2014: New Year Rezzed Delusions

Growth. It happens when the kid in the caveman costume stops hitting his big sis and starts crying because she slapped him back too hard. That’s a sister’s job, really. And a good thing, too. The only thing more pathetic than a crying little boy is an insufferable, prizewinning, highly successful asshole who never got smacked to tears with his own stupid foam club.

“I just want to do something great–something that I’ll be remembered for after I’m dead.” How many of us have had that thought on our minds lately, what with the the new year officially underway? I’m sure I’m not the only who’s been thinking about what all I would like to accomplish in 2014. Unfortunately, with the possibility of slaying a dragon and/or conquering the universe being rather remote, I’m left to plan more mundane endeavors.

I’m guessing you’re like me–we have a tendency to spread ourselves too thin, going after too many different goals rather than sticking to a single realistic one. It’s easy to do, right? “I want to learn all those Iron Maiden songs on Rocksmith.” “I want to write the Great American Novel.” “I want to make an awesome indie game with Unity.” “I want to double–hell, no, triple–my YouTube audience.” “I want to write at least three academic articles.” “I want to make an awesome new podcast…” The list goes on. The point is, I think to decide which goal you’d most like to achieve, and save the rest for later. But what criteria can you use to help you decide?

Coming back to the opening question, what goal would place us closer to that goal of establishing a legacy? What about other people who have already achieved that goal? I’m thinking of folks like Stephen King, Bruce Dickinson, Jonathon Blow, Ian Bogost, and TotalBiscuit. If any of these folks were to drop dead right now, I have little doubt we’d remember them 20, 30, maybe even 50 years from now (some more so than others, I imagine).

I think it’s really important for all of us to really think hard about what we’re good at, and how we can milk whatever that talent or skill is for all it’s worth. Doing so, however requires us to separate our delusions from our true grandeur. As Clint Eastwood put it, “A man has to know his limitations.” If you set out to be great by imitating another great person, you’ll just fail. For one, part of being great in the first place is doing something new, not just copying. Second, we might very well be great at something and just because we are great at that thing think it’s unimpressive or unimportant.

Think about how many great actors have dreamed of being great rock stars, only to fail. There are plenty of examples to the contrary, of course. No matter how many best-sellers Stephen King throws to the press, he doesn’t seem to consider himself a Great Writer, only a profitable one. Another ready example of this tendency is with game designers–sure, they’ve done Planescape: Torment, but, meh, they’d rather write a novel or direct a film. A girl with gorgeous curly red hair spends a fortune to straighten and dye it blonde. Maybe you’re great at cooking, but consider that a menial skill not worth cultivating or celebrating. Maybe you are a rockstar, but are tired of “only playing the hits” and irritated that nobody likes your new stuff. Sigh.

In my life, I’ve only been regularly praised and recognized for two skills: computers and writing. By “computers,” I don’t mean programming or game designing; only knowing how to figure out a program and helping other folks do stuff with them. My writing skill is pretty much limited to academic and technical stuff–professors and, well, folks like you seem to enjoy it, but my many desperate attempts at fiction haven’t gotten me anywhere.

Can you tell I wasn't the popular kid in school?

Can you tell I wasn’t the popular kid in school?

As much as I like doing Matt Chat, I can’t escape the fact that it relies on those skills or talents in the “deluded” category rather than factual. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen someone commenting on one: “You deserve so many more views!” Ugh. That’s exactly like your mom or dad telling you, “You deserve a girlfriend!” You just wait, my bucko, sooner or later some gal will come along who is able to see past–I mean, er, recognize you for the treasure you are! Please.

Doing all of those Matt Chat episodes has definitely taught me a lot about my own limitations. It’s been hard, especially, seeing so many other YouTubers leave me in the dust. “Oh, you’re only now getting to a million views? Dude, I have ten times that number, and I only started doing this six months ago!” I can always console myself with that line from Spinal Tap: “It’s simply that my audience is more selective.” Ha!

I think we all really only have a single limitation in life: our inability to appreciate the unlimited potential of our one true talent, whatever that may be. Hint: it’s most likely the one that everybody else (except, probably you) recognizes as your True Calling. If only we could just satisfy ourselves by fully cultivating that, instead of trying to escape it by chasing after a so many delusions. 

Hopefully, sooner or later, our ego will reconnect hard with that foam club.


12 thoughts on “2014: New Year Rezzed Delusions

  1. Coyote

    I call B.S.

