LEARN THE BASICS
With 10 million subscribers and over 2.5 billion views, Ali-a is one of youtube’s biggest superstars. here he offers advice on how you can start your own specialist channel.
What should initial expectations be when people start out?
First of all, it’s definitely possible for someone to make a new channel become the next big gamer on Youtube. There’s always going to be people who are coming through and growing. Just because there are big channels out there now does not mean that there’s no space for anybody else. There’s a bigger audience and a bigger market there ready to watch new people. You just have to be making the right content.
The key thing is making sure that if you’re playing games that you enjoy and are having with it. If you’re having fun and enjoying it that will hopefully traverse through your videos – the audience can tell. That’s really important; being genuine. Playing games for the sake of playing games, people aren’t going to be interested. I think passion and excitement and enjoyment of what you’re doing is a really key part. So, play games and make videos in games that you enjoy. There are always niches out there, there are always markets out there.
How important is having unique persona in front of the camera?
Honestly, there are people who are better a fit for Youtube than others… I think being extreme, being a little bit more out there, makes you more interesting to watch. You don’t know what that person is going to do next or [if] that person has a load of energy, which makes the videos more entertaining to watch. I’d always say be yourself, but then sometimes there are some people that just aren’t going to fit with Youtube
– if you don’t bring enthusiasm, and not bringing the energy, that’s a negative thing. Just try and be yourself and if you do need to overreact a little bit or emphasise yourself a little bit, that’s fine, so long as it comes across in the videos as still be genuine, it definitely brings that edge of personality and entertainment to the videos that’s really important.
Should people look to specialise in the games they play?
It all depends, I think. If you’re a big personality and people are following your channel for your personality then the game comes second and you can play any game so long as you’re making an entertaining video, people won’t mind.
I went down the route of having the focus really being [on Call Of Duty], because I knew a lot about the game, and then I integrated my personality a little bit later down the line. There are those two routes again; the personality route, where the game isn’t a huge issue and as long as you’re having fun and making a fun video; or you have the gaming route, where you’re focused on the game and your personality comes second. If you feel you’re a strong personality, try a few things out, but if you’re really hardcore about a game focus on that route.
How important is editing?
It honestly depends on the game. With Minecraft you can get away with very minimal editing, but in all honesty, the more editing and the better editing, the better your video will do. People do appreciate the little things and that’s something that may not be noticeable when you first start out. A well-edited video will always bring a person back more so than a video that’s been quickly put together. It’s a fine balance I think, in the game community. You’ve got two routes you can go down. You can have lots of content, but less edited route or you can go down the less content, but highly edited route. Both have their own pluses and minuses, but if you are a good editor and you can put time into editing it’s really going to pay off. It’s going to make your video come across better, the video will have a better structure, be more entertaining to watch. If you don’t know how to edit then find any editing software, any basic editing software and just give it a go. I couldn’t edit at all when I started on Youtube, but it’s something that I picked up myself over the years. It’s really beneficial and will really help out your channel if you can edit well.
people for the very first time would prove to be revelatory. “I can’t say I ever had any ambition to be famous Youtuber when I was growing up (because it wasn’t even an option), but what I wanted to build was a community. I always wanted to build something where people who, like me, didn’t have a place to belong could find somewhere,” she says, noting that this attitude stemmed from her experiences leaving school and heading to university, just as Youtube started to emerge as something more than a mere companion to Newgrounds and breeding ground for the Internet’s earliest memes. “I got a ‘real job’ on my parent’s advice; I went to university and I became a midwife. But while I was training I was discovering online gaming communities; discovering people that were just like me for the first time in my life.”
It’s here where you get a sense of her work ethic, and begin to understand what it takes to make yourself a success in this industry. “While I was doing my training I got more and more involved with Destructoid. I started meeting people there; I saved up and I flew all the way to PAX to meet my forum friends. I started doing more and more stuff after that; I wanted to bring the UK fans of this website together – doing meets so they could also find the friends they wished they could have had growing up like me,” she says, recalling the origin story that earned Bennett the title of European Community Manager for the popular gaming site.
