While looking through Steam’s explore queue back during the winter sale, I was suggested Youtuber’s Life, and I thought, “hey, people like to hear about simulator games, regardless of their actual quality.” So I decided to pick it up for the sake of Content.
UPLAY Online’s Youtuber’s Life opens with your character giving a monologue from their space station studio, where they rule as the ultimate Youtuber. …Or, just U-Tuber. I don’t understand why they couldn’t call them Youtubers in the game even though it’s in the title. Anyway, the game is framed around your future self recounting how they came to where they are.
You’re given the choice of becoming a gaming, fashion, cooking or musician Youtuber. Had this game been developed around the time the Youtube algorithm made long videos more optimal watches, I’d imagine that there’d be a fifth career for video essayists. You can also choose a personality, but it genuinely doesn’t matter, which I think is a perfect representation of the game’s emotional core (more on that later).
Now, my sister was watching me start up the game and was like, “hey, let me make your character” and I said “alright.” And so, I first started out with Sonic, the musician that inexplicably looks like an old man.
You start out as a high schooler, living at home with your mom. Things seem fine at this stage. Being a Youtuber is just a pipe dream that barely pays, but at least you have free food and board as long as you keep your grades up.
But you’re going to get nowhere if you stay home. You got no time for family or a responsible career. You must become a Youtuber.
Soon, you’ll get a roommate where you can freely work on videos as long as you’re helping pay rent. Then, you’ll get your own place, with collaborators that work with you as your videos start making serious money. And it continues to go up from there…
Until you get Big, your biggest source of income is doing video commissions. Some stranger will be like, “hey, can you make a video of this game? I will pay you more than the game originally cost.” Why. Why are you paying so much to see a Youtuber you like make something you want? You didn’t make the game. If this was real life, if people want to see you cover a specific thing, they’d be asking you to do it for free. I mean, it’d be cool if the Content economy was supported directly by big commissions from fans, but that’s not how it works.
That said, you can still go out to work day jobs for quick cash relatively risk free, and… oh christ, they all really pay less than minimum wage, huh?
…But besides the outrageous commission culture of the game, Youtuber’s Life is fairly realistic about the fact that being a Youtuber by itself won’t be cutting the checks – at least for a long, long time. This is not a living wage – your Youtube career has to be sustained by part-time work. And speaking of that, this is still only made possible because the rent you’re demanded is still really low compared to real life.
But hey! What is being a Youtuber like?
For the musician, video quality depends on if you assigned a song the right genre style with the right instrument. You’ll have to regularly buy songs to play and… I don’t think that’s how music licensing even works, but whatever.
And also, you can play concerts with a rhythm minigame that doesn’t even pretend to be a rhythm minigame. The most dripless music plays as you have to play a track of notes that are placed with no rhyme or reason. The boos and cheers of the audience are louder than the music. Being a musician is horribly unsatisfying, to the point that I pivoted away from Sonic to experiment with the other categories.
Cooking Youtubers have to regularly buy ingredients and use them to experiment with new recipes aimed at different audiences. After creating a recipe, you can make videos on it with various cooking implements.
Also, I need to call out the game for making the first video type explaining cooking tips – which will lead to negative comments about not teaching the recipe cooked first, and only letting you do how-to videos after leveling up. Stupid.
Fashion Youtubers makes the surprisingly extensive clothing options the main focus, in that you have to create different sets of clothing to show off online. You’ll have to be mindful of what clothes match, whether the season’s right for the clothes you’re showing off, etc. I think that fashion’s a bit of a subjective thing, but this honestly seems like the most creative out of the possible careers.
Though, if you want an easy-breezy time, just be a gaming Youtuber because there aren’t any extra things to worry about. You can get invited to game events, and while annoying, it does give you a chance to get free games. You’ll have to constantly buy new games to catch up with trends for the sake of the Views, but that’s par for the course for everyone.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Youtuber’s Life started out with you being a gamer Youtuber in mind and everything else was built on top of that. Given that the developer made two other tycoon/life-sim games about esports, I do feel that gaming was the initial focus.
