Over here at Gaming Reinvented, we’ve talked to no shortage of popular YouTubers over the years. There’s been our interview with SidAlpha, where we discussed consumer advocacy and the gaming industry as a whole. There’s been our series of interviews with retro gaming enthusiasts like Top Hat Gaming Man, Slopes Game Room and Guru Larry. And well, where music is concerned we’ve not exactly been slouching with the interviews there either, with BlueJackG and Loeder being just two of the individuals interviewed on our site.
But for whatever reason, there’s one YouTuber we somehow haven’t interviewed yet.
Namely, SwankyBox. Known for his videos on Mario theories and Nintendo mysteries, he’s been close enough to the site that we’ve actually done collaborations with him before, like this one on Mario’s grandfather or this other one on the portrait ghosts in Luigi’s Mansion.
Yet that’s never included an actual interview. We’re not sure why (maybe we just had too many others on our plate at the time), but we never interviewed him until now none the less.
Well, until today that is! Because now our exclusive interview with SwankyBox about gaming, his YouTube channel and how to start a successful YouTube career is ready to go. So, if you’re interested in it (or want to know some tactics to make your channel more successful), keep reading!
So, let’s start with the usual questions here. For the benefit of our readers, who are you exactly?
Howdy! My name is Bradley Burke and I run the YouTube channel SwankyBox.
And where did your channel username come from? Why SwankyBox?
So, the name SwankyBox came about because I wanted a funny name and a “container” of some kind. The box being the dumping ground for the random content. I tried a few different names all shaped around boxes but most were already taken. When I first started, SwankyBox was designed to have multiple people on the channel. I started out doing funny skits, but ultimately, I let the channel die out. This was back in 2012 and the main issue was that I didn’t have enough time to focus on YouTube. When I rebooted the channel, my alias was actually something different. I eventually just became the channel name though – SwankyBox. Nowadays a lot of people just call me Swanky.
Either way, what made you get into this YouTube malarkey anyway?
I’ve always been super into YouTube. It came out when I was in high school and I fell in love with it interesting. It wasn’t until later in life when I decided to pursue it as a career.
How about gaming as a whole? What was your first game?
I’ve always been a gamer. My first game was Super Mario World I believe. Since then I’ve been hooked!
Did you try anything else online before your YouTube channel kicked off? Like writing, podcasts, game design, etc?
In high school I was an avid game designer. I spent a good 3-4 years working on a game that never came out. However, I learned tons of things while doing it. It was a great learning experience.
Still, onto the video content now. As most people know, your main focus seems to be mysteries in video games. What inspired you to make videos about them?
When I was younger, all the kids at school would talk about the games they played at lunch. Because we didn’t all have access to the internet, rumours would circulate based on our game experiences. We’d talk about gaming mysteries and things we’d do in the game after we finished. I remembered discovering an invisible bridge in Bomberman 64 that no one else knew about (and honestly, it wasn’t well documented at all even prior to my 2015 video on it). I think that’s what shaped the desire to revive those topics in games, and to pursue mysteries in modern ones.
And how do you choose what ones to make videos about anyway? Cause the N64 era had tons of strange things in the backgrounds of its levels and areas, and you could probably make a few hundred videos about every mysterious background element in Super Mario 64 alone…
I started with the games I played the most. I had fond memories of certain things I tried to accomplish but couldn’t within the games, and from there I branched out. The fact that there are endless possibilities when it comes to gaming mysteries is kinda cool. I pretty much consider myself someone who studies digital worlds!
Are there any times you planned to make a video on something and it didn’t work out? Like, you didn’t have enough to say about it?
I definitely have a lot of scripts that are half finished or were shelved. Sometimes I just lose interest in the topic or sometimes I run into a hurdle. One of my latest Kirby videos sat as a draft for about eight months simply because I was trying to figure out some math that wasn’t possible to solve. I eventually came back to the script to take a different angle.
On the opposite end however, which of your videos are you most proud of and why?
Hmmm… For starters, my Mario and Link Swap video. It was an intense feat for the time and it was a milestone video for my channel. Funny to say that people have now turned the idea into a reality with mods.
