YouTube too long? YouTube too pants? Well, what if YouTube Shorts?
Jokes aside, some of Australia’s biggest YouTube gaming streamers have come together for the launch of YouTube Shorts by recreating their favourite gaming moments in real life on the platform. The likes of Muselk, Loserfruit, JoshDub, Ilsa, JarradHD, Liv Bevan, and Aussie Antics have gone to tremendous lengths to bring these Epic Gamer Moments into the real world.
Elliott ‘Muselk’ Watkins said of the experience, “As a content creator, I spend a huge amount of time in the online world that is Fortnite. It was so fun to be able to recreate my character in real life for a day on YouTube Shorts. Over the last few years, I think we’ve seen a move to where more and more people can become creators, and I think Shorts just takes that accessibility to the next level. I’m excited to see how people take gaming IRL in their own Shorts!”
To get a bit more of an idea of just what was in store for these Shorts, and learn about the streamer himself, I had a chat with Muselk.
How’s your experience with streaming been over time?
I really love streaming personally, I find it a really fun way to engage. It’s weird going from posting videos where you obviously have a huge audience, but you almost don’t really get to see and engage with them beyond them being a number on the screen, and I think that’s always one of the really interesting things about YouTube. You post a video and it gets to, say, a million or 2 million views, and you’re kinda like, ‘Oh yeah. Okay, cool’, but it’s just a number on a screen. You don’t really confront the energy and the meaning behind that number sometimes. You don’t really think about the fact that that’s basically like 40 MCGs full of people. And then when you’re live in a stream, obviously while it’s a much smaller number, it’s really cool to see people typing and really feeling the energy of people engaging in real time with what you’re doing. It was definitely a lot more challenging than I expected.
I’ve developed a big respect for people who livestream, because I probably livestream about 12 hours a week, but obviously people that do it full-time I’ve developed a very huge respect for. As hard work as YouTube can be, it’s also amazing. I’ve now realised that I can record for an hour or two and then be like, ‘Okay, I need like a 30 minute break just to reset my brain, re-energise, and get back into the rhythm of things’, but when I’m live, if I’m doing like a 6-12 hour livestream, I’ll be like, ‘Okay, I haven’t eaten in six hours. I need food’, and I literally sprint downstairs, throw something in the microwave and run back up. I think the interesting thing is when I was looking at live streaming I thought ‘Play games for 6 or 8 hours? That’s fine, I do that all the time anyway’, but then you realise there is a big difference between playing for 6 and being fully engaged, and being in entertainment mode for that same amount of time. I don’t think I’ve mastered it, but I definitely got an understanding for the difficulty.
You’d stream somewhat sporadically on Twitch, but last year you made a deal with YouTube to stream exclusively on YouTube Gaming. It’s no surprise considering your YouTube popularity, but ultimately what was the decision behind that?
I mean, I’ve always found the idea of streaming really interesting and I think that while I obviously had a Twitch channel realistically two years ago, I wasn’t really live streaming at all. I did it a lot earlier in my career back when I played Team Fortress 2 in like 2014, 2015. Around 2018 or 2019, when those discussions kind of started, I wasn’t really live streaming at all because it was just such an intense video focus for me and live streaming wasn’t my speciality at the time.
But I think it was a few things. I always liked the idea of live streaming, but physically couldn’t find a way to justify fitting it into my schedule. And then also, one of the weird things about YouTube is it’s amazing and great as a career but it’s also unstable in a financial sense. You have no idea how your channel is going to perform. You can die overnight and you can go from being one of the biggest to effectively nothing. So having some level of income security was also a lovely breather and actually allowed me to feel like I could take a step back and take on the new challenge, which was streaming and actually focus more on enjoying it rather than purely being like, ‘Oh my God, did today’s video perform well, am I on a bad streak?’ And really like letting that impact my mental health.
Yeah, of course. Probably one of the biggest talking points about you is the whole ‘dropping out of uni to become a gamer’ story, which clearly has gone quite well for you considering your success. What was the drive behind that decision and how do you look back on it now?
I think I hit a point where I had about 100,000 subscribers and I hadn’t even really told my parents at that time that I had a YouTube channel. I watched YouTube since I was quite young and growing up all through middle school and high school and YouTube is now like the number one dream career when you interview a lot of kids. I think that was definitely the case for me but like so many industries it’s very much, no matter how hard you work, there’s so much luck and other elements involved that it’s not really something you can plan for.
