MatPat and Stephanie Patrick on why gaming communities are more important than ever

Stephanie Patrick and Matthew "MatPat" Patrick. Photos courtesy of R&PCMK.
Stephanie Patrick and Matthew "MatPat" Patrick. Photos courtesy of R&PCMK. /

YouTube’s MatPat and Stephanie Patrick talk to FanSided about the benefits of gaming and how to get started as a content creator.

What beats the sound of the “click” on the Nintendo Switch, the robot “Se-ga!” chorus on those old games, or the opening orchestra when booting up the PS3? Maybe a lot of other things, but video games find an odd way of falling somewhere between oddly satisfying and good for the soul. Okay, that’s notwithstanding the times you want to ragequit or the amount of times you have to spam B to end Isabelle’s daily Animal Crossing address. (Only me?) But you have to admit that gaming has become much more than just “playing a game.”

That’s why during times like these — the chapter of the history book that will probably be titled “Uncertain Times” — gaming has come to the rescue. For months, the coronavirus pandemic has left people around the globe stuck indoors and in need of a form of escape from the stresses of the world out there, and FanSided spoke to the minds behind the popular YouTube channel The Game Theorists, Matthew “MatPat” Patrick and Stephanie Patrick, to see how gaming can be leveraged during this time.

One thing of note, this Zoom conversation happened before the world took yet another serious turn when protests around the world were sparked by the death of George Floyd. True, gaming may not be the solution to any political, racial, socioeconomic or health and safety issues that 2020 throws at us. But it can, at the very least, offer a sense of comfort amid the chaotic, stressful, and overwhelming days people of all communities have been affected by lately. With that being said, the couple offered their views on gaming’s place in relation to the pandemic, but by no means is it all limited to just this time. Take the advice that resonates with you as a gamer, learn from it, grow from it, and maybe even help a friend who could use some comfort, too.

Gaming’s role in the face of COVID-19

When asked from their perspective what role gaming plays during these times, Stephanie points out that gaming has played a crucial role in quarantine — with MatPat adding that it’s certainly a distraction mechanism. Stephanie mentions: “Games are so immersive; they’re way more immersive than just regular TV or movies. So you can really escape your everyday problems by getting into– especially like, MMORPGs. Really long, involved, story-driven games. If they could re-release Breath of the Wild at the right time, this would be the time for Breath of the Wild.”

On the other hand, in addition to escapism, MatPat notes that gaming has become a way for us to come together. While you can’t necessarily see your friend at school or at their house right now, you can meet them in a server of your favorite game, sometimes with countless other people from every place imaginable.

“My avatar in a game like Minecraft or Fortnite is able to get together with people that I can’t see in proximity in my day to day life, and we’re able to still engage together socially and participate in life in a virtual way, right? ” he says. He adds, for example, “there’s been tons of stories out there about, like, how a university was built in Minecraft so that way you know the students can join in and celebrate their graduation.”

As a third component, fitness finds a surprising spot in this conversation as well. Long gone are the days where stereotypical gamers sit, gaming away on their couch ’til the sun comes up. Games have got us moving and taking care of our health in a fun way.

“I like stuff like Ring Fit, ...Oculus, all of the VR games that have a fitness component,” Stephanie mentions. “We do tons of Beat Saber, and it’s a really good workout. So video games have also stepped in to fill the role of not only mental stimulation, but actually physically making people work out or be more physical.”

MatPat and Stephanie’s favorite games right now

Aside from Beat Saber, the two have had their own favorites when it comes to being indoors lately. For MatPat, Super Mario Maker 2 has had a resurgence for him thanks to a recent update. In this game, not only do you get to make your own Super Mario levels to play, but the two also enjoy that the community can get involved by sharing and playing other people’s levels. “We’ve been asking our fans to create levels, submit them to us, and challenge us with certain levels,” he notes. “And so it’s kind of that sort of dialogue through the lens of video gaming.”

