Interview: Let's Player SurrealBeliefs Talks RTS LPs and Scrambled Eggs
Let's Player SurrealBeliefs had a virtual powwow with GameSkinny to talk about his LP channel, the creative process, and how it feels to be mildly famous.
SurrealBeliefs' eclectic channel focuses primarily on RTS games, offering historical commentary on games like Crusader Kings 2, Mount & Blade: Warband, and the Total War series. Occasionally, he breaks from his more serious commentary to play a horror game like The Forest, where he loses "all semblance of sanity" and plunges into absolute silliness.
GS: Let's players have very distinct styles, like PewDiePie's melodrama or Markiplier's ridiculous scares. How would you describe your "let's play" personality?
SB: It's obviously very important to have a certain type of brand that your channel sells. It keeps a sort of consistency going that subscribers can depend on. But for myself, I think the concept of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality fits me.
I kind of attempt to stay as close to my own personality as possible. Which means I try to keep away from being overly high strung and energetic. You know, the type of commentary that launches into a barrage of words right when you click on the video.
At the end of the day, I'm a guy who happens to have a chat while playing video games. In my commentary and even when I respond to viewers via comments, I try to keep that type of mentality strong.
GS: Most of your videos run about thirty minutes. I'd imagine that it's difficult to keep an audience's attention that long, especially with RTS games. What do you do to keep your audience engaged?
SB: That's honestly the challenge that I think all commentators have to deal with. I think it's easier for more light-hearted games where the focus might just be on the laughs. But in a RTS title like Total War or a grand strategy game like Europa Universalis IV, you can't do that. You can't edit out most of the video since it would leave viewers clueless.
Because I don't cut things out, I try to keep things at a brisk pace. This means I have to usually have a sound understanding of the game's mechanics since I'll be more prone to mistakes. One thing I've learned in my time on Youtube is that viewers will love to tell you how you slipped up!
From the beginning and throughout the video, I try to talk about my thoughts, plans and reasoning for my actions. In the midst of that, I may add on historical tidbits, random observations or just some fun pop culture complaints. My most recent one is finding out Iggy Azalea is from Australia. I want to write her a letter and ask why she talks like that. Why Iggy? Why?!
GS: What was your inspiration for starting? Did you see another LP channel and think you could do it, too? (Or do it better?)
SB: My reasons for starting my channel were entirely personal. This was around late 2011 when I decided to start up a channel with the idea of helping my public speaking skills. I've always had a sort of anxiety with talking in front of crowds so I wanted to find a way to conquer that obstacle.
In the beginning I couldn't begin my commentary alone so I forced a friend of mine to join me. Eventually things picked up and I became more comfortable with the process. After that, I began uploading consistently and constantly. While it was a hobby, it was one I wanted to excel at.
I had no plans about being partnered with a network on Youtube or turning this into a job, so I really had little ambition beyond my initial goal.
GS: So, your let's play channel is your job - tell us a little bit about that.
SB:It didn't become a full time venture until a little over a year ago but despite that not much has changed for me. The only difference is that now I get a lot less sun! While I think it's an amazing experience to be self-employed, it's also one that I don't plan on depending on. Eventually I'll return to university and finish up my infinitely useful English major. Despite preferring a job teaching at a university or a school, I wouldn't mind being able to retain my channel as a hobby project.
GS: Your channel has over 60,000 subscribers. What do you think about your fanbase?
SB: I honestly think I'm fortunate to have the viewers and fans that keep up with my content. One person the other day told me he thought of my viewers who leave comments as being much more tame, something akin to the younger days of Youtube. That alone has been an awesome compliment and it's something I would enjoy keeping consistent.
Through social media like Facebook and Twitter, I've been able to personally talk to several people from all over the world and even make new friends. That in and of itself has been a tremendous experience.
Much like the variety of my videos, my fanbase is comprised of people of all genders, ages and walks of life. It's a humbling experience to know that I may be their go-to guy to spend a half hour of silliness with.
GS: What are your goals for your channel?
SB: I don't have any huge aspirations to become the monolithic giant of RTS gaming or anything like that. I would just like to be able to become a better commentator and provide a more entertaining experience. I think that basic focus on a fundamental aspect of commentary will let everything else fall into place.
GS: Where do you draw inspiration?
SB: The inherent nature of "let's plays" or gaming channels in general relies on consistency. This means you have to be on your best game to be reactive, proactive, and able to think of a coherent commentary without rambling.
For something more structured, the RTS titles are often much easier because there's so much to draw on to add onto my commentary. For other times it could be an experience I had that day, a song I may have heard or just anything really.
The challenge is to psyche yourself up and get excited for the commentary itself. People who love to talk all the time may find this to be a simple thing to do. But for the gaming introvert that I am, talking for four to six hours a day can be entirely exhausting.
Though I think I just rambled around the question! Often I try to get a good night's rest, cook a nice breakfast, and then listen to music to get me ready for that commentary "zone", so to speak.
GS: Do you have a favorite LP or YouTube channel?
SB: This may draw me some looks but one of my favorite channels is run by a guy called Filthy Frank. He's irreverent in his content and revels in it. Another channel is run by a guy who does this as a pure hobby. He goes by the name Marcus Aurelius and is just an intelligent and kind guy. He's one of those friends I've made online that I've mentioned.
Outside of Marcus Aurelius I only watch my friend's commentary channel called RedWantsCandy. The guy is astounding in his ability to improvise witticisms and he really brings the best out of me when we commentate together too. It may make a few nuns blush on the way but that's part of the fun I think.
GS: Do you have any thoughts on LPArchive?
SB: LPArchive is a project that I've been aware of for a long time but I've never wandered into it myself. I'll admit it is awesome to see the passion projects of people who commit to really meticulous work.
GS: How does being a let's player affect your recreational time playing games?
SB: I've often commented to friends about this because it really does change the way you play games. Over the last few years I can't tell you one game I've completed in my own time since beginning my channel.
It's a mindset of, "If I have the free time to play a game then I have the time to record". It's really been one that I've struggled with.
I do spend more time on other activities now since I tend to have a preset time to record which is certainly a positive change.
GS: Anything else you'd like to say to GS readers?
SB: I think this is an important message to anyone and everyone.
You should never cook your eggs completely through when making scrambled eggs. Then you just get an omelette with no fillings and that's just not a happy meal. Spread the word and make your scrambled eggs amazing.
Go Visit SurrealBeliefs
Whether you're interested in his RTS commentaries, or seek his wisdom on breakfast preparation, pay Surreal a visit on his YouTube channel or Twitch stream. Or give him a nudge on Facebook or Twitter. He'll be glad to have you. Happy viewing!