Effectively it was just always kind of something that I saw as a dream career, never something that I had actively been like, ‘I’m going to do this’. Then all of a sudden I stumbled into a scenario where I actually did have a bit of traction. I had all of a sudden discovered that I could actually grow a channel and had the potential to make it a real thing. So I think the logic was “shoot your shot, see if it gets some traction.” If it does, fantastic! If it doesn’t, no harm, no foul. I can always go back to reading about [laughs] legal precedent in uni. Luckily it did end up getting traction, so I have a job that I’m sure I enjoy a lot more now.
Speaking of your job, or jobs I’d say, what’s it been like running Click Management?
So I obviously have two other partners with me, who we started that with: Grace, who’s my sister, and Emma, who was my original YouTube manager. Then we’ve also got an amazing team of people who do all the management stuff, I would say. It’s been really fun to build early on and start, and it’s also something that was really cool for me because it was something that I experienced very much in real time when I was starting my channel. People consider YouTube to be a relatively established existing thing, but six or seven years ago when I started, the whole idea of a manager for a gaming YouTuber in Australia was basically unheard of.
I had to really scrounge and search to find anyone who had any experience in that area, which when you think about it is kind of crazy because so many people doing YouTube are quite young and probably not totally business savvy. A lot of people are between 16 and 20, commanding audiences bigger than giant national TV shows. I experienced the stress of trying to find someone who could help me with that, but also would watch a lot of friends of mine and other creators in the industry effectively not realise the value that they would bring.
For example, agencies would convince them that they were going to do them the honour of sending them a free headset or a free keyboard, and all they requested in return was six dedicated videos, 18 tweets and effectively would be taking people for a ride who didn’t realise the value that their channels and their audience really had. So I think for me there was a clear kind of area that hadn’t really been properly serviced, and being able to actually jump in and create something that helped people that were doing the same kind of thing as me was great. Most of the day-to-day work isn’t as much on me because YouTube still takes up a lot of my time, but I think the team that we’ve built is really, really great. There’s been a lot of stressful days along the way and we haven’t done everything perfectly, but I do think overall it’s definitely had really good positive outcomes for a lot of people and a lot of creators, which is definitely a good feeling.
Now going in a completely different direction, you’ve said in the past in regards to Fortnite that ‘there’s no fun left in it’, citing glitches and player inequality. Me personally, I don’t play large multiplayer games like Fortnite because I know I’ll eat shit. That was around a year ago, has your opinion changed at all?
Did I say that on a livestream?
You said in a tweet!
Oh yeah. Okay. So I probably had just died for about six hours in a row and I tweeted something angrily. I’m guessing, you know what, that probably would’ve been at the start of a new season. There are all these weird phenomenons that happen where, especially around the start of new Fortnite seasons, the skill-based matchmaking gets tuned way up. So at the start of a new Fortnite season, when there’s all these cool new things in the game and really exciting things to experiment with, a lot of YouTubers (very much myself included) wanna do the dumb stuff. We wanna do the fun stuff. It’s not necessarily the best and the clearest way to win the game, but it is silly and fun. And the most entertaining.
I come from a gaming background, like Team Fortress 2, where there is this, like, deeply ingrained culture of — winning the game is ultimately the goal, but having fun along the way is almost even more important. As much as you can’t get angry at people in Fortnite for wanting to win and wanting to ultimately end up as the last one standing because that is the aim of the game, I think that it’s always a little bit sad when people don’t have any time to entertain anything other than straight-up trying as hard as they can to win and people kind of lose track of having fun along the way.
I notice more and more these days it’s harder and harder for me to do the really fun stuff and do the really creative ideas largely because those ideas do in part rely on more casual players being in the game and people willing to entertain the idea of having fun. Whether that’s, you know, setting up a gas station along the road where people will drive their car along and you’ll fill up their car with gas. Like if you run into someone who’s willing to entertain that, it’s fantastic content, but most players these days will pull up their car, jump out, shoot you in the head and then keep driving, hoping that you’ve got a little bit of loot they can take. Look, at the end of the day, I still have an absolute blast playing Fortnite. I always have to remind people of that because as much as I’ll get frustrated and complain, I think the game’s amazing. I think Epic does an incredible job updating it better than any other developer does with any other game. As much as I might personally wish that some people would chill out a bit and entertain the concept of fun a bit more at the end of the day, winning is the aim of the game. I can’t fault people for playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played. I can just occasionally have a little whine on Twitter when I don’t get my way.
