My Life as a Board Game YouTuber

So, I decided to become a YouTuber. I did it because I thought it would be quite nice to become a millionaire. Also I was quite keen to become famous enough to be invited onto Celebrity Bake-Off. And Strictly.

Not really. I always knew I was never going to become one those YouTubers. And actually I now realise that not only will I never become rich from YouTube, I will never even make a single penny out of it, because I will never pass the monetization threshold that YouTube has set. You need 1000 subscribers before you can make money from the channel, and, at the current rate I am attracting them, I have worked out that this will take me around 30 years!

I suppose I thought that there was a chance that if my channel did okay, I might sell more of my board game books. Really though, I think the reason I am doing it is for the same reason that, when I was ten, I used to make my own “radio shows” with a friend, using a cassette deck, a microphone, and a record player. That was quite a while ago – it was when records were cool the first time around. Hardly anybody listened to our radio shows back then, but we had fun doing it anyway. Hardly anybody watches my YouTube channel now, but that doesn’t stop me getting satisfaction from it.

So anyway, I want to talk you through what I did, and how I did it. Maybe somebody reading this who is thinking of creating their own channel might get some tips. I want to make it clear however, that the title of this page says that I am a YouTuber, it does not say I am a successful YouTuber. I am aware, therefore,  that there is a chance that this page might cause such a reader to decide just not to bother, instead. I hope not though.

Some General Tips

I did a lot of research before starting – I found a lot of websites and other YouTube channels, and below is a summary of all the tips I picked up from them:

  • Make sure you know what your channel is about (I do! It’s board gaming!)
  • Just start doing it. Don’t wait until you are “ready”.
  • The first fifty videos should be regarded as practice.
  • Keep posting.
  • Do research before you start filming.
  • Promote your videos across as many platforms as possible – Facebook, Twitter, Forums, etc.
  • Learn the best practices as you go along.
  • Get involved in the community for your niche. Make a name for yourself.
  • Create a series of videos.
  • Do a collaboration with another YouTuber in your niche. A big player if you can, otherwise someone about your size.
  • Have a weekly show.
  • Have an occasional “event” video
  • Use the Growth Formula (I have already forgotten what this is)
  • Set regular goals (one guy suggested 10000 subscribers in the first 6 months. Ha Ha Ha!)
  • You don’t need expensive equipment when you start.
  • Sound quality is the most important technical factor – try to use a microphone if you can (they are very cheap)
  • Use natural light. Film during the day with the curtains open.
  • Think of another YouTube channel you like, one that is outside of your niche, and allow yourself to be influenced by their style.
  • Be enthusiastic about your subject!

Video Number 1

For my first video, I decided to try something simple. I did not want to try anything really ambitious while I was still learning the ropes. Taking advice from the bullet points above, I treated this as a practice video.

There was a game I had recently acquired, and was playing quite a lot of with my daughter, called Gipf (the game is called Gipf, not my daughter) and I had noticed there were hardly any videos about it. What few there were, were quite uninspiring – and also I could not find one that did not have a rules mistake in it. I decided to do a video about that game; I was keen to feature some strategy tips too, because there was literally nothing on YouTube (and very little on the internet generally) about that. Even though it was a practice though, I wanted to make the video entertaining to watch, so I put in some jokes, and some music, and edited out all the boring bits.

Here are some technical bits you might find interesting:

  • We filmed it using a five year old iPhone.
  • The overhead shots were done by attaching the phone to a lampshade using string and two wooden coffee stirrers.
  • The editing was done using some free editing software called Shotcut (I watched a YouTube video that told me how it worked, a fact which I think provides some nice symmetry to the project).
  • Resolution is 1920 x 1080, aspect 16:9, and 30.3 frames per second
  • The credit sequence at the beginning was done using Microsoft PowerPoint.
  • The voice-over work was done using the voice recorder software built into my ancient Chromebook, and a cheap USB microphone.
  • I took the drumbeat from a website that said you could use it to create your own music for free.

Here it is:

  • Number of views after a week:           44.  Not great, but to be expected, I guess.
  • Number of new subscribers:                3

What I learned from doing this:

  1. It turns out, I am never happy with the first take, or the second, or the third … I end up doing loads
  2. Also, video editing takes ages!
  3. The drumbeat turned out to be copyright protected after all, so YouTube told me I could never make money from this video. Since I was never going to do that anyway, it’s not really a problem  I won’t be using that music website again though.
  4. Not everyone gets my sense of humour. One of the few bits of feedback I got was an expression of disgust about the “cheating” at the end (the kitten distraction tactic). When I explained to the disgusted person that it was actually just a joke, filmed long after the game had finished, they did not reply.
  5. It turns out that making a video without a rules mistake in it is not as easy as you might think.

Video Number 2

My second video was where I decided to show my face a bit more, and do some talking to camera. I am still practising though, so I picked another obscure game, one from my childhood.

