Markiplier, one of YouTube’s biggest content creators, desperately wants people to know that the newest class of obnoxious troublemakers isn’t representative of everyone on the platform.
“We’re not all reckless,” he told Polygon from the set of an Axe body spray campaign that he was filming. “I want to embrace this idea that we can be professional.”
Markiplier, whose real name is Mark Edward Fischbach, is 28 years old, and best known for his Let’s Play videos and various vlogs. He’s been publishing on YouTube since 2012, amassing close to 20 million subscribers in the process.
But YouTube culture has changed immensely since then. It’s nearly impossible to talk about the state of the platform today without addressing the toxic environment that vloggers like Logan Paul have contributed to creating: a generation of personalities spurring on fake drama for the sake of views.
Paul is one of YouTube’s most notorious vloggers, and garnered worldwide criticism after uploading a video on Dec. 31 that included footage of a man who had recently committed suicide. Fischbach said he’s disappointed to see how Paul’s antics have changed the perception of YouTubers in mainstream media.
“I’m afraid they’ll think YouTubers are only these dancing monkeys that don’t take things seriously,” Fischbach said. “There’s a huge group of YouTubers that take things extremely seriously and try to approach things with the utmost professionalism.”
Fischbach is one of those serious YouTubers. His brand isn’t based on creating sensational drama for the sake of views, or on uploading derogatory or offensive content. Part of YouTube’s problem is that newer creators use those cheap tactics in the hopes of achieving instant fame. Playing into current trends, like fake drama, as a means to end is what Fischbach calls one of the more disingenuous and disheartening things he has seen on the platform.
It’s a far cry from what attracted Fischbach to YouTube in the first place, he said. What drew him to the platform was that it was a creative outlet. But creating videos for YouTube isn’t just a hobby anymore, as it was for Fischbach back in 2012. Now it’s a viable career path.
People who were tweens and teens between 2006 and 2012 grew up with YouTube much in the same way older adults grew up with television. The concept of becoming a professional YouTuber isn’t foreign anymore. Top creators like PewDiePie, Lele Pons and KSI — and Fischbach — proved that people could make a very comfortable living through uploading videos.
But these creators are the exception, not the rule, said Fischbach.
“Nobody going into YouTube at that time could have ever anticipated they were going to make a living off of it,” he said. “Now there’s an expectation that if you work hard enough you can make it, but it’s not true. Some people will work hard all their lives and they will not make it. That’s the reality of the world that we live in.”
Fischbach’s comments come at a peculiar and fragile time for YouTube’s creator base. In January, the company instituted a new threshold that creators must meet in order to be eligible for its Partner Program. Joining the program allows one’s videos to be monetized through AdSense, and is seen as a big step in moving toward building a foundation on YouTube.
Creators now need to have accrued more than 4,000 hours of watch time in the past 12 months, with a minimum of 1,000 subscribers to their channel, in order to qualify for monetization. It’s a big departure from the previous criteria, which stated that creators only needed to have 10,000 hours of watch time on their channel.
The change led to blowback from the community, which rightly pointed out that the revised requirements will hit younger, newer creators who focus on more niche subject matter the hardest — not top creators like Paul, who caused problems for YouTube in the first place. Older creators, including Fischbach, believe that the company’s new guidelines and criteria are nothing compared to what they were dealing with in the old days, however.
“When I first started YouTube, I had a situation where my channel was growing very quickly, and yet YouTube actually disabled monetization on my channel entirely because I broke a rule that I didn’t even know existed,” Fischbach said. “They wouldn’t tell me what rule I broke. They wouldn’t talk to me, they wouldn’t explain it. I couldn’t make money and there was nothing I could do. Now, the rules back then were draconian and impossible. You think YouTube is hard to talk to now? Think six years ago, 10 years ago — it was even worse.”
It’s easy to take a cursory glance at Fischbach’s channel and assume he’s got it made, but he has dealt with his own insecurities and challenges. He announced in 2017 that he was taking a one-month hiatus from YouTube, because he hated the content that he was producing. Fischbach can now point to that period of his life and and recognize the cause of those struggles: burnout.
Burnout is one struggle that creators of Fischbach and Paul’s generation seem able to relate to. Many streamers and creators are now speaking about their experiences with burnout in new videos, and on Reddit and Twitter, trying to explain why they can’t do the one thing they used to love most. Burning out is a very real danger in any job, but it’s a particular risk for YouTubers and Twitch streamers, who spend hours every day, seven days a week, creating, editing and promoting content.
“You can scale a business, but you can’t scale a person,” Fischbach said. “When you’re doing the same grind for six years, it will get anybody down. I wasn’t upset with how much work I was doing, but I was upset with doing so much work and I wasn’t proud of what I was making. I had to take a step back and reevaluate what I was doing and where I was coming from.
“I wanted to come out of it in a really positive way and embrace the things that scared me the most and constantly dive first into those situations that do scare me. That’s the only way that I could survive, and that’s the only way anybody can survive.”
Fischbach now only streams games or activities that he wants to and has started diversifying his content. There are episodes of “You Laugh, You Lose” on his channel — a popular react channel trope that many YouTubers incorporate into their grind — alongside Let’s Play videos and other vlog-style content.
The big question that remains for someone as successful as Fischbach is what comes next. Not even he knows the answer.
“I’m not the best at what I do yet, but I’m always going to work harder to find something that I’m passionate about, something that I could gain some confidence from,” Fischbach said. “When it comes down to the future, I simply look at new opportunities as new ways that I can invent myself, new ways that I can approach YouTube.
“If it’s innovative, that’s good. If it’s reenergizing, that’s good. If it’s just something that makes me happy, well, that’s really good.”
What Fischbach does know is what he wants to see less of: obnoxious antics for the sake of views; troublesome vlogger culture that makes YouTubers look dumb in front of the entire world; less of what’s been happening in the past few weeks. It’s difficult to make good content and hope for the best instead of giving into the whims of what works for now, but Fischbach is hopeful that new creators won’t just take the easy way out.
“Yes,the rules will change and other things will get in your way, but when you have those obstacles in front of you, you can’t just bow to the pressure on you,” Fischbach said. “You have to keep moving forward. Just keep working.”