Sometimes, there are no words, and sometimes, there are many. This time, I’m not sure which one is better, but hopefully, it is enough, and it gets read.
As you may have heard, and this goes beyond the scope of gaming, John Bain, who many have known as the PC gaming critic Total Biscuit on YouTube, has suffered from cancer that has recently spread into his liver. The kind of cancer he has now leaves victims with a life expectancy of two to three years remaining, but those statistics can be skewed because of the age that many get this sort of cancer. He has also said that he plans to fight it and be one of the “outliers” of this horrific disease.
However, he recently posted a Soundcloud, stating that he was quitting social media altogether, and putting all his accounts in the hands of his PR manager, who is on strict order to not let him partake in posting anything to Twitter, Soundcloud, etc (though the YouTube and Twitch channels will remain). Reasons? Because of the drama that he has been subjected to these past few years for some of the opinions he has had. He is under the realization that this could be the final few years he’ll be alive if he cannot beat this thing, and he has planned to live it out with his family and close friends, without being subjected to having to read waves upon waves of e-mails and comments about a horrible human being he must be because he doesn’t have the exact same opinion that everyone else does about gaming.
This is a sad time. Not because of him leaving social media. That is a choice many could be facing in the wake of it getting pretty nasty out there anymore (and I’m not going to go into why it is; I’m sure many gamers know why it is by now). But it is because this is a man that you could no doubt know that he loves what he has done for many years, with a reality that many cancer patients have come to face: the possibility that they might not survive. And not only that, but to have your entire being on trial every time you utter a syllable WHILE struggling with that realization that you might not even be able to live long enough to see your children grow up (he has a son). And to also have people who dislike you SO much that they are willing to cheer you getting such a terrible disease (I can’t even begin to fathom how anyone could wish that on anyone).
It is something that can affect a lot of internet gaming personalities daily right now. Let’s Plays, and independent game journalism on YouTube and elsewhere have become a mainstay, and a reality. Regardless of what you might think about them as a viable platform for game reviews, or as a stable career or something to make money on the side, or just as a side hobby, the reality is that the audience for these is massive, and with that, the pressure from several content creators to keep up with the demand can take its toll, sometimes without the LPer knowing that their psyche is getting shot. Some bigger stars, like Jessie Cox, Boogie2988, PewDiePie, Markiplier, and Angry Joe, get it almost constantly. Some have been able to bounce it back in many ways. I will never know how Felix (Pewds) continues to do it. Maybe it’s because he could practically BUY YouTube at this point. Others, like Boogie and a very kind female Twitch streamer that has become a friend of mine, Aurora Peachy, has been able to keep their communities clean by having a very kind and welcoming personality to them, and never lets too much get to them, knowing how to deal with the trolls and knows that they have more than enough people willing to keep things friendly.
But it’s still a lot of pressure, and something that, until you do it, you might not know how much actually gets put onto someone. Someone might take hours to produce, edit, and upload something to YouTube that might only be five minutes long. It might not look like much work to you, but it is for the person playing the game, providing the commentary, editing the video, and putting themselves out there, opening themselves up to possible ridicule. You could be working on a Let’s Play, or a review, for days, and people who watch it might think you’ve only spent an hour on it because they don’t know how much time and effort went into the video. Not to mention the funds it takes. The microphone I use now is at least 100 bucks, each of my two monitors set me back 200, each of my two Nvidia GTX970s were 300 bucks, and needed a near 100 dollar power supply to run that and other things (including a 500 dollar Intel core 7). Not to mention the games themselves, the editing software that can go into the 200 dollar range, and you have a LOT of money sunk into doing something like a Let’s Play or a Twitch stream. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of time taken out of your day. To have the communities that Jessie, Boogie, Pewds, and Peachy have, though, is making it so worth it.
And, as TB said, it was a dream he has been able to live out that he does not want cancer to cut short. Most recently, two things in the gaming world occurred that dealt with cancer. One is the annual event Awesome Games Done Quick, a week long marathon gathering of speedrunners playing through new and classic games as quickly as possible in order to raise money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. It’s an event that has raised over a million dollars for PCF for two years straight now (another event ran by the people who run AGDQ, Summer Games Done Quick, benefits Doctors Without Borders but is the exact same type of event).
The other thing is the release of the indie title That Dragon Cancer. It’s a short game (takes a few hours to complete), and can be called a “walking simulator”, though that’s not meant to be an epithet against the title. It tells of the real story of the developer’s struggle, as their 4 year old son battled, and eventually succumbed to an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT), that affects the brain, which was found when their son, Joel, was twelve months old. Not to spoil anything, as I implore everyone to play the title, but the way the story is told is very heartbreaking, but also heartwarming at the same time. Very sad that cancer can take someone that young, but it also shows how much of an art form gaming can be for someone to be able to cope with something as horrible as losing a child to such a disease.
And now one of the people who have become well known for being as stand up and as honest about his opinions as TB has been, is talking as if he knows the end of his life could be near, succumbing to one of the two evils he’s facing. Regardless of if you agreed with every single thing he has said, no one can deny that he has legitimized YouTube gaming content in a way not many have done before him. He has always held true to his beliefs, even when they were far from popular, and he has fought hard to make sure that the industry stays honest with itself. Let’s all hope and pray that TB beats this thing, and is one of the outliers. And let’s hope that we can finally, one day, not have to talk about cancer in a present tense anymore.