Earlier this year, the game YouTuber’s Life made the rounds through, well, YouTube. By the time Pewdiepie played the life simulator, he didn’t seem happy about it. “That’s the truth about YouTubers,” he said at one point. “We’re all depressed. Why would anyone want to become a YouTuber? For the fame? For the money? For the mom yelling at you?”
When someone is a public figure, it’s typically hard to determine what’s real and what’s a part of a persona. Throughout Pewdiepie’s YouTuber’s Life playthrough, he makes the sort of depressingly real jokes about his bizarre choice of career that make the whole thing seem genuine, though. In his second go around, he admits that he’s using this game to talk about YouTube’s “bullshit,” before he signs off, never to make a video about this game again. By October, Pewds would make a game of his own—Tuber Simulator. And it’s just a whole thing.
The closest antecedent to Tuber Simulator is probably Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. They’re both plays on an extremely familiar model of mobile game (tap a thing, wait a few minutes, collect your currency, spend it on an object that will make you better at that thing), and they’re both about doing ‘nothing’ for money. But where Glu makes being Kim Kardashian seem like a thrilling, jetsetting life, Outerminds makes being a YouTuber look, well, incredibly boring.
Because of the way these mechanics work, the life of a Tuber (as presented in-game) is less about being passionate and following your dreams than endlessly churning out content and doing what’s popular.
Each day you are tasked with three new mystery “trends” that you need to discover in order to optimize your views. You flail around in the dark, haphazardly trying out different categories of video—lifestyle, beauty, animal, comedy and so on—until your views explode and you find the one that sticks. There’s no reason not to obsessively chase trends: making videos that fall outside of those parameters will not get you nearly as many views as falling in line with everyone else. And you need those views to upgrade your tiny apartment, to get better at being a Tuber, to get more views, and so on and so on.
Even though they’re functionally the same game, Tuber Simulator is like the anti-Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. When Tuber Simulator is not outright hostile to you for wanting to play it, it’s sly and cynical.
It’s not fun to be a Tuber in the way that Glu makes being Kim Kardashian seem “fun.” Your sprite will never stand or sleep. You will be making content until you fall over and die. The room you start out in doesn’t even come equipped with a window. You need to buy one.
If the intention was to make a biting critique of late capitalism Pewdiepie and Outerminds have wildly succeeded, but if not, the game still gets there by accident. When you opt to watch an ad to boost your views, you are greeted with a pop up that says, “Wanna make Edgar wear a costume he hates to double your views for a while?” Edgar is one of Felix Kjellberg’s actual dogs—Pewds himself will pop up every once in awhile to tell you that you’re poor, your views are shit, and he is much more successful than you. And both in game and in life, he’s right. His game goes out of its way to present a YouTuber’s life as lonely and soulless, and Pewdiepie comes across as a puckish figure, asking, “Why did you even want to do this in the first place?”