“A Video By Sam Callahan”

Fits and Starts

It may seem strange at first glance to see someone like me, who’s only put out four videos, to be looking back at a YouTube career, but the truth is I’ve been at this on and off for a long time now. My personal channel, under my real name, goes back as far as 2015, which is around the same time I began work on a channel called “Interactive Friction” with Brandon Carey, which I was the editor for. Even before those, I had started and then killed at least two more channels, and even that was after a short lived stint with a few high school friends back in 2011-2012. Regardless of the quality one may argue for most of them, I have made literally hundreds of videos.

And after this latest attempt, I can feel myself falling away from it yet again, even though I want so badly for it to stick.


In making this newest channel, I had started in November of 2019, two months after graduating college. I still remember the day well. My school’s video program had been on a long downward trend, so though I had poured so much of my life into my works; my quite literal blood, sweat, tears, and money, the only person of the few who showed up offered me simply an unpaid internship. Even so, I went downstairs to the career office with high hopes for the future. I was a college dropout from 2013, and I spent years wallowing in a dead-end job before finding something I felt really passionate about. Now, at 26, I felt I had so much ahead of me. The career office was happy to see me and what I had to offer protentional employers.

They told me to take a week off, and then come back. Said I had earned it.

It’s been over a year and I still haven’t landed a full time job, and even the clients I have pay barely more than what I made delivering pizzas in my car.

And so, I created the Rainbow Six Vegas Retrospective video. At the time, even only two months after leaving college, I needed something to occupy my time while I sat in a windowless office. At the time, I had no real aspirations beyond making more videos whenever, if ever.

Of course, then 2020 happened, and that led to two things regarding the channel. One was that, right as I had gathered enough clients to suddenly be making enough money to save rather than survive, the pandemic hit and I was left with simply one. As such, I did what I did before, and looked at a game I loved and started writing about it to make a video. Anything to pass the time and bury the hurt.

But the real problem started to seep in over that year. After the Tomb Raider 2013 came out, I had noticed that my Rainbow Six video had been steadily climbing in views, gaining comments, and general engagement. And it was then I made a mental turn that leaves my channel where it is today.

I began to think of each video as a step towards somehow making money off YouTube, and maybe give me a protentional career and way to sustain myself. It was foolish to think that way because, while I didn’t notice it until much later, it changed not only the way I thought of making content, but also my enjoyment of video games themselves.

Before that thought of money hit me, my essay ideas were vague and in small number. I still played tons of games for fun without a second thought about them unless I was specifically making a video.

But after that moment, everything was potential content.

And if you haven’t suffered from that problem with something you regularly do for fun, I can’t explain to you how destructive it is to your mental health. I was now purchasing games purely for videos that were nothing more than basic ideas; a notepad scribble. I took notes on every game I played, such that things like immersion and entertainment were secondary to a protentional new video idea to build subscribers and build views and likes and comments and… money, eventually.

But that meant that what was once my way to escape and go on adventures while stuck at home, broke, unemployed, and severely depressed, was now another form of work. That’s partly why my output over the entirety of 2020 amounted to three whole videos. They didn’t take especially long to make, but I had crippled myself, through my own actions, to a point where I’d rather do nothing all day then play video games.

“The Rumors Of Lara’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated”

This all culminated with my ‘Shadow of the Tomb Raider’ retrospective video. For those who haven’t watched it, my first line is “this is the way Lara Croft dies”, and near the end I fold that same line back in to say that this game, via the things I spoke about, killed the character for me personally.

But that’s a lie.

Do I think Shadow of the Tomb Raider was middling enough to put the franchise on hiatus? It would seem so.

Do I think that’s because of Lara’s white savoir complex? No.

But I spoke about that, along with using such flammable language as “The Death of Lara Croft”, because this was my mental low point. I wrote the script for that video some four times over, and each time I did, it erred away from deeper discussions of language and gameplay mechanics, along with neat history discussions, and turned into something I felt would gain views.

That’s why the video is called what it is.

That’s why I said Lara Croft was dead.

And that’s why I really, really hate seeing that video on my channel.

It’s not me, even though I care deeply about social-political issues, and I enjoyed the research I did for that video, that’s just not what I like to talk about. Looking back, my original Rainbow Six Vegas video from 2019 probably does the best job of showcasing what I originally wanted this channel to be. I deeper dive into gameplay systems, and if possible, the way themes intertwine into them.

I’m not smart, or even well read enough to discuss the political angles of most games, but I did it because I had begun to cynically look at smaller channels and see what videos of theirs got them subscribers.

It had to be mean, lean, and pop.

But that ain’t me, and that’s not what I want my channel to be, cause frankly, I like bad games. Or rather, I find them very interesting, and I would rather applaud developers for trying something different than say they “killed” a character I liked.

I could also go on about how, like it or not, I tend to crib the styles of the people I’m watching while I work on a video, but I suppose that would lead to a whole other unnecessary conversation, and I already feel like this has been me rambling on for far too many paragraphs.

Lookin’ On

Even though I’ve been more often having breakdowns about killing my channel yet again, throwing everything out and burning it down, I’m sincerely hoping that by writing this all down and posting it publically, I can face the mistake I made at the beginning of last year, and try to get back to doing what I wanted to do originally. Just making good content that I enjoy creating and people enjoy watching.

I’d love more than anything for it to make money for me, but that’s just because I don’t have much of it right now, and trying to churn out this messy mix of heartfelt deep dives and clickbait titles isn’t something I’ll be happy to look back on in the future.

I don’t pretend this change is gonna happen overnight for me, as I have to look at my list of video ideas and revaluate what I actually want to do, among many other things. And I’m not sure what I’m going to do about the Tomb Raider videos. Perhaps one day I’ll re-do them all as one video, or more likely, just put out enough great content that they eventually fall to the bottom of my catalog as a memory of a different time.

Thanks for reading, and I hope I can make my next video really something worth watching, and something I personally can be proud of.

Published by

Sam Callahan

Filmmaker by day, writer by night.

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