Hello, I’m the Nostalgia Writer, I write about it, so you don’t have to!
A long, long time ago, back when YouTube still was a place for people to broadcast themselves. When FaceBook was still closed to everyone but students. Before Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Stumbleupon, Justin Bieber‘s birth, Avatar, Zero Punctuation, the demand for Half-Life: Episode 3, or people occupying places with ironic protest signs. It was a time before memes erupted from 4chan, content got stolen by people on Reddit, and the army turning against its own invention, the internet, thanks to a little site called WikiLeaks, for the exact use they wanted it: moving information strategically. Web 2.0 was still a relatively new buzz-word, and most people didn’t understand marketing or buzz-words as well as they do now thanks to the heavy exposure of it the internet has given us. It was a time a lot of the heavy internet users worked harder to hide their information, and we still had heted debates about whether or not certain people were “real” or not.
The internet was a much simpler place and less convoluted place back then. And so was the content on it. A lot of people still talk about the way YouTube was back then, calling it the Golden Age of YouTube. Or at least of its community. Some because it was still before Viacom started the massive purge of anything that even remotely looked like something that had material that had anything to do with their copyrights. But it was an especially strong time for YouTube in terms of original content.
Someone got featured on the main page of YouTube – remember when that meant something, when YouTube not only had a main page, but the content wasn’t segregated based on your location? Of course you don’t. Anyway, the user I’m talking about got his claim to fame by taking movies, cutting them down to the essential 5 seconds that made them, and then uploading them. You might have heard of the in 5 seconds videos, lots of people make them now. The video they chose to feature was his video containing all the Rocky movies in just mere seconds. Just quick cuts of Rocky mumbling incoherently alternated with his opponents giving their catchphrases. Until the final opponent, who just responded with “Man, you’re sixty!”
Like any channel that was featured on YouTube back in those days, viewers flocked to his content and the channel was a massive success. Maybe the 5 second movies had a strong following before that, but this is how I came across the channel, so this is the story we’re going to be sticking with for now. Sorry.
With his new-found audience, our 5 second editor decided to move on to a new type of content. Video reviewing. And so the Nostalgia Critic was born.
Now video reviews weren’t that new, even back then. Although most of the video reviewers out there were either vloggers – talking to the camera about the new movie they’ve just watched or game they just played – and the gaming crowd – showing footage of games while talking about them. The latter group was especially famous for ragging on games for being terrible. Most notable examples during those days were The Angry Video Game Nerd (still going strong), Armake 21 (long since gone), and The Spoony One (still going… something).
Now naming himself the Nostalgia Critic (I remember it so you don’t have to!) a new channel quickly filled itself with videos, views, and fans. At least, until YouTube banned him for copyright infringement. His 5 second videos disappeared frequently as well. It wasn’t too rare for this sort of thing to happen on YouTube, getting banned for the content they featured you for, but as often as the Critic came back, he always got deleted.
Sick of it, he put up his own website, got his videos onto a different host, and started building his own fanbase there.
That Guy With The Glasses was born.
This is when I stopped following him. I didn’t feel like going over to a different site to see the same kind of content I can see on YouTube. Enough people started making the same kind of content on YouTube, but sooner or later most accounts got closes. With the exception of the truly unfunny ones, like The Irate Gamer. No. I’m not linking you to him. You should be grateful.
Years later, I came across his website again, but only because I heard Spoony had new content on there. I started watching The Spoony One‘s videos, happy that he finally ended the Final Fantasy 8 review, amongst other new changes. Then I moved on to Linkara, because he appeared in a few of Spoony‘s videos. Then I watched the Nostalgia Critic again, although not much of his new content really stuck with me the way his old stuff did.
In fact, even with Spoony and Linkara it was noticeable that the new content was just plain stale. Like they forgot what it was that made their videos great.
Because of that I kept looking into older videos of other reviews, since they’d generally prove to be the most entertaining. Every time I got to the newer videos the same problems started coming up. Except with Benzaie, but that’s a whole different story.
So, where did it go wrong with the other reviews? When did they stop being funny to me?
Okay, so you have a popular review series. Everyone loves watching it because of your critique and the content that you choose to review. For instance, not too many people are looking into comics in their videos. You’re a comic buff. You know the history of Superman, all the different Green Lanterns, what ties Deadpool and Cable together, the difference between most reboots and universes… None of this is a secret to you. You know how to apply this when talking about other comics starring these characters, and how to exploit this for comedy. So naturally the next big step is to add an incredibly convoluted storyline that has nothing to do with any of this.
Wait… How did that even happen? At what point did you tell yourself that this was a good move?
