Digital Media's New Celebrities

 By: Jamie S Hanson
For many decades, celebrity status was achieved either on stage, on film or on TV. Now, a whole new crop of celebrities exist within the brave new world of digital media and entertainment.

YouTube receives many more views per day than every TV network and cable channel combined. The interesting thing about these new age celebrities is that they make their way into the entertainment stratosphere without the assistance of agents, managers or entertainment attorneys. They are regular people with a passion or talent that others enjoy watching from the comfort of their computer screen or digital mobile device.

These specific celebrities are not the "one-hit wonders" or subjects of viral videos that catch on, ala, "Charlie Bit Me". This group of entertainers create their videos with the idea of entertaining the masses, and the masses seem to truly enjoy finding their favorites and loyally following their exploits.

A father-son tandem, known as "CurtisTheSpazGamer" and son, has recently begun taking the Internet by storm with their series of video game "commentary videos". These are videos that feature gameplay captured from popular console units, such as xBox or Playstation or from the creators' computers. They overlay their gameplay with commentary that ranges from the fascinating and informative to the ridiculous and sometimes disturbing.

Curtis and Son fall somewhere nicely in the middle of these parameters, hosing a YouTube channel that "highlights" Curtis' very limited gaming abilities. "My kid and I love playing video games, " Curtis recently explained. "We saw (Call of Duty) 'Black Ops' commentary videos online and enjoyed them. These videos were by gamers with crazy skills, demonstrating their prowess. It occurred to me that it might be fun to make commentary videos by someone who sucks, and I just happened to fit that description. My son and I broke out the cameras and started having a blast posting videos of me stinking the joint up, while he made fun of me... Basically what we do pretty much every day anyway."

The pair found success rather quickly, their videos gaining an ever-growing legion of loyal fans. "It's (the fan base) mostly kids from around 14 to 25 or so," Curtis explained. "That's perfect, as my son is nearing that age group and mentally I never left it."

The duo recently was rewarded for their efforts by having their YouTube Channel partnered with "Machinima", the wildly successful entertainment channel that posts videos created by users all over the world. Curtis and Son create their videos for the "Respawn" arm of Machinima; the branch that displays action gaming content.

"The whole thing has been a ridiculous amount of fun," Curtis exults. "When we started this, we didn't even know about Machinima, but they are a really great group! The people who watch our videos are a ton of fun, as well. My son (Braxton) and I have a blast answering comments made on our videos, and hanging out with everybody at our forum, playing together online and on our Facebook page."

When asked about his son being exposed to the violence in games such as "Black Ops", Curtis acknowledges it is something he's been asked many times before. "Every kid is different," he explained, "but if a parent is truly involved, they understand what a child is able to handle. My son completely understands the difference between video game or cartoon violence and the reality of actually hurting someone. When I was a kid, we played war all the time. We shot each other up with glee, but none of us considered ever doing it in real life. This is the same thing; just with better graphics."

Together, the duo truly seems to immensely enjoy one another's company. Their videos feature dad's truly poor gameplay, as he struggles to get better, while son snickers and bates him. At one point, dad tries to strike back by insinuating that son is a huge Justin Bieber fan. With great aplomb, son responds, "Keep it up and I'll tell mom what I caught you looking at on the Internet last night." A totally stunned dad responds, "Okay, truce."

Curtis and Son's YouTube channel is loaded with, not only videos, but reams of pretty funny give and take with the subscribers to their channel. Curtis' honest and constantly fun demeanor seems to have caught on with a legion of followers. His interaction with the mostly young subscribers is both fatherly and friend-like in its delightful simplicity.

Curtis is nearing 50 years old, and when asked how long he intends to keep making these videos, he replies, "As long as anybody still enjoys watching them. We are having a great time together and with the friends and subscribers who make up our community. Why would we ever stop?"

When asked what will happen when Braxton grows up, Curtis is thoughtful for a moment, then, with a noticeable touch of emotion, he offers, "Hopefully he'll never get tired of spending at least a little bit of time playing with the old man... Otherwise, it will be kind of a sad scene while I sit here, playing these games really badly with an empty chair next to me."

Watching their relationship on camera, it's hard to imagine that would ever happen. Curtis The Spaz Gamer may be on the air longer than "The Simpsons".

Breaking out of his melancholy thoughts of an empty chair future, Curtis brightens with, "I've gotta keep playing for awhile, though, regardless. - My goal is to one day play a positive K/D (Kill/Death ratio in the game; player kills others more times than is killed himself). I'm 50 now and average life expectancy is about 77... I'm thinking I might have an outside shot of pulling that off some time in the next 27 years."

One can only imagine a lot of viewers will be there to celebrate with him.
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