This Is What Happens When PewDiePie Plays Your Video Game

31
This Is What Happens When PewDiePie Plays Your Video Game


Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, is the world most famous proponent of ‘Let’s Play’ YouTube videos. By all accounts he is the most successful YouTuber in the world, earning $4 million a year for his videos. But what happens when PewDiePie unleashes his incredible audience upon one single video game? Australian game developer Kritz knows first hand. One day PewDiePie decided to stream Kritz’s current work in progress, a game called ‘Citizen Burger Disorder’. That was the day when everything changed.


For Kritz it was a day like any other.

Actually that’s bullshit. It was an uncommonly sucky day and it was completely screwed up from the start.

For one thing, Kritz’s server was down. Bloody server. Kritz awoke to news it had all gone to shit for some reason, he had no idea why. “The CPU was running at 100% capacity,” he remembers. “The RAM usage was completely unusable, the sql server had just given up”.

Bugger it. Fresh reboot.

Five minutes later, the server goes down again. What the fuck?

“I didn’t think much of it at the time, but yeah,” recalls Kritz. “In retrospect, I probably should have known something was up.”

Kritz — a student — shuffled off and began work on his assignment, programming a pathfinding algorithm he’d been putting off. This was the other reason why Kritz was having a pretty terrible day.

The server in question was responsible for hosting the website that hosted the video game that Kritz was working on in his spare time. That game was called Citizen Burger Disorder.

Citizen Burger Disorder. Emphasis on the ‘Disorder’. Kritz himself has difficulty describing it. In short it’s a physics-based, co-op burger restaurant management simulator. A weird collection of disjointed buzzwords. It’s absolute chaos in video game form and it has to be seen to be believed. By Kritz’s own admission it’s pretty broken. “When did the game become playable?” I once asked him.

“Let’s not assume it’s playable now,” he replied.

The pitch Kritz gave himself during the game’s early development was QWOP meets Space Team meets Spelunky. The idea? Completely subvert the idea of video game progress. Kritz admits that he hates it when people try to play games perfectly. Citizen Burger Disorder was designed specifically to mess with those kinds of players, he wanted to make a game that would drive perfectionists insane. “More than fail, I want players to not succeed,” he admits.

So that’s Citizen Burger Disorder.

The game was tracking fairly well. Citizen Burger Disorder is still in a state of development. It’s free-to-play and you can head to Kritz’s website and play at any time. A couple of niche websites had covered it, written about it, streamed it. Kritz estimated that his site had been clicked on roughly about 100,000 before that day.

Before that day. The day that had started like any other. Except that it hadn’t.



“Hey PewDiePie did a video on your game.”

Kritz squinches at the phone. What? Nah…

But yes. It had happened. It had already happened and there was no preparing for it. PewDiePie, the highest earning YouTuber on planet earth had just released a video of him playing Kritz’s game. PewDiePie had played Citizen Burger Disorder and he had played it for an audience of millions. Oh shit.

“My first thought was, ‘oh that’s why the website is down’.”

This is the power of PewDiePie. The power to make websites crumble. Before his server was crushed beneath the weight of PewDiePie’s immense audience, Citizen Burger Disorder was played over 25,000 times in just a couple of hours.

Hilariously, Kritz was practically the last person to know. It was his sister’s boyfriend who first noticed. As soon as Kritz got word he fired off a text message to a buddy who promptly replied, “um yeah, you didn’t know?”

“I walked into the computing lunch room at University to tell some friends,” Kritz remembers. “They acted like it was old news.

“So that stuff blew through pretty fast I guess.”

The speed at which the PewDiePie train blew past induced a certain amount of anxiety, not just in Kritz himself, but in the people around him. Citizen Burger Disorder was really just a hobby project, says Kritz, an excuse to “make people laugh and dork about”. It was never really intended to be anything to anyone, let alone the 25,000 randoms who suddenly swept in and left his servers in tatters.

But now Kritz started getting advice. You should capitalise on this! Run ads on the site, start a Kickstarter! Ride this wave before it crashes.

“But I was just sitting there trying to focus on my exams.”

As mentioned before, Kritz was/is a student, in his final year of a Bachelor of Computing degree (“which I think is the most broad sounding degree ever named”) he also managed to major in Game Design (“by accident,” he admits). He actually failed his Advanced Games Programming class last year by attending PAX Australia, but that’s another story.

Point being: Kritz didn’t want to fail another class. He didn’t want to get caught up in the (PewDie)Pie in the sky land of fleeting internet fame and ignore the important every day task of actually completing his degree.

But he sorta ended up doing that anyway.



failed

“There was one that looked really cool,” he remembers. “It was a 2D horror game with a little lightbulb guy. The art style was fantastic and the game looked legitimately good.

“I forget how far the funding got, but it wasn’t enough to succeed. I wanted to know, why did this game fail?”

Kritz typed the name of the game into a search engine. The first result that popped up was a PewDiePie video with 3 million views.