    I mean, if you are only looking for the acclamation of strangers, then sure. You are going to be known for only one thing, maybe two if you are VERY lucky. But you have to be very lucky in the first place. Maybe I have just set a low bar, but it seems that the kind of critical, mass-audience fame we’re talking about here is more of a product of luck and mob mentality. Like the videos they have of the violin virtuoso (Joshua Bell?) who commands performances with tickets costing $100+, playing on the street and ignored by passers-by. Of course, it’s presented as some kind of travesty – how ignorant people are of the greatness around them. Or how marketing and presentation are everything.

    But I look at it another way. There are a lot of people who are unrecognized greats. There are actors far better than the top-paying leads out there. There are guitarists far superior to the millionaire rock stars. And there are civil servants toiling away with far greater dedication than their smarmy political overlords. And Stephen King – while he is a great writer – may be right that there are a lot of other authors out there who may be equal or superior to him in talent. Just unrecognized by the masses.

    He’s lucky. There were some greats that were never recognized by the masses until long after their death.

    Maybe this goes hand-in-hand with the whole indie thing for me. Many of my favorite authors and game-makers are NOT the ones with the mainstream attention. That doesn’t make them less great. Plus, there’s all kinds of greatness. There’s all kinds of talent. There’s certainly nothing wrong with specializing and focusing on the thing you most love and that you feel you have the greatest talent or affinity for. But there’s a magical combination of your own skill x mass market appeal x persistence x presentation / marketing x pure luck that may – perhaps through no fault of your own – keep you from fame and fortune.

    If you are only six feet tall, should you quit playing basketball because there’s no chance you’ll ever be a major league star, simply on account of genetics? No way. No, you probably shouldn’t pursue it as your career choice with no plan “B.” But there’s nothing wrong with being well-rounded. Or with appealing to a niche audience instead of the “mass market.” Or being a bicycle racer or marathon runner who keeps practicing and running local races even though they’ll never be an Olympian or win a national race. Or – for that matter – the Olympic fencer who dedicates herself to her sport, even knowing that she’s not destined to make millions selling sports shoes and Gatorade. Hers in obscure sport and even winning a gold medal might get you little more than niche fame and a short-lived picture on a box of Wheaties.

    I’ve read quite a few accounts by entrepreneurs and successful businessmen who have managed to make millions with their companies, selling them for a fortune, and many of them say the same thing – everybody remembers their “sudden” success and not their string of failures or years of quiet toiling in obscurity.

    Ms. J. K. Rowling had her manuscript for Harry Potter rejected by a dozen or so publishers (all of whom KNEW the business and KNEW the book would not sell). Fortunately she didn’t throw in the towel before sending it to publisher #13. Fortunately, when Michael Jordan’s high school coach cut him from the varsity basketball team because he just wasn’t good enough, he didn’t give up on basketball because he clearly didn’t have what it takes. Instead, he took it as an opportunity to work his butt off, practiced around twice as hard as the players on the team, and… well, went on to have a better-than-mediocre career in the sport. 🙂

    And don’t forget that the sister hit the brother with the club only because he was being a jerk and bully to her in the first place, in your analogy.

    So I’m not sure where you were going with this post. Are there times to let certain skills or efforts fall to the wayside so that we can (hopefully) move on to bigger and better things. We can’t do *everything*, not even everything we really want to do. We do have to pick our battles. But I think that we don’t need to tie ourselves to strangers’ perceptions of greatness.

  2. Cuthalion

    I’ve found Matt Chat an invaluable glimpse in to the foundations of the modern game industry. It’s good to hear from people who’ve been there and done what I want to do. It may not have wide appeal, but that does not make it any less important.

    I loved this post, with your insights about how we often overlook our talents simply because we’re good at them. But I think Coyote’s point is worth listening to. Pay attention when people consistently say you’re good at something. But they don’t get to decide what you want to be good at.

  3. Freeman

    There’s a difference between earning fame, and earning respect. To steal a quote, one path is “Quicker, easier, more seductive.” They will be remembered in 5 years, maybe even 10, but not in 50.

    On the other hand, instead of just playing a game and giving your opinion (which i like as well, don’t get me wrong), you are actually interviewing the people who make the game. The need for that to be archived will not be forgotten because without you, who’s doing it? I want to, but my talents and time are needed elsewhere right now with a wife, a kid and another kid on the way. Hopefully some day, I have a lot to say about Pedit5, the Magic Candle, and a lot of other games. Just need the window to make it happen.

    What your giving will be looked at for a much longer time. As gaming goes on, will anyone really care what Total Biscuit said about Dishonored? Doubtful. Will the things you gathered from the developers directly still matter? Absolutely… and it always, and I mean ‘always’ will.

