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With a video game media landscape full of ANGRY YOUNG MENTM screaming about women trying to take their toys and Ethics in Bullshit, Joe Vargas, (AKA Angry Joe) is one of the few voices out there I genuinely respect that positions themselves in the TRUE GAMER archetype; one that is filled to the brim with toxicity to which he’s somewhat of an anathema to. Sure, I can’t say that I’ve agreed with EVERYTHING he’s said and done (and being THE LEAST AWFUL in that field is a pretty low bar to clear), but for all his faults he’s never come off as a bad guy or a hateful reactionary like so many of his peers; not even when he gets into ANGRY RANT MODETM. What I’m here to talk about though, whether you like the guy or not, is bigger than this specific case and it’s an important conversation we need to have regarding the drastic shift in the last few years of how we consume content and interact with their creators. Okay, I PROBABLY won’t be breaking a lot of new ground here, but considering how bad Joe has gotten it in the last few months, it’s clearly a lesson that many of us could use a refresher course on. Before we can get into that though…
WHERE’S MY REVIEW!? – The hiatus that broke the internet
So Angry Joe has been making videos on YouTube pretty much non-stop for a decade now, but in the last two years his channel has blown up significantly as has the content he’s producing; uploading Let’s Plays, first impressions, and (GASP!) movie reviews, to go alongside the Angry Reviews he’s known for. Now while the production of Angry Reviews hasn’t slowed down in any significant way (2014 had thirteen reviews, 2015 had fourteen, 2016 had thirteen, and 2017 has had ten so far with the only real outlier being the twenty three reviews done in 2012), he was getting quite a bit of backlash from his subscribers about the rate at which he was releasing them and eventually he had to take a break for his own mental well-being so he can recharge his batteries and come back stronger than ever. Now I don’t know the dude personally and really only have his own videos to go by, but considering how many reviews he’s made and the way he describes his work hours, the dude has been living on a Crunch Time schedule for the last decade and we’ve been reaping the benefits of that endless grind, so the idea that people will get upset that he’d go on vacation for a bit (even though he’s STILL producing content during it) seems ludicrous… but here we are. He’s published four videos since December of 2016 about the growing frustration coming from this segment of his fanbase1, but none of them have done much to mollify the situation; one in particular seemingly making it worse.
Look, I get it. I am CONSTANTLY feeling the stress of putting content on the website and will make ridiculous promises to myself about what I can realistically output which inevitably fall to pieces and make me feel even worse than before; and I don’t even have that big of an audience nor an egregiously long production time for what I do! He wanted to make a promise to himself and to his audience about what the future of the channel will be and what he WANTED it to be, so he released this video in January of this year that outlined his production schedule going forward. In hindsight it’s INCREDIBLY obvious how impossible this kind of schedule is (he wasn’t even CLOSE to putting out that many reviews in previous years; let alone everything else he’s started doing since) and all this did was give his less appreciative (i.e. entitled and whiny) fans ammunition that they can keep hitting him with every time he misses a deadline. Still, the guy put up an INCREDIBLY valiant effort managing to get ten reviews out by early June (eight if you want to be pedantic and not count his less traditional ones) but by mid-July (AFTER a solid week of non-stop E3 coverage) he released another video updating everyone on the schedule and confirming that he will be taking a two month hiatus (his “vacation” as it were) and that he’ll pick the Angry Reviews back up in September while STILL putting out regular content throughout July and August. Honestly, that still sounds like he’s trying way too hard to please everyone and live up to his own expectations (again, I’ve been there) but at least he’s taking steps to reduce his workload and being direct with his audience about it. Everyone’s happy then, right?
That video was released two weeks ago and apparently the reception was negative enough that he had to release another one since then addressing the responses he’s been getting and to discuss the fact that he started turning off comments for his videos; starting with Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1 – Angry Review! on July 18th. This is the titular Baadasssss Vlog by the way where he calmly (but by no means less scathingly) talks about those who are making a concerted effort to make his channel (and in particular his non-review videos) as toxic as possible as some sort of power play to get him back on what THEY feel is the right track he should be on. Yeah, THAT was gonna work! Freaking idiots.
ENTITLEMENT IN VIDEO GAMES – Yes, we’re talking about this again…
Now it’s not like we haven’t seen this before. Hell, mere days after this video came out we had the whole #MakeMineMilkshake harassment campaign for a reason just as (if not more so) asinine than what people are hammering Angry Joe about! I’m seriously at a loss to figure out how THIS is the hill some people wish to die on when there’s nothing there that could even be considered a GREY area, let alone something that could legitimately fuel righteous indignation. Newsflash to everyone talking shit about Angry Joe! You’re content providers, whether they are artists, musicians, video producers, or anything else, don’t owe you anything and you certainly have no obligation to patronizing their content if you don’t like what they do. Easy stuff to understand, right? Well I did a little research on YouTube to find out what people are saying about this (please be aware that there are also SO many people saying positive and encouraging stuff about him to try and counter the justifications for harassment and what I’m about to talk about doesn’t speak for his ENTIRE fan base) and I figured I’d try to address the complaints as I see them. Let’s start with THIS delightful comment from Boogie’s video response2; someone I’m not a big fan of but he DID come to Angry Joe’s defense.
