My Weekend With YouTube

If you read this blog, you know that I am a gamer. Lately, I’ve been exploring my roots as a retro gamer. That is, somebody who collects and plays classic old games (everything from Donkey Kong to Dreamcast games). I’m in that 40-something age where I suddenly have a compulsion to collect stuff from my past. At any rate, I was in a local pawn shop over the weekend, and I came out with a handful of old game cartridges. As I was walking through the store’s parking lot, I heard a raspy voice. “Hey … hey you,” it said like one of those drug dealers from an after-school special circa 1988.

I looked around and discovered an older guy with a scruffy beard sitting in his beat-up pickup truck. He was rolling his window down. “Hey you,” he said with a fevered look. At this point I was convinced that he was either going to rob me of the $5 NBA JAM cart in my hand or offer me a drink from a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 – and I was trying to figure out the best way to deal with the situation without looking like a wuss. “Do you collect games?” he asked through his truck’s window, cracking a big smile. “You should watch my YouTube channel!” After which, he proudly gave me his YouTube user name. “Uhhh, thanks,” I stammered as I walked back to my own vehicle. It was the weirdest bit of self promotion that I had ever been a part of.

Overwhelmed by curiosity, I tried to find his channel on YouTube when I got home. Unfortunately, I must have misheard my disheveled new friend, and I couldn’t track him down on Google’s massive video platform. But man did I watch a lot of OTHER retro video game channels (I also discovered this woman from Sweden, whose retro video game room made my head swim: There were videos showing off people’s classic gaming setups, videos about how to get the best graphics out of old systems and even new reviews of old games. I spent the rest of my weekend watching my iPad.

I noticed something during my YouTube binge – some of the videos looked very professional. They had music and graphic opens, and they used microphones so you could hear the talent. Those videos I watched. However, I also saw a lot – and I mean a lot – of videos that were clearly shot by a single person using their smartphone. I can’t tell you how many videos were too dark to see, or too hard to hear or how many times the “host” put down their phone to hook up some cables and left me staring at the ceiling in their basement or at an extreme close-up of that mildly embarrassing Yoshi toy that they just can’t seem to get rid of. Inevitably I stopped watching those videos when they became cumbersome to view.

So I think we can take away three important lessons from my weekend with YouTube. First, we should all probably be using YouTube more as a vehicle for our branding messages. Even though I skipped most of the commercials that popped up, I did see the first five seconds of a lot of commercials (which can be all you need if you know what you are doing). Second, your YouTube videos don’t need to look professional, but they will get a lot more views if they do. And third, I probably need to be careful, or I am going to get caught up in this whole retro video gaming thing and end up with a lot of junk on my shelves that my wife will really, really hate.