I’m also really proud of my first Night in the Woods video. I don’t know what it is, but I really liked how it turned out. It was the perfect balance of reflecting + mystery + animation.
What games do you think you might cover in future here? Could Super Mario Odyssey be a focus? There are certainly questions raised by the kingdom brochures, like the one for Culmina Crater…
I actually should be paying WAY more attention to Super Mario Odyssey. I have it and have played it, but honestly, the older games still steal my attention more easily. I’m a sucker for nostalgia I guess. I definitely want to give Super Mario Odyssey, and even Breath of the Wild, proper coverage eventually.
Outside of mysteries, you also seem to have gotten into the habit of making videos about interesting things caused by hacks and codes in games, like the Galaxy videos on your smaller channel. What inspired that?
I don’t think it was so much “inspiration” and more so that’s just how I used to play games. I commonly gave my discoveries away to other people because I normally didn’t have any use for them on my channel. But, since I wanted to take a more unscripted approach, I’m now going back and documenting all the discoveries I’ve made in games by either hacking, glitching, or just changing the order of things and how they happen. I have a list of about 90 – 100 ideas to go through still!
And heck, do you feel this genre might be seeing a bit of an uptick in popularity recently? Cause it seems like ‘go out of bounds with hacks and see what interesting stuff you can find’ has become the focus of a lot of channels recently, as have hack experimentation videos in general…
I think people like to see things reinvented. If you have a favourite game and played the crap out of it, having someone pull back the curtain and show you things that you can’t normally accomplish catches one’s eye. I think the next wave of online entertainment for games is focused around that and meta games within video games. Challenges, if you will.
Ever worry these videos might not be possible for many games now, given the decline in AR codes and homebrew scenes on some modern systems?
I definitely think modern titles will have a lot more difficulty associated with them. Very recently even Action Replay Central’s website went down, and with it, the online archive of codes. I first tested an AR years ago on Super Mario Sunshine and LoZ: Master Quest and fell in love with it right away. It’s honestly interesting because I think the younger generation today, even if born during the time of the GameCube, may have not even known about Action Replay.
It’s really odd to think about. With old archives dying off online, some of these things will fade into obscurity. I know for a fact a good chunk of Resident Evil 4 codes were lost very recently and I haven’t been able to find them again anywhere.
Never the less, onto a few YouTube questions next. Did you ever expect your channel to reach nearly 160,000 subscribers?
I don’t think many YouTubers think of their channels reaching such a large number. Knowing 160,000 people liked my videos enough to follow me is pretty surreal. I always had dreams and aspirations, and I certainly put in the work for it, but still it baffles me when I step back to think about it. I feel pretty blessed and fortunate.
What do you think causes a channel to succeed on the site anyway? Is it the subject matter, the person running it, luck or a combination of a bunch of factors?
It’s definitely a combination. Compelling content that has a unique twist + likeable personality + properly optimizing your content. Compelling content will get you noticed, a likeable personality will keep people coming back regardless of topic, and optimizing your content through your title, tags, and description will keep YouTube circulating your content around. Luck plays a role, but more so I consider it a spark that ignites the fire you’ve already built. You still have to build it in anticipation for that spark though. People “blow up” on YouTube because they’ve already done all the groundwork prior to having a chance at success. That’s why they grow so fast once it happens.
Do you ever see any great videos by channels that don’t get enough attention? If so, what are some examples?
Tons and tons. Uhhh… ClassicGameJunkie’s How Did They Do That series is pretty stellar. What’s With Games also makes a lot of amazing videos based on video game mechanics / concepts. The 8-Bit Duke has some really awesome production quality to his videos and are certainly worth checking out.
You also seem to have written a book about running a YouTube channel too. What inspired that idea?
I was inspired to write it because when I first started out I had no one to go to for help. Online resources for pursuing a career path on YouTube kinda sucked at the time. Even today they don’t fully guide you in the right direction. Now that I’ve found success and answers to the questions I had, I see the next generation of content creators struggling with the same things. So, I decided to write the book I wish I had when I started. It’s designed so that someone can pick it up and learn everything about being a YouTuber. That way they can focus on the fun stuff instead of sweating all the things that come with the territory.
