GAMETECH: Meet the new face of YouTube

HIS name was Felix Kjellberg, once. Just an everyday games enthusiast from Gothenburg. Unremarkable, unknown, unlikely. He was studying industrial economics at Chalmers University, before the change. Before PewDiePie was born. 

In 2010, Kjellberg began to fade into the background, and PewDiePie began to take over. It all started with a YouTube account, created in 2010. The account was christened PewDiePie (pronounced like ‘Cutie Pie’) and Kjellberg used it to promote vlogs and Let’s Plays. Kjellberg was following in the footsteps of thousands of other gamers, enthusiasts who wanted to share their opinions in video, denizens of YouTube who had been born pushing the ‘subscribe’ button. PewDiePie was a bombastic, cartoonish, effervescent persona that was deteremined to entertain the world.

In 2011, Kjellberg lost his first battle with that persona, quitting university to focus on YouTube full-time. It didn’t matter to PewDiePie that Kjellberg had needed straight As just to enrol in the university. It didn’t matter because PewDiePie was on a mission.

In September of this year, PewDiePie’s channel became the first on YouTube to reach 10bn views, and last week YouTube made the Swedish superstar the face of its newly launched subscription service. The mission, it’s fair to say, has been a complete success.

YouTube’s subscription service, YouTube Red, is big news in itself, but it´s especially fascinating that a gamer hosts the flagship show. No one could have predicted that gaming — a pastime traditionally centred on active participation — would have attracted such an army of essentially passive followers. Yet, here we are, in 2015, with gamer JackSepticEye topping the Irish YouTube league and PewDiePie ruling the world. Despite all that, Felix Kjellberg has still survived. He lives in Brighton and, for the most part, eschews fame and the trappings that come with it. He claims that money, of which he has made millions, “hasn’t made him any happier”. Nonetheless, he shares his private life with girlfriend and fellow YouTube personality Marzia Bisognin — even there, one suspects, PewDiePie is the one left smiling.


At the opposite end of the media spectrum, but no less reclusive, is celebrated author Haruki Murakami. The Japanese literary star is known for his surreal worlds and rich writing. Hard-boiled Wonderland is a good place to start, if you haven’t read his work before. In an unusual move for the games industry, we’ll soon see a video game inspired by Murakami’s work.

The game, Memorandum, was launched on Kickstarter and has met its goal, meaning it should see release next year. The premise will be inspired by 20 of Murakami’s stories and the gameplay will be classic point-and-click adventure, which should make it a perfect crossover for readers who aren’t familiar with gaming. There will be 40 scenes in the game and 20 characters, each having “lost something”, from a film reel to their sanity. The protagonist, meanwhile, is slowing realising she is forgetting her own name. Whether that’s really the case, or if there is something different at play, the developer says, will be up to the player to discover.

In other literary-gaming news, Ken Follett has announced a game based on his best-selling Pillars of the Earth series, due for release in 2017. The game will be developed by Germanic storytellers Daedaelic.


Finally, speaking of adventures, there are few better than PC classic Little Big Adventure. The French title, originally released in the 1990s, is an isometric action-exploration game with brilliant music, exceptional gameplay, and, in spite of a cartoonish world, dark overtones on an oppressive dictatorship society. (Did we mention it was French?)

Most people play games to explore other worlds, and on that score Little Big Adventure is well worth your time, especially now that a ‘remastered’ version has just been released on Steam. While the gameplay has aged a little, the universe remains utterly unique, one of the strongest original PC games of the ’90s. And if you like it, there’s a sequel that takes the world in full 3D. At less than €5, it’s a big adventure for a little price.


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