    The other thing you have working against/for you, is you actually know how to interview in the style of Carson or Moyers. You let the guest take the stage and you’re not a personality that people are tuning in to see. On the other hand, people tune in to see the Angry Video Game Nerd because he’s him. It really doesn’t matter what he’s playing… and mostly, he’s farming fame. Not respect. What they’re doing is fleeting, and honestly from a culture stand point ultimately unimportant.

    Yours, on the other hand, is. Someone needs to do this. You seem to have the connections, control and skill to make it happen. Don’t think that falls under the ‘delusion’ umbrella.

    Keep it up, do pick a resolution you feel you can achieve, but maybe try not to stick it to some metric. Make it about value… who’s the most valuable interview you could get? And how can I help?

  4. EgonOlsen

    Matt Chat is a great channel, one of my favorites. I’m looking forward to every new episode even if it deals with some developer/game that i’ve never heard of (and i have heard of quite a lot). However, it’s a niche channel, part of the more intellectual YouTube. I know a lot of people who are still playing games even at 40+. Who, like me, grow up with the C64 and have lots of nostalgic memories of this time and the games…but i don’t know anybody, who would watch the Matt Chat episodes with the same enthusiasm as i do. Your viewers are a special breed of people and i suppose that there simply aren’t that many of us. I would miss Matt Chat and Dungeons and Desktops has a special place in my shelf.
    Keep up the great work, because that’s what it is!

  5. Matt Barton Post author

    Thanks, all! I’ve enjoyed reading your responses a lot.

    There are few things I find more satisfying and exhilerating than really putting my heart and soul into a project, putting it out there, and waiting for the feedback. As much as I might feel something I’ve done is good, that’s not nearly the same as having other people acknowledge it as such. I guess that’s why I’ve never been into keeping a diary or journal; if I’m going to bother to write something, I want other people to read it and hopefully appreciate it on some level.

    I won’t lie; part of my disappointment with Matt Chat is simply about the numbers. I look at other YouTubers like Metal Jesus Rocks and Gamester81 and just get depressed. It’s not like these guys are professionals or have big budgets or crews or anything–they’re just regular guys like me, but like it or not, they are on a whole different level. It seems sometimes that these guys could just film themselves farting and get fifty times the views I’d get on a video that took me weeks to setup and edit. It’s just frustrating.

    At any rate, I wouldn’t think of quitting Matt Chat regardless of the sluggish growth. I know there are people out there who do appreciate what I do. What I wonder about, though, is whether there’s a larger potential audience out there who simply isn’t aware of the show, or whether I have simply peaked and maxed out the show’s potential.

    1. Reddaye

      You to remember the audience those two are generally catering to as well Matt. Their channels generally deal with console gaming, and video game collecting which are both booming at the moment. You can stick just about any console game collection video on YouTube, especially retro console, and people gobble it up. They are also part of a larger circle of channels and personalities that regularly plug each other’s content and work with one another.

      Your channel tends to deal more in interviews with gaming luminaries that many of the average gamer doesn’t know about, and classic computer gaming which has become quite a niche thing. For those of us who enjoy that niche your channel is solid gold. Nonetheless it’s still a niche and flying under the radar comes with the territory of serving a niche.

      I personally love the interviews and retrospectives. Not all of them interest me, but the vast majority do. I try to toss you Likes whenever I can, and am always happy to see you uploading more content. I can understand your frustrations, but keep at it. Those of us who share your love of the classics will continue to support you!

  6. Felipe Pepe

    Matt, I really like some of your episodes, but I do think that there’s a lot you could do if you want a larger audience. Whether they fit your views for Matt Chat I don’t know, I’m just throwing ideas:

    – Redesign the art of the show. Also, add a cover picture to the videos. Just anything more interesting and click-attracting than a bald fat designer on a crappy webcam.

    – Be more of a actual archivist/historian/researcher and less of a happy nerd with the drinking horn and t-shirts. Make this the “thing” of your channel, “Matt Chatt: The Weekly Class of Game History” or something like that. Make people realize these are informative for new players & designers, not just a bunch of old people talking about the good old days.

    – Go after new stuff as well. Seriously, there’s nothing besides prejudice stopping you from interviewing people about Skyrim, New Vegas, Nu XCOM, Age of Decadence, Dragon Age: Origins, Blackguards, Mount & Blade, etc… that would definitely bring up a new audience.

    – Feature less of yourself on screen and more of the games. If the interviewer is speaking for a long time, show the game and him on a small window, not both of you. Spoony sucked as a host for his Richard Garriot interview, but he had Garriot showing stuff and walking around. Since Matt Chatt only does webcam interviews, you have to make it interesting to watch.

