The problem with gaming "news" channels


I haven’t watched him in a long time because I grew to find him grating and tiring but he did try to move away from that. Some sort of attempt to rebrand the character as a carnival barker I think.


I need to push back on this point.

I’ve been seeing “Parasocial relationships” become a sort of bogeyman in online media, and gang, parasocial relationships aren’t an inherently bad thing. Nor are they something limited to Youtube channels run by individuals, or Youtube in general.

Gaming news has become more and more focused on personality driven media over the years, which means that these kinds of relationships are going to form between creators and their audience. I promise you that a GREAT deal of the fans of Waypoint have a para-social relationship with the Waypoint gang.

Please please please, let the “Para-social relationship = bad” stuff die in 2019.


Gonna confirm that telling YouTube you’re not interested in recommendations from a particular channel does not work. I’ll get vids from the same channel recommended to me the next day.


…but, he talks about actual issues all the time. I cannot stress enough that loot boxes are something genuinely horrible that I don’t just dislike or hate existing, but am terrified to see in a game I’m interested in.

I’m one of the people loot boxes are designed to hook. I’m the type of person who’s at risk because of addictive tendencies, the sort of person those systems are meant to exploit. I have a very personal stake in this, and I’m so tired of people painting this as a non-issue because the reddit durges also dislike the practice.

That’s like saying drugs aren’t an issue because most right wingers hate drugs. They’re wrong in their tactics and what they know about drugs, but there’s still a lot there that needs to be explored and discussed because real harm can still come from drugs.

Loot boxes even work on the same strategy of hooking onto people with addiction issues, and microtransactions have this effect as well on a smaller scale.


I get where your coming from and I agree that parasocial relationships aren’t always bad but I do think it’s something that people need to be more aware of and need to be cautious about the consequences. Especially with alt-right Youtubers on the rise and recent events like people defending Pewdiepie, it’s something that we should be aware of.


Sure, but he still rattles the pot. Unintentional or not, he allows this kind of venomous rhetoric to keep going, because the tone of his work is THAT venom reflected on his audience. So, I I am all for him calling out CEOs for their shitty practices, and all the other left leaning stuff he’s done, and I do agree that loot boxes are predatory, terrible things in games, but the way Jim paints a target on the company at large leads to a broad blaming of everyone involved, and encourages his dimwitted fan base to target people who didn’t have anything to do with the upper management decision of putting loot boxes in games. I saw this happen. You see the devs posting ‘update videos’ getting slammed in the comments with shitty gamer takes.

The fact that Jim told his audience, “Please stop attacking the Ubisoft devs. That isn’t cool.” Just shows that his audience got away from him because of his lazy, broad targeting of the company.

I have met Jim before. I talked with him for an hour with another youtuber, and we had a really nice conversation. He has the ability to talk normally, and not due his angry nazi gamer schtick. But he STILL uses it, and his audience takes that anger to extreme degrees.


A note:

It’s important to highlight channels that spread misinformation and promote bigotry. However that can be done without linking to them and giving them clicks. Arguments against them and criticism of them need not spread their videos or views. We would prefer that people simply take screenshots or say the name of the channel or video without an embed.


I agree that we should be aware of it. I really do, but how this sentiment is being expressed is important.

If the line was “People with bad politics are forming para social relationships with their audience, and that makes it more difficult to criticize them”. I’d have no issue, but as it’s initially stated it just reads like they form a para-social relationship, which is in and of itself, bad.

I’m sure this is coming off as needlessly nit-picky, but I genuinely think “para-social relationship” is going to become a term people demonize without understanding


I think the issue was one of certain video personalities actively taking advantage of those parasocial relationships through largely performative, self-dehumanizing routines. A streamer I follow, Jerma, was ragging on this in a recent video.

Big-name video creators like PewDiePie and JackSepticeye continually popularize the act of selling a perfect version of yourself and then giving their audience complete access to them as people, creating the standard of not setting boundaries between your audience and your actual life, and stoking obsession in the most rabid parts of their audience.

