For content material creators like Zach Letter, YouTube could be a type of rags-to-riches story. Letter, who has been making content material since 2011 and has a complete following of greater than 2 million throughout platforms, tells WIRED that he was practically homeless round 2011. At the time, Letter was pulling double responsibility working full time as a millwright apprentice and likewise making YouTube content material full time on the aspect. Suddenly, he says, the corporate he labored for laid everybody off—proper after he’d taken out loans to buy a car and gear for his job. This left him with massive funds on gear he couldn’t use, which shortly drained his financial savings.
Despite his finest efforts job searching, in three months he was broke. “I was scared. Every night I went to bed after working all day on YouTube, just praying that something would go my way,” says Letter. Then, his YouTube channel started gaining popularity and generating a modest income. This came just in time, according to Letter, as he estimates that he was about five days away from being homeless, having only $38 to his name. The ad revenue that his YouTube channel generated—which amounted to $800 per month—helped keep him from insolvency. “Things continued to improve” from that time on for Letter, who counts himself fortunate.
In December 2017, Letter took part in a player-created Sims 4 challenge on YouTube. The challenge, which goes by the moniker of the “homeless” or “rags-to-riches” challenge, sees players dress their Sims characters so that they appear homeless and then set out to acquire 5,000 Simoleons—enough in-game currency to build a modest multiroom house—without any shelter or a job, according to the challenge’s community page.
Letter says that challenges like this are fun “because it’s relatable to a life that many, including myself, have experienced. So to try and see how far you can make it in a lifespan in a way gives you hope for your life.”
At War With the Algorithm
The homeless problem is only one of many who gamers have created. Others vary from having one feminine Sim birth 100 children by 100 completely different companions to re-creating evolution and taking part in as a princess. Challenges stay a preferred mainstay within the Sims YouTube neighborhood. Games can get repetitive and boring pretty shortly for many who usually play, resembling content material creators, until new content material is added or community-developed mods are launched. So-called gameplay challenges let gamers and creators accomplish this.
Tom, higher recognized to his tens of millions of subscribers and followers as “TheSpiffingBrit,” explains that challenges allow creators to have a strong and unique video concept to entice prospective viewers. Tom cites YouTube as a contributing factor to challenge culture, as its algorithms encourage creators eager for engagement and growth to try increasingly outlandish video ideas and challenges in an unending arms race for attention. YouTube sees over 500 hours of content uploaded per minute—and viewers watch in excess of a billion hours per day. Challenges that are controversial in nature tend to be more impactful “as audiences are left shocked and intrigued,” which results in higher click rates since prospective viewers want to find out more, says Tom. Click rates and viewer retention are important to creators especially, as they drive content monetization.
(YouTube did not respond to requests for comment or provide statistics on approximately how many “Rags-to-Riches” videos have been uploaded and how many people have viewed them by publication time.)
Gaming and Homelessness
Video video games, by their very nature, can’t totally and precisely simulate the realities of homelessness, resembling the specter of violence from different individuals who look down on those that are homeless, harassment by legislation enforcement, unhelpful shelter programs, and hostile architecture.
Over 567,000 people are homeless in America, in keeping with a January 2020 report from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. The report predates the coronavirus pandemic, which has since led to a rise in homelessness. In 2020, a study by Brendan O’Flaherty, an economics professor at Columbia University, projected that the coronavirus might trigger the variety of homeless in America to extend by as much as 45 p.c. Under regular circumstances, there are usually not sufficient shelter beds to accommodate the variety of homeless, not to mention the brand new inflow, particularly given pandemic security protocols. Those who’re homeless usually additionally lack access to medical care, rising the probability of serious well being issues and preventable deaths.