The choice game is a bit different for Stephanie, who went with a Star Wars game for her pick. “I’m still trying to work my way through Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,” she says. She loves the immersive storytelling in the game, and she’s also looking for a game that doesn’t completely occupy her time. “We’re still working and we have a 1-year-old. We don’t have a ton of time for, like, those really immersive games, but those are the ones that really drive me.”

Advice for small gaming YouTubers

If there’s one good thing to come out of our time indoors, it’s that more people have the time to look inward and spend more time doing things that they love. While you don’t have to be the person to write the next King Lear, the options are limitless for what you can do. And for gamers, it’s a great time to follow in these two’s footsteps and enter the world of YouTube.

Of course, there are a lot of other creators out there, and the two encourage small YouTubers to find their niche in whatever capacity. For example, earlier in the conversation, the two mentioned how gaming had reached such popularity during these times that even Stephanie’s parents were asking about advice for video games. Older generations, then, as MatPat says, would be one underserved audience to appeal to.

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“If you happen to be someone who’s able to kind of speak to those sorts of games, those sort of more casual games, this is a great time for you,” he says. “If you are a creator who is able to — in, like, Minecraft — create these kind of immersive, communal experiences and think through what that would mean, like… those sorts of things that kind of help the players achieve normalcy, that’s a fantastic series for your YouTube channel that is also going to get people excited to play.”

Next, as a further step to setting yourself apart, you’ll want to make sure your titles and thumbnails are appealing. Maybe that doesn’t mean overdoing it with the “TRUE STORY” title with red arrows and circles galore in the thumbnail, but you’ll certainly want to make sure it’s something catchy enough for someone else to click.

YouTube does come with its own landmine of obstacles (we’ve all heard of “the adpocalypse” and demonetization horror stories). Stephanie says: “Brand safety is no joke. However, whatever you think those brand safety guidelines on YouTube are, they’re stricter than that, unfortunately.” The good news is that these obstacles all depend on how invested you are. If you’re not super concerned about your channel, then that’s okay. But Stephanie says “if it is something you care about, then you really have to watch those lines.”

Still, even though many YouTubers are glamorized for the vast amount of subscribers they gain and their ability to make a stable living, the age-old adage of “it’s not about the money” applies here. Focus on making it a platform about showing your creative potential and building a community instead. It’ll be much more rewarding in the end than chasing paper.

“It’s very hard; it’s a very difficult grind,” MatPat says. “And it’s one of those things that you don’t expect to make money off of your YouTube channel. And if you go into it with that mindset — if it does happen, great, fantastic. If it doesn’t, you’re still happy with the content that you’re producing.”

Advice for small gaming streamers

On the other end of the spectrum, live streaming might be something worth your time that the two recommend. “The last couple of months, look at the stats from Twitch and YouTube,” Stephanie notes. “Their watch-time for live streams has doubled; total live streams were up by over 20 percent on YouTube alone.”

And with that, the two mention its yet another opportunity for gamers to create a sense of community — getting to join in on Minecraft servers or play JackBox games together makes a difference. “People are just looking for new content,” MatPat adds. “They’re looking for a sense of community. They’re looking for a sense of belonging and togetherness, and nothing accomplishes that better than live streaming.”

Despite live streaming taking out the editing portion of content creating that YouTube videos usually have, streams should still be structured. All good streamers will tell the audience what to expect from the stream and introduce the goal/purpose/narrative that you have in mind for that stream. MatPat mentions, for example, some celebrities haven’t been so mindful of this part recently when they jump on live streams, and that’s what makes for more of the least-engaging content.

At the end of the day, the world may feel like it’s a burning mess. But there are ways to take a step back, breathe, and gain your composure by doing something that’s positive for you. So, for those of you taking notes, MatPat and Stephanie’s advice can simply be boiled down to doing what you love in gaming and finding your spot in creating or nurturing a gaming community of your own. In times like these, we could all use a little love and community to keep us going… Or, perhaps just the actual show Community, which the two admit has been a favorite re-watch of theirs during these times indoors.

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