Side note (just to get it out of the way); am I Strawmanning by picking out a few comments by randos on YouTube in order to make my point? Well probably, but I was consciously trying to find comments that fairly echoed the criticisms other people had and did so in… shall we say ACCEPTABLE language. Trust me, if I wanted to Strawman, I would have lead with something like this.
We good? Probably not, but whatever! I’M MOVING ON! So what is that first comment (and frankly this other one and ALL the negative videos I’ve found on the subject) trying to say? As usual in these situations (because we’ve SEEN THIS ALL BEFORE), there are two main issues with their arguments; the conflation of harassment with criticism (and minimizing the impact that it has) and a lack of empathy and understanding of how content like this is produced. I’ve seen the guy’s comments sections on his videos, and they’re really toxic across the board with constant attacks on his character and work ethic which aren’t constructive or productive in any way, yet they ALL take umbrage whenever Joe calls them out for their bad behavior; calling his behavior “scummy” and that he’s “crossing a line”. In every one of his videos on this topic, he makes it clear (he’s not using innuendo and is rather precise with his word choice) that he’s only talking to the ones intentionally causing harm and making it a worse place to be for everyone else, so unless you ARE trying to do that, then he’s not talking about you. If someone doesn’t like the direction Joe is going in, then avoid his content. Unsubscribe from his channel. No one’s forcing you to continue watching his videos and on the flip side, there’s no rule that says your shitty behavior NEEDS to be tolerated; hence the comments being disabled which by the way is NOT a violation of free speech. We all enjoy the fact that the internet has made content creators more accessible than ever through comments, twitter, and all sorts of one step methods of reaching out to someone; even if they’re quote-unquote FAMOUS. The thing is though that that dynamic comes with SO much more responsibility to see these content creators as human beings; lest we end up with a situation so toxic and within arm’s length that the relationship needs to be tempered in some way (i.e. disabling comments). I know that I’ve screamed bloody murder and talked MASSIVE shit about people like Adam Sandler, Michael Bay, and the fine folks at Pureflix, and maybe I’ve been wrong to do so as vehemently as I have in the past (except for Pureflix), but the thing is I’m not doing so right to their faces nor am I inserting myself into spaces where people ENJOY those creators and their content. The distinction between criticism and harassment can sometimes be murky, but to me that’s a pretty solid line of demarcation and not one that’s hard to understand. Now to be frank, that’s all the standard crap we’ve been dealing with for YEARS from these delightful individuals and is not particularly interesting to dissect. I think the more “telling” problem that people have is summed up perfectly in this comment from the same video.
Jealousy. That’s what I see oozing out of comments like this, and there are A LOT of them. Plenty of people out there telling Joe to SUCK IT UP or that he’s lucky to have this kind of job in the first place. No matter how much you may love your job, there’s ALWAYS burnout. There’s always times where you just don’t have the strength to get up and put in that extra effort; especially considering the hours Angry Joe has said that he works to produce this content which is somewhere upwards of EIGHTY HOURS A WEEK! I can tell you right now that contributing to this website can be an unbearable strain on me (especially when I start to fall behind schedule and push projects to the back burner) but that doesn’t take away from the absolute joy I get from doing this when I AM in the zone. The times that everything is firing on all cylinders are the bets imaginable, but just because you can enjoy what you do doesn’t mean you don’t’ need a break from it, and you’d think that his “fans” would know this considering how much Crunch Time has been debated in the video game community; especially with the Alex St John controversy last year. If you’re upset that other people have the means to take long breaks from jobs they enjoy, you REALLY aren’t angry at them, you’re angry at the economy and (to a certain) extent capitalism. Don’t take it out on Joe! We’ve got a bunch of elections coming up! DIRECT YOUR ENERGY TOWARDS GETTING PROGRESSIVE AND SOCIALIST CANDIDATES ELECTED WHICH WILL DO A HECK OF A LOT MORE GOOD THAN RAGING ON YOUTUBE!
