Pewdiepie is up to his old tricks again

He’s just being noticed for his sexism rather than his racism this time.

An ongoing feud between Felix Kjellberg, better known as Pewdiepie—the most popular YouTuber in the world—and popular Twitch streamer Alinity Divine, is a perfect example of how women are still objectified, vilified, and exploited in the gaming community, simply because they are women.

Earlier this month, Kjellberg, who has more than 63 million subscribers…

Stop right there. Have any of you ever watched Pewdiepie? I’ve seen a few of his videos, which I watched incredulously. He plays games with a kind of goofy running commentary, punctuated with squeals and other funny noises. He is talentless. He is uninformed. He isn’t particularly interesting. His only contribution is that he plays video games, just like you do, so he’s kind of the vidya equivalent of the guy you’d drink a beer with, I guess, and he’s famous for being a celebrity, which is about the most worthless kind of fame there is.

His popularity is mystifying. But maybe not: we’re looking at it the wrong way. He is the product of a runaway YouTube algorithm, one of the hidden rules behind the internet, which as we already know, has all kinds of spurious, exploitable side effects.

Little Baby Bum, which made the above video [I will spare you all the link to the video–pzm], is the 7th most popular channel on YouTube. With just 515 videos, they have accrued 11.5 million subscribers and 13 billion views. Again, there are questions as to the accuracy of these numbers, which I’ll get into shortly, but the key point is that this is a huge, huge network and industry.

On-demand video is catnip to both parents and to children, and thus to content creators and advertisers. Small children are mesmerised by these videos, whether it’s familiar characters and songs, or simply bright colours and soothing sounds. The length of many of these videos — one common video tactic is to assemble many nursery rhyme or cartoon episodes into hour+ compilations —and the way that length is marketed as part of the video’s appeal, points to the amount of time some kids are spending with them.

It begins to make sense. Pewdiepie is just another Little Baby Bum who appeals to another, but equally childlike, segment of the market. I don’t give him credit for consciously exploiting the algorithm, though — I think he just stumbled onto the formula and is profiting mightily from it.

Just remember that when someone touts their number of followers on YouTube (or Twitter, or a blog). Those numbers are mostly meaningless and only tell you that someone has hit a sweet spot in the medium’s artificial algorithm, which inflates noise into a mysterious cultural significance.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    Please tell me this individual is not Swedish, despite his name. It is bad enough that our xenophobe party is growing.

  2. daemonios says

    I’ve only ever watched snippets of Pewdiepie’s videos – usually when he hits the news for the wrong reasons – and I don’t watch many video game streams. But I have watched a few, namely in connection to playtesting a game that’s under development and in which I’m interested. I think you’re dismissing streaming all too fast. E-sports are on the rise, and just like in regular sports, some people play and some people watch. It’s entertainment. Whether or not it’s valid entertainment is more of a value judgment that I would make on a case by case basis but is completely personal.
    And just like in other forms of entertainment, excesses abound. I don’t understand the whole Pewdiepie phenomenon, what little I’ve watched doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. But other major stars don’t appeal to me either, yet stars they are. I think the most we can do is try to consume healthy/thoughful/thought-provoking entertainment and promote it within our circles.

  3. microraptor says

    Nope, never even heard of this tool. I don’t really watch video game videos because they inevitably seem to start bashing women or talking about how great Trump is or use “autism” as an insult.

  4. markdowd says

    Find a good streamer. I’ve been binge watching TFS Gaming’s Pokemon series and I haven’t noticed anything bad from them.

    And if you like speedruns, GDQ (Games Done Quick) is a charity event so there’s definitely no bullshit allowed.

  5. davidnangle says

    His success is weird. I’ve seen others with the same shtick who are actually funny, witty, clever, and socially sensitive. Their honest reactions to video games are an excellent tool to judge games before buying them. (Here’s PewdiePie’s style done well:

    And I don’t understand the algorithm exploitation either. These people get big because of subscriptions, and people click on the subscribe button on videos that entertain them. Are those numbers manipulated so that less successful channels look like the biggest winners? So that YT sells ad space by lying about how many viewers are viewing? If that’s the case, wouldn’t they just add numbers to all content channels, and not just a few?

  6. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    Pretty much the only thing I watch streamers for is to get an idea of what the occasional game that I might be interested in has in the way of character creation, or occasionally to get my fix of a game that I know I’m desperate to play but which isn’t universally out yet. The most recent of those was Battletech, which I now enjoy on my own computer rather than watch someone else enjoy it for my entertainment.

    I’m not sure I understand how they have the motivation for feuds tbh… but then this is gaming, where coming to the conclusion that it’s a big internet and you don’t have to play with people you don’t like is far less likely than spending 4 hours recording a stream of consciousness rant about how SJW beta cuck soyboys are RUINING MAH VIDYA!!! by thinking it would be nice for more inclusive options in games to be available.

