My latest interviewee for The Confessional is a popular YouTuber/gamer. He built his channel while still in High School, and managed to turn YouTube into a career after graduation.

We covered a number of topics including:
-How the platform & money has changed the ecosystem
-What it was like working with MCN’s
-Why he left YouTube and got burnt out on the platform

The Confessional is a series of anonymous interview with influencers, brands, marketers, agencies and MCN executives to get honest, no-bullshit opinions on working in the space – the biggest gripes, the toughest lessons, the most valuable advice.

The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What got you into YouTube?

I started my channel after getting absorbed by the first Call of Duty scene for sniping videos on YouTube. Highlight reels of playing CoD and using sniper rifles and stumbling upon the commentary scene which only had three big YouTubers in it.

I remember at the time the largest CoD YouTuber in the world who had 25,000 followers and thinking to myself: “Wow, this is the best guy on YouTube, the biggest guy on YouTube,” and also thinking “This guy talks a lot about his life.” It really seemed that everybody was going to these videos to learn, not for the personalities. It was on that premise that I started my channel and ran it for about two and a half years.

What was it like when you first got momentum? What was your reaction?

It was a cool experience for me because my fellow CoD YouTubers became my best friends, literally. For two years, my best friends were all other CoD YouTubers who I would Skype with and play with, occasionally. And the feeling was very much being a part of this giant Internet community where people listened to what you were saying and viewed you as a leader. That just felt really great to be recognized for.

What was your experience like joining [Redacted – Name of MCN]?

At the time, the coolest thing that I felt had ever happened to me was being contacted by them. I was excited to make money from it because I started thinking, “Wow, this could be a job,” and knowing that I get about 60,000 views a day that’d be a hundred dollars a day. And I was in eleventh grade at the time.

The money was cool, but it was also so cool to have that recognition because of what that MCN was at the time. It was like a badge of honor. Then it all changed. All MCN models, or at least that MCN’s model moved to quantity over quality.

Why did you leave that network?

I wanted to speak with the ad sales team and work with them one-on-one. I thought that would be the best way to make brand partnerships — the creators recommending types of brands and types of branded content they wanted to do to the ad sales team, who would create decks around that and sell them. They got me in a meeting with the head of ad sales. I pitched to him for 30 minutes and the look on his face was like, “Why am I talking to this guy?”

They just didn’t seem to respect what we were doing that much or treat us like we were what made them big. It really came down to me wanting more brand deals than anything else. And from brands I cared about. I was one of the biggest gaming channels at the time, I was a top 100 YouTuber, and I barely saw any brand deals or any cool opportunities.

Do you feel like your experiences and the way you got into the community is similar to a lot of others? As an introvert using the platform to express yourself?

I would actually hypothesize that being an introvert leads you to be more interested in gaming and more engaged in those communities rather than it being a casual thing.

How do you feel the YouTube and gaming community as a whole has evolved over the years?

The gaming scene started out being a little personality-based…when YouTubers were doing half advice, half talking about their lives. Then YouTubers like myself shifted the community to be all about learning, whether it was advice about multiplayer, zombies or tricks, Easter eggs, those sort of things.

Soon around the time that I left, a lot of things shifted over to being more personality-based as YouTubers got so big that people wanted to see more of the behind-the-scenes stuff. You see this with the Let’s Play community, which quickly became the dominant category on YouTube. I remember the interest in my channnel and a lot of other gamers clearly dropped when people started getting 10 to 70 million views a month on videos of them playing little internet games that were really quirky, not really great mechanics or long-term appeal, but reacting to the game made for super entertaining content.

What about the injection of all the money? What do you think the impact of that has been?

It changed how a lot of brands are constructed to be businesses as much as they are brands. I respect it and I think the viewer ends up winning most of the time, because that person can put so much more time into making awesome content.

Anything else you want to say?

I was talking to my friend who leads a lot of influencer stuff about how incredibly powerful some partnerships between brands and influencers can be. And I think his point speaks to the creativity and deep understanding that YouTubers have of the YouTube content space that I think is underappreciated.

I think a lot of YouTubers have really, really cool ideas that they can act on, ranging from games to short films to businesses that would work. A lot of brands that don’t know what to do with creators could benefit from starting conversations with them.