Insomnia 61: merchandise, money and mistakes

One of my stepson’s dreams came true when visiting Insomnia 61 at the end of August, where he had the opportunity to see one of his favourite YouTubers in real-life. He has been watching DanTDM’s channel (previously ‘The Diamond Minecart’) for over a year now and it’s the first place he, and 16-million other subscribers, go to for regular Minecraft content.

Unfortunately for myself and my other-half, this means his voice is regularly heard throughout our house and we don’t really understand the fascination. He doesn’t appear to be a particularly good gamer (although that isn’t entirely important); his videos are poorly edited; and the jokes that pepper the gameplay aren’t funny. Some may say there are far worse things for a ten-year old to watch and point out DanTDM’s reputation for being one of the ‘safer’ YouTubers for kids.

That didn’t stop me feeling uncomfortable however as we queued up for his hour-long show at the event, and wondering whether the parents around us knew exactly what their sons and daughters were watching online. Minecraft seemed as though it would be a suitable game for the majority of the young audience at Insomnia 61; but what about titles such as Who’s Your Daddy? and The Escapists, which have featured on DanTDM’s channel since 2016?

Insomnia, video games, DanTDM

I didn’t know the father and excited little girl in the seats in front of me but something told me he wouldn’t consider a game where you can play as a baby who’s determined to take its own life as appropriate for his six-year old daughter. I didn’t think a title consisting of prisoners trying to escape jail while avoiding violence and sexually-suggestive comments from cellmates and guards would be high on his suitability-scale either.

As the show begun and it became apparent neither DanTDM himself nor his interviewer was going to mention these games, I found myself first understanding why they’d made that decision. After all, no parent was going to cough up for the merchandise plugged throughout the hour if they felt this person was showing their children things they shouldn’t see. Instead, we listened to them tell us about the tickets for his tour, his DVD, his book, and his exclusive Insomnia t-shirts and stationery – and just how awesome it all was.

Then as DanTDM started taking questions from the audience, I realised why he has been looking to expand his content outside of Minecraft for the past year. The five- to ten-year olds surrounding him would soon grow up and he’d no longer be relevant; so what better way to capitalise on your limited celebrity shelf-life than expanding your repertoire (and merchandise) as widely and as quickly as possible?

But were games such as Who’s Your Daddy? and The Escapists really the right way to go when his audience is so young? Celebrities make comments about how they never signed up to be role-models but unfortunately it’s not that simple: fame comes with side-effects both good and bad, and excuses aren’t adequate dismissals of responsibility. Children may be drawn to his channel for Minecraft videos but could very easily find other content.

Of course it’s down to the parents to monitor their online activity but, as they grabbed the hands of their kids and pulled them towards the exit, I looked around and wondered how closely they did this. Adults should make a point of knowing what their children are playing but PEGI ratings are often misunderstood or ignored; so it was with dismay that I realised the vetting of YouTube videos probably wouldn’t be much different.

As we managed to battle our way outside the hall I counted myself lucky. I had a stepson who understands that not everything online is suitable; who’s willing to talk to us about what he should and shouldn’t be playing; and who’s aware that not all of DanTDM’s content is suitable despite how much he adores him. I wondered to myself how long this would continue with his teenage years fast approaching, but realised the only thing to do was continue trying to be the best step-parent I could.

Insomnia, video games, DanTDM

There was however the benefit of Ethan now seeing DanTDM as a ‘real person’. Instead of the heavily-edited and exaggerated celebrity in his videos who achieves everything first time, he was a gamer who makes mistakes like the rest of us and died several times while playing a level of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy live on stage. Maybe now my stepson would start to realise there’s no need for him to be a ‘perfect gamer’ and to simply enjoy video games for what they are.

And with that, we forgot about DanTDM and his merchandise for a while. The rest of Insomnia 61 was waiting for us.

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13 thoughts on “Insomnia 61: merchandise, money and mistakes

  1. At insomnia 60 I got the chance to meet my favourite YouTubers, the experience is great at helping to see that there is so much more to the person then what you see in a 15-20 minute video. Im glad Ethan got to see that

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    1. As much as DanTDM isn’t my thing, it was good to see him being ‘normal’ (well, as normal as you can get on stage in front of hundreds of people). Gone was the hyperactive personality on YouTube we hear throughout the house during weekends; instead, he was a lot more down-to-earth and easier to like. Hopefully Ethan seeing him fail at video games just as the rest of us do will have a positive effect. 🙂

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  2. One of my sisters is pretty obsessed with Minecraft and this guy. I don’t and haven’t watched his content so can’t really comment on him as a person.

    It must be very tough trying monitor what children watch as obviously you don’t want them to be subjected to certain things.

    But it also must be pretty tough for YouTubers because they don’t necessarily choose who watches their content. Sure they do to a point and there are obviously certain people who aim and attract a particular groups. But if you look at someone Like Jackcepticeye, he’s watched by – from what I can tell, all age groups, young and old – I watch some of his stuff, but he certainly doesn’t censor himself or any of his content and there is no doubt that some of it is NSFW. But it is his responsibility to cater to a potential younger audience, or the viewer or guardians job to decide what you should watch?

    It’s a pretty weird and unique position to be in really. Whilst you have the PEGI system etc… It’s not as clear cut as, say, a film. Unless you yourself actually sat and ‘vetted’ a video before hand, you have no idea what could be in it.

    It’s a difficult position for you to be in and one that I don’t envy, but to me it sounds like you take a very sensible and pragmatic approach to it.

