3:15 on Periscope

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Contents -

Would-be stars of ev­ery­day life

high-five: if they miss, Dan re­peats it un­til they get a good one. He doesn’t rush. He lets each kid talk to him, and he re­sponds thought­fully, and he smiles. He smiles at the tick­et­buy­ing par­ents, too, who can’t re­sist pop­ping over to shake Dan’s hand and thank him for en­ter­tain­ing their kids. DANTDM looks the par­ents in the eye and thanks them back.

Youtube, Minecraft TOON TOWN! Mod Show­case, 10,220,786 views: Hey ev­ery­one! Dan here, from The Di­a­mond Minecart. Wel­come to an­other Minecraft Mod show­case, where to­day we’re go­ing to be look­ing at the Toon Town Mod, which adds char­ac­ters and items from your favourite car­toons into your Minecraft world – from Sponge­bob to Snoopy and even the Teenage Mu­tant Ninja Tur­tles. This mod is said to be a lot of fun, so let’s get straight to it. Now our toons for to­day have taken over Bikini Bot­tom… So let’s spawn Sponge­bob here – here he is, you see he looks a-maz-ing. Look at this – aww, he’s so happy… If you’re a par­ent, it might seem pre­pos­ter­ous. It might seem mind-numb­ingly stupid. Not just that your child wants to sit in­side on a sunny Satur­day morn­ing play­ing a video game. No. Your child wants to sit in­side on a sunny Satur­day morn­ing and watch a video of some­one else play­ing a video game. The first time you wit­ness your child do­ing this, you feel de­spair. Like the apes re­ally are go­ing to rise up and take over. Why, you ask your child, do you spend your time do­ing this, turn­ing your brain to mush?

He looks up from the screen for less than a sec­ond and says, “He’s funny.”

Funny is good. So you sit on the arm of the couch for a minute to watch – to make sure it’s okay. No bad lan­guage, no in­cit­ing of il­licit be­hav­iour. And there’s not. You sit there for a minute, and then four min­utes, and be­fore you know it you’ve slid down onto the couch and watched the whole 12-minute thing, you and your boy, on a Satur­day morn­ing, post-pan­cakes. This guy – this guy is quite amaz­ing, ac­tu­ally. He first ap­peared on YouTube as DANTDM in 2012, when he posted a record­ing of him­self play­ing Minecraft, over which he spoke a fairly hum­drum nar­ra­tion. To­day, his videos show him play­ing other games as well, but mostly Minecraft, his 25-year-old boy­ish face al­most al­ways ap­pear­ing in the cor­ner of the screen, his run­ning commentary now lively and funny. He added a sec­ond chan­nel, MORETDM, a reg­u­lar vlog of his life. He has a rub­bery smile, punky hair usu­ally flopped over to one side, and hole-in-the-lobe ear­rings.

Minecraft is all about con­struct­ing things, build­ings and land­scapes, which makes it bet­ter than your av­er­age video game. But to DANTDM, all that is a back­drop for his imag­i­na­tion, and he uses it to de­sign en­tire worlds in which his imag­i­na­tion can live. He in­vents char­ac­ters and talks to them. There’s a plot. Peo­ple – par­ents, kids, peo­ple who post videos of them­selves on Youtube – won­der how one guy mak­ing Minecraft videos gets rich and fa­mous and goes on tour while the thou­sands of other peo­ple who make Minecraft videos don’t. It’s not luck, re­ally, or mar­ket­ing or any­thing like that. DANTDM tells sto­ries.

“That’s when I ini­tially got my pop­u­lar­ity boost, I guess,” Dan says over the phone from his home in the UK, a few weeks af­ter the Con­necti­cut show. “I added that story el­e­ment.” And DANTDM is good at telling sto­ries. He’s Mis­ter Rogers and Bar­ney and the Wild Kratts and the kid from Di­ary of a Wimpy Kid. He’s a play­wright and a cin­e­matog­ra­pher, a di­rec­tor and an actor. And he is good at all of these things. More than good. He gets 19 mil­lion sub­scribers to sign on to his Youtube chan­nels and to watch him do it every day. Twice a day, when he’s not on tour. Dan records

and ed­its every video him­self, a process that can take be­tween four and six hours per video, in­clud­ing the ren­der­ing. He has spon­sors such as Tell­tale Games and Dis­ney, and he has a new series on Red, Youtube’s paid stream­ing ser­vice. Based on Youtube views, his net worth has been es­ti­mated as high as R230 mil­lion, though that is un­con­firmed.

At the end of the 12-minute video, your kid pushes stop and looks up at you like he’s got away with some­thing and he smiles and says, “Told you.”

