By Michael Varrati
I probably don’t need to tell you this, but Smosh is more than just a series of YouTube channels, it’s an empire. With a ravenous fan base and highly identifiable brand in the digital realm, there’s little denying the fact that Smosh is the real deal when it comes to content creation.
Indeed, it’s almost a disservice to refer to Smosh Games as a “secondary channel,” as it has proven itself to be a powerful arm of the Smosh entity. Among only a proud few channels to reach a million subscribers in just three months, Smosh games is a milestone of YouTube culture, setting records, and taking names.
As such, when I sit down to talk with Smosh maestro Anthony Padilla and Smosh Games’ Jovenshire (real name: Joshua Ovenshire), it comes as no surprise that they take video games very seriously. The duo immediately engender a sense of passion for the medium, and speak with a reverence to which all truly devoted gamers can relate. These guys are the real deal, and surely not players you want to be up against in any game.
Here’s what they had to say:
Why did you launch your gaming channel?
Anthony: Gaming has always been a huge part of Smosh. The first video that Smosh ever made that got popular was the “Pokemon” theme song music video. Ian lip-synced to that thing, and the reason we made the video was based on our love for the “Pokemon” video game. Ian and I grew up playing video games our whole lives, and that’s kind of what brought us together. Our friendship began because we would hang out and play “Smash Bros.” Flash forward several years, whenever we make a video game parody or spoof, our fans went crazy for it and really loved it…
…so video games have just been a huge part of who we are. There were a bunch of gaming channels rising to the top, and we really enjoyed watching them. Ian and I were like, “Why don’t we have a gaming channel?” At the time, we were with a company called Alloy. They had just picked up a channel called Clevver, which had a sub-channel called ClevverGames. We loved the guys on that channel, and wanted to take them (Jovenshire, Lasercorn, and Sohinki) and make stuff with them. We decided it was time to launch or gaming channel from there.
Does the audience differ on your gaming channel as opposed to your “main” channel?
Jovenshire: It skews a little bit older, based on some of the shows we have on Smosh Games. For example, one of them is “Grand Theft Smosh,” and that itself draws in an older audience, along with the Smosh crowd. Not only are we getting the teenager range, but also people in the 18–24 and beyond range, because it’s the type of comedy that appeals to all audiences.
Why do you suspect viewers are drawn to watching gaming content?
Anthony: It’s weird. Just hearing what it is, I never would have thought it would be entertaining. But, for some reason, when you watch someone playing a game, you feel like you’re there with them. It’s like you’re in the room, playing the game at the same time and experiencing it with them. It’s like a theme park of experiences, somewhat. Really, everyone just wants to feel like they’re a part of something. Whether it’s gaming content on YouTube, movie news, or it’s celebrity gossip…people are attracted, not always just to the content, but to the personalities that they’re watching. They feel connected to them, and keep coming back because they feel they’re friends with them. It’s not like television, because the person on the other side of the screen…there’s actual interaction there. We have a strong interaction with our audience, and we feel more connected and like they’re hanging out with us when they’re watching our videos.
Were you always a gamer or have an interest in video games? Do you recall the game that first drew you into this world?
Jovenshire: I’ve been playing games since I was four years old, possibly younger. My dad was always playing video games and grew up with it all around me. I don’t know if there was one particular game that sucked me in, because games in general were just part of my life. Those major games like “Mario 64,” “Super Smash Bros.,” and games like that were big. You’d invite everyone to come home after school to play, and that’s what we would do. Your friends would ask, “Are you going to do homework?” And you’d say, “No, but I’m going to pile-drive you in the ‘WWF’ game.”
Anthony: The first game I ever played was “Super Mario Bros.,” the original one for Nintendo. My uncle was staying over at my mom’s house, we played that, and I became a fan. I was probably three or four.
Why do some games speak more to YouTube audiences than others (for example, a lot of gaming channels focus on games like Minecraft, etc.)?
Anthony: Definitely. On our channel we’ve had attempts where we’ve played games that are real-time strategy games that are really hard to get into as a viewer. I’ve found that first-person and third-person games are really what you need to be playing. Even if you don’t know what’s going, even if you’re a non-gamer, you can watch the video, get fully onboard, and know what’s happening. If you look at any form of media, whether it’s cartoons or the YouTube generation itself, everything is very fast-paced. You have to keep someone’s attention. You can’t play a 30-hour roleplaying game, because you’re going to start to lose the audience over time. Whereas something like Minecraft is popular and fun because it’s constantly new. Anything can happen at any moment in the video, and that’s why you see stuff like that becoming very popular. It appeals to that “boom-boom, something new” mentality of people watching. You don’t have to watch previous episodes to know what’s going on, you can just jump in from wherever and know what’s up.
Favorite gaming channel that isn’t your own?
Anthony: I really enjoy “Peanut Butter Gamer,” and I do really like PewDiePie.
PewDiePie is a titan.
Jovenshire: I know! Not only is he super popular, but it’s for a good reason. I’ll watch his stuff, and I’ll giggle like a schoolgirl. He’s so funny! I also started watching the Game Theorists’ YouTube channel and their show “Game Theory.” It’s really smart and really good.
What makes a successful gaming channel, as opposed to a regular channel? Are there differences, if any?
Jovenshire: We mentioned it earlier, but it boils down to personalities. Me, Lasercorn, and Sohinki, we weren’t just three people who came together to do a game channel. We were actually friends beforehand, and so when we hang out together, people can see and feel that connection. Same with me and Anthony…it wasn’t just about making videos, it was about playing video games and having a good time. In that way, the content becomes secondary, because it’s people who get to hang out with their friends. They’re meeting up, having a good time, and it’s fun to watch. It’s all about the personalities and the characters that they’re watching.
Anthony: A big part of it is having entertaining commentary. People don’t get on YouTube to watch someone play a game. They get on to see what that person has to say about it, and to feel like they’re experiencing it with them in a way that’s more than just watching their face as they play. I’ve seen some of these online people try and launch game channels, and they just sit there and not really say anything. That’s not what people want to see.
Click one to continue!