“It’s not clickbait. On March 9th, I’ll be hosting my last Theory episode, at which point I’ll be handing off the channels to someone else…”
As a major Matpat fan, this was a gut punch to hear. This past week, Matthew Patrick, the face of The Game Theorists (commonly referred to as Game Theory), as well as three other popular channels along the same lines – Film Theory, Food Theory, and Style Theory, posted a video announcing that he and his wife were leaving the “Theory” organization after 13 years on YouTube.
18.6 million subscribers on the main channel. Several million on each of the others as well. It’s safe to say that millions of fans are heartbroken right now to see one of the pillars of the YouTube community and a major personality in nerd culture retire.
However, Matpat was just the latest in what feels like a slew of creators retiring in the last few months, each with millions of subscribers and a huge brand of their own.
SethEverman, an eclectic vlogger and musician (among other things), with 4.26 million subscribers, said goodbye in November.
MeatCanyon, with 6.7 million subscribers following his (mostly creepy) animation channel, is leaving that content behind for other projects.
And Tom Scott, a man who spent 10 years taking us on incredible adventures and having amazing once-in-a-lifetime experiences, told his 6.38 million subscribers that he was flying off into the sunset on January 1st.
These are not small creators. These are not struggling channels. These are popular and profitable content creators, all of whom joined YouTube many years ago never thinking they’d be able to do something that they love and make a living from it, but they did.
So, if they had a dream and it came true, why are they leaving? Why does it feel like every week or so, another prominent YouTuber is posting a “Goodbye” video?
While there is plenty of speculation around TikTok and Reddit about YouTube’s algorithm or creator payouts changing or making things more difficult – all of which are valid issues – the reality is, nearly every goodbye video listed here boils down to one thing: Burnout.
At the heart of every content creator’s journey lies passion. Whether it’s gaming, vlogging, or educational content, creators start with a deep love for their subject. But when passion becomes a profession, the lines between work and play blur. The constant pressure to innovate, entertain, and grow an audience can transform a labor of love into a relentless grind.
In other words, everything becomes content. Every day is a work day. Down time is filled with brainstorming. Even on vacation, content creators struggle to not find something to film for future use.
And of course it’s this way. In the world of content creation, consistency is key. Algorithms favor regular uploads, and audiences expect frequent, high-quality content. This demand creates a treadmill effect for creators, where taking a break can feel like falling behind. The fear of losing relevance or disappointing fans adds immense pressure, leading many creators to sacrifice their personal time and well-being.
Even channels featuring a larger team of creators to share the burden, such as Dude Perfect or Smosh, typically go through seasons where the group or individuals in that group strongly consider walking away. Both of these YouTube powerhouses have admitted to going through these seasons. Dude Perfect briefly talked about times all 5 of them considered calling it quits in their YouTube Documentary, Dude Perfect: Backstage Pass, in 2020. Shayne Topp, widely regarded as the most popular member of the Smosh team after Ian & Anthony, admitted that prior to Anthony returning in the middle of 2023, he was convinced that everything was about to come to an end.
For creators facing burnout, finding balance is key. This involves setting boundaries, such as designated work hours and breaks. Diversifying content and collaborating with others can also relieve pressure by bringing in fresh perspectives and sharing the workload.
Love Thy Nerd is not immune to this either. Though creating content is not the main purpose of our existence, it is a huge tool we utilize to bring people into the community. Never before was this more important than during the pandemic. Conventions were canceled, no new movies or shows were coming out, and getting together for a game night could wind up killing someone. So, LTN joined Twitch.
For the bulk of the next three years, Love Thy Nerd was streaming nearly every day to connect with our community, playing games we love, recording podcasts live, and having a blast. But we found out that even doing things we love with people we love, it can become overwhelming. Today, aside from special events, we only stream a couple times a week.
Our Podcast Network (which currently features 9 different shows), goes on hiatus twice a year. It’s a mandatory break to help prevent burnout. We take a Summer break in June and July, and a winter break in December and January. This might irritate some listeners, but had it not been for these breaks, it’s likely that several of these podcasts would have ended long ago. Instead, four months a year, we can take our mind off of making the next episode better than the last and devote that extra time and brain space to family outings, playing games just for fun, and even working on a different project or hobby we don’t usually have time for.
It might hurt our algorithms, but it heals our souls.
The role of support systems cannot be understated. This includes not only personal support from friends and family but also professional support like mental health services. Some platforms and creator communities are beginning to recognize the importance of mental health and offer resources accordingly.
Content creation is a fulfilling yet challenging career path. As we continue to consume and enjoy the fruits of creators’ labor, it’s crucial to acknowledge and address the mental health struggles they face. By fostering a more sustainable and supportive environment, we can ensure that the creativity and passion that fuel this industry do not come at the cost of its most valuable asset – the creators themselves.
Something especially notable to me about Matpat’s video is that he explained that he is not leaving the four different “Theorists” channels to another singular person, but rather four individuals who will each focus on one channel. For 13 years, Matpat has been involved with and hosted nearly every video on all four channels. There have only been rare occasions where a special series hosted by someone else has been featured, or a few videos are narrated by another member of the team because Matpat has lost his voice. But even in those instances, Matpat was almost always involved writing and working behind-the-scenes.
I don’t care how much you love Five Nights at Freddy’s lore, that pace would kill anybody.
The issue is, this is the culture we’ve created. YouTube, Twitch, TikTok – all filled with creators whom we expect new content from on a regular, if not daily, basis. Worse, we’ve made this non-stop grind their main source of income, which can be severely impacted if they aren’t pleasing the almighty algorithm consistently enough.
As Tom Scott said in his farewell video, “A dream job is still a job, and it’s a job that keeps getting bigger and more complicated. And I am so tired…”
A reckoning is coming. It might be years away still, but this could be the beginning.
Slowly, channels and creators are pushing content private. Channels like Smosh and Good Mythical Morning are experimenting with ticketed livestream events held off of YouTube. Some channels are building entire streaming services of their own. The most prominent examples in the past couple of years would be conservative media company Daily Wire and the sketch-comedy channel CollegeHumor, now known as Dropout. While both still offer clips and content on YouTube, they are not as dependent on YouTube for financing, opting instead for a subscription model for the bulk of their original programming.
This self-reliance allows them to set their own pace with much less fear of losing viewers, and far less chance of burnout. But it is also a risky move. After all, YouTube is free, and society has subscription fatigue. Will we really pony up more money to see what used to be free on YouTube?
Big name creators on the verge of burnout are hoping so.
How can we help? We can pay for subscriptions or specials when they are available for the creators we love. When channels take a break, instead of complaining in the comments, we can encourage them to take care of their mental health and assure them we’ll be here when they get back. We can like, comment, and subscribe – all of which goes a long way to help put their content in front of new eyes.
But in the end, a lot of it will come down to the creators themselves. Content creators have to make the hard choices to step back and slow down, or risk waking up one day ready to pull the plug. Putting mental health, family, and faith in the place of importance might result in less money and less views, but it will go a long way toward keeping your life in a proper, sustainable balance.
Contentment over content.
But hey, that’s just a theory.