April 2021

How a small algorithm change created the let's player plague

If you regularly watch youtube or other video platforms or streaming websites you may have noticed that by far one of the most popular trends is the let's plays, where people record themselves playing video games and give their stupid commentary into it, well this was not always the case, it was very likely created by just a small change in the youtube algorithm and therefore not organic.

Most people think they are intelligent, have a free will and similar other illusions, but this example probably proves the opposite. The truth is, that most peoples behavior is decided by machines and programs that people write and humans just do what the machine or the programs tell them to do and one of those examples is the gaming streamer epidemic.

In the past there was a time where people making videos of themselves playing video games was not common or even nonexistent and then suddenly it was one of the most created content type, so what happened that caused this change? The trend probably originated mostly on youtube, you have to understand that in the past it was all about view count, so you needed to make a high production value video to get a lot of views to become popular, so it did not matter how many videos you made or how long they were or if people watched them, it was just about clicks. This resulted in mostly relatively short higher production value videos, so a content creator would spend days or weeks making a video and then uploading it hoping to get a lot of views. I don't really know, if the social media landscape was good that way or not, since the content tended to be clickbait, since only viewcount mattered, however what is more fascinating is what followed.

So one day probably a software engineer thought: "Well you cannot just go by viewcount to determine what is popular or not, so I will invent some 'intelligent' algorithm to better determine which content is liked by the viewer and which not" and this algorithm would factor in the viewtime that viewers spend on videos and maybe also the number and lengths of videos created by the content creator. This solved one problem, but created a bigger one at the same time, because it greatly favored those people that uploaded longer low production value content that people viewed a lot of and this applied mostly to people streaming games. Making a video requires resources, acting, post production and so on and it would maybe take a week to produce a 5 minute video, but someone who just makes a video of himself playing a video game has basically no production video, needs no resources, no acting, no post production, he can just hit record and when he is done upload it, so he can put out hours of content every day if he wants to and people will watch it, because they want to know how it turns out.

Let's players probably existed before that algorithm change to some degree, but after the algorithm favored them, they blew up in proportion, so they would get all the fame and the money. In my last blog post I wrote how you need to prostitute yourself to make money on the internet and this is one of the cases where you were forced to do so in order to stay relevant. So many of the other content creators jumped onto the hype and also started to create let's play videos, because they also wanted views, popularity and money. So they did not start to create such content organically, it was just because the algorithm favored them, so it was basically the computer telling people what content to produce, because the almighty algorithm told them so.

Initially let's players were kind of a niche, but suddenly it was one of the most common and normal things to do on the internet. Seen objectively filming yourself playing video games is probably more a lame boring thing, but since the algorithm decided that it is great and popular, people changed their mind and everyone jumped on the bandwagon of idiocy.

Of course one could argue now that it was not the algorithms fault of the let's players flooding social media, but it was sure a great accelerator at least. It gave all those people with no talent and skill a method to easily create lots of content anyway and the algorithm would even reward it. I mean if the algorithm was designed to detect that someone is just filming a video game and categorize it as low quality content, then less people would do it, but as the algorithm just checks viewtime no matter what the content of the video is people keep doing it.

It is a similar phenomenon where an idiotic behavior is suddenly normalized, like in my previous post with the prostitution model to make money on the internet, which of course often goes hand in hand with the let's players, since playing video games is one of the most common ways of content people try to make money with. I'm a gamer myself and I can understand people wanting to play games or even wanting to watch others play games, but when it comes to making people just playing video games into celebrities and even paying them to do so I think some line has been crossed into absurdity. Sure there may be a niche for pro gamers and esports where people can make money showing off their special skills in some video game, but first it is kind of a niche and should be a niche and second, most people playing video games have no special talent or skill in it, they just do it, to have a cheap low production cost way of creating lots of content to appear important.

The internet is a similar illusion like democracy in the real world, where the people think they are creating the system, while in reality the system creates them, it works in a similar way on the internet, where the people think they decide what content to produce, but in reality, the internet decides what content people produce.

I watched some let's players in the past before it was cool and I partly even liked it and watched some episodes, but when I watched them again after the boom where their thing has become kind of a job, you could really hear in their voice and how they acted, that what they do has turned from fun into work. As a child one of my dream jobs was video game tester or reviewer, which was kind of a niche job in the past in PC gaming magazines, but now when I see those gaming streamers I see how this dream job can quickly turn into a nightmare job when it becomes forced, because you need to make the money, which is where we get into the money making dilemma again.

