Doesn’t recording yourself playing video games with your friends for YouTube sound like the dream final thesis project?
Well, this dream is a reality for these final-year Ryerson RTA students: Victoria Bajer, Ashley Bowman, Peter Carducci, Matt Hatswell, Marissa “Mars” Melnyk, Ryan Radersma, Jason Szwimer, and James Webster.
They are the founders of PXL, a high-quality YouTube channel featuring programming surrounding the realm of gaming. They started PXL for their final practicum to show that it is possible to create innovative content in this genre, while having the high production quality of a TV show.
“We wanted to do what a lot of YouTubers are doing with gaming, but have it look a lot more professional, with equally authentic personalities,” said Bajer, production manager of PXL. “We wanted to bring a channel to the online world that expresses the different types of niches in gaming.”
Melnyk, PXL’s director of photography, believes that this is a fun, creative way to express her passion for gaming over six-month duration of the project. She said that while others are doing worthy projects documenting illnesses, she doesn’t want to be brought down. “On the other hand, we’re just in the studio playing video games and getting the same grade as those groups,” Melnyk said.
The group has spent the past six months pitching, developing, and shooting content for PXL. The channel is comprised of four video segments: 4PLAY, showing highlights of four cast members playing a video game with commentary, PXL TALKS, a talk show, Top 5, a segment listing gaming trends, and The Bitmap, which focuses on local gaming event news.
“There are a lot of people that are passionate about playing video games but know absolutely nothing about production,” Bajer said. The high-quality production value and diversity of content is what the group was hoping would set them apart in a sea of “Let’s Play” videos.
Let’s Plays are popular video uploads of people documenting their gaming playthroughs. YouTube is filled with thousands of these kind of gaming videos; so many in fact that it’s become an over-saturated market. Only early gamers such as PewDiePie, who is the most subscribed YouTuber with 42 million followers, have found success in these forms of videos.
“We didn’t just want to drown in a sea of Let’s Plays,” Melnyk said. Building on that, she said that while trying to market PXL online, she read on some forums that some people pour years into building these sorts of channels on YouTube and only gain 100 subscribers.
Avid gaming media fan, Salvatore Di Vittorio, 20, who is part of the biggest age demographic of gamers according to the 2015 Sales Demographic and Usage Data Guide by Entertainment Software, says that he’d be very likely to tune into a professionally made channel like PXL.
But he does agree that YouTube is becoming a dominant platform for gaming media – especially when it comes to high-quality production: “It’s a form that won’t be dying out anytime soon. It’s a very under appreciated form that could have job opportunities for journalism, on-screen personalities, graphic designers, video editors, writers, the list goes on,” Di Vittorio said.
The vision to create PXL started last summer with Szwimer who is the producer. He pitched it to Melnyk, Carducci, and Radersma, who were instantly on board. Shortly after, the rest of the team was recruited and decided to apply to RTA’s Transmedia Zone that summer. In this production incubator, ideas for PXL started to be explored.
“We’re really happy to have the Transmedia Zone to test out those waters,” said Bajer, regarding how having the opportunity there helped test out what worked and what didn’t.
With the help of a Transmedia Zone advisor, Chris Alexander, the team got the advice and encouragement they needed to make the final pitch for the thesis in September. Now, they’ve finished shooting PXL and the group disbanded onto studying abroad, other jobs, and preparing for graduation.
But for now, gaming fans will just have to stick with watching new content Game Grumps, PewDiePie, or ScrewAttack. Bajer and Melnyk both expressed interest in continuing to make videos for PXL if they were ever given the chance.
“If anybody asked me if I ever wanted to continue, I’d definitely say yes because it’s been a lot of fun!” said Bajer.
This article was published in the print edition of the Ryersonian on Mar. 2, 2016.