For a lot of us, the search for “new” is an ever changing and eternally elusive quest. Normally, at least in the spaces making up the entertainment world, new is a rare and fleeting commodity. Once something new is discovered and deemed profitable it’s reproduced, repackaged and continually crammed down your throat until everything that made it amazing now makes it unoriginal and boring.
So in a world of remakes and sequels, where can we find this “new” you speak of? Right now the easiest answer is to look where two established concepts have crashed into one-another and, by focused intention or pure accident, created the New. Sustaining that new is the real trick and that’s where the creators come in.
As a gamer I was instantly drawn to gaming’s collision with YouTube, which spawned Let’s Plays, How-to Guides and much, much more. These two things, once separate, had merged and created a new type of content and it’s still evolving. It’s still new. The desire for access to these creators eventually led to the creation of Twitch, a streaming service allowing you to not only see your favorite gamers play live, but to interact with them and your fellow audience-mates.
The next question is, “How does this still feel new?” YouTube’s been around forever at this point and gaming predates most of YouTube’s viewers. Content creators is the answer. People who take the exact same things you have access to and turn them into customized entertainment. It normally includes a skilled hand at the game being played but the key to gaining an audience is the person themselves. With that, I’d like to introduce you to a new friend of onFiction’s, Aztecross Gaming.
Aztecross is currently covering the Bungie Studios epic, Destiny. He uploads gameplay, weapon tests and more. So do a lot of people, right? Why is he any different? It all comes down to personality. There’s something very attractive to me about honesty, emotion and realism in the creators I follow. When someone can put themselves out there, the real them, and be funny and serious and salty and genuine, I’m hooked! These guys don’t get nearly enough credit for how hard it is to be a creator. Being a creator means your work will be critiqued, and anyone who’s been to the YouTube comments section knows that’s a tough crowd. So why do it? Why put yourself out there? Because they have to. Something in them forces them to share these experiences and, quite often, they make the world a more interesting place because of it.
Here’s my chat with the humble, smart and always entertaining Aztecross. I’m sure by the end he’ll be one of your favorites too!
onFiction: What was the moment when you wanted to create content for YouTube. What was the transition from just being a gamer to also being a creator?
Aztecross Gaming: Honestly, what got me into that was actually, I’d worked as a project manager for a couple years while going to school and eventually got on with a CPA firm, and that’s what I was going to school for, I was trying to get into a masters program and get a CPA license. After spending about six months working at the firm, I don’t know, I guess I started realizing that I really didn’t want this lifestyle and I’d already been gaming for so long and enjoyed gaming. I finally came home one day and told my fiancé, I said, “I think I’m gonna start a YouTube channel.” I think she thought I was crazy. We started just making a few things and it was really slow but it started unfolding and doing better. It’s something I think I’ve always wanted to do when I was a kid, but you kind of don’t start to do things until you’re pushed in a corner and then reach out to your desires.
oF: Why Destiny? You’ve obviously played a number of shooters, what made Destiny the game you started the channel with?
AG: I’ve always liked Bungie’s games and I had been following Destiny for a while. I got it on release but I didn’t start my YouTube channel until after the game had been out for three months, four months. I wanted to do stuff with Destiny because I was really curious about what was going on, it was a new game, there was a lot of new content that dropped with it like the different RNG system and exotics and stuff like that. I would listen to some people on my way to work in the morning, curious about weapons and stuff, wondering, “Is this weapon any good?” I remember it would be early in the morning when I was driving to work and I would think to myself, “It’d be really good if some of these guys would commentate in a little more of an energetic flow.” It was so monotone. It kind of made want to start doing something a little different and outside of the box than what I was hearing. There’s a ton of great content creators out there that make wonderful content, but that’s kind of what made me go after Destiny. It was just wanting to improve on what I was currently hearing.
oF: Branding is obviously important, what’s the story behind your channel/gaming name Aztecross?
AG: My dad had a construction company, when I was a young boy, named Aztec Construction. I was really proud of that, I’d go out there and dig in the ditches with him and stuff like that. And my faith, I’ve always liked crosses. I happened to be putting together a name one night and I just kind of threw those together, Aztecross, to come up with that one. A lot of people think it’s Aztec Ross and assume that my name must have Ross in it, but it’s just those two things.
oF: Style is also important, what helped you shape the format for your videos? You do a lot of weapon comparisons, a lot of “tips” videos that include a ton of technical detail. What brought you to that format?
AG: You’ve probably heard some of the music I have on my channel, I like to have something a little more upbeat, a little more energetic. My goal is always grab onto the audience and make them enjoy what they’re watching. Nothing bores me to death more than pulling up a video and thinking, “Get to the point.” I always felt like I was getting a lot of that, even now when I watch YouTube videos. So I try to be informative and snappy at the same time. The goal there is to get whatever information you’re trying to get out of it and get back to gaming. So I try to make it as quick and snappy as possible, around six to eight minutes, but then also throw in some of my personality.
oF: Another really interesting aspect to the whole YouTube and Twitch part of what you’re doing is that Destiny itself has an enormous community, but you’re cultivating your own community within that. How has that taken shape and how has that impacted what you do?
