On 4 December, Vintrospektiv celebrated its 2nd birthday. While I am happy with the new direction my life has taken, and ultimately with the decision to end Vintrospektiv as my main job, I couldn’t help but wonder (as I sometimes do) what I could have done differently.
I still believe that there is simply not a huge audience for the specific area of retrogaming I’m most interested in: exploring early concepts and ideas that led to certain gaming mechanisms as we know them today. I hadn’t given this much thought in the very beginning, as these ideas only manifested themselves gradually, but judging from the most successful retrogaming channels, people seem to be mainly interested in gameplay videos and console history.
But there must surely be a niche-within-the-niche with an audience for the videos I created and planned to create. Without wanting to reiterate too much what (possibly) went wrong, here’s a few of my thoughts about how I would go about it if I were to start Vintrospektiv all over again.
1. No social media. This is probably the main difference in the new approach I would take. I was never comfortable with social media to begin with, and while friends said that I needed them for people to discover my videos, I’m not so sure about that anymore. It’s difficult to interpret the statistics YouTube gave me with any certainty, but I think that for every new subscriber I had due to an Instagram post, 10 discovered my channel through the Shorts videos. Social media cost a lot of time for preparing posts and socialising, time that could be spent on actual content. In addition, there are many ethical implications in participating in the big social networks, as discussions about Facebook/Meta, TikTok and recently Twitter exemplify.
2. Periodic in-depth problem analysis. While I regularly examined my experiences of the past week or two and thought about ways to reduce obstacles, I think I unwittingly sabotaged my chances of really working on problems. I recorded regular video diary entries, originally as a bonus for Patreon supporters who might be interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the processes at Vintrospektiv. But as I was blowing off steam in those diary entries, problems never seemed as daunting when I thought about them afterwards. In hindsight, I probably should have taken notes in order to remind myself of what had really happened in a week and where I had struggled with something.
3. More (other) ways of advertising. One thing that really surprised me when I thought about it a few months ago, was how many channels of advertising I had missed. For instance, one of the German Amiga websites has a weekly rundown of new Amiga-themed videos. Similarly, there are many retrogaming-specific Discord servers that encourage advertising. But, probably because of the work I invested into advertising on social media, other channels simply never occurred to me.
4. More experimentation with video formats. I realised fairly soon (around my third or fourth long-form video) that finding material for the longer videos was a frustrating and time-intensive task that wouldn’t get easier for various reasons. In fact, that was the topic of many diary entries, and again I don’t want to get into the specific problems too deeply here. I also tried out a format for short videos that at the time were promoted at YouTube, which stayed the same pretty much unaltered the whole time. For some reason, I never really thought of seeking out new formats, or at least changes to the current format that might have alleviated some of the stress of finding material. I did have some vague plans for show-and-tell videos, and I always wanted to make a broader line of “Bit by Bit” videos, but without any clear ideas.
Recently, it occurred to me that I could have made many more short videos just by recycling the gameplay footage I had already recorded and editing them along a given topic such as “learning by doing” or “tough moments”, depending on the game and the material I had. Given the attraction of the short video format, I could have easily published three or four of them per week, drawing a wider audience.
If I were to distill these thoughts into tips for other people who may be starting their own video channel, they would look something like this:
1. Don’t bother with social media. If you already have presences which can be consolidated with your new channel, then by all means, go ahead and use them. But judging from my own experiences there is no need to open accounts just to be noticed.
2. Take a few hours for reflection every week. Take this seriously: make a list of everything that worked and that didn’t work in the past week, and spend some time to find out what you can learn from it.
3. Socialise with people who do the same thing. This can fully be done without social media. Just get to know like-minded persons and find out how you can work together, for instance simply by mentioning each other on your respective channels.
4. Be inventive with your content. Try out different formats, and don’t be afraid to drop what doesn’t work and expand what does.
5. (Bonus:) Network! This is something I already did, though probably not as extensively as I should have. There are many ways knowing other people can be an advantage. Whenever you mention them, ask them to spread the word. When you cover a topic they are interested in, tell them. On the other hand, when you find you can do something for them, don’t hesitate to do it, that’s what networking is all about.
I would love to hear what other people think of these ideas, and if you have specific experiences that support or dispute them – especially the social media aspect. So if you have any comments, feel free to contact me. I will also leave the comments feature for this post open for a while, until the spam/usefulness ratio reaches a certain point. (Edit, 13 March: Comments have been closed. There were 12 spam posts during that time, which is not that bad.)
(The featured image for this article uses a photo by Francesco Ungaro.)