New equipment/techniques used this time:

  • I bought an octopus tripod for the phone.  I love it!
  • Shotcut allows you to have two video tracks running at once. It is quite easy (using a filter) to make one of those tracks run in one corner of the screen.
  • To remove the background in the countdown clock video I used a Shotcut filter called Chroma Key (advanced) which works like green-screen. Operation was set to “minimum”; I don’t know what that means but it seems to work.
  • Number of views after a week:           27.  Well, I did pick a very obscure game..
  • Number of new subscribers:                0

What I learned from doing this:

  1. Talking to camera and being funny is not as easy as John Oliver makes it look.
  2. Look into the camera on the phone, not at the screen!
  3. Raise the camera up to slightly above eye level, as this is a more flattering angle.
  4. I think I come across as a bit smug.
  5. I wish I could smile properly.
  6. I struggled with putting photos in the corner of the screen using Shotcut, things seemed distorted. I found it easier to add a slideshow from Powerpoint instead.
  7. Shotcut crashes when you try to do complicated things like multiple video tracks and green screening. The autosave was a big help in this regard, and I later discover that the problem was that I had installed the 32-bit version instead of the 64-bit version. Doh!

Video Number 3

This time, I really wanted to push the boat out, and make a high quality video on a popular subject. I spent weeks doing this video, and I fully expected it to get thousands of views, especially when it drew the attention of one of the most famous YouTubers in the board game hobby, who said he loved it, and recommended it to all his followers on Twitter and on BoardGameGeek.

  • Number of views after a week:           65
  • Number of new subscribers:                8  (but another one unsubscribed)

Sixty five views is not great, is it?  Tom Vassel gets over a hundred times that many viewers when he films himself opening his mail!

What I learned from doing this:

  1. That I clearly have no idea what I am doing.
  2. That a recommendation on Twitter, even from a big name, is not worth as much as I had thought.
  3. That I care about viewing figures more than I thought I would.
  4. I had thought, when filming, that my speech was enthusiastic and lively, but watching it back I feel it is not as upbeat as I thought it was. I should speak more even quickly and even more enthusiastically.
  5. When Shotcut makes the audio and the video go out of sync, it is because one of the included films has a different frame rate to the overall project.

Video Number 4

I think I need to do a top ten video. Browsing through the viewing figures of all the channels that I follow, it is the top ten videos that viewers seem to want to watch.

Having decided to do this, I watched a lot of Whatculture videos and thought about what made their top ten videos so good – I decided to “allow myself to be influenced by” (i.e. copy) their style.

But what subject to choose? All the obvious ones have been done to death – I want to do one that nobody else has done before. Eventually, it comes to me – top ten novels about board games. People will love that! What a great idea!

What a terrible idea!

  • Number of views after a week:           115
  • Number of new subscribers:                2

115 might be my best yet, but … well … it is still not great.

I spent months making this. I really did read all those books, you know. I thought that perhaps that some of the authors and publishers I mention might be pleased that I am advertising their books, and promote my video on Twitter and Facebook. I contacted as many of them as I could find, and told them about it, but almost all of them ignored me. And I still have not heard from Dave Gorman!

Video Number 5

Let’s try another approach, shall we? I have seen a few videos over the years (e.g. Board with Life, Actualol, Inside the Box) that are basically comedy sketches, rather than top tens, reviews or play-throughs.  I could do one of those:

Number of views:                         11

Number of new subscribers:      0

Maybe people do not realize this video is a board game sketch? Or maybe it failed to appealed to YouTube’s algorithm? Whatever the reason, my viewer-count is getting worse, not better. And zero new subscribers? Really?

The Future

After the dismal failure of video number 5, I was feeling pretty disheartened, and thinking of giving up the whole thing. I know I said that viewing figures do not mean much to me, but apparently they do not mean nothing.

But then I got this tweet, from the Ian Livingstone, the author of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain:

It made my day. Ian Livingstone knows my name (well, my pen name)! I strongly suspect he did not actually watch the video (in fact, I kind of hope not, because I was a little sarcastic once or twice) but even so, IAN LIVINGSTONE KNOWS WHO I AM!

Then, I went back to some of the older videos, and looked at the “Analytics” tab, and discovered that people are still watching the old videos from months ago. I get a steady number of viewers every day, and it looks as though, eventually my numbers will creep up into the thousands after all!

So maybe I will keep going.

Here we are then – my latest video, which I posted yesterday. I think it is my best yet. It is certainly the most personal.

And here are my ideas for future videos:

  • A video which is An Introduction to the Board Game Hobby
  • Strategy guides – Hive, Splendor, Carcassonne
  • Carcassonne:  a guide to all the expansions
  • A how-to-play video. I was thinking of Merlin, because there does not seem to be one about that game.
  • …or maybe a comedy rules video where I get everything wrong.
  • A short stop-motion film
  • A comedy mash-up of some other channel’s videos
  • Telling an anecdote from a game session
  • An interview.
  • A feature on all my broken games
  • Some tips on (and maybe footage from) board game Meetups.
  • My first convention.

I am open to other suggestions though. If anyone reading this has a great idea for a video but can’t be bothered to do it themselves, let me know what it is and maybe I will do it for you!

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