By Michael Varrati
Musician, super-chef, and all-around YouTube dynamo, Jimmy Wong is one of the true renaissance men of YouTube. As such, it should come as no surprise that, among all his other interests, Wong is an avid gamer. His gaming channel, Jimmy 2, is a well-curated blend of games and Wong’s electric personality, engaging viewers who can’t seem to get enough of both. When I spoke to Jimmy for this piece, he was on vacation in Japan, making our gaming week adventures truly international.
Here’s what he had to say:
Why did you launch your gaming channel?
I’ve always wanted to experiment and try out the format. It stemmed from an interest in figuring out how the technology worked, seeing my peers and friends try it themselves, and ultimately wanting to share a game or two with the world.
Does the audience differ on your gaming channel as opposed to your “main” channel?
I would assume the people watching stems from my main channel watching, with a small mix of new viewers. Ultimately, the big difference is that some people are interested in watching musical content (on my main channel) more than gaming content and vice versa. I was actually surprised that there seemed to be a large number of female viewers for the gaming-content based on the comments section alone.
Why do you suspect viewers are drawn to watching gaming content?
I’ve had this discussion with a lot of my friends and other YouTubers as well. It seems like there are so many different reasons as to why an individual would watch gaming content. I know that if I was in a younger age bracket I would definitely watch as well. When Freddie and I were younger, we only had one gaming console in the household. It was an expensive toy so it made sense that we, like every other one of our friends, only owned one of the major consoles at the time. However, it was thrilling to go over to our friends’ houses and watch them play a game on their PS2. We had never seen any of the games, never experienced the system or the controller, so everything was fresh and exciting. I think the same applies to a lot of online gaming content as well. Most kids aren’t going to own an Xbox 360 and a PS3. Or an Xbox One and a PS4.
The internet is this vast place where you can find new friends to ‘play games’ with and watch. The interaction between streamer/gamer and audience is really close because I’ve found the most successful gaming channels play with a certain openness and lightheartedness. It’s a very attractive personality trait, because it is such a welcoming environment for someone who may not have that best friend to play games with, or even hang out with on a daily basis. I remember not being able to hang out with friends because they lived too far, or were too busy, or their parents wouldn’t let them, or my parents wouldn’t let me, etc. We would escape to instant messaging each other, and it felt superior because not only could we just talk to one person, but we suddenly were in chat rooms with half our classmates, joking around and laughing. Today’s internet is so much bigger and complex than what we had 14 years ago, and I think gaming channels are a new iteration on that same desire and need to interact and connect with people.
Were you always a gamer or have an interest in video games? Do you recall the game that first drew you into this world?
I’ve always played video games as far as I can remember. My fondest memory was receiving the original Gameboy for Christmas one year and playing “Tetris” endlessly. Before that I remember our dad plugging in the NES for the first time and playing “Mario” with us. Nintendo has always been my starting point for video games.
Why do some games speak more to YouTube audiences than others (for example, a lot of gaming channels focus on games like Minecraft, etc.)?
I think Minecraft is great for a younger audience because it speaks to a more pure and open imagination. It’s similar to why we build Legos and sand castles as children. It’s definitely this amazing world-building tool where your imagination is the only limit. I think watching other people build things, figure out cool uses for the piston, etc. and make these awesome contraptions is really attractive because it demonstrates how far someone else can go, and inspires you to do the same. Especially when you have unlimited time when you are younger, you can devote so much more to entering the world of Minecraft, building for as long as you can sit at your computer (and as long as your parents allow you).
I think it’s a good explanation as to why games like “Call of Duty” are more attractive to a slightly older audience. A round of “Call of Duty” has a set start and end point, you can consume the content in small bursts and be completely fulfilled, etc. It’s also, at first glance, more mature content because of the themes and violence. I would never go as far to say the “Call of Duty” games are in any way mature past a teenage adult, however. I think Minecraft in a lot of ways is a more mature game because the possibilities for what you can do are so much vaster. “The Last of Us” is the most mature narrative game I have ever played…just incredible storytelling.
Favorite gaming channel that isn’t your own?
Rooster Teeth has been doing great stuff for a long time. I really respect the work all of the guys and gals do on their team.
What makes a successful gaming channel, as opposed to a regular channel? Are there differences, if any?
A successful gaming channel should be something that makes the person running it happy. I don’t care about numbers or metrics. There’s enough content online and enough competition that trying to focus too much on success means you’ll ultimately start to turn what should be fun into what isn’t.
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