And well, what do you think the future holds for the service in general? I know some people are saying Google’s recent practices are hurting it quite a bit, so do you ever see a world where another service overtakes YouTube as a platform for video creators?
I think Twitch will eventually build out its site to be more in line with static uploads, and eventually match YouTube completely. Twitch certainly has the edge due to Amazon Prime integrations, but in the end, I think both platforms will still thrive. There are certainly hurdles on YouTube but I’m still extremely happy with the platform, despite my Twitter rants sometimes. It’s growing and I’ll certainly continue to grow along with it.
What about livestreaming? Do you think pre-recorded videos may lose out to them in future?
Livestreaming offers something pre-recorded videos cannot. It’s like the hangout sense you get from a Let’s Play or something but amplified. I don’t think they will ever overtake pre-recorded videos, but both are important for growing. You get major personality points with your audience for interacting with them in real time.
Another channel you’re involved with is Cat Lab Toy Reviews, a channel about reviewing cat toys. How the hell did you come up with that idea?
People who aren’t having kids are having cats. We wanted to build a channel from the ground up for both the fun of it and for the research of it. The cat channel was grown in a bubble so that I could remember exactly what it felt like to be a struggling creator. Someone who has no chance of being shouted out but has to grow and fight their way to success. Most YouTubers who give advice on “how they made it” often are speaking from a point that isn’t really valid anymore. The platform is always changing, and what worked in the past won’t work now. So, we used it as a learning opportunity so that I could actually understand the current day dilemmas of content creators. I then used that for the book.
Also, I love cats. Who doesn’t want a cat YouTube channel?
And for that matter, what’s it been like working on that channel? Has it been different trying to get traffic to a channel about cat toys compared to one about video games?
It’s like 100x more difficult. The Pet vertical on YouTube is in shambles because it’s dominated by stolen compilations that accrue insane amounts of watch time. It’s definitely more difficult than I thought it would be, but we’ll still keep pushing forward. We’re taking a mini break on the channel for the time being so I can work on some online training courses for the book, but we’ll be back at it soon enough!
Either way, what are your plans for the future here? Are there any more channels you plan to set up in future? Do you have any interest in changing the topics SwankyBox covers at some point?
My plans are really to focus on SwankyBox Live this year. SwankyBox is at a point where I just need to keep feeding it, whereas SwankyBox Live is a place where I can rediscover my gaming passions and be innovative. Because of the unique type of content on SwankyBox Live, it’s honestly super exciting to watch it grow.
So, there’s the two gaming channels, the pet channel, and there’s also an animation channel my fiancée started recently. So, between us, there’s four channels – so we’ll certainly be busy!
Finally, what advice would you give someone starting out on YouTube with a new channel?
Oh gosh… I’d say list out your passions. Write them out and if you think you want to pursue YouTube, think about which passion you wouldn’t mind doing full-time in the future. Would you get tired of it in a year? Maybe that’s not the right angle then. When you’re making your content, think of how you can make it different than what’s out there already. Add a twist, mix things up, and experiment. Don’t just try to be someone who already exists. You’d be doing yourself a disservice then.
My book, The YouTuber Journey, outlines starting out completely though. I highly recommend checking out some sample chapters on my website SwankyBoxMedia.com
And you know what? We agree with him 100%. Remember, YouTube in 2018 is nothing like it was in the days of yore. Whereas before quality standards were lower and marketing was a less of necessity for success, the site nowadays has become a business venture with millions of creators all fighting over that elusive audience and those often-blocked ad pennies. It’s a hard world for the little guy starting out, and one that’s only going to get harder to compete in as time goes on.
So, don’t leave your career to chance, check out some tips from someone who actually knows what they’re saying and how to build a successful channel. For someone new to YouTube, it’ll likely be the best investment they’ll ever make.
As for the rest of us? Well, we hope you enjoyed our interview, and we recommend you check out SwankyBox’s videos on Mario theories, Nintendo mysteries and cat toys today. Or tell us what you think of the interview over on Gaming Latest or our social media channels.
Either way works. Thanks for reading!