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Recently, video gamer and YouTube celebrity PewDiePie said some divisive things. But I don’t watch much PewDiePie. I’m not a subscriber. So why do I care? Well, I’m interested in the idea of a person’s “Why” (as described by Simon Sinek), so I’d like to take a slight detour from my normal gaming content to talk about PewDiePie’s “Why.”


Hey Future Caleb, I’ve got to talk a bit about PewDiePie, and I know in the future, where you are, in the year 2078, this YouTube celebrity is better known as President DiePie, and that you simply watching this video makes you subject to harsh BroFist punishment, so I thank you for watching, I assume, from the clandestine safety of an underground bunker full of Wolfenstein friends.

PewDiePie, easily the biggest YouTube celebrity of my time, currently enjoying over 57 million subscribers, once again made news by using an offensive racial slur in one of his videos.

But, this isn’t an I hate PewDiePie for saying the n’word kind of video…nor is it an I love PewDiePie for saying the n’word video, which I hope is obvious to you future Caleb, lest you’ve forgotten that in your younger days you weren’t a racists turd. I hope you aren’t such a turd in the future either, but I’m of sound science mind so I have to accept that new data may change what I currently believe about myself. But I can, at this moment, offer a very solid theory that I am not a racist turd now or in the future.

No, this video isn’t about the moral gravity associated with President DiePie’s words, and my aversion to addressing this moral gravity shouldn’t imply that I agree with the president. This video is about considering the unmanageability of context when you develop an audience. This unmanageability, this lack of control, is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. As VGCollectaholic and I build our Masters of Unlocking podcast, we want it to be something special, but how much can we really control that aside from growing the audience? Can we control the makeup of that audience?

When you first post something online–a video, a blog post, a comment in forum, a podcast episode–you establish an audience. Possibly only an audience of one, but still an audience. As you post more, as your audience grows, the citizens of that audience will likely stabilize thusly (these percentages I’m giving are meant to be examples, not representative of any actual data I have access to): 70% people who believe in your “Why” that’s your purpose for creating content, your core guiding principle. Simon Sinek, author of “Finding Your Why” and “Leaders Eat Last” says “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” There’s a fantastic video with Sinek explaining this idea, linked in the description below. This 70% are those people who buy why you do it.

For 2017 PewDiePie, his “why” seems to be “leveraging his goofy personality to make people laugh, every day, through honest reactions via the common language of video games.”

70% of his audience, these people who buy why he makes videos, would follow him no matter what he did, as long as it featured his goofy personality, humor, felt honest, and dealt with video games.

20% of your audience will be people who are passively interested in your why but aren’t converts and may never be. 10% of your audience are people who aren’t interested but just succumbed to your misleading clickbait or they are trolls.

So what happens to this audience pie when polarization is introduced, in this case polarizing language?

The problem with polarizing language is that, it’s polarizing. If racial slurs are not part of your Why (and I really hope they aren’t), then don’t use them. If politics aren’t part of your Why, then don’t discuss them. If gun rights or abortion rights aren’t part of your Why, then don’t discuss them. Otherwise that dedicated 70% will divide, that passively interested 20% will divide, and that other 10% will, depending on the moods of the search algorithms, either no longer exist or, if your racial slur is notable enough, may expand to 20% or 30% for the duration of the news cycle. But no matter how you look at it, going off brand, going against your Why, divides your audience. And if your why involves saying racist things, then…stop making gaming videos. Write Birth of a Nation fan fiction in your mom’s basement. Leave games to level-headed people.

A word about nuance in comedy. I absolutely know the importance of nuance with humor. Simply saying a divisive word like a racial slur does not automatically exclude the person from being funny. There’s an old adage, often credited to American comedian Ed Wynn that goes, I paraphrase, “anyone can say funny things. A comedian says things funny.” Meaning, low-hanging fruit, like simply saying something abrasive, is easy. But saying something abrasive, in a funny way, isn’t easy. Perhaps that funny way could be by controlling the context of your joke with the build-up, with props, or by controlling the social context. However, as your audience grows, controlling context becomes much, much more difficult. That’s why comedians hate when people ask them to tell jokes at parties. It’s not what they do. But give them a stage, and they perform.

This leads me back to the idea of a person or brand’s Why. The reason a Why is so tantalizing to me is because you can fully control your Why. Establish a strong Why, and context becomes less relevant. It’s the same as simply saying be yourself.

And if PewDiePie does have a Why, if he really is being himself on camera, then we have to accept him as the type of person who would say the n-word in, as he says, “the heat of the moment.” Trying to diminish the import of your actions by blaming them on the heat of the moment is the worst thing you can do. The heat of the moment is reflective of your why, of your true self, whether you want to admit it or not. You’re better off using the n-word in a crafted joke, and then admitting that your joke was dumb, than you are admitting that it was an inadvertent slip-up.

And If your humor relies on low hanging fruit like hyperbole–racial or otherwise–and doesn’t comment on it in a smart way, then get better at being funny.

I know this wasn’t a typical Hey Future Caleb video, and I hope future videos are funnier, but I’ve learned over the years not to stifle an idea. So, forgive me please for running with it.

I hope you check out the Masters of Unlocking Podcast. Our Why is racism free. My scientific mind is 99.9% sure of that.

Please like, subscribe, and click the Bell icon to make sure you don’t miss future videos. I’m trying to get the average views per video up to 100 by the end of the year. Sharing this video with your gaming friends helps a lot toward that goal. And if you are still watching this video, you obviously like it, right? So, please share. You’d be making a medically depressed video game nerd happy.

Thank you for watching.

And to you future Caleb, say hi to your grandkids for me.

Research/Sources/Credits/Inspirations (this is not a comprehensive list, as that would be impossible, especially the “inspirations” items)

Music Credits

8bit Dungeon Level Kevin MacLeod (, Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License,