“Yeah, my series is getting pretty popular. The only thing missing is a storyline that’s full of all the stuff I’m usually ranting about during the reviews. Or even better, start off my video with pointless storylines! Or… Or… Cutting off my review abruptly to goof around for 20 minutes before returning to it!” – Someone who will remain anonymous
I’m not sure if this has a name yet, but personally I’m willing to settle for Linkara Syndrome. Linkara‘s videos were really entertaining and fun. You didn’t even have to know much about comic books to get a laugh out of them because he would fill in the blanks for you. Missing background story? He’ll fill you in. Don’t know what the powers do? He’ll explain, since the writers often don’t know what they do either, causing hilarious problems in the story.
Then all of a sudden we have a storyline with robot version of Linkara trying to kill him mid-review. Giant robot battles. Evil Scientists. Morphing powers. The works.
Maybe that’s something Linkara always wanted to do, but if that’s the case, then why didn’t he just make a separate series for this outside of his reviews so that they still remain light and easy viewing? Because the storylines and acting don’t hold up enough for him to get views to keep them outside of the reviews most like. If they don’t hold up on their own, they shouldn’t take up more time than the reviews. That’s just unusual punishment towards the fans.
You make cool videos! I make cool videos! Together, with completely different sound, video, editing quality and separate types of content, we’d make even better videos!
Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. In most cases the cameos the online reviewers are doing feel forced. Why are these people even here? We’re reviewing something? Let’s say that I’m writing a review here on my blog, or over on Guerilla Geek, wouldn’t it seem terribly out of place if I asked someone else to put in a couple of words randomly for no other reason than an off-hand joke?
It’s funny how a part of the internet that has coined the phrase “Big Lipped Aligator Moment”, actually stuffs their own content full of it.
There’s the reviews where two of them are together, meeting each other in real life, reviewing something together. Those videos are somewhat understandable. But things like Spoony‘s character, Dr. Insano, appearing in everyone else’s work? That’s just stupid.
It weakens your own voice and presence in your own content if you rely on this. You don’t want that. Not only that, instead of broadening your viewer base by having other popular people in your videos, you actually narrow the audience down to a specific group of people who watch the content of all the other reviews. Not the smartest move you can make when it comes to creating your own content.
Be yourself. You’re much more interesting than a character. If you have to make a character, base it on an aspect of your own personality. As fun as it might be to dress up, act silly, and interact with yourself through several personas, you’re only creating a much more shallow product. Because yes, that’s what you are. A product. Not even a person anymore. It’s very hard to take someone even semi-seriously once they need several different personalities to get a simple point across.
Oh sure, plenty of people online get away with being characters on the internet, but they’re playing their characters straight. They usually stay inside that one character for the duration of the video, never breaking it. The acting tends to get a lot more subtle than just wearing wigs, costumes, and having catchphrases.
Spoony and Linkara both got especially terrible with the creation of characters, but Spoony especially stands out here because of Dr. Insano. A character that was decent in short bursts, but instead got used in nearly every video. And not just his own works.
The worst thing about the usage of all these different characters is just how little actual character they all have. There’s zero personality, and to feel any sort of connection or relationship towards them is simply impossible. They’re cardboard cut-outs, and flimsy ones at that. Yes, I realize the characters are just excuses to personify memes and catchphrases, but when you create a storyline involving them, and you’re criticizing other works for having these flaws, that’s inexcusable.
If puns are lazy writing, comedy that’s only based on reverential humor is the laziest writing. A well time reference can perform miracles, especially when they’re subtle and you’ll feel like you didn’t miss anything if you didn’t get them.
Constant reverential humor is bad. It means you don’t have any material of your own and rely on others to have seen or heard the same things as you have in order to be even remotely funny. This is why internet humor generally doesn’t work outside of the internet.
To refer to your own reverential humor though… That’s a whole new ball game. And I do believe that however that game is played, the reviewers these days are constantly slam dunking touch downs every game, set and match.
It’s one thing to lift content from another source. It’s another to make it your own and keep referring to it like your own creation. Sure, it’s safer to stick to tried and true material from other people who stick out. In fact, I can steal a line from a Buckethead song to prove my point. Fight other people’s fire with other people’s fire.
Failure only happens from originality.
Want an original statement instead? Fine, here you go.
Lifting material that you make fun of is kind of like bragging about your neighbor’s scratched and dented car. – Remy Van Ruiten
Okay, maybe no as good as the line that I stole. But it’s new, right? It can actually be attributed to me!
It stopped being about the reviews
That’s the worst part. Here’s a site where a bunch of online reviewers come together and… reference one another..? Tell storylines that are worse than the ones they’re actively making fun of..? Play out weird cardboard cut-out characters..?
Somewhere along the way, something went horribly wrong.
What about the non-review content on the That Guy With The Glasses site? I’ll just use Ask That Guy as an example. Click that link, there’s my opinion. Right down to the delivery.
I’d start up another point about how they pander towards their fans, but from a relatively small site brings up something that then it comes across as: “They have fans to pander to and I don’t!” So I’m not going there.