MAKE A SECOND CHANNEL! – How much YouTube sucks for content creators
Now in the midst of ALL this baseless garbage being hurled Joe’s way, there’s ONE complaint that I feel at least merits a reasonable discussion even if it’s been used as a cudgel to continuously bash Joe and make his channel a more toxic place. See? Even GOOD arguments can be used POORLY and can undercut whatever point is made. THE MORE YOU KNOW!! Anyway, this comment from his vlog basically sums it up. Okay, the title of this section sums it up too, but read it anyway!!
Now if you haven’t already watched Dan Olson’s video on VidMe where he takes time out at one point to list weaknesses of YouTube’s platform3, I highly recommend you do so as it’s a damn good starting point for why making a second channel is something that SOUNDS reasonable, but is ultimately a bad idea all around. The big problem is that YouTube doesn’t make it easy to do what people are asking Joe to do; namely segment his content between Game Reviews and everything else. Before we even get into the backend and management stuff, what exactly would qualify as GOOD content in these detractors eyes, and which should be segmented to a secondary channel? Just game reviews? Any game related content? Should he keep the less formal trailer reactions for games specifically on the game play channel, and what about reviews of movies based on video games like Ratchet and Clank? Even if YouTube made it easier for Joe to split his content into two different channels, there’s no way he’d make everyone happy and there’s a good chance that some fans who feel like they’d only like his GAME CONTENT would be closing themselves off to content they would actually like but aren’t gonna show up in their feed because it doesn’t fit into the narrow definition they’ve already set for themselves. I’ll grant you that it works for some people, namely when it comes to making secondary Let’s Play channels, but for what Joe wants to do with his non-gaming content I just can’t see it being a good move in THIS particular situation. Even if it WAS though, YouTube doesn’t make it easy at all to do so. Account management is already a nightmare for bigger channels, ESPECIALLY ones that are run by multiple people, but the lack of features offered to these channels to segmenting their content is one of the more egregious ones. I absolutely am not an expert on this but from what I can gather; you ARE able to have multiple YouTube channels under you Google+ account, but the connection between them ends there. It’s easy enough to switch between the channels, but they don’t share subscribers, metrics, resources like banner images, and if something needs to be updated across all the channels (say a video explaining that the creator will be taking a vacation), this has to be done for each one. The experience on both the user end and the creator end for the multiple channels is EXTREMELY tenuous and the best that a main channel can do to make their users aware of a secondary channel is to add it to the list of recommendations on the home page. Seriously, the term SECONDARY CHANNEL really shouldn’t even be used considering how weak the connection is between it and the primary one.
When you’re dealing with tools this lousy, there’s so much at stake in creating a second channel and no doubt anyone trying to do so will experience MASSIVE losses in viewership and engagement when trying to do so. I know there are those out there that don’t care at all about ANY of what I just said and only care about not seeing Angry Movie Reviews show up in their timeline, but that’s the reality of the situation which is much more nuanced than JOE’S ONLY DOING THIS FOR SEO JUICE AND TO MAKE MORE ILL GOTTEN GAIN WITH (SHUDDER…) GAME OF THRONE RECAPS!! At the very least, can we all agree that it’s not worth making someone’s life miserable over a cluttered YouTube page? Nah, I didn’t think so…
THIS IS THE END!! – What did we all learn today?
Well HOPEFULLY most of you already know this stuff and didn’t have to be told that telling people to fuck off for not making the content YOU wanted to see is not the same as critical analysis, but if anyone reading this did in fact need to hear it, I’m glad they did. Agree or disagree with the direction Angry Joe has gone in with his channel and the choices he’s made, there’s no reason that any of what he’s had to go through should have happened in the first place. We’re all sick to death of the GAMER AS ANGRY MAN CHILD STEREOTYPE and Joe is one of those out there fighting against that (even if he slips up every once in a while in my opinion). No one EVER deserves abuse of any kind online, but if even HE can’t find peace of mind in his own community, then what the hell is worth DEFENDING about it? The most interesting and brutally honest moment of this whole debacle is when Angry Joe went back to a tweet he wrote in 2014 declaring he’ll never turn off comments (claiming a few bad apples aren’t worth losing the amazing discussions they foster) and rethinking that stance he took. I’m curious to see if this whole experience has changed his outlook in certain ways which may be the only silver lining for this inexcusable showcase of whiny entitlement and the lack of empathy that some people have when communicating online. The internet is not some big game of make believe where words and actions don’t carry real world consequences for the people who use it, and sadly those consequences have fallen on the people trying to do good than on those who want to sneer at it. In any case, I’m super pumped to see his review of The Dark Tower!
So just a caveat here. Clearly I’m not the smartest person who’s ever lived, and as a white dude I’m SWIMMING in a sea of privilege and entitlement of my own. If anything I’ve said above is incorrect or misses some very important point, I’m always willing to listen as long as you come to me in good faith.