Sticking with this role part time, producing video and podcast content for Destructoid, around her work as a midwife, eventually Bennett caught the attention of publishers. It wouldn’t be long before her hard work paid off, from 2012 Bennett has held stints as a Consumer and Community PR Executive for Bandai Namco and, later, as a Social Community Manager for Sony.
But now Bennett is freelance, working exclusively with Access. Her dedication to profession is what sets her apart, a tastemaker and force of positivity familiar to millions around the world. Bennett blazed her on trail, and you’ll likely find your own with the necessary dedication. Here’s the thing, she suggests, it isn’t – and shouldn’t ever be – an impossible dream. If you too want to become a Youtube personality you can, be on your own or with another channel, but it’s all about your approach.
“I think it’s about learning how to portray your personality in a way that makes you much more available,” she tells us, noting that finding success on Youtube in a professional capacity isn’t necessarily about trying to mimic the way in which television presenters handle themselves on camera but on ensuring that you are able to open yourself up to a viewer in a way that feels genuine. “Youtube, Twitch; its personality driven content. The industry has tried to put Youtubers and Twitch streamers on a more television-style setting and it wasn’t quite right for their personalities,” she continues, giving games™ horror flashbacks to EA’S 2017 E3 presentation. “It doesn’t draw them out in the best possible way.”
There’s no one surefire way of gaining the confidence to feel at ease in front of a camera and properly project your personality, though Bennett does have one tip on that front: “I talk to myself all the time! I know it sounds really daft, but I like to think: ‘If somebody was to ask me a question, how would I answer it?’ In the shower especially; I’m forever almost interviewing myself, because it’s how I would then portray what I want to say to others.”
A little chatter never hurt anybody, but ultimately the only way you are likely to get any better – to see any noticeable improvement in both your demeanour and the quality of your content – is to actually start doing it. You’ve likely heard this one plenty of times in the past but it still rings true to this day: practice makes perfect. “The thing you need to do is just start making and uploading. Even if one day you delete them all because ‘oh my god, they are all just so embarrassing! I can’t believe I ever sounded like that’ but it is important that you get practicing. The more you do this the better you get,” Bennett tells us, although she is quick to note that it’s this period in which so many potential Youtube hopefuls give up. “What is difficult about that is that you could work on something all weekend, and you could be so proud, but when you see it get like 15 views it can be easy to think ‘well, why did I bother?’
But its not necessarily about the views, it’s about perfecting your skill and building a portfolio.”
Now that’s not something you hear every time – but then Bennett is no ordinary Youtube personality. But it’s true; your Youtube channel can, essentially, act as a C.V. There are more paths than ever into the game. Even if you struggle to crack the specialist channel market – something the likes of Arekkz Gaming and Ali-a have had on lock for a number of years with the industry’s biggest titles – it could still lead to you getting a fantastic job in the industry. “Don’t put too much pressure on the numbers, because it can still lead you to having this type of career,” Bennett tells us, noting that Youtube today is essentially about demonstrating your skills, with your channel essentially acting as a slideshow of your style. “What people need to [remember] is that your channel almost works like a portfolio… if community and social management is the way that you want to go, for example, being able to run a Youtube channel is now a skill that [companies] request of you.” “A lot of Youtubers don’t even realise that it’s not even maybe about this one channel becoming famous but it’s a C.V. worthy skill that can maybe get you to work for a company where you can be part of something, like Access. Xbox On is another great example; Yogscast too; it’s about practice. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
With Access and her own Twitch channel, Bennett looks at both endeavours as forces of positive change and impact in the industry. Perhaps offering the best tip that she can – don’t look at Youtube as a potential career first, but as a starting point for discussion and engagement. “I’m happy to see [one of our] videos not even get that many views if its got loads of comments and great discussion underneath it. That’s a win for me, because it means we’ve created something engaging.” “This is when I know we are on the right track, because then I knew we are building something that was not only memorable but having a positive impact on the audience. To me, that’s the goal; building communities.”
"I THINK IT'S ABOUT LEARNING HOW TO PORTRAY YOUR PERSONALITY IN A WAY THAT MAKES YOU MUCH MORE AVAILABLE"
Access is now independently run following its departure from the Yogscast Network in 2017, a move that allows it to be more agile in the space.