popular channels like Angry Video Game Nerd or PewDiePie thrive because they are enjoyable to watch (to some) and can, at times, offer insightful commentary. I certainly got into channels like these, my favorite being Game Grumps.

Having met the Grumps before, I can say that they offered some of the most insightful and friendly comments I’ve heard from any celebrity. These people are not only genuinely entertaining on their own channel, but they’re super inclusive and always welcome discourse with the community. Whether discussing their favorite games, issues within the gaming industry, or something as random as their favorite cereals, the Grumps enjoy simply talking with their “lovelies,” regardless of the subject. Arin, Danny, Ross, Barry, and Suzy care about the community. And the inspiration they imparted onto me has led me to attempt another YouTube channel. The barrier for entry may be large, the market may be over-saturated with less-professional channels, and the chances of popularity may be slim, but that’s unimportant. What matters now is that my co-host and I are adding our own voice to the community. We’re using YouTube to its fullest extent: to reach out to a specific community and add our own voice to the discussion.

Me hanging out with Arin and Suzy of Game Grumps. What beautiful people.

Death of a Student

I always used to think people prioritized their lives right before they died, that the imminent silence of death forced people to re-evaluate their relationships, choices…everything. Well, that’s happening now for me. One month. I have one month left before my life ends, and I still have no answers to these questions. One month…what happened?

I don’t know what it is, but I feel this “sinking” sensation in my chest whenever I contemplate events like this. Maybe it’s the fact that my life is changing before my very eyes and I have no power to stop it. Maybe it’s because all of the relationships and connections I’ve made over the years will be severed. Maybe I’m reflecting too much on the past and how change was always a very bad thing for me. I don’t know and I feel like I will never know. Life is funny: you’re given all these opportunities for greatness, people to fulfill yourself, and the chance to be happy…and yet, you still feel as if something is missing. Maybe that’s just part of the human condition, that we always desire more and more until we die. It’s as if life is a game; I don’t see the purpose of that though. If the point of living is to acquire the most stuff…you’re dead anyways, so you’ve lost.

I’m getting off-track. The point I’m trying to make here is that I’m nervous. My life is changing and I simply have to watch it change and work with the aftermath. No, I’m not dying…at least not in the conventional sense. Next year, I will be meeting new people and living on my own. All of my friends will be dispersed across the country. Hell, even my girlfriend will be attending a school six hours away from me. I will have to work hard to obtain what I desire most in life. My innocent, care-free lifestyle is over. I have to grow up and live my life in a new way…and that terrifies me. I mean, my life isn’t terrible; it is fantastic. My family loves me dearly, my girlfriend even more so, my friends are always there for me…and that’s just as far as relationships go. I go to a good school, one that gave me the education I need, and will be going to an even better university next semester. I have money, food, more-than-comfortable living arrangements…everything I could possibly want and need. And yet, something is lacking.

All that’s left is to go forward, to step off the edge of the cliff and dive into the void below. Like countless before me, I’m on the verge of a new beginning; why should I not take this opportunity? Sure I’m scared, the thought of it keeps me from being more outgoing or happy, and I may not want to…but, fuck, I mean, I have to, so I might as well accept this notion with grace. Like Hemingway describing how man must be ready to accept death, I must be ready to accept this death. I must be ready to give up all that I know, all that I am comfortable with, and cross over. And when I reach the precipice of the other side, when I experience all that this world has to offer, I can say, “I can do this.”

We’re all dying, slowly but surely, in our own special way. Some of us get old, some of us make bad choices, some of us lose the fun we used to have. Whether it’s due to drugs, debauchery, or decisions…we’re all dying. I’m part of that. I’m getting older, though I’m young. I’ve grown up so much in this past year alone, let alone throughout my four years of high-school, and I’m losing that young-blooded sense of self that wasn’t afraid to scream, “Fuck you!” to the world. Now I’m sitting down and thinking about my life, my future, and my aspirations. What I’m hoping for most is not the glamour that comes with adulthood, nor the large amount of friends or lovers that I may come to know, and not even my preconceived notions of fame that I am hopeful to obtain from my work…but to be able to stand up when the time comes for me to give it all up, and say, “I am ready.”

Drishat Shalom

What’s the difference between blood and a BMW? Confused? Well, Parshat Tzav answers that question. You may be asking: what kind of Bible have you been reading, the Top Gear Torah? Well, even though the Torah makes no specific reference to cars (which it should, because that would be awesome), delving into the text reveals some enlightening information. Let’s take a look.

Parshat Tzav consists of God telling Moses how to prepare Aaron and his sons to become the Kohenim. God tells Moses the rules about the altar, preparations for sacrifices, and the different types of sacrifices. After God finishes instructing Moses, Moses initiates Aaron and his sons by giving them a ceremonial tunic, teaching them the sacrifices, and anointing them in blood and oil.

Now, many of you may be thinking: blood? Ewww! Well, that’s right: in order to be prepared for sacrifice, not only must the Kohenim be first covered in the blood of the slaughtered animal, but they must sprinkle blood around the sacrifice-site and carry the ashes of the animal into a site outside of the camp. It’s all about cleanliness. Yes, bathing yourself in blood may seem rather “unclean,” but in ancient society, cleanliness meant something far more important than being immaculate. Cleanliness of the soul, ritual purity, was valued over bodily cleanliness. This is still apparent in Jewish tradition today. During Netilat Yadaim, you “wash” your hands with water but do not use soap. You’re not supposed to clean your hands of germs, but rather, ritually purify yourself to be prepared for various ceremonies considered holy. This is obviously far different from society today. Within our school alone are Purell dispensers at every corner. We are expected to wash our hands when going to the bathroom. We must shampoo our hair when showering. Every bit of “cleanliness” today focuses on cleaning the body rather than cleaning the soul. It is less about our Self and more about our self-image. This raises an important point: a factor of the Self is internal purity. Even through the change in dynamic of hand-washing, the change from taking care of our internal Self to taking care of our external Self is apparent.

