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Leo Wattenberg

Similar, but different: What to learn from Virtual YouTubers

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Moin. 

At the start of this year, there was a trend in Japan drastically taking off: Virtual YouTubers. These virtual YouTubers are creators who just use a virtual avatar instead of sitting in front of a camera themselves. Content-wise, these channels still are normal channels, so you get vloggers that do challenges, tech reviewers, Let's Players and whatever else, the only difference being that you don't look at a human doing it, but at some anime girl or dinosaur or something. But it's probably better to show, not tell.

Using an avatar comes with a sizable amount of advantages:

  • It has a strong branding built-in. Humans tend to look more or less the same, but with an avatar, you can simplify and exaggerate features until they are really unique and standing out. 
  • It has privacy built-in. Showing your face is often beneficial for videos because facial expressions can convey messages that you otherwise wouldn't be able to convey. However, actually using your own face is quite a large sacrifice of privacy, if you get anywhere near successful with your channel, you won't be able to live a normal life in public anymore. Avatars combine the best of both worlds. 
  • It's different. Even doing what everyone else does will have you stand out.
  • It reduces abuse. If you think you're ugly but want to talk about beauty and glamour, chances are, you won't because you already know that you'll just be opening yourself up to a stream of abuse. With an avatar, you have a layer of abstraction between the abuse and you, which causes many of the easy insults ("you look like...") to be completely irrelevant to your person. 

It however also comes with disadvantages:

  • Usually easy things can become super difficult. For example, putting on or taking off clothes is very easy in the real world, but are rather difficult to do in a convincing fashion in a 3D animation environment. 
  • If you use free avatars that come with your software, the branding advantage completely reverses as chances are that loads of creators try using the very same avatar. 
  • It requires some advanced technical knowledge and setup compared to normal video shooting, and potentially additional and quite costly software. 

 

At a more abstract level, success primarily based on doing a format similar but different isn't that new. Hitchcock made his name by using the tool of suspense that had been known since forever, but never really been used before him on film. And when zefrank invented the deliberate and frequent use of jump cuts in vlogs, it lead to a delivery speed and entertainment density that hadn't been seen before. 

 

 

Overall, as paradoxical as it sounds, going where noone has gone before may actually be the easiest option. Even if you don't immediately get successful with it, you'll at least learn a lesson, your lesson, and not just copy someone else's behavior for better or worse. 

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