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YouTuber becomes more powerful by pivoting to terrible gaming content

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Dunkey gets real with an extended gag

If you ask someone who makes quality video game content on YouTube, a few names are likely to pop up: NakeyJakey, Errant Signal, Mega64, and of course, my personal favorite monotone comedian, Dunkey. And yet, when compared to YouTube’s bigger gaming channels, like Markiplier or DanTDM, these beloved channels are much smaller, both in terms of audience and output.

I’m not trying to be mean here. This is all something that Dunkey has recently brought to the forefront of the conversation with a provocative upload titled “I’m Done Making Good Videos.” In the video, the YouTuber pulls back the content-creation curtain on his channel, and while much of it comes off as tongue-in-cheek, there’s a kernel of truth to everything he says. It’s one of the most candid and eye-opening things any YouTuber has made in 2020.

“I look around at the current YouTube landscape and I don’t really see a future for my type of videos anymore,” Dunkey begins. “As an artist, that pursuit of trying to be the best, it’s good for your soul, but it’s not really good for your bank account. Uncle Dunkey is getting old now, and I gotta start thinking about my mental health, my family, and how am I gonna start generating some money off of this channel? I’ve had my foot all the way down on the pedal for years and I still can’t keep up.”

He goes on to say that, despite his efforts, he struggles to make even four videos a month, especially compared to channels who make daily uploads. Some bigger channels do even more than that.

The difference, of course, is that large channels often hire entire teams to help with certain aspects of content creation, from editing to YouTube optimization. Videos that are carefully crafted may have been what made YouTube appealing during the early days, but if you actually want to make money now, grind and churn becomes inevitable. And even with a team propping you up, nearly everyone ends up playing Minecraft at one point or another, even if they swear they never will. It’s just what you have to do to survive.

Here’s where it gets particularly interesting. In that same video, Dunkey says that, in order to make more money, he’s going to start outsourcing some of the grunt work of video creation, and will also adopt new formats that are proven to work on the platform. It comes off as a joke — the companies that he lists as the hired help don’t exist, for one. And the content that he describes, like “drama” coverage and Minecraft videos, are not Dunkey’s standard fare. At the time, it seemed like he was just making a point about what sorts of videos the platform likes to promote, and what tends to populate YouTube’s “trending” page.

But then Dunkey actually went ahead and uploaded exactly what he said he would, on the schedule that he proposed. When you click, though, you come to find that these, too, are a part of the gag. Technically, for example, he made a reaction video with a face cam and everything, but the footage is extremely short and ends after a poster unceremoniously falls to the ground. The Minecraft video, which has a clickbait title reminiscent of the “Uber Driver Sucked Me Off??” meme, is actually about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. And the Among Us video features a ridiculous 1v1 content where the players take turns asking each other if they’re the imposter, rounds ending almost immediately after they begin. They aren’t great videos per se.

And you know what the wild thing is? The quality didn’t matter. All of these videos have performed better than what Dunkey usually uploads, with a couple of them even hitting the “trending” page on YouTube. Despite being jokes, and despite arguably made for the lowest common denominator.

In an email, Dunkey’s wife Leah (jokingly) told Polygon that while the content creator was too busy to answer questions thanks to his new schedule, she could summarize his feelings regarding the stunt:

Overall, he’s feeling frustrations about the current Youtube landscape and worried about the future. While we are doing well now, it seems like that could quickly change because of the way mega channels with daily uploads are taking over more all the time. Coupled with the sad feeling when he and other channels put lots of thought and effort into their videos only to be overshadowed by the latest trends and low effort stuff, its resulted in his new upload schedule.

The comments below Dunkey’s latest videos, meanwhile, do a great job of summarizing how bewildering the whole scheme is.

“It’s honestly hilariously sad how, his older videos that were made with so much effort usually averaged 1 mil views in a week, while these newer troll episodes with little effort, make trending every time,” one comment says.

“I love that he’s mocking the broken system and while also making a ton of money,” another opined.

It seems likely that the comedian will, at some point, return back to his regularly scheduled programming. While none of what’s transpired so far is surprising — of course the hottest game on earth right now, Among Us, will perform better than a more niche game, like Spelunky 2 — Dunkey’s vulnerability about YouTube as a platform and his place in it is remarkable and worth a listen.