Of course, as is your right. So more recently, you’re a part of the YouTube Shorts launch in Australia with other big Australian gaming YouTubers where you guys are recreating your favourite gaming moments in real life. What’s that been like for you?
When we initially started talking about the idea for my short, I had no idea of the scale they were really going for with it. I thought it was gonna be quite chill and casual, and then they started talking about getting my Fortnite character’s costume made in real life. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that sounds good. They’ll probably like, grab some black pants and a red hoodie’. And then all of a sudden I was going to a costume designer’s house and she was showing me all this amazing work she’d done putting this outfit together. They had my whole shield back-bling made, they had this amazing Fortnite pickaxe that had been like fully put together out of fibreglass.
It looked perfectly like the real thing and it was actually almost a problem because on the day, we fully had the idea for the eventual brief where I tried pickaxing a wall and the pickaxe breaks. On the day I arrived, I saw the pickaxe and how beautiful it looked. I came up with alternative ideas and pitched ideas to them about how I could start swinging the pickaxe and then be like, ‘Oh no, that’s a bad idea’, and walk away because I just didn’t want to break it. It looked so good. And I wanted to keep it, but ultimately the director was like ‘Elliott, you’re breaking the pickaxe’. I didn’t end up getting to hold onto it I think it was so cool.
One of the cool things about whenever a new content medium gets developed is there are so many cool opportunities that often come from all the different platforms to really bring some cool ideas and content to it. And I thought the whole idea, while obviously not totally original, of the stupidity behind what you do in video games versus if you tried to transfer that into real life and how ridiculous it can be was really fun. I’m really hoping we see some cool ideas come out of it because I think that was the other thing. My friend Aussie Antics did one where in Fortnite, you eat a chilli and you run faster and then he eats a chilli in real life and collapses from obviously eating a chilli. I think there’s some really funny stuff that can come out of it. It’s just such a cool new type of content medium. It’s crazy just seeing how fast things evolve.
What advice have you got for streamers wanting to break into the huge industry that is video game streaming?
I think it’s twofold really. Don’t get me wrong, I do think I was quite lucky. I think I got into the industry right before it was totally saturated. I go back and I look at my first ever videos and I’m recording with a headset mic and, you know, it’s content that I don’t necessarily think would get traction these days. Number one is you can’t try and create the same content that everyone else is making. You know, I think I definitely went through a lot of phases at the start of my YouTube career where I was struggling to figure out my own content identity. And it’s very tempting and I often did go and look at what other YouTubers did and recreate what they’re doing in my own way.
But at the end of the day, you only end up making a B-grade version of whatever you’re trying to imitate. So I think for me a really key thing, getting early traction was just doing crazy random things that no one else was doing most of the time, and I did this all the way from my Team Fortress 2 days to my Overwatch days to my early Fortnite days. Just trying to find really dumb ways to win games, which obviously is a bit more of a thing now across the platform. But back then, I was one of the few channels actually doing just the really stupid stuff, so that let me carve out a niche. And I think my idea was always when I make and post a video, I want it to be not just like Muselk playing a video game, but something where someone watches it and it’s something that’s worth sharing with their friends.
The other thing is obviously going into any industry that is super intense and super competitive is not to underestimate the kind of work that goes into really breaking through, especially at the start these days. I do have a bit more free time because I have editors and people help me with thumbnails and all that kind of stuff. But for the first three or four years of YouTube, not that I would recommend doing this, I was basically seven days a week, 18 hours a day, just at my desk, you know, recording for six or eight hours, then editing for six or eight hours and then doing a thumbnail for two hours. I would maybe go out and take a night off, like once every two weeks, which is not a healthy way to live. But I do think there is sometimes a bit of a misconception with some people I’ve talked to where they think the idea of getting into YouTube is just playing video games all day. Especially before you reach the point where you can have an editing and production team to really help you with it, it’s quite a workload if you want to create things that are impressive enough that they will actually stand out.