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Living in Web Video

Robert Rath | 28 Aug 2012 13:00
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It's no secret that there's a special relationship between videogames and online video. Professionals and fans alike are pouring out game-related content, to the point that game videos take up a disproportionate amount of YouTube's 100 most-subscribed channels. While events like VidCon encompass online video as a whole, until now there hasn't been an event that specifically focused on the nexus between interactive entertainment and online content creation. Enter Rooster Teeth Expo, an event that not only celebrates this crossover, but seeks to become the place for up-and-coming content creators to learn critical skills and get their work seen.

While some gamers might see the internet as only a platform for multiplayer, Burnie Burns considers games and online interaction to be part of a natural evolution of technology.

RTX was originally envisioned as a community event when it debuted last year. RTX 2011 attendees would get to see exclusive Red vs Blue episodes, tour the Rooster Teeth studio, and act as a horde of zombies for an episode of RT's trope-testing show Immersion. Two hundred tickets were available, but when a website glitch sold five hundred instead, Rooster Teeth just ran with it. Smelling potential, the team got more ambitious. This year they capped tickets at 4,000, booked playable demos of Halo 4, and expanded both the venue and the scope. Instead of a gathering of fans, RTX became a place "Where Gaming Meets the Internet," to quote the banner above the expo hall.

"Our mission is to try to make videos we would watch," says Burnie Burns, co-founder of Rooster Teeth Productions and writer/director of Red vs Blue. "Likewise we want to make an event that we'd be interested in. We're content creators and we like gaming. I think that's what most people are doing online - they're watching videos and playing videogames."

While some gamers might see the internet as only a platform for multiplayer, Burns considers games and online interaction to be part of a natural evolution of technology, sharing both a culture and an ancestry: "Gaming was the first iteration of interactive, and now with the internet and YouTube and all that, it's just broader expansions on that [interaction] and gaming should be included. Gaming's just such a big part of our culture map."

As a result, Burns called in the YouTube Brigade. Guests included Mega64, Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen, SeaNanners, various Red vs Blue voice actors and a platoon of Stormtroopers from the 501st.
However, the most interesting guests were keynote speakers Freddie Wong and Brandon Laatsch, owners of the YouTube channel freddiew. Wong and Laatsch have built a following of 3.2 million subscribers, the 6th largest on YouTube, by marrying effects-driven action shorts to videogame material. Recently, they completed their first feature-length webseries, Video Game High School, a sort of proof-of-concept of what can be done with a long-form web video. Their keynote had a radical message: As Hollywood's studio system becomes increasingly risk-averse, it's likely that more filmmakers will use the web as a place for innovation. Wong goes so far as to postulate that the internet may become a proving ground for new intellectual property before it's snapped up by television and film studios. It's an interesting thought, especially since that's what happened to Red vs Blue when Microsoft adopted it. This permissive attitude on the part of game companies is indicative of the special relationship between the game industry and independent content creators.

"I think since it's such a young industry you have a lot of examples of back and forth between the game companies and fans of those games," says Freddie Wong. "The fact that Red vs Blue exists without Microsoft suing it into oblivion says a lot about how game companies view the fanbase."

Brandon Laatsch nods in agreement. "The game industry is the first to be like: 'Wait a minute, what if we don't freak out about it, and we embrace it. It's okay with us if you guys use our properties as part of the culture and grow upon it.'" It's a logical reaction, he says, in an industry where major studio heads were garage developers only twenty years ago. The roots of the game industry are indie roots.

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