However my initial complaint about this let's play hype was that I think it is kind of a stupid trend and I would rather see more original higher production value content on social media, but instead the feed is always flooded with people playing video games, I don't know the exact statistics, but it has probably become the number one filler content that exists. It also kind of annoys me that people cannot think for themselves and just blindly follow every trend no matter how stupid it may be. I mean if this trend keeps going we may soon live in a world where playing video games is one of the most honorable jobs and video games are the new religion. Already some of the most popular celebrities on the internet are manchilds that play video games or play with toys and those people even become role models for children growing up. Those are kind of big problems for out society, especially the normalization of such degenerate behavior. A healthy society would probably put those people into therapy, but our degenerate society celebrates them and turns them into role models for future generations. I'm kind of a hardcore gamer myself, but through growing up and self reflection you may also realize, that you have to draw a line somewhere.

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How the internet is turning everyone into whores

In my last blog "The making money on the internet delusion" I concluded that making money on the internet is a delusion, but now I think I was partly wrong. You have to understand that I was assuming to make money in an ethical way, which is indeed hardly possible on the internet, but there is a trend that works relatively well and it is the prostitution model.

I observed a recent trend on the internet and it is how almost every creator that wants to make a significant amount of money with his work is forced to prostitute himself in some way, or at least become a beggar (I chose to use whore in the title, because adding more examples would have made the title too long). One of the most common themes for example is the camwhore business model, the customer pays money in the form of subscription or donations and then gets benefits in the form of privileges of special content or the host will do something for the money aka degrading himself. That business model in the past was only used in shady sectors of the internet, but now it seems to be used for almost all kinds of content creators. For example almost every video or streaming platform has some kind of donation or subscription feature, but even other forms of content get this business model.

So what is the problem with this business model? Well to me it is pointless, since first donations don't get you anything and if they get you anything, it is not actual content, but the creator making a fool of himself for your entertainment and subscription models are also stupid, since you are not getting anything from those either, you could just subscribe, leech the content and cancel immediately again later. The content creator is not directly getting paid for his content, but rather has to scam or beg people into paying, for what is mostly free anyway. Sure you could make a paywall and therefore could directly have others pay for the content, but nobody does that and if so, it mostly does not work, since people are used to getting everything for free. In my case there is an additional counter argument to this, since it is not compatible with the open source philosophy to restrict content and have paywalls.

Regarding the point where I was partly wrong with claiming that making money on the internet is a delusion, yes making money with creating content is hard to impossible, but if you turn yourself into a prostitute and/or beggar and/or scammer your chances of making money increase greatly, even though probably are still worse than a regular real life job, nonetheless much "better" than making money ethically in many cases.

I see so many content creators on the internet begging people to subscribe and/or offering to do things for them if they get money, this may seem already normal to people now, which is why I called this article that the internet is turning everyone into whores. The thing however is, that this behavior was not normal before or have you ever seen a store owner in real life begging you to take your newsletter or offering you to do something for you if you pay extra money? It is a bit complicated to make up a metaphor for this in real life, because in real life this is not common, in real life, content creators produce produces, then you go pay money and you get the product, end of story. On the internet however everything is "free" or people think or expect everything is free, so selling something to them is very hard. An additional reason the capitalistic model does not work so well on the internet is because capitalism is designed for things that are scarce, but on the internet everything is basically infinite, so you either have to go through great lengths to make those virtual products scarce again, or just give them people for free and afterwards beg or fool them to pay money anyway or offer them to prostitute yourself and do some clownery for them if they donate to you.

First I wanted to call this "How the internet is turning content creators into whores", but now I realize it is kind of everyone, since many content creators on the internet do not really create any content, so calling them content creators is kind of wrong. I even read an article about how a large portion of popular social media celebrities have no content, but are still popular and earn a lot of money, I don't remember the article or the percentage of how many have no content, but it was significant and you can verify it for yourself when looking at some examples. This shows how making money with actual content is hard, but making money with selling yourself aka prostituting yourself works relatively well.

I see the problem with this trend in the normalization of degenerate behavior in human society, while in the past such behavior was not common and only a small portion of people did it, while nowadays it is the norm for most people actively contributing on the internet. Most major platforms on the internet offer those features by default, like donation features, privileges for people donating, subscription models with paid tiers, premium content etc.

Many people could not understand why I do things without making money and they told me how I could easily make money, if I would offer "extra services", if people pay me or would restrict some content and put it behind paywalls and so on. This shows how degenerate society has become already as most people see no issue with those business models, but there are many issues. The primary issue for me is, that it would interfere with the open source philosophy, since if I would make my open source content paid, it would either be incompatible with the whole open source philosophy, or if I would make the content open source, but still have a paywall make the paywall meaningless, as everyone would be legally allowed to just redistribute the content for free. So either way it becomes unnecessary bullshit. The other issue is, that offering "extra services" would make me prostitute myself and do things that have nothing or little to do with being an artist doing what I like, since then I would have to do things for money I would not normally do. For example you can read some of the articles on "Bad game design choices" on what is bad about pay2win, cosmetics, DLC and so on, since many of those bad game design choices are a result of being forced to offer extra services or content for paid customers, but are ultimately just unnecessary bullshit.