  7. davidnangle says

    Athywren, different ways of enjoying, I guess. Sometimes I can enjoy someone else playing something more than playing it myself. I think way too many wingnuts enjoy their hatreds and bigotry, and carrying that over into this milieu.

  8. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    How are you liking BattleTech? I’m interested, but I generally wait until a game has been out a while and falls in price so I haven’t bought it or even played it yet.

  9. says

    In Trump’s case, about 1/3 of his Twitter followers are bots or Russian trolls. That “1/3” is conservative, a Newsweek article from May of 2017 explained that almost half of Trump’s Twitter followers were fake accounts and bots.

    Anyone can amass an exorbitant number of Twitter followers. You don’t even have to be famous. All you have to do is pay for them. The comedian Joe Mande currently has a healthy 1.01 million followers, but his bio contains a caveat: “twitter is trash, facebook’s the devil, i bought a million followers for like $400 none of this shit matters antarctica is melting.”

    Mande even explained the stunt last November in The New Yorker. “The simplest way to tell who’s winning the Twitter game is by counting followers,” he wrote. “The biggest celebrity accounts—Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga—seem to have millions of followers. But in 2012 I learned that only a portion of those are real humans; some are ‘bots,’ artificially created to boost an account’s popularity. Immediately, I knew that I had found my calling.”

    Because Donald Trump is the president of the United States and the most famous person on the planet, one wouldn’t think he would need to employ a bot to boost his Twitter following. It appears, however, he might have done just that. As screenwriter John Niven pointed out Tuesday morning, Trump’s Twitter account saw an unusual spike in followers over the weekend, many of which appear to have been created artificially.

    Trump currently has 31 million followers and, sure enough, if you browse through them you will find an unusual number of tweet-less, picture-less accounts that joined the service in May 2017. If you’re still curious, you can enter Trump’s handle, @realDonaldTrump, into Twitter Audit, a service that assesses the authenticity of one’s followers, and find that only 51 percent of Trump’s are real.

  10. logicalcat says


    Yea, for some reason I cant stand to play any resident evil game. Love watching someone else play them tho.

  11. Matrim says

    @davidnangle, 9

    I believe the algorithm comes into play once a channel reaches a certain critical mass. Once a channel gets big enough (and assuming they are willing to exploit certain aspects of the algorithm such as optimization of number of uploads and video length), the algorithm begins pushing that channel harder. They begin showing up more in search results, in featured slots, and in people’s recommendations. It’s much, much easier for huge channels to grow than for small or medium channels. And when you get to PDP levels, your channel is an investment and they’ll push you all the harder.

    To give an example of how the algorithm can work. I have a YT channel with basically no subscribers that I use just to upload videos to link to from other places. If I go to the search and type in the exact title of one of my videos, it rarely even appears in the first page or two of search results, instead showing far more popular videos that are often not even peripherally related to what I put in.

  12. microraptor says

    Crip Dyke @10: BattleTech is great. It’s not a 1:1 conversion of the tabletop game, but it’s very well done and many of the changes it makes work out quite well. The only real downside is that the mission difficulty indicator is pretty random: I’ve gotten a 1 1/2 difficulty mission that threw me up against a heavy lance, followed by a three difficulty mission that was only a reinforced light lance.

    Overall, it’s definitely a game worth getting. Good Old Games will probably have a sale on it by this fall, and by then there ought to be bugfixes available.

  13. methuseus says

    @davidnagle re the video you linked:
    I couldn’t stand to watch more than a minute or two of that video before I started skipping through and watching 20 seconds here and there. It was incredibly boring to me and I hated it.
    i.e. it’s not my thing, and I don’t understand it, but you can keep it if you really want it.

  14. Matrim says

    @13, Me

    Excuse me, that should’ve been directed at Athywren, 8. Must’ve looked at the wrong header when I scrolled up to check who to @

  15. davidnangle says

    methuseus, I enjoyed it on the grounds of revealing the idiocy of the game design and the disgusting jingoism, and the commentator’s sense of humor matches mine.

  16. Igneous Rick says

    There are so many amazing Let’s Play-type video game channels (I’m looking at you, Eurogamer) on YouTube. Pewdiepie is not one of them. Even without his occasional problematic phrasing, he is just grating. If you want high-energy silliness, jacksepticeye is my pick and a popular choice (I recommend his Oxenfree playthrough).

    I started watching these videos after playing the narrative-driven Life is Strange series. They are emotion-heavy, and I wanted to see others react to the most affecting moments. I started watching compilations of the best moments and picked who I liked. Pewdiepie was annoying in every single one. (I strongly recommend the series, especially to non-twitchy gamers. They’re SJWific!)