AG: The Destiny community, in general, there’s some definite good sides. Unfortunately some people run into a negative part or they get a negative feeling about the Destiny community just dealing with some people in it. I kind of get turned off by a few streamers every now and then. It’s good to be competitive, it’s nice to have that competitive side, but I try to always build a respectful community. When you go to other streamers and other YouTubers they’re working too, they’re trying to put out content, so I always just want to have the respect there at all times between everyone. That’s what I hope to bring. I really look up to, I don’t know if you’ve ever watched True Vanguard or not, he’s a good content creator, I’ve always really like his stuff. I think he started out around the same time I did, I’m not sure. I took about a year off from YouTube completely when I went back to work, but he’s definitely someone that I’ve always looked up to as far as his personality and how respectful he is to other streamers and YouTubers. I really like that and he’s built a great community.
oF: One of the more fascinating aspects of what is happening with YouTube and Twitch is that you’re not just sharing your gaming, you’re able to turn this into a job. What was, at first, simply sharing an experience has evolved into an near-mainstream form of entertainment. You’re right in the middle of that. How has the impacted you?
AG: It’s bizarre. My parents, my grandparents, my uncles have a very blue collar background and so whenever I talk to them, and they know that I work from home doing this, it blows their mind. You’ve read articles over the years about big YouTubers and big streamers that make good money and I never thought that I would make money to sustain me as someone that has under fifty thousand subscribers. I started back YouTubing this past March and told my wife if I don’t do this I’m gonna regret it. It was extremely slow at first coming back into it, I only had about six thousand subs then, and it was slow. And then out of nowhere, it’s like they say, things go viral. They like something and end up sharing it and sharing it. I was really blessed to honest with you.
oF: I looked at a few of the numbers, the oldest video on your channel has 481 views and 20 likes (at the time of the interview). Your recent “Clever Dragon” video that’s only been up for a couple days is already at almost 20,000 views and has over 2300 likes (also at the time of the interview). What do you think when you see that level of interaction with what you’re making?
AG: It’s definitely numbing, to the point that it make me nervous. I have video ideas, and there are people out there that make videos and put them out, but since I’ve been getting people liking my videos, since I’ve been getting so much support it gives me the desire to never feed them trash. I really try to keep from just feeding people videos to just add on to the view count that I have. It does, it makes me nervous. I’m happy for it, but at the same time I gotta say it does scare me a little bit to see that. I always want to strive for better quality content.
oF: Outside of your own community, what role would you like to play in the greater Destiny community?
AG: As far as Destiny goes, Destiny has a lot of room to grow, especially when Destiny 2 hits. It’s already got a massive community. But more than anything, I got in contact with some people. I hope one day, especially when Destiny 2 comes about, that the competitive side of Destiny that’s so exclusive right now-you’ve got your big name players out there that are who you see in the tournaments-I would really like to grab ahold of that in some fashion and expand it to your beginner players. To allow them to step into that in a tiered system or some other way. PvP has always been my main aspect of gaming, I like campaign games but I love PvP. I’ll play a game, could be the worst came in the world, but if it’s got a good PvP I’ll constantly play it. I really hope to play a big role in that side of Destiny and to allow players to really take part in those tournaments.
oF: Will you continue to focus on Destiny until Destiny 2, or will you cover other games in between?
AG: I’m sure there’s some other games, I’ve been looking into Battlefield and the new Call of Duty that’s coming out, I’ll probably mess around with them. Skyrim Remastered is coming out, I’m a huge fan of Skyrim, I’ll probably get lost in that game. That’s one of the only campaign games that I can just get lost in. But Destiny 2, I’m definitely aiming for that. Rise of Iron was great, I like what they did with Rise of Iron, I just get the feeling that Destiny 2 is gonna be everything they hoped Destiny would be. I’m just really looking forward to that.
oF: Twitch was a recent game changer (pun intended 😉 by adding an easy way to share and access live gaming, what do you think is next in this young industry’s evolution?
AG: I was really hellbent on trying out the virtual reality thing and I’ll probably get into that. As far as Twitch goes and the whole live streaming thing, I actually started out doing nothing but YouTube, recently I just started doing Twitch. I mainly only do Trials [of Osiris] for people who want to get Trials carries. But Twitch recently added, it’s in beta, where you can upload videos to Twitch like you would for YouTube, which I think is a huge step. Being a subsidiary of Amazon and also acquiring Curse Network, which is the network that I run through, I think it’s gonna be big. YouTube is huge and people say that it’s the platform people will go to, but Twitch is on its way to becoming equal to what YouTube is as far as having that upload service. As far as revolutionizing gaming, VR is something that’s really big for people, but if Destiny 2 works out to be what I think it’s gonna be, I think it’s going to be the open-world concept game that people had hoped it could be but still retain its first-person shooter elements. It we ever get to the day were we can have open-world PvP with first-person shooter elements through Destiny that would be great. That’s what I’m hoping will one day come to us. I like the style it’s got going on now, but I love open-world PvP.
oF: I know you interact with your fans quite a bit and that you’re very open about yourself on the channel, but is there something you haven’t talked about you think everyone might find interesting?
AG: I’m just a normal guy. I’ve got a baby boy on the way in about two or three months. It surprises some people, I do web-cams and people have said, “I thought you were some older redneck with a potbelly and a beer in his hand.” I guess it surprises some people that I don’t look like that. Other than that I hope to keep bringing good quality content to everyone.
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