As soon as the video is set-up, you begin the recording process. You’re presented with scenarios and you must play a card to do an action to add points to the video, with the points added modified by the situation. It’s incredibly stupid. I love to make snide comments on a loading screen like an asshole.
Also, horrible wacky music plays every time you make a video and I got sick of it pretty quickly; it’s especially worse if you’re playing as a musician because your avatar’s sounds just layers on to create Worse Noise. Afterward, you edit the video together, where you must string together the clips like a jigsaw puzzle. Voila, you have a video, with the end result modified by the stats of whoever made it. I don’t understand what the numbers mean, but you know, Number Go Up is good,
If you get sick of this shit though, you can automate the process after reaching a certain level. It won’t be as perfect as if you did it manually, but it saves me from the music montage. Plus, if you have collaborators, you can get them to do stuff while you’re working.
Speaking of which, after a point, you can hire collaborators who will spend most of their lives in your home for the sake of making videos. After signing a contract, you can freely assign them to do videos, or get them to train to raise their stats – or train yourself while they’re doing all the video work for you. I honestly found Youtuber’s Life to be slow, but it really starts to pick up when you get collaborators. Feel free to grind them down as far as their contracts allow.
Now, there’s a whole social aspect to the game where you can make friends and go to events with them… but it’s completely unengaging. All the NPCs are completely interchangeable, and it’s not as if you’ll get even a small VN romance subplot if you hook up with someone, so going out to the movies with someone is extremely nothing. In fact, going out to events is incredibly annoying because you have to physically walk to every waypoint and there’s a long pause that you can’t speed through in-between text bubbles at a speech or whenever you’re talking to someone. Every time a game company invited me to go to an event, it felt like a threat.
But you’ll put up with it, won’t you? You don’t care about the social aspects, right? You’ve got to become the biggest Youtuber.
You’re not out to enjoy movies with your friends, no. You’re there to look for potential collaborators to cultivate relationships and sign on. You’re here to look for someone that can commission you for the big bucks, and for some reason, there’s always at least one person that wants you to make a video for them. It’s something to make going out with a friend worth it.
Everyone and everything is a tool on your path for Power and Clout. Even if Youtuber’s Life did not intend for this image, it absolutely captures the life of one of those Youtubers who feel utterly empty inside besides the yearning for More. Follow that algorithm. Get those collaborators working. Get on that social media and post pointless messages to drum up parasocial relationships.
You will become Dream and you will like it.
Now, Youtuber’s Life does have a sequel, and from looking at it, it genuinely does seem like a better game? A lot of stuff is either streamlined or expanded where appropriate. NPCs are actually NPCs instead of just being interchangeable paperdolls and a bunch of them are Youtubers, which… I mean, I get why, but seeing big Youtubers out of their element is cursed.
But you may ask: why play this game instead of the sequel? Well, there’s joy in playing a predecessor before a refined sequel because 1) you could find entertainment in the flaws and 2) you can find satisfaction in seeing those flaws actually get improved on.
I will say though, an advantage of this first game is that it feels more honest. Youtuber’s Life 2 fully gives in to the escapist fantasy of being a Youtuber, with your character already living in their own home at NewTube City, a big hub for Youtubers like a more fucked up version of a creator house. Everything is glamorous and friendships seem sincere. You can personally meet and potentially collaborate with video game versions of big existing Youtubers, etc. The dream life of becoming the top Youtuber is mitigated by the fact that you’re already living it pretty good.
But no, here, you must work your way out of your mom’s house. All your relationships feel as hollow as your videos. Maybe the original Youtuber’s Life isn’t that good, but to me, it’s a vision that’s true to my perspective of being a Youtuber: a miserable grind where the top is ruled by husks.