There’s some part of us that wrestles around with our feelings of what it is that is distasteful to us and what is tasteful. What’s “Yuck!” versus what’s “Wow!”? Societal dynamics have changed greatly since the time of Moses. We’ve become more conscious of our mortality and short amount of time on this Earth, so we fill that time with people and objects that we believe will fulfill ourselves and make us “complete,” but actually drive us away from what does fulfill the Self. Our Self is who we are. It is our hopes and dreams, our desires and talents, our personality and focal point of understanding. The Self encapsulates everything we are and everything we will become. However, we are focusing less on our Self and more on how others perceive us. With the simple actions of, for example, wearing “fashionable” clothing or driving an expensive car, we are conforming to how society wants us to act rather than what we ourselves specifically desire. We are taking care of the external while not focusing on the internal, doing what pleases others instead of ourselves. Ask yourself: how are we supposed to get back to finding our Self? The answer is within the text. The various steps and types of sacrifices all hint at how to conduct your life to keep the Self sustained.

Kohenim must wear linen over their own “flesh,” signifying the Self must be protected from external intrusion. Ashes, after the sacrifice is burnt, must be moved outside of the camp, showing how even in death, the manifestation of our Self is considered holy. The fire of the altar must always remain lit, meaning the fire within ourselves, our passions and spark of creativity, must remain alight. The Kohen who eats the Asham Offering dashes blood around the slaughter-site, signifying the importance of the life-force of the once-living creature, reminding ourselves of our mortality. The Hamat Offering is eaten by the Kohen who brought it and some blood is sprinkled onto a piece of clothing, which shows the focus on life and carrying with us the burdens of the consequences of our actions. The Grain Offering is portioned off so the Kohenim can all eat of it, recognizing the importance of friendship and relationships with others. The Near Offering is burnt completely, representing how we must sometimes let go of something when the time comes. The Shalom Offering is split in half, with one half given to the Kohenim to eat, the other burnt upon the altar, showing the necessity of sharing and following rules at times. Finally, the anointing of the blood represents recognizing the value of life and never forgetting that it is within our power to take lives, showing how important our actions can be.

Now, on one level, I may just be reading too far into an arcane text and trying to grasp at meaning that isn’t there; that’s highly likely and I wouldn’t be lying if you asked me if that’s what I did. But, on another level – there is meaning to be gleaned through the process – that the importance of the Self is truly imperative. We are focusing less on what may make us happy and instead on what society says will make us happy. If we continue to go down this path, the Self may be forever lost behind a myriad of Sephora advertisements and Audi A4s. To cultivate the Self, by recognizing the consequences of our actions, using wisdom to discern what is right and wrong, and by staying true to your own beliefs, you may find your Self once again. Find your passion and do what makes you, you, what fulfills you and awakens your Self. Now let me ask you again: what is the difference between blood and BMWs?

V for Vendetta

I sat upon the chair in my room, returning after my older brother had handed me a large, weighty tome. I stared intently at the cover. V for Vendetta. It sounded like the title for a bad action/drama movie. Leafing through the pages, I noticed it was a comic book. But it had weight and depth, like a novel. Reclining in my uncomfortable seat, I opened to the beginning and read. And read. And read. I finished the graphic novel within the span of an hour. Then I went back to the beginning and re-read it, focusing deeply on each and every aspect. I studied the rich, full character of anarchist V, the profound setting of dystopian, fascist England, and the epic plot underlining the importance of freedom and the evils of oppression. I studied the graphic novel, taking care to note each intricacy and detail.

I slammed it shut and dropped it upon my desk with a loud thud. I turned behind me, grabbed an empty journal and wrote. I wrote until my eyelids dropped, my hands became sore, and my legs ached for movement. Something had been unlocked within me, a talent I had always noticed, but never pursued. As a young boy, I spent much of my free time writing stories about adventuring heroes and the twisted villains they faced, about the interaction between fully fleshed-out characters in vast, open worlds, where every choice mattered. But, just as suddenly as it approached, it vanished, doomed, perhaps, to be eternally locked within my subconscious. That fateful day, however, when I picked up that graphic novel, flames roared inside of me. This desire to let my creative mind speak had been unlocked once more by a wizard of words, Alan Moore. This quiet, reserved Englishman unleashed within me a talent I had long forgotten. I continued to write throughout the night and well into the next day. I took my journal to school and wrote whenever I could. Every time I happened upon a new idea, I furiously scribbled it into my journal. V for Vendetta, a discussion about freedom through chaos, awakened within me a love for writing, of creating entire universes with the power of my mind.

To this day, Alan Moore and V for Vendetta inspire me to pursue this passion, to never stop writing, and to let my mind flow free. This experience influenced my passions and goals greatly. Whereas before I was unsure of my desires, unsure of the future, the simple experience of reading that graphic novel awoke within me a craving of writing. My goals are now set upon putting my newly-roused talent to use. Creating new worlds has become my passion. I am happiest now when I can write. It matters little what I do, as long as I can pursue my love of writing. And through that love, I have and continue to create new worlds. To this day, I have yet to set my journal down.