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The Old Man’s Guide to VTubers

At the grizzled old age of 32 sometimes I need help understanding the basics of the modern world. What is a dab? Why is TikTok a thing when it’s so obviously not a thing? And today, what the hell are vtubers?

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For a while now, there’s been a lot on the internet that I haven’t understood. Frankly, it’s only been getting worse. As someone who grew up in 90s chatrooms, I used to get the wild west nature of the internet. Extreme pornography and violence were just the risks you took for daring to go onto a kid’s chatroom. And who doesn’t fondly remember worryingly listening out for the sound of sirens after your Limewire download of every song from the Simpsons soundtrack turned out specifically not to be every song from the Simpsons soundtrack. I’m still worried they’re going to track me down 20+ years later.

These days, youngsters don’t have time to wait 4 minutes for every megabyte of nudity. No, it’s all about memes – quick, short, over almost before they’ve begun. And why play a game if you can watch it? And today’s latest mystery… how the hell is Tails from Sonic the Hedgehog now hosting their own channel? What dark and twisted tales will he carve in this worst of timelines?

If I’m going down that Lovecraftian nightmare rabbit hole, I’m taking each and every one of you down with you.

Miles Prower – VTubers Avatar

Take a YouTuber. Replace their (presumably) smug face with a cute cartoon. Make a gazillion dollars.

That’s the basic equation for being a successful VTuber. And while I feel like there are steps missing, that basically sums it up.

How do we know it’s successful? Because the pinprick sharp marketing team behind Sonic the Hedgehog are letting Tails get his own series of broadcasts. Bear in mind, he’s an eight-year-old with a plane, so he’s probably doing something worth listening to.

Chances are this will all go towards advertising the next Sonic game, and that’s great. But there are people out there who will be happy watching this, just like they’re happy watching endless anime ladies talk about their day.

Actually, endless is perhaps the wrong word. In 2020, there were about 10,000 active VTubers. So not endless, but enough that you couldn’t ever watch it all in a single lifetime, with more being added all the time. Great.

The real question is why the whole VTuber thing works. I Googled “why vtuber” so you didn’t have to.

People like it because it’s different, fun, spontaenous. Because the creation of a character means unexpected things happen, or that they can be more over the top than their real-life counterparts.

What they don’t say – although it’s heavily implied – is that the VTubers can live up to the anime stereotypes without coming across as cheesy or immature. You want a stuttering, innocent anime lady with huge boobs without it just being some cosplayer? Subscribe to VTubers.

Conclusion

I still don’t know why VTubers. I mean, anime boobs. But beyond that, I still don’t know why VTubers. That Tails is now one, thankfully sans breasts, is an interesting development. As the tech develops, this could become more part of our day-to-day lives in the gaming industry.

Can we have Mario present Nintendo’s big July show? Could Joel and Ellie announce the The Last of Us remake? The answer is absolutely yes. The only thing holding it back is acceptance. And in that way Tails – eight-year-old stalker Tails – is blazing trails.

 

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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott    Google Plus: matgrowcott