“Even with all that, the game didn’t make it.”

This is the nature of instant internet fame. It flickers and fades. Kritz struggles with the idea that all of this might be for nothing. In the last week alone PewDiePie has released 15 videos. Within hours of playing and publishing a video on Citizen Burger Disorder PewDiePie and his legion of fans had already moved on to the next video, to the next strange game. Trying to grasp for traction as that exposure rapidly slips through your fingers. How is it possible? Is it even worthwhile?

For the most part, Kritz isn’t lingering on what might have been. Citizen Burger Disorder is, after all, simply a hobby project.

“I just want to make cool games and let people have a good time,” he says.

His currently plan? Finish up his degree, possibly start some sort of Kickstarter for Citizen Burger Disorder. Mostly he just wants to make video games for a living, whether that’s with a larger studio or working on his own pet projects.

To this day, Kritz hasn’t watched PewDiePie playing Citizen Burger Disorder. Turns out he isn’t a big fan.

“I said to someone before: “”I wouldn’t watch a PewDiePie video, even if he was playing my own game.”

Comments

  • They acted like it was old news.

    That’s what sucks about the internet. People hearing something and then acting condescending when someone else finds out about it.

  • I always kinda felt bad when I saw people rag on PewDiePie in these comments section. I was like “Come on, just let the boy make his videos, don’t need to be so mean to him.”.

    Then today, I watched a PewDiePie video for the very first time….

  • I still remember hearing about how Thomas Was Alone’s creator thanked TotalBiscuit for the success of the game. Apparently sales grew massively after TotalBiscuit’s video, turning a would-be failure into a successful game.

    The problem is this guy wasn’t ready for the bubble with a paid version of his game. You need to prepare for these events!

  • I like Let’s Play videos but I only watch someone play through a whole game like Skyrim or a playthrough of Civ. But I don’t watch them religiously, just when I get bored really. I can’t understand people (actually this goes for all Youtube videos actually) though that will jump online the instant their favourite youtuber has uploaded something new. About the only thing I watch straight away are highlights from Cambridge United’s match the day before.

    Fair play to this guy though. He’s found a way to play games and make money from it. I guess that’s where a lot of resentment comes from. I haven’t watched his videos so I don’t know if they’re actually bad or not, but given the nature of internet ‘celebrities’ I would hazard a guess that they’re not the best you can find but hey, they must be hitting the right spots for some people who live on Youtube

    The sad thing is, and I’m glad he realised it, is that the exposure from someone like pewdiepie is extremely fleeting. You might pick up a few new fans from it, but like Oprah’s reading club thingo, some people like being told what to play before waiting to be told next time what to do again

    • The biggest reason for watching “Let’s play” isn’t really actually in the “game-play” itself per se.

      It’s really more how the host (or in the case of Pew Die Pie the character the host wants to portray) reacts/interacts w/ the game itself. Think of it as reading an extended review from a writer that you enjoy reading articles/comments from except in “video” form and unscripted

      • I like to watch them primarily to find new styles of playing games, especially strategy games but when it comes to story driven games I’ll happily put a let’s play on in the background listen to someone ramble on about a game I love.

        I’m not so much of a fan of watching videos of games I haven’t played though. Not a fan of spoilers, no matter how trivial it may be 😀

  • Given that this has happened before, and that he plays indie games (that don’t have the fancy infrastructure sitting behind them), you would think PewDiePie would give the developers at least some warning that he was intending on playing their game. I mean, he must plan at least a little in advance. A little note like ‘Hey, I’m going to be sending a ton of traffic your way, just a heads up’.

    • Agreed. It seems PewDiePie can literally be weaponized to exhaust a game’s appeal before it’s even finished, quite easily hurting the game creator’s advanced stage strategy, creating a situation by where when the game is finished, no one will care.
      I think all indie developers (that plan on selling their game) should take note and definitely consider withholding their game entirely until they can come up with a release schedule that cannot be ruined by an ill-timed digital flash-mobbing.

      *I have not seen a single PewDiePie video

    • Probably does lots of MP games with friends/mates and records them all and quickly cuts the best ones for youtube. Also, letting someone know in advance could almost be see as collusion. I don’t think he should bother letting them know.

  • I agree with the guy’s stance on pewdiepie videos – the character that he creates for that channel is immature well beyond the point of conventional cringe-worthy and the voice is like nails on a chalkboard amplified to 150 Db, recorded on the J-SH04 (made by Sharp and released exclusively for J-Phone (Now SoftBank Mobile) in November 2000) and then played back at full volume through discount shop headphones sold at $0.50.

    I may have exaggerated a bit in that last part…

  • Furthering the tradition of my fellow “That’s so 5 minutes ago” people, this isn’t a new phenomenon, Penny Arcade, RPS and even Kotaku have been crashing sites due to increased traffic for years. My only hope is that the guy got something out of it.

Log in to comment on this story!