As you likely know from our earlier articles, we’re really interested in game design here on Gaming Reinvented. We’ve covered videos from channels about it in articles, we’ve discussed it in reference to new games, and well, we’ve even previously had writers in the field give their opinions on titles such as New Super Mario Bros 2 for the 3DS.
Which is why today, we’re happy to bring you an interview with a famous YouTuber known for his videos on game design. Yep, this time on Gaming Reinvented, we’re interviewing Snoman Gaming, a user known his videos on such titles as Donkey Kong 64, Yooka-Laylee and Celeste among various others.
So, if you’re interested in what he has to say about game design, YouTube and gaming as a whole, keep reading!
Starting with the standard personal background question we always ask on this site. Who are you?
My name is Brad. I’ve played games all my life but decided in 2013 to actually do something productive with all the time spent playing games and turn them into videos!
And how exactly did you choose your username? Why no w in Snoman?
Hah, it goes back to when I was in middle school playing Counter-Strike with a friend. He was mailmaN and I was snomaN (I no longer do the capital N though). I was just trying to decide a name and liked that one the best. I don’t know why I didn’t include a w, I guess I just thought it gave it some flair (turns out it was a good call though, there are a lot of “Snowman Gaming”s on Youtube, I’m the only one that’s spelt different!
Onto the games now. What was your first video game?
Thinking back some of the earliest ones I can remember are definitely Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country. I played some NES games too like Super Mario Bros and Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers, but I fell in love with them during the SNES/N64 era.
Were you a Nintendo fan when you were younger? Cause most of your videos (game design related and otherwise) are about Nintendo titles…
Yeah, I’ve always been a Nintendo fan, those first games had such a big impression on me. It also reminds me of great memories with my Dad, playing DKC together and all that. I think the first non-Nintendo console I got was a PS2, but everything before that was always Nintendo.
Game design question next. How did you first get interested into game design?
I did take one class on game development when I was in college just for fun, so I learned the basics of Game Maker and stuff like that, but I really hadn’t looked at games through an analytical lens until about a year after I started my channel. I started “Good Game Design” because of seeing other Youtubers like Egoraptor and Sunder talk about it, and it just really caught my interest. There was a whole other side to games than just art or music!
Did you any of it ever come from a bad experience caused by that? I mean, you did make that video on Donkey Kong 64…
Hah, I don’t really remember having any terrible game experiences as a kid, the idea for the DK64 video came after replaying it just a few years ago and re-examining it with a critical viewpoint. I’m still very proud of that video though because while it pointed out the flaws, it still tried to do it from an objective perspective and talk about how it could improve.
How exactly has Nintendo generally kept the design quality of their games up though? Feels like a lot of games in the NES/SNES/N64 era were poorly made, yet that’s been rare with Nintendo titles (DK64 and a few others excepted)
Man, this is a good question, Nintendo seems to just have that magic juice. I mentioned in my Mario Odyssey video that Nintendo is the Disney of video games, they just have that extra bit of polish that other games don’t tend to have, making them the “happiest place on earth” of gaming. But we are seeing a few other developers (mostly indie) taking the mantle and doing some incredible things – Shovel Knight, Spelunky and A Hat in Time come to mind especially.
And do you ever feel like game design in general has improved in the last decade or so? Cause it feels like video game design is taken a lot more seriously now…
Oh definitely, just like how I started to take notice of it recently, I think more designers than ever are starting to focus on how to make a well-designed game than ever before. You don’t have to have extensive schooling or computer knowledge to make a game anymore, a lot of people can make them with a 1-man team if you have enough time and dedication, which is nuts to me.
Either way, back in 2015 Super Mario Maker came out and you made a few videos on level design in the game. What common mistakes were people making with levels there?
Haha, yeah that game was super unique and I wish they had kept up with it but obviously the Wii U sort of failed so…I think a lot of people just were throwing anything and everything into levels without any forethought. The idea for that video came from when I used to make Mario ROM hacks and analysing actual Mario design to see what makes a good Mario level.
Do you feel such editors are good ways for people to learn game design?
Oh definitely! I really wish more games had level editors, not only because they are so much fun but because it really does allow people to think about games from a different perspective and try to develop well-designed stages. I had heard that one may be in development for Celeste which would be absolutely incredible, that game was so good, and has a ton of mechanics that could be utilized!
What’s your experience using them in general? Have you ever made your own video game (or game mod)?
Yeah, so back in high school I got into Mario ROM hacks and started making one myself called “Mario’s Worst Nightmare”, and what I loved the most was focusing on one mechanic for each level and expanding on it. For example, a stage called “Bullet Chasers” had a bullet launcher at the start and you needed to keep the bullet on screen until the very end and use it to make a giant leap across a gap (with a ton of obstacles in between of course). I’ve also made a few Game Maker games for that college class I took, it was pretty fun to make them.
Finally, 2017 was a pretty damn good year for games overall, with titles like Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey being notable examples. What would you say the best game of the year was overall?
I think I gotta give it to Mario Odyssey. Talking about Nintendo and polish from earlier, it just encapsulates that so well. Not only is it a great Mario game and has some awesome new movement and mechanics with Cappy, but it is a celebration of everything Mario has accomplished over the last 30 years so it is just unbelievably charming.
YouTube now. What made you decide to start up a channel anyway?