Today running a business on the internet basically requires you to prostitute yourself, at least for promoting your business and if you have no content like many people they are even more required to prostitute themselves. Big businesses that are already successful do not need this, though many do it anyway, but if you are just starting your business it is hard to get around it. I even saw many mediocre sized businesses, starting social media accounts in order to promote their business, because there is hardly any other way nowadays. So even if you got around this trend in the past and managed to make a successful business in the real world and become moderately rich, you are still often forced to prostitute yourself on social media in order to stay relevant in the internet age.

Here I see the second problem with this trend and it is how people degrade to no longer care for the actual content or things, but rather care for the entertainment value of the creators, not their creations. There is this quote: "Small Minds Discuss People, Average Minds Discuss Events, Great Minds Discuss Ideas" and it can be partly applied to this trend as well, as it seems that more and more people become small minds, they no longer care for the actual things or ideas, but rather focus on the people and make personality cults, where persons are the most important thing and the things persons do are just an excuse why those persons are popular or relevant.

Take a look at those internet celebrities nowadays and look what they are actually doing. Most of them are not doing or creating anything, they have no significant skills or talents, they just pick up some of the most common and ordinary trends on the internet reproduce them and film themselves while doing so. Those people do not actually care about what they do, they just use it as an excuse as to why they are popular or should be popular. They also often change what they do, depending on what is popular. Most often those people just play video games and film themselves while doing so or just comment on things or make reaction videos, since they do not care about actually creating anything or having talent or skill, they just care about becoming popular and prostituting themselves to make money.

This all could be a conspiracy or just an error in the system we live in. The problem we have in our society is, that we live in a pseudo capitalistic system, where everyone has their basic needs fulfilled, so there is not much to do and those things that are to do are mostly in the hands of big corporations, additionally most people are poor and or have no talent and skill, so either way they do not possess the ability to create anything anyway. So what is left for someone to do in such a system? Well if you have no means of production all there is left to do for you in a capitalistic system is to sell yourself and this is exactly what is happening. Our world becomes a two class system, well it was always a two class system, but in our age it becomes a bit more ridiculous as the lower class all turn into clowns becoming virtual prostitutes and begging each to get paid to do stupid things. Ultimately all this is pointless since no value is created if the lower class just pays each other to produce entertainment.

Theoretically there is a way out of this misery for those people who have no means of production in this pseudo capitalist system and it is those who have talent and skill, they could theoretically create something of value and therefore make money of it, but practically those people are mostly ignored, because actually creating something is usually not very popular, if you not at the same time prostitute yourself in order to promote yourself as a personality.

I can see that maybe soon in the future a few mega corporations will own everything, the lower class population is given a basic income, but instead of everyone being happy and stop working, they will all resort to prostituting themselves and begging to pay each other to create useless content on the internet like playing video games, reaction videos and copying artwork that has already been created while thinking that they are actually working and making a living, even though they are just doing useless bullshit. Getting fame and money can easily fool people into thinking they make worthy contributions to society even when those people are actually useless parasites. For example to me it is very frustrating to see that some people become multimillionaires by just playing video games and me that is spending enormous amounts of time, money, talent and skill on actually making video games earn absolutely nothing at all and most other indie developers also earn nothing or very little.

I think this is the core mechanic that turns people into prostitutes, you simply reward a certain behavior with fame and money and people will do it aka prostitute themselves. It could be a conspiracy or simply a glitch in the system, I think it may be a combination of those two. For example big corporations could offer subsidies in order that people do a certain behavior so they will stay dependent on them and not start actually creating something on their own so they could become a competition for the big corporation. Of course it is not the internet is not turning people into prostitutes, since things cannot do things, it is rather people doing things, but the internet is kind of a catalyst that greatly accelerates this trend, that is why I chose the title I chose for simplicity sake.

There could be a massive social engineering campaign and even if not, it is still happening. It is just too convenient having the whole infrastructure already in place including hardware like smartphones so that everyone is able to easily prostitute himself with the press of a button, additionally such behavior is made socially acceptable, because everyone is doing it. Then the step to actually prostituting oneself is a very small one, as can be seen with many social media celebrities who then go more extreme when their career is not going so well. It is the same mechanic with real life celebrities in the mainstream media, they also often sign up for shows that degrade them just to stay popular and make money. Our society changes from the top down as the people just imitate their celebrities, which is now made possible through the internet, because before the internet the media was just reserved for the "famous" people, now everyone can be "famous", if he is just willing to degrade himself enough.

To me it is simply not acceptable to become corrupt just in order to make money or become popular, my philosophy is that you either make it ethically or not at all, but it seems to me most people do not understand the concept of ethics at all. Most people also do not seem to get the difference of making money with what you do and doing things just to get money. I even can remember having ethics class in school, not much but at least something, but now it seems people do not learn anything anymore in school or elsewhere and so our entire society is degrading, because nobody knows about the basics anymore and has no understanding about ethics.

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