I remember coming home from elementary school almost 10 years ago, and for a half-hour each day before my parents got home, I had total control over my life. It was the perfect opportunity to catch up on the latest “Minecraft” YouTube videos, which were usually created by SkyDoesMinecraft, AntVenom or, my personal favorite, Jordan Maron, better known as CaptainSparklez.
Even if you don’t know who CaptainSparklez is, you may be familiar with some of his work. Sitting at around 11.2 million subscribers, he is the creator of many popular “Minecraft” parody songs and equally popular “Minecraft” “let’s plays.” From an outsider’s perspective, it may seem like I am just watching someone play a game with bad graphics, yet it is so much more than that.
CaptainSparklez was one of the first YouTubers to find success through gaming videos. Currently, you can find all facets of gaming channels, whether focused on gameplay, reviews or deeper analysis; however, back in 2012, it was hard to find any of that. Maron’s charismatic personality and sense of humor certainly helped him along the road to success, but it was his ideas, innovations and creativity that drove him to the top and helped him inspire a generation of content creators.
First and foremost, CaptainSparklez’s songs — his most viewed videos — are not only bangers, but they are also the first instance of combining gaming and animation, a trend that continues to be popular today. His first release, “TNT,” is just over 10 years old. In comparison to the rest of his work, the best I can say is it was a strong beginning. While the video lacked production quality, just six months later, another video, “Revenge,” was released, and the improvement in animation and production quality was astounding for a “non-professional” team. It currently has over 250 million views and has surpassed the outer limits of both YouTube and “Minecraft,” ultimately becoming a meme.
The popularity of these parodies proved that success could be found on YouTube through gaming-based content. Viewers love being able to relate to content on a personal level. Little jokes or references to in-game situations and items sprinkled throughout the videos allow each viewer to have a personal experience, much like playing the game itself. However, these types of videos take a lot of time, planning and effort, and if CaptainSparklez had solely released this kind of content, he definitely would not have found as much success. That’s why he resorted to an old favorite, gameplay with commentary over it, more colloquially called a “let’s play.”
CaptainSparklez has done many playthroughs of “Minecraft” over the years. One might think that playing the same game over and over must get tiresome eventually, but not in “Minecraft.” The options are only limited by your imagination. You can build whatever you want, adventure between different realms and even play with or against other people. “Minecraft” is the perfect medium for content creation because as long as you are creative, you can never run out of things to make.
CaptainSparklez took advantage of this by running multitudes of series, each with a different premise. Besides the normal let’s plays, he had different pre-made maps — each had unique stories and challenges as well as different minigames like the Survival Games (based off of the “Hunger Games” series) and the TNT Olympics. At the time, a lot of this stuff was new, and although not everything was a huge success, Maron kept at it. He demonstrated that content creation doesn’t have to be related to whatever is trending or controversial. Rather, if you try new things and keep being yourself, then your content will find an audience.
CaptainSparklez was not the funniest creator nor the most technically skilled, but he was the most creative. Time and time again, he was able to capture the imagination of his audience through music, gameplay and much more. His chill personality matched his drive to inspire hundreds, if not thousands, of creators to chase their dreams on YouTube. He showed the community that you don’t have to be the best at the game to make the best content about that game.
Let’s plays are currently more popular than ever, and I think many creators these days can find their roots within CaptainSparklez’s history. Not only was he a foundational icon that kickstarted the popularity of “Minecraft” — now the most popular game of all time — but he was one of the founding fathers of gaming channels.
With gaming finding its way into the mainstream throughout the past decade, it’s important to look back at who inspired us from the beginning. CaptainSparklez is more than just a gamer, he’s a creator. And although he may not be as popular as he once was, his legacy is more prevalent than ever.
Daily Arts Writer Maxwell Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.