The problem is not that parasocial dynamics exist at all (most of the reason I watch the GDQ speedrun marathons is for the parasocial experience of being with a large group of people), but how popular figures have chosen to use them.

edit: adding a note that most of this is cribbed from the StrucciMovies video series.


I kind of like Woolie, Matt, and Pat from the former Super Best Friends for this reason. They don’t really try to sell a perfect image of themselves at all, in fact they’re all pretty honest about who they are at times. Matt put out a Spiderverse review recently where he was pretty open about how worn down he was from the recent drama in his life, Pat mocks his own shortcomings pretty often and is very humble about his position as some sort of gaming personality (he even admits he just somehow lucked into it and is just glad for the success he has), and Woolie is the most openly political of them all and chooses to spotlight stuff that means a lot to him and even explains some of the behind the scenes nuts and bolts that goes into LPs and streaming.

They’re still performing, but they have a line between their performative and private lives. When when the team broke up, they all handled it like adults and acknowledged the real emotional toll it had on all of them, so their audience understood what was on and off limits - and that audience seems to have mostly respected that.

I’ve kind of shifted away from super performative stuff as of late, especially with Game Grumps starting to take notes from JackSepticeye and the likes (they even had him on a guest for their power hour series) and just watch the sorts of content producers who aren’t afraid to share real pieces of themselves while putting clear boundaries between them and their audience. I guess my parasocial part of all this is that I just relate to wanting to entertain or engage while wanting privacy more than the Youtube pretty boys who scream for wide audience appeal.


In his video on the subject of para social relationships, Ollie over on Philosophytube talks about the nature of “truth” in how we act, and how in theater, acting is about an emotional truth. You care if it FEELS true, not if it is cause you know it isn’t.

I think that’s where the “super performative” stuff breaks down for a good deal of people. Their performance doesn’t FEEL true or authentic.

I’m gonna link the video in it’s entirety cause I think, like a great deal of the stuff Ollie makes, it’s fantastic.

(CW for chewing and self harm/suicide, he does a bit for the first 35 seconds that involves a very loud chewing noise, and he does discuss parts of a previous video where he discussed suicidal ideation, self harm, and his own history with it)


I think it’s weird to criticize him for telling his fans not to bother individual developers. Like… that’s a step in the right direction? To me that says less “has the nerve to” and more “has common sense to”. I’m not really a fan of Sterling, though, so I don’t know


So, obviously this is a huge topic, but I feel like a lot of these complaints are not at all limited to gaming news channels. I mean, there are countless channels that are essentially just a talking head describing and reacting to information.

I’m worried about the kind of the effect this will have. How are people going to intake news in the future? People have called Phillip DeFranco the “Walter Cronkite of YouTube”, which is… a wild comparison. The parasocial relationship aspect is especially unsettling to me. If people are getting their news, specifically the “news” part, from people to whom they feel emotionally connected, and those people voice their opinions, that’s probably going to deeply color their perspectives on the news itself. And the kind of people who make these videos a lot… don’t have great opinions, y’all.


Something I’ve seen/heard Jim Sterling say in the past is that he would love to make different types of content (eg: the wrestling stuff he’s been doing lately, some of the parody horror films he’s made) and talk about other topics, but he feels so beholden to his audience’s expectation to cover particular types of news, scandals and current events. The audience he’s developed over the years sticks around, including the more toxic elements and whilst he’s still making 10k+/month on Patreon (so I find it hard to feel too bad for him), I’m not sure that necessarily feels any less precarious (outside of amount of money saved) considering how suddenly and unpredictably policy changes and inexplicable algorithm updates can come.

