YouTube content creator Matthew Patrick, otherwise known as “MatPat,” has one of the most popular channels on the video streaming service. With nearly 6.5 million subscribers, The Game Theorists first made a name for themselves by overanalyzing video games before branching out into other content as well. Now, MatPat is launching a brand new series called Game Lab.
Game Lab brings the science of games into the real world and analyzes just how realistic the results are. From experimenting with the free-running parkour found in the Mirror’s Edge series to seeing how the stealth tactics of Metal Gear translate to real life, the eight-episode series aims to investigate whether the skills gamers acquire during their playtime translate over to real world recreations of their favorite games.
Best of NJ got the chance to chat with MatPat about the new series and more.
Best of NJ: How much physical training or workout prep did you do before production started? A lot of these challenges are physically demanding.
MatPat: [Laughs] I did a grand total of zero physical training and working out. The production team that we were working with for the series, Vanishing Angle – we had done the “Rainbow Six Reality Check” episode with them, and we were lucky enough to get them on board for this series too – the head of the company said “Hey, so you should probably start going to the gym more regularly.” I said, “Hey, I would if I had time, but you know, with this series coming up we’ve got a lot of pre-production to do, and running the [The GameTheorists YouTube] channel – Game Theory, Film Theory, and the live streams – I just don’t have the time to.
So I went in with zero practice, zero physical training. I’d like to think that Game Lab was probably the healthiest month of the last few years of my life.
Best of NJ: Now that you’ve had a chance to work on both smaller and larger productions, what would you say are your favorite advantages of both?
MatPat: Advantages of both? That’s a good question. I’d say the advantage of the smaller scale production is the fact that there’s a lot fewer moving pieces, right? It’s a lot easier to iterate and make a change. If I feel like changing my mind about an episode, changing a couple lines of dialogue, or whatever, that’s easy to do. I just hop into my recording closet – which is literally my closet – I just re-record those lines and ask the editors to make a couple tweaks, and it’s really easy and fast to do. So that level of flexibility and that level of closeness to the content is really great.
For the larger scale stuff, on one hand, the benefit is there’s just so much more that you can do with a larger team, more money available, with multiple creative minds working together to make a series happen. For Game Lab, we literally did eight vastly different locations, eight vastly different experiences – from car soccer to besieging a castle in Napa Valley, to riding ostriches in Arizona, all of that stuff – and none of that would have been possible if it was just kind of me and the small team of theorists that I have that work on the channel.
So having that stability and flexibility was incredible and allowed for this series that I’m incredibly proud of.
Best of NJ: Was it always the plan to collaborate with a number of other YouTubers, and have them guest star? Or was that just a bonus that happened to work out?
MatPat: It was definitely always part of the plan. We were also talking about potentially bringing in fans of the channel or fans of the individual games that we were testing along, but for this initial batch, we thought it would just be simpler to work with other YouTube channels.
But that was always a part of it because, while me going through these experiences would be fun and interesting, the interpersonal element of us making fun of each other, us joking, adding a competitive element, it just added so much more to the video itself. So you’re not just being educated about parkour or stealthing or anything like that, but you’re also seeing different people react to these fish-out-of-water experiences.
I always wanted this show to be appealing to people who love the games – who can appreciate, “Oh, there’s a cardboard box in the Metal Gear episode” – but also people who might not be familiar with the game but are just interested in seeing personalities get taken out of their comfort zone and put into unusual circumstances and seeing how they react.
Best of NJ: For folks who aren’t familiar, what is YouTube Red, and what makes it the right platform for Game Lab?
MatPat: YouTube Red is a service that allows for a more premium YouTube experience. Basically, it’s an ad-free viewing experience, it also comes with the benefit of additional shows that are only available on YouTube Red; you get the ability to minimize YouTube and YouTube music on your mobile device and you can continue listening to it. So across the board, it’s just a more streamlined, easy way to engage with your favorite YouTube videos and YouTube content, for a monthly subscription fee.
One of the things that I was really adamant about when we were creating this series, was having the ability to reach as many of my existing fans as possible. We could have potentially taken the show to television, or to a different platform; but that’s telling fans “Hey, we’re big on YouTube, but now you have to go somewhere else to watch this thing,” and I didn’t want that to happen. I wanted people to be able to, if they’re fans of the channel… this is more content for you guys. This is more added value and stuff that you’re really going to be excited about watching. As a YouTube-first creator, YouTube is first and foremost my home, and that’s where the audience is. So I want to deliver them value as much as I can on the channel itself.
But also, the other reason was that we could’ve potentially done the series by partnering with each of the individual game creators, and doing these as individual brand deals for each of the games, but I wanted to be able to create the show that I wanted to make, and not necessarily be beholden to the supervision of a larger game publisher, and have to get their approval on everything that is said. The great thing about YouTube Red is it allowed us the funding to create this series, but also the flexibility to not necessarily be beholden to a bureaucratic process of video approval from the various video game brands that are featured in the show.
Best of NJ: If you were granted one bonus episode of Game Lab to produce, but the rules of physics and science no longer applied, what game with a fantastical or supernatural element to it would you most like to tackle?
MatPat: Oh my gosh… that’s fantastic. I love this question, thank you so much. You know honestly, what I would love to do is recreate a Super Mario-style platforming level in real-life scale. So, have me and a bunch of gamers – if you’re saying physics doesn’t apply, and you have the ability to do super leaps like Mario – jump these huge chasms and all that stuff; and actually, to a real-life scale size, recreate level 1-1 or some iconic Super Mario level. I think the sensation or ability to leap tall buildings and run at top speed to fly over enemies and stuff would be a pretty incredible experience, and one that is so ridiculous that I think it would be super, super fun.
Best of NJ: For fans of Game Theory and your content in general, is there an event that you’re going to be at soon where people can see you?
MatPat: Yeah. So I’m going to be at E3 (Electronics Entertainment Expo) all E3 week [June 14-16] covering the different games that are coming up, doing a couple different live streams for some different channels and websites. Then also, later this month I’m going to be at VidCon where I think I’m moderating like three different panels; I’m giving a speech at the end of it; I’m interviewing [VlogBrothers Co-Founder] Hank Green. And then there’s the fan meet-ups and stuff like that. I try to make myself as available as possible. So if anyone sees me at VidCon or E3, feel free to stop and have a chat, because I’m always happy to talk.
MatPat’s Game Lab series consists of 8 episodes in total, with new episodes releasing every Wednesday. The first episode is available for free (see below), the rest will require a subscription to YouTube Red.
Hero (Top) Feature Image (& Additional Images): © YouTube