It’s almost impossible to talk about the past, present and future of YouTube without bringing up Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg.
During a lengthy interview at New York Comic Con, we spoke to the Smosh Games team about what YouTube has become and where it’s going. Dave Raub, Smosh Games’ executive producer, touched upon Kjellberg and the backlash that YouTube’s top creator has faced over the past few months. The drama, which started in February after one of Kjellberg’s videos surfaced that used anti-Semitic imagery, led to backlash from the YouTube community and advertisers.
The controversy led to Disney’s Maker Studios dropping Kjellberg as a client and YouTube canceling the creator’s YouTube Red series, Scare PewDiePie. Last month, he used a racist slur in a live stream and video of that quickly spread. Sean Vanaman, co-founder of Campo Santo, filed a DMCA takedown request for Kjellberg’s Let’s Play video of his studio’s game, Firewatch, and asked other developers to do the same for their games.
Raub, who noted that Smosh Games has worked with Kjellberg in the past, told Polygon that the YouTuber is at a point in his career where he’s virtually untouchable. Kjellberg, Raub said, has always played a character. Although Raub said Smosh Games doesn’t condone Kjellberg’s recent actions, the executive producer said Kjellberg has always done things for shock value.
Raub’s full statement can be read below:
We know Felix. We know that he plays a character. We know that he does things for shock value, which is something that he's been doing for years. We don't have much of a comment on the recent things that he's done but he does things for shock value.
That's always what he's done and we play ourselves, that's always what we've done. We play exaggerated versions of ourselves, but for the most part, everything that we say and do on camera is who we are. That's something that we want to make sure our audience knows that we do and is something that our audience can take away for themselves and do themselves. They don't have to put on a costume, take on a persona, play a character and say things for shock value. That's what we try to emphasize with everybody that we work with.
I've known Felix for years, we've done stuff with him in early stages of Smosh Games. He is one of those untouchable YouTubers that he's at the top and he's kind of looking for something and things to do. The things that he says and does aren't necessarily things that we agree with, but it's a different type of community.
Since Kjellberg’s latest controversy, he has been more careful about what he’s saying, while poking fun at the situation. With more than 57 million subscribers and counting, he’s also not worried about his audience disappearing anytime soon.
Raub told Polygon that Smosh Games has always been focused on a positive message and will continue to bring that energy to its channel and YouTube at large. Smosh Games has no qualms with Kjellberg, but they’re not trying to emulate his style, either, Raub said.
For more on the future of gaming channels on YouTube and Smosh Games, be sure to read our feature on the long running team.