Youtube, I GET ROBBED IN VR!! Job Sim­u­la­tor, 15 012 009 views: HEY EVERYOOONE! Dan here. Wel­come BACK into an­other video! And to­day, as you can see, we will be play­ing some more vir­tual-re­al­ity gam­ing on the HTC Vive and you guys seemed to ab­so­lutely love the pre­vi­ous Job Sim­u­la­tor video so TO­DAY we’re go­ing to be play­ing a dif­fer­ent job in­side that game. So with­out a fur­ther ado… LET’S DO THIS!... Right then, so last time we did… Gourmet Chef so I GUESS we don’t need that one any­more. Ha HA! Get out of here! Aaaand we’ve got Of­fice Worker an – oh geez, it’s back. No! Stay away. Stay away. Uh, Store Clerk or Auto Me­chanic. Ooooo, I don’t know which one to choose! I think Store Clerk could be pretty fun… yep. Slushies, check! Hot dogs, check! That sounds good to me. Crank it! Crank it, if I can grab the lever. Here we go. Oh my good­ness. OH. MY. Good­ness. There’s fire­works… There is about an hour be­tween the meet-and-greet and show time. The fam­i­lies who have been here since 11:15 – it’s 2 pm now – wan­der the lobby. There’s a mer­chan­dise booth sell­ing T-shirts and posters and stuffed pugs that re­sem­ble Dan’s. There’s a full bar. Dads drink IPA. Kids eat chicken ten­ders. There’s a new Toy­ota Prius on dis­play, and a man from Toy­ota to tell you about it. In­side the theatre, a mom says to an­other mom, “What’s he gonna do?” The other mom an­swers, “This is so… I don’t know.” Lights in the shape of di­a­monds are pro­jected on the ceil­ing. Seats are fill­ing up.

“With­out Youtube, would it have hap­pened in the same way? No, I guess,” Dan says. “Be­cause the cool thing about me­dia and the on­line world nowa­days is that any­one can do it. Whereas I think through tra­di­tional me­dia, if you have some­thing that you want to cre­ate, you have to know the right peo­ple and get a lit­tle bit lucky as well. Not that you don’t have to get lucky on Youtube, too, but ev­ery­one has the same start­ing point.”

It also means, of course, that be­cause any­one can do it, many peo­ple do it. But whereas other Minecraft YouTu­bers re­view prod­ucts or game fea­tures, or do tu­to­ri­als, Dan tells sto­ries. His videos don’t aspire to be use­ful. They aspire to en­ter­tain. “I just like to make fun videos, I guess,” he says.

On stage, he doesn’t play Minecraft. He doesn’t play any video games. He and two other play­ers per­form a 150-page scripted story about Dan and his evil twin, Evil Dan, who has trapped Dan in a vir­tual world and im­pris­oned his pugs, so Dan must es­cape back into the real world, also en­list­ing his friend Eve and a dozen or so kids from the au­di­ence at var­i­ous mo­ments in the show. The joys of liv­ing in the real world in­stead of a dig­i­tal world is the leit­mo­tif – it pleases the par­ents. (And it’s smart: “We’re all trapped in the dig­i­tal world,” Dan says at one point. “It’s filled with cat videos, and you have to dodge com­ments about how much you stink.”) The kids? They just love Dan. They scream and cheer as he wres­tles with Evil Dan and even­tu­ally wins.

“We sold this idea of the live show on pretty much noth­ing, re­ally,” Dan says. “They know that I’m go­ing to be there, but they don’t know what I’m go­ing to do. But then hope­fully we do blow them away with this re­ally cool show that does have gam­ing within it. It cap­tures kind of the magic of my videos, too, but in­volves ev­ery­one in a much more per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence. Which was my main goal: I wanted to take that one lim­i­ta­tion about my videos, which is there’s al­ways a screen be­tween me and my au­di­ence. I wanted to take that out. And I think we achieved that.”

On the way out, peo­ple wait in long queues to buy mer­chan­dise. The rain is gone for good and sun bright­ens the lobby through the glass doors. Kids hold their par­ents’ hands in the crowd. Near the re­strooms, a boy and his dad stand against the wall, prob­a­bly wait­ing for the mom. The boy holds an au­to­graphed pic­ture of Dan. The dad says, “So what’d you think?”

The boy smiles and nods his head and says, “Yeah. Cool.”

A minute passes. Then the boy looks up at his fa­ther and says, “This is the best day of my life.” PM

When Periscope de­buted in 2015, the livestream­ing app marked the next step for­ward for video – now it wasn’t just easy to shoot, but easy to share. In­stantly. Two years later, it’s mostly a spot­light for the would-be stars of ev­ery­day life.

Periscope may be best known for dis­rup­tive guer­rilla broad­casts of ma­jor events – the 2015 bout be­tween Floyd May­weather and Manny Pac­quiao, the 2016 US Congress sit-in by House Democrats – but most of the time, it’s trained on the ut­terly mun­dane. On us, in other words. You launch the app. You browse the list of live streams. You choose one, it loads, and you are pre­sented, more than likely, with the face of a stranger go­ing about their daily life. They might be play­ing the drums, driv­ing to work, or hav­ing a smoke. Ut­terly mun­dane and yet peo­ple still tap ap­proval, send­ing hearts bub­bling up the side of the screen.

When you get your first glimpse into this stranger’s life, there is, with­out fail, a fa­mil­iar ex­change. On their end, the app alerts them to your pres­ence. Their eyes break from what they’re do­ing and flit briefly over the screen of their phone. They know noth­ing about you ex­cept that you are watch­ing; and for a frac­tion of a sec­ond, both look­ing at your screens, you’re no fur­ther apart than pa­tients shar­ing a glance in a wait­ing room, or fel­low trav­ellers stopped side by side at a red light. Tech­nol­ogy changes, but you’ve tapped into some­thing as old as hu­mankind: we all want to be seen.

On Periscope, this is hap­pen­ing all the time, all over the world. At 3:15 pm East­ern Stan­dard Time on Thurs­day, 15 June – a ran­dom time on a rather or­di­nary day – these are some of the lives you could see.

Dal­las Lim­er­ick, Ire­land Tokyo Tel Aviv, Is­rael Is­tan­bul Paris Am­s­ter­dam

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