The enforced precarity that comes as a result of relying on self-interested tech companies (and a lack of a proper public safety net with regard to healthcare, welfare, etc that underscores that risk) creates an incentive to cater to whatever is reliable and profitable (a mirror of the frequent behaviour of the companies themselves) to ensure the money is coming in - which happens to be the reactionary, often right-wing, nonsense we know YouTube to cater to.

Also, re: Sterling (and others?) telling their audience not to harass people - my anecdotal observations are that a certain subsection of trolls/other toxic elements will tend to treat “don’t harass this people” as targeting, since they often determine who to harass by the amount of harm and strife they can cause. In that case “and don’t harass so and so for fuck sake” can be read as a dogwhistle to organise and attack people - though in Jim Sterling’s case I think he does not want to spark harassment, T**** B****** used to say the same thing in his later years and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of some of the more egregious far right assholes (Sargon etc) use the same kind of phrasing too, because they know their audience will harass people and they want the deniability (often coupled with the “I’m not responsible for the actions of other people/my audience” argument and maybe they even believe that).

I doubt a gater or other asshole who spends their time harassing people online exactly cares too much who is giving them directions - outside of the fact that weaponising someone else’s content can be a way to infiltrate and take over their audience and shift the content creator’s values towards their own through their gradual pivot to cater to the new audience of assholes, so it’s politically advantageous to weaponise particular types of content and target particular types of audiences.


It always bugged me that Jim keeps attracting these cretens because he’s never nice to them whenever he has to stress harassing people is fucking awful (he usually insults them in various creative ways), and he goes on so many tangents about the evils of capitalism and pointing out his arguments and complaints can also be leveled at most companies in general that it’s weird there’s still such a toxic element of his fanbase (which frustrates him to no end). He’s even super openly bisexual and sexually aggressive at times.

My best guess isn’t that he’s attracting an alt-right sub-audience (they actually hate him quite a bit) but is somehow attracting a Libertarian one. This makes sense to me because there’s no political ideology as nonsensical and contradictory as the online Libertarian, and they use the same sort of tactics as general nazi scum for different but still pretty bad reasons. They probably start to tune out his more leftist talking points, or do believe in them on some level but also are so consumed in consumer identity that they don’t seem to understand the concept of acting like adults.


Parasocial relationships have always been tied into news in some way, shape or form, but I think in these cases the issue is people are looking for and creators are providing parasocial relationships first.

This relationship creates a dangerous scenario where people who have little to no interest or ability to accurately convey and report any type of news can couch their opinions as news and the audience just rolls with it because they’re just there for the personality.

For instance, PewDiePie has a “news” show but it’s just basically a stream of consciousness on things that cross his mind or more accurately can get traffic by appealing to the more toxic portions of the gaming world.


Don’t forget that we are talking about the kinds of people who will take a statement like “don’t harass so and so” and will explicitly harass that person just to hurt the person making the statement.

There is literally no right move against these specific types of choads other than to say nothing at all (and even then, that doesn’t always work).


Maybe I’m misunderstanding some of the points people are making here, and perhaps it’s not relevant to the discussion at hand, but it sounds like some are saying that if you align yourself with leftist that means you can’t do bad things, so these people have to belong elsewhere on the political spectrum?


No, there are scumbag leftists (I think I’ve made my piece when it comes to Chapo), but in this particular case, the people who go harassing people over things Jim Sterling says are the sort of people who buy more into commercial identity and identify openly as gamers, which isn’t really apart of any leftist ideology (it’s kind of the opposite of every leftist school of thought). It’s the tell that they’re elsewhere on the political spectrum.


I’ve largely eschewed Sterling, Angry Joe and some other personalities that I like, just because I don’t need the negativity and I’ve gotten bored with people being angry at these companies. I stopped listening to Giant Bomb podcasts, too - and I listened to them religiously - because Jeff and Co’s jaded outlook on the industry got old.

These days I’ve been following far less industry news and more retrospectives on games, like the Watch Out For Fireballs guys and Noah Caldwell-Gervais. It’s been a better use of my time.