    I’m not entirely sure what my point is now and I feel like I’m just waffling on… So… Uhh, how was the rest of the show? Worth a trip?

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    1. Oh yeah, ultimately it’s the responsibility of the parent or guardian to know what their child is watching and playing. In terms of YouTube though, it’s really difficult; there’s just so much new content all the time and no way to keep on top of it all. Trying to vet every video would take an entire lifetime.

      I do count myself as fortunate because Ethan has always been good when it comes to understanding what is and isn’t appropriate for him. He’s never really pushed against it. Of course, that could all change once he starts at secondary school and there’s more peer pressure to contend with…

      As for Insomnia itself, it was a good day overall. I think EGX and Rezzed still come above it for me but I think you’d get more out of the event if you did the whole LAN thing and camped there overnight. Definitely worth a go if you get the opportunity.

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  3. I’ve had quite a few parent friends talk to me about this very thing and ask me for any YouTubers that do Let’s Plays who’d be suitable for their children. I do know a few, but only one who is definitely no higher than PG rated so long as he plays games in that range. Even if he does play a game that’s more explicit, he himself retains his G-PG language unless he’s reading something. It’s interesting because if a parent friend asks me about a bit of media in terms of its suitability for children, I have to pause, because it’s not something I have to constantly think about…yet.

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    1. Being around Ethan for the past several years has definitely been… a learning curve, in terms of video games and YouTube. There are so many things I’d never have given a second thought to before but now have an impact.

      I think the thing that has surprised me most is how many people misunderstand or overlook the PEGI rating system here in the UK. Parents tend to think it works like toys: that it covers the age a child could ‘manage’ to play the game, rather than the content they could be subjected to.

      The only way to know whether something is suitable for your kid is to check it out for yourself. Saying that though, vetting every single video on YouTube would be an uphill battle… we’re extremely fortunate that Ethan is willing to have conversations about video games and suitability with us, and he ‘gets it’.

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        1. In some aspects, video games aren’t toys – as you say, they’re very similar to movies in certain ways. But it’s so easy for parents to view them as such, and then regard their classifications as being similar to the age-ranges applied by toy manufacturers…

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          1. Exactly. They’re kind of a cross between a toy and a movie, because it’s something you can play (with), but it’s also a visual media, and in some ways it can be even more damaging (if you will) than a movie, because video games are immersive. You are literally acting out a part. One of the best examples I can think of is another blogger friend who played The Last of Us (a survival horror game). The end of it really disturbed him, and what made it worse was what he had to make the character do. Even though it’s the character’s actions, you’re controlling them so they’re your actions in a way as well. I can almost force you to be empathetic to a point of view you find repulsive. That can be very confusing to kids, since they might not be old/mature enough to process those feelings properly.

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            1. Oh yeah, I totally agree with you there – as adults we can more easily distinguish between our own feelings and those of others, and step away when necessary. Children find it more difficult; my stepson is getting older but we still have to limit the amount of time he plays video games because he gets so caught up in them. He’ll play something for an hour, and then talk constantly about what he did for the next sixty minutes.

              One of our friends is currently letting their six-year old son play Call of Duty. Talking to him about it has been hard because he can’t understand what’s wrong with this and can get defensive when his parenting skills are ‘questioned’. I worry what affect this is having, though…

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              1. I remember doing the same thing with every movie I’d see. I think it’s something children often do maybe to try to understand their experience or talk to people who can help them understand it!

                Um wow. Well all you can do is offer your advice (if they want it). I can definitely see the problem with that, but if they’re getting defensive, you’re not going to get through that or their cognitive dissonance. I don’t even know if a peer reviewed article would. When people get to that point they’ll only listen to themselves or anyone that agrees with them. It’s damn near impossible to break through. The six year old may not be affected/damaged by this experience, but CoD is clearly not appropriate for someone his age ;\

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  4. “unsuitable” videos are all over Youtube. Even if DanTDM didn’t make “unsuitable” ones, a child could still browse and find some by someone else. You can’t blame the Youtuber, in all honesty. Plus, Youtube is a platform of free speech (and people are trying to keep it that way, even with changes that are arising) so people can post whatever they want, no matter their audience. Their audience comes because of what they post, not the other way around. And finally, there’s a Youtube Kids app, if you’re that stressed about your child being able to run into bad videos, maybe give that a try?

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    1. To be honest, I think I’m pretty lucky in this situation. Both myself and my other-half are gamers so we’re pretty clued up about YouTube and what’s appropriate for my stepson; and he’s still young enough to think we’re ‘cool’ because we play video games. I’m sure that’ll change once his teenage years hit but for now I’m making the most of it. 😉

      What it does mean is that he’s willing to listen to us when we have conversations about suitability and why certain things aren’t appropriate for him. We obviously have appropriate measures in place to monitor but as yet my stepson hasn’t overstepped the boundaries. I just wonder how easy it is for other parents: are they clued up, are they aware of the content out there, do they have those conversations with their children?

      You’re right to point out that an audience comes about because of content, but I think it’s good to also consider that the relationship can change over time. Once you have an established audience you’re more likely to publish videos that directly cater to them. The problem comes when you want to change direction: if you already have a secure fanbase of young kids, how do you handle moving into a more ‘adult’ area?

      It’s a tricky subject and not one I’m sure I’d be able to manage myself. My stepson’s generation is the first to truly grow up with YouTube, and it’ll be interesting to see how it develops in the coming years.

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