It’s been one year since we started the Community Spotlight series, and in that time we feel it’s helped us learn things about the people who make up our community that we’d never have found out otherwise. The fact that everyone has had their own unique story to tell about what got them into gaming or brought them here to join us has been fascinating!
In today’s Spotlight, we’ll be talking to Rare fan and content creator Alex of Arekkz Gaming, a YouTube channel that now has over 450,000 subscribers! He’ll be telling us about how he got there, giving us his thoughts on Sea of Thieves and much more.
Alex came to visit Rare in March and vlogged the whole trip!
[Q]: Tell us a little about what got you into gaming? [A]: My gaming journey actually started all the way back on the Sega Master System; my brother owned the console, since I was only two years old at the time, but he used to let me sit with him and play games. The first game I ever played was Alex Kidd in Miracle World, and as a kid the main character having the same name as you was pretty cool!
After the Master System we moved over to N64 and I pretty much remained a ‘Nintendo kid’ all the way up until the Xbox 360 generation, then I embraced the multi-console lifestyle and now I just buy all the consoles available.
[Q]: Were you a Rare fan before Sea of Thieves and do you have any favourite Rare games? [A]: Most definitely! Many of my fondest gaming memories from when I was younger stem from the N64 days, and some of my favourite games from back then were Rare titles: Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64, Jet Force Gemini, Blast Corps, GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, etc.
But if I had to pick just one as my favourite, I think it’d have to be Donkey Kong 64 – as a huge fan of Super Mario 64, DK64 felt like a continuation of that for me, plus monkeys are my favourite animal, so as a kid it was basically “Super Mario 64 with monkeys”…
[Q]: What games are you playing currently? Any favourites? [A]: I’m still playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in my spare time – gradually working towards that 100% completion – that’s now become my favourite game of all time, knocking Ocarina of Time down to second place.
But besides that, Destiny, The Division and Monster Hunter are games I play regularly, I’m also playing a lot of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds – a Battle Royale-style game, really good fun and super rewarding when you win! And of course, when I can, the Sea of Thieves Technical Alpha!
One of our glow-in-the-dark Pirate Lord figurines, which made their debut at SDCC 2016.
[Q]: How did your YouTube career start, and what convinced you that it was the right path to go down? [A]: It actually all started back when I worked at Microsoft with my friend Matt (aka TwoSixNine) whom I run my channel with. It was him that convinced me to start – Microsoft had a pretty good games library, so we used to borrow the games and make videos for fun.
In truth, my first year on YouTube was definitely much more a journey of discovery, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do, or even if it was something I would end up enjoying. However, after 18 months at Microsoft working as a tester on Forza Horizon, I moved over to work as Associate Producer on Upload (the video platform on Xbox One). I’d say it was at that point that it truly clicked for me – working with the video team to produce content for Upload also taught me so much in the process; my editing improved, as did my confidence on camera, and it was then that I realised this was something I really wanted to make work.
We then made the switch to daily content, which was definitely tough at times given that I was also working full time at Microsoft – and the job wasn’t exactly 9-5, but it was worth it in the end. Sadly the Upload content team disbanded, Microsoft no longer needed me, so I decided to take a risk and use this new-found freedom to try and make YouTube work full time. I set aside a year to try, and luckily it worked out, so now here we are!
[Q]: Your YouTube channel has over 450,000 subs! Tell us about how you’ve built up such a huge base of viewers over time. [A]: It’s definitely been a long journey and we’re still learning every day, but I’d say for starters it helps massively having someone to work alongside. Running the channel with Matt, we both take on distinctly different roles – I create all the videos, meanwhile Matt is much more behind the scenes helping with content planning, analytics, all the technical numbers stuff, and as of the past few months, he now streams on Twitch too, since I spend most of my time making videos.
I live my life by a schedule – we plan everything out, at least where we can, but random news drops and trailers are things we of course have to react to which often throws a spanner in the works, but it also means no two days are ever the same.
As for how we built up the audience we have – persistence is key. Building a channel is a long road, it takes years, but if you’re consistent, you upload content you know people enjoy watching and you enjoy it yourself, then the rest will come in time. But consistency is definitely the key! We upload videos daily, so people know they can check back every single day for something new.
[Q]: Having played Sea of Thieves now, how well do you think the game lends itself to streaming and content creation? [A]: I’d go as far as to say the game is built for streaming and content creation – it’s one of those titles that I know will just create some truly hilarious situations. From those moments of wonder exploring the open world and discovering something you couldn’t even imagine, to the team-focused battles where we’ll no doubt see pirates stealing from one another, ambushing enemy ships, maybe even leading them to the far reaches of the map in the hope that something else might take care of them – this is definitely a game that I’m going to look forward to watching people play in both videos and live streams.
This is where the magic happens. Note the lemon slice in the glass. Looks like Alex doesn't want scurvy slowing him down.
[Q]: Do you have any standout moments or stories from your time playing the game? [A]: My standout story probably comes from the very first time playing the Technical Alpha. There were four of us on a ship, we’d collected our treasure and handed it in for some sweet gold, so our new-found objective was to steal from other pirates. We sailed towards a ship, got close enough so that I could jump aboard, and I then stealthily worked my way through the ship taking out everyone with my blunderbuss.I really can’t wait till I’m able to share videos like that!
[Q]: If you had to choose a pirate name, what would it be? [A]: Captain Red Beard.
[Q]: What kind of hobbies do you enjoy outside of gaming? [A]: To be completely honest, YouTube takes up so much of my time that I don’t have a great deal of time for much else, however since I launched a second channel and started vlogging I’ve developed a much greater interest in filmmaking and videography – learning cool and interesting ways to tell story through videos, and that obviously helps with my vlogs.
Alex's work desk is a treasure trove of gaming-related goodies!
[Q]: What are you most looking forward to in Sea of Thieves?
[A]: For me it’s definitely got to be exploring the open world. Whenever you have a new world to explore in games like this, it’s always fun to see what’s hidden in the far reaches of the map. I already tried to go as far out as I could in the Technical Alpha, but since I wasn’t supposed to do that, I’ll save the real exploration for the full game!
Oh, and also stealing treasure from other pirates – playing as a team, sailing the sea and hunting down other teams is definitely going to become a staple activity for me and my crew.
[Q]: Share a fun fact about yourself. Anything is fair game!
[A]: Before I left my testing role at Microsoft to go and work on Upload, the last game I worked on was actually Kinect Sports Rivals. I predominantly tested the Climbing stuff, so I managed to set some pretty quick times on the leaderboard at launch.
Thanks to Alex for taking the time to tell us a bit more about himself as well as giving us an insight into what it means to be a professional YouTube creator! We’ll also be sure to hold our treasure chests extra close at night knowing that his crew may be somewhere nearby, looking to get their daily fix of plundering and pillaging.
To all of our readers, if you want to hear more from Arekkz, then check his various channels for daily gaming news and videos!
We will of course be back again soon with another Spotlight, but until then, follow us on our social channels to keep up to date with all things Sea of Thieves!