One of my favorite shows, period, TV or Internet, is Classic Game Room. Hosted by Mark Bussler, it was a refreshing look at video games, both modern and retro. You have to keep in mind, I don't much care for most game reviewers, like the Angry Video Game Nerd or other "angry" critics. Bussler truly enjoyed games and, unless it really bit the Big One, he tried to find the good in everything, because "everything appeals to somebody." He could be technical, such as criticizing the distance required to throw the Atari 5200 joystick in a certain direction. He could be an artist, examining the origins of titles. But he was always fun.
On Thursday, CGR did a Q&A, and it started with some terrible news for us fans. CGR was more or less going away. Bussler will still do episodes as a hobby once in a while, but the daily schedule is gone. CGR Undertow, a sister show, is stopping production completely. Fan merch is no more -- once the current supply runs out, that's it.
Bussler's official explanation is that he is entering a new phase of his life and wants to focus on his writing among other things, and there just isn't time for CGR anymore.
But those of us who have long followed the show are wondering if that's really true.
A lot of people think making a living as a YouTuber is easy -- you make content, and people watch, and you get ad revenue. Nothing more to it that that. But there's an old Polish proverb that says, "Theory is not practice." And YouTube has turned into a perfect example of that.
When Google bought YouTube, there was a definite change from the more community mentality of the time. Vloggers would respond to each other, for example. But as Google started to leverage YouTube into an entertainment arm, there was less room for community. The first shot across the bow was the banning and removal of Downfall parody videos -- despite them being perfectly legal and protected by the 1st Amendment, YouTube purged most all of them. YouTubers started sharing advice on how to challenge YouTube's copyright patrols and defend their work.
The first hint that Bussler was not happy with YouTube came in 2013. Video game channels had exploded on YouTube, and it ruined everything. Competing channels would flag each other's videos for copyright violations just to jack with each other. Then YouTube expanded its ContentID system to include games as several publishers like Nintendo were claiming the videos violated their copyrights. Game companies would use the DMCA to have negative reviews pulled from searches while shows with questionable relationships that heaped praise on the games got a pass. The straw that broke the camel's back was when one user got a copyright strike for a video of a game he made. He made it, he owned the rights, but his account was suspended and the video pulled thanks to YouTube's interpretation of copyright law.
Although he has never said explicitly what made him do it, Bussler jumping to Daily Motion about the time all this was going down makes it very hard to accept as coincidence. Unfortunately, Daily Motion has nowhere near the user base and casual viewership that YouTube has, and CGR was back on YouTube the following May. After all, the Intergalactic Space Arcade was now an actual warehouse with office space for the production crew. Principles are important, but so is paying your bills.
Since then, watching CGR has seen the occasional hint that Bussler still isn't happy with YouTube. He recently redid a review of Gran Turismo 3. The game opens with a song by Snoop Dog, and despite the video being up for years, YouTube recently deleted the video for copyright violation. Bussler explained that it was a journalistic review and protected Fair Use, but YouTube didn't change their minds, and he redid the video. He mentioned more than once in the Q&A's that YouTube didn't get copyright law. He also complained about people taking his footage to use in their videos. He didn't mention who, but did mention Top 10 lists. (This is likely WatchMojo, which has used quite a bit of his footage in their Top 10 segments. True, they always credit CGR, but the implication is that whoever Bussler is referring to is just doing it, they aren't asking permission.)
The biggest thing, though, is Bussler's veiled complaint about the state of current video game shows on YouTube. Besides the angry reviewers, most people are now just doing let's plays. Nothing wrong with that, but that's the direction things are going in, which means a shift away from reviews. Bussler has done a couple of live streams (thankfully, no one attempted to swat him), but they seemed to be an experiment he wasn't interested in continuing, there hasn't been a new one in a while. Bussler's viewership numbers have also dropped over the past few years -- people are simply finding other things more interesting to watch, things that aren't him. Simply put, the audience and its expectations are changing, and given the choice between adapting or dying, Bussler is choosing to die.
CGR isnt' completely gone, it will still pop up once in a while, and I will value those new installments. But one of the best shows on the Internet is going away because it is just too much of a headache to continue to deal with YouTube and the snark trolls in the comments and the blatant sabotage of competitors and everything in general. It's sad to see one of the stalwarts go while screaming morons who aren't above stealing material continue to thrive.
But anyone thinking of starting a YouTube channel, thinking there's nothing to it? Well...it ain't no game.