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My son pronounced aluminum 'aluminium'.

Youtube has become an entertainment medium unto itself in this house. It would likely become the go to viewing option if some people here had their way. Of course it might anyway. Between youtube, netflix and the rest, I feel like scheduled television is fighting a losing battle. We haven’t cut the cord just yet, but I feel like it’s inevitable.

When they fire up youtube on the computer, tablet, or Ouya, there are a small number of channels on speed dial. These channels all have a few things in common. They usually have a very strong Minecraft focus. This isn’t terribly surprising, since my children also have a very strong Minecraft focus. They tend to be hosted by individuals with the superhuman ability to talk without breathing for fifteen to twenty minutes and remain unwaveringly upbeat about it. A solid half of them also seem to be british. At least that explains the ‘aluminium’ thing.

A few of the favorites are StampyLongNose, The Diamond Minecart, Paul Soares Jr., and Zack Scott.

It does make me think. Is that what it takes to be engaging. Is talking in a chipper voice while doing something that people enjoy watching all you need to do.

Now, please understand, I’m not belittling these youtube personalities. Quite the opposite. I’m in awe of the simplicity of what they create. What they are doing is not unlike sportscasting. The activity that they are commenting on, Baseball, Hockey, Starcraft, or Minecraft, a lot of people find inherently enjoyable to play or watch. They would watch or play it in the absence of the a running commentary. So what makes the commentated version more compelling than watching the live event, unfiltered. Why do some people prefer football on TV over going to the stadium to watch the game?

It is storytelling, plain and simple. Listening to a person describe the events they see, possibly with some degree of insight, humour, or personal perspective, is an ancient form of entertainment. Maybe the most ancient. We are wired to tell, and enjoy stories. Lets plays and video game commentary are simply a new version of that.

As traditional television flounders, we will no doubt see overproduced shows posing as ‘lets plays’ and vlogs. That sounds unapealing. It probably will be. In the meantime, the Youtubers will get better, more polished, but in their own way and on their own terms.

They, like all storytellers will play to their audience. The difference will be, that they will play to their audience without producers, publishers, or gatekeepers. The audience will decide what succeeds and endures. There will be modestly popular youtube channels that commentate horticultural fairs and niche gatherings of button collectors. This is no more or less valid a story to tell than Football, Baseball, or Minecraft.

Everyone has a story to tell and an audience who will listen. Youtube isn’t an advance in communications. It is a global society, remembering how stories are told, and the importance of allowing everyone the chance to tell them.
This post is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 by the author.
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