Like I said, I just wanted to start doing something worthwhile with all the time I spent playing games. I had done a few other channels previously, focusing on guitar covers and sketch comedy, but gaming has always been a passion.
And how did you decide what exactly to make videos about? Why game design and music rather than say, let’s plays or reviews?
It’s actually funny, I DID start my channel by doing let’s plays. I took a lot of inspiration from Northernlion, I always liked that he was fun to listen to as well as good at the games he played. So, I did non-scripted stuff for a long while, 2 videos a day. Then I cut back to 1 a day, then eventually focused on only scripted content because I enjoyed them more and the quality was obviously better.
Talking of said music, you’ve posted quite a few guitar covers on YouTube over the years. How did you learn how to play the guitar here?
I’ve been playing guitar since 8th grade, it’s always been something I’ve really loved. Self-taught.
Have you played the guitar outside of YouTube? Or is it just a hobby at the moment?
Yeah, it’s always just been a hobby, but doing covers and medleys has always been super fun. Video Game covers especially were enjoyable because they are surprisingly technical and well put together, so they were exciting to figure out.
Still, it seems your channel direction has changed a bit over the years, going from top ten lists to game design. What inspired that change?
Yeah this is definitely true, I think like a lot of Youtubers I started out wanting to be like the greats, such as PBG or JonTron, so I tried to be funny and goofy with Top 10s, but once I started doing Good Game Design I realized it’s much more my forte and a better fit for my personality.
How do you choose videos to make anyway?
Sometimes I’ll just come up with a topic I’d like to cover about general game design or something, but most of the time it’ll come from simply playing games, either new or old, and finding interesting things to talk about with them. You Need To Play is normally a “review” of sorts on a new title I think needs more attention, while many other videos find a nugget of good design or an aspect that’s worth discussing.
Has there ever been a time where an idea didn’t work out?
Rarely will I scrap a video idea, or at least once I start the script will I rarely scrap it. I have started playing specific games with the intent of doing a video then moving onto another idea though. Recently I remember playing Persona 5 looking for something to cover in a video, but I didn’t really enjoy it. But I think it was just a personal preference thing, nothing interesting to talk about.
What about one where you feel the video worked out brilliantly for whatever reason?
There are a few that I’m especially proud of with how it all came together as the final product. The Good Game Design on A Hat In Time was great because it had the interview with the developer, which I think gave it an extra edge of flair. Banjo Kazooie vs. Yooka Laylee and the Bad Game Design on DK64 are other favourites.
Regardless, it seems like YouTube isn’t doing so hot recently, with comments by creators that they’re losing money and views. Do you have a backup plan in case that happens here?
I’ve slowly been trying to diversify into other areas, yeah. Like I recently rebooted the Snocast (my podcast) as a live show on Twitch, and I try to stream fairly regularly. It is really hard to juggle doing more than Youtube though since I already have a fulltime job.
And what do you think the future is here anyway? Is a YouTube replacement likely sometime soon?
This question seems to come up quite often, though it’s really hard to envision a competitor to Youtube because of the scope. Google is a behemoth of a company that no one can really compete with. Vid.me tried and closed their doors. The only one I can see standing a chance is Twitch, and it does seem like they’re making the right moves to try and bring creators to their platform. If Youtube keeps making colossal mistakes and Twitch continues to prosper, I can see it happening someday, but the big issue is that the audiences of the two sites are totally different…but that’s a discussion for another day.
Still, enough of that for now. What other creators do you like the work of? Whether that’s on YouTube or any other service you can name…
Well obviously I love Mark Brown’s work (Game Maker’s Toolkit). I like to say he does the same thing as me but better, haha. But there are other creators that I won’t miss a video from – NakeyJakey, Joseph Anderson and Noclip come to mind.
Are there any you feel deserve more attention in your general? Like creators that only have a few hundred/thousand descriptions despite making great content?
What plans do you have for videos further down the line? Anything interesting?
I’ve been trying to brainstorm future videos constantly. Like I said, a lot of inspiration comes from playing current games, but other topics pop up now and again. I try to keep a strong diversity, like doing Top 5’s and the VS series in addition to Good Game Design and You Need To Play.
Finally, what advice would you give someone starting up a new YouTube channel and why?
If your goal is to hit it big, keep improving and upload consistently – but a big chunk of it will come down to luck anyway. More importantly you should strive for this: being yourself, and not burning yourself out. For example, I COULD do Good Game Design exclusively on my channel and it probably would be more successful, but I feel like it would limit my creative freedom, so I like to keep my options open of what I can cover. This helps me to continue to stay motivated, and that’s more important to keep up the effort in the long run. Do what you love.
And that’s the key phrase here. Do what you love.
Because success isn’t easy, and success doesn’t come quickly. Indeed, as Malcom Gladwell is often quoted as saying, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. Whether that be YouTube video making, game design or anything else you can imagine.
So, what would you rather spend that time doing?
Something you utterly despise because it’s got a 1% chance of making you a household name? Of course not, putting yourself through 10,000 hours of hell on the off chance you may (note the word may) become the next PewDiePie is insane.
Instead, do what you love, get better at making videos and as Snoman says, do what keeps you motivated. That way, you’ll want to run your channel, not just do it because it’s the ‘hip’ thing to do or for the temptation of financial glory exists in some far-off future.
That’s how true success comes about.