In these harsh economic times, there are many youngsters out there who take a look at the rather unappetizing state of the traditional job market and wonder if there could be a better alternative.
The rise of social media stars, many of them accruing huge followings among young teenagers, provide an aspirational model for using modern technology to make it rich on an independent income. Of course, only a few can rise to the top in an industry that thrives on the attention of a fickle public, but it is being taken as seriously as a paying career, with various guides and handbooks purporting to hold the secrets to streaming success.
PewDiePie stands out from the crowd, in particular as a potential role model for YouTubing as a viable career. His latest mobile game, PewDiePie's Tuber Simulator, may at first appear to be an inspiring guide for aspirational followers, but under the surface it's a much more complex affair, broadcasting some very mixed messages.
Is this the real YouTuber's life?
Fans of the so far so tiny genre of YouTuber sims out there may remember YouTuber's Life, released earlier this year. PewDiePie went meta and YouTubed himself playing the game.
The experience apparently left him disappointed and frustrated with the depiction of the YouTube star's life. The game seemed to remind him of the more depressing aspects of his career, although some of this could be down to the self-deprecating humor of his online persona.
PewDiePie's Tuber Simulator
PewDiePie's new game for mobile platforms is a kind of sarcastic response to his experiences with YouTuber's Life. On the one hand, PewDiePie's Tuber Simulator is a decent game, and it can be fun. On the other hand, it's also a deconstruction of the myth that being a YouTube star is an easy life, raking in money just for being goofy on camera.
There's a particular kind of environment that emerges from the game mechanics. At first glance it's pretty typical for a mobile 'lifestyle' game, a la Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. But the details of PewDiePie's Tuber Simulator also contain a critique of the grim situation facing content creators.
Everyday there are three trends and making videos about them will net you a huge amount of views compared to anything else. And you need to make popular videos to get currency, to upgrade your apartment, which in turn helps you make better and more successful videos. So the mechanics basically demand that you keep that content mill going round and chase trends as best as you can, even though the trends are random, so they're just taking shots in the dark.
Throughout the game, PewDiePie also makes appearances, typically to passive-aggressively taunt you for the poor performance of your videos compared to him. It's an interesting dynamic, at once disparaging the YouTuber lifestyle while reminding you of the success of its biggest star in his own game. Mephistopholes-like offers pop up, giving you a chance to increase your views by doing something humiliating or insincere. Your avatar can't sleep or move around and can't do much with their earned money except buy more stuff (such as a friggin' window to let some daylight in) for their room, most of which are used as props for more videos.
Life in PewDiePie's Tuber Simulator is a mobile lifestyle game with a harsh, postmodern edge under the bright colors and buttons. It exposes the dark side of content creation on social media. Cynical trend-chasing, financial insecurity, and the anxiety of your meal ticket hinging on grabbing the attention of an unpredictable public. Not that I'd know anything about that, of course.