    – Don’t do short let’s play again, like the Wizardry 8 or Dungeon Master one, they are boring. If you just read what you wrote on his Dungeons & Desktops book (which btw I own, all the way down here in Brazil, so you already achieved something) and used gameplay footage to complement & illustrate the review, it would be a billion times better and more educative.

    – Consider making a pilot of a 3-8 minute, heavily edited interview for the mass audience (but release full interviews as well). Try that out with a interview on a new game to see how it flies.

    – Consider making round-tables, people love those. I.e., get Jullian Gollop and Jake Solomon to talk about XCOM and discuss if turn-based was really a hardware limitation.

    – Make a awesome 5 min potpourri trailer of your channel, with only the absolute best lines from the most famous interviews, spread it through the internet and leave it on the home screen of your channel.

    – Go to a big network (like the Escapist or Gamasutra) and try to get support for your channel.

    You could also transcript his interviews into a awesome Matt Chatt book, like “Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play”. I would buy that. And if all fails, make a Patreon campaign for money for more ambitious projects, like a Interpreter for interview with japanese developers. A small and faithful audience should shine at this point.

    1. Matt Barton Post author

      Thanks, Felipe. I think I have one of those done already:
      Honoring the Code

      I really like the idea about the montage of great quotes, too. When I find time, I’ll definitely go for that.

      It’s interesting that you think I should be less jovial and more dry (scholarly), though. Wouldn’t that make the channel even more limited in terms of audience?

      1. Felipe Pepe

        “It’s interesting that you think I should be less jovial and more dry (scholarly), though. Wouldn’t that make the channel even more limited in terms of audience?”

        I’m not really saying it in the actual scholar way; it isn’t supposed to sound like a lecture or a class.

        Take Extra Credits, for example. I find their content HORRIBLE, full of bad ideas and concepts that are killing the industry, BUT they present themselves in such a way that people want to watch, to “learn” and think they are smarter and more understandable of gaming after watching. They have a relaxed tone, but also add some authority to it.

        And really, you have two books on the subject and countless interviews with legends of gaming design. You are certainly more qualified than a couple of game designers that never designed anything good, yet preach the world about how it should be done. Just show youtube that you’re not yet another nerd talking about games (but don’t be arrogant about it).

        For example, parts of your Dungeons & Desktops book are freely available on Gamasutra, why not make a video series with the same content, about the ages and all that? Make one 10-15 min video per era, gloss over the main games and characteristics and add embedded links to the in-depth videos that you did about them. That way not only you try something new and add some authority to your videos, but also gives a entry point for new fans into your backlog and may even give you some spotlight on big gaming websites, if the series is good.

      2. Nathan Tolbert

        I enjoy the show immensely. As other people are saying, there is a specific type of person your shows cater to and as such it’s slightly niche. I enjoy the show and your commentary so much that I have contributed to the show in what little ways I can, such as sending the Amiga 600 and the Commodore 64. I unfortunately cannot say anything about the format and any changes that might be made to attract more subscribers, because I think the layout of the show is great the way it is. Don’t let low numbers of subscribers deter you from what you are doing. No one else that I know of is interviewing what would be considered the old guard on programming of games. These people are not going to be around forever and they pioneered a field that today brings in more profits than Movie entertainment. What they did, what they went through and all of the compromises and mistakes that they had to deal with should be save for posterity. It’s a shame that we have lost a few of the pioneers before you could interview them. Keep up the fantastic work. If you feel you must change the style, try doing the interviews as a secondary episode along side the retrospective. I wouldn’t recommend that as I’m pretty certain you are extremely busy, what with being a professor and all the work that it entails. Whatever you do, your fans will support you.

  7. Jabberdau

    Nothing wrong with the show. The problem is EXPOSURE. Youre not referenced by neither Eurogamer or Rockpapershotgun. The two gaming sites I personally prefer. Or the mainstream media.
    Also, go to events like E3 and the like. There are tons of interesting people there, and most interviewers are terrible to listen to. You would have stood out if you had interviewed Kip Karelis and Ocean Quigley when Simcity 2013 arrived.
    EXPOSURE, its the key. If people don´t know youre there, they are not going to see you!

  8. Bruno Johnson

    My favorite Matt Chat is the interview with the Fat Man and it took me months to decide to watch it, as game music had never really interested me up to that point. But man, what a great interview and what a great guy ! I’ve watched it several times since. That video will never get millions of views but it made us discover a passionate guy of a lesser known field of the gaming industry.

    Looking at your videos (and reading the cRPG addict blog) made me want to play some of these great old games and there’s a lot of people like me. So you may not have millions of views but I like to think that those thousand of people really enjoy the quality of your work. By the way, those numbers you have would have looked great not so long ago.

    I really hope you stick along for a long time and keep doing those Matt Chat.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *