I mean, I knew not everyone was going to appreciate two men arsing around with balloons - the video that seems to have been the final straw for a fair few people - but I also think it's important that I keep creating what I most strongly feel the urge to create. I knew full well that there's a sort of meta joke in the latest Digi video about a failed balloon modelling video being terrible content, and either you get that or you don't.
It's telling that while we lost a lot of subscribers in the wake of it... we gained just as many too.
In all honesty, if writing the original Digitiser for Teletext hadn't been my job, there's no way it would've had as much gaming content as it did have.
I've never really identified with being that sort of hardcore gamer. I've always felt I was someone on the fringes of gaming, who just ended up somehow working as a games journalist.
Having said that, it's important to state here that we've no real strategy for either this website or the YouTube channel, beyond wanting to enjoy ourselves. It might be that we shift back to gaming videos at some point, or we mix gaming vids in among the others.
I honestly don't know, because I tend to work on instinct, and I'm not trying to build a career here, or even, particularly, try and grow the channel. I've already got a career where I have to wear my grown-up hat, and I'd always take a dedicated smaller cult audience over a larger, take-it-or-leave-it, one. At the moment, I'm enjoying editing and being in these short videos more than anything else, so that's where my energies are going.
Earlier this year I was talking about Digitiser The Show Series 2, but now that I'm at a point where I could, conceivably, have the time to launch a Kickstarter for it... if I listen to my gut, the enthusiasm isn't there to step into the crowdfunding arena again. I need to have my blood up in order to take on a project of that magnitude.
I've talked a bit recently about feeling kind of burnt-out after a tough and busy year, but there are other things at play, really, and they come back to what I said above about feeling on the fringes.
Back in the 90s, Digitiser was never really a part of the games industry. We struggled at first to be taken seriously, and when people started taking us seriously, we undermined that, and would find ourselves back on the fringes. We took the piss out of other games mags, out of games companies, the PR people, the games... even our own audience.
It was almost like our natural state was to be on the outside looking in, to push ourselves away from others - because it's the antithesis of what's expected - and it was only those who got that who came along for the ride.
I think part of it is that neither Tim/Mr Hairs or I were really hardcore gamers, so we didn't identify with the zealous passion of others. Don't get me wrong; that's not a criticism of those people. I've always loved games, but they were always part of my life, rather than my life. I've always loved films and music as much as I enjoy games - perhaps even more so. Yet here I am, 27 years in the "Mr Biffo the games journalistst" box.
I do, I confess, sometimes find that restrictive.
What I've realised recently is that I'm back on the fringes (oddly, once again, paired with a similarly iconoclastic cohort, as I was back with Mr Hairs). This time it's the retro gaming community I struggle to feel a part of. Please don't mistake this as any sort of criticism or attack; there are loads of people in the retro community who I admire and I'm friendly with. You know who they are.
At the same time, I was invited to be part of Play Expo Blackpool in a couple of weeks, and now that I'm not - I'm going away a couple of days afterwards, so it wasn't really practical - it's actually kind of a relief. I mean, I'm just not sure how well I fit in with the retro community. I kind of struggle to understand that dedication to one thing, and admit I find the number of channels producing similar content to be a bit bewildering.
If that's what you're after... great! You're well-served, but I'm not the person you need to be looking for it from. I'll always be outside looking in. Or not even looking in. I can't help it.
When I look back at my life, I can say it's not just gaming; I was on the fringes at school - never quite in one of the cliques; I'm sort of on the fringes in my family, much as I love them all. Nobody ever entirely gets me, and those times I have found myself a part of a clique, it's often because I've ended up suppressing the real me.
It's kind of telling that my wife and I both thought the other was a "grown-up" when we first met, but we didn't get together until we dropped that act, and were happy to be seen as ourselves, for all our mutual weirdness.
So maybe it's a learned thing, maybe it's just in my head, or maybe I'm just a bit strange, and don't really belong anywhere except with other weirdoes. But when I do find those I click with - be it Digi's most dedicated audience members, a best friend, a wife, a comedy or writing partner - they always tend to be, like me, somebody who's more at home on the fringes.
People who don't fit so well into a box. Outsiders.
Don't think I'm always at peace with this. Sometimes I wish I could fit in better with the pack, but if I accept that the fact I don't does tend to come from me. I do get asked to be a part of retro gaming community things quite often - and be part of the gang with the usual suspects - but it's rare that I take up those offers.
I find the idea of fitting in incredibly seductive. My wife called me eccentric the other day, and my instinctive reaction was to be taken aback. It's a label I struggle with - because of course I'd rather be "normal" - but I've had to accept that I'm not. When I stop to think, it's clear I'm always drawn to those who aren't part of the mainstream; my friends in the Centre for Fortean Zoology, Asperger's Are Us... people who see the world differently (and who I wish I was able to see more frequently).
I think that's why the Digitiser YouTube channel is evolving. It is, more than anything, a course correction, returning to a baseline that is more congruent and real. It's me reclaiming who I really am, and not being concerned with appealing to as big an audience as possible.
I don't really feel like a central part of the gaming community, and it's time to make that clear in what I'm creating.
Of course I understand we'll lose a few people along the way, but I'm emboldened by the people we don't lose; those who watch everything we do religiously, because they get it. That's who we're making videos for, and I think I need to apply the same to this site.
It's great that there are so many people making less challenging gaming content, because there's clearly a massive audience for it. That's not what Digitiser is for. It never was; we only had a huge audience back in the day, because there wasn't really another daily alternative to gaming info.
Yet it's telling that here we are 16 years after that first era of Digi came to an end, and plenty of people remember it fondly. Nay; passionately. Our audience is big enough, thanks.
So where am I going with this? Well, this is my working-out. For the last few years, I've had these periods towards the end of every year where I stock, and make course corrections, so that I'm on the most congruent path.
Digitiser The Show was, in lots of ways, me playing the role of Mr Biffo The Games Journalist - the person many think I am. Proud as I am of what we achieved, it's telling that I'm less pleased with the end result than I was with Mr Biffo's Found Footage, or the recent Digitiser Minis... both of which feel much more true to me.
Or even mine and Mr Hairs' old BBC Three pilot Biffovision, which was made with the minimum of input from producers.
Digitiser The Show was a huge machine, where I listened to a lot of outside voices, and so I feel the end result wasn't entirely mine. Because I was out of my comfort zone, and had set myself the challenge of producing a "proper" gaming show, with me as presenter, I lacked confidence in my vision for it.
It's like painting a picture, and ten people standing over your shoulder telling you to make the subject's hair brown, when you instinctively want to make it green. But you listen to them anyway, and though the end result might be pleasing to more eyes... it's not as pleasing to you as it would've been if you'd just stuck to your guns.
Consequently, Digitiser The Show - for me - had some of its edge sanded away, I was mildly disappointed with how it turned out, and so if I'm going to dedicate 18-months of my life to a project for which I'm not getting paid (and it's still rumbling along; we've yet to fulfill the backer rewards, due to a hold-up with the Digitiser Live footage), it has to be something that I love, rather than like.
That's the only consideration; not whether other people enjoy it - whether I enjoy it. If that happens, then it's criticism-proof, because there's no arguing with something which has turned out exactly how the creator wanted. Not least if the creator is well aware that they're making stuff only for people like them.
So what's next?
I'm currently getting ahead on editing more Digi Mini videos. They'll keep coming for as long as I'm enjoying doing them. Gannon will continue to be my co-host, but we're hoping to get some guests in, as soon as we can. Larry and Octav1us will guest when we can, but it's important to draw a line under Digitiser The Show, and those who tune in expecting gaming content. My wife Sanya was a big hit on her first appearance, so she'll be back with us when we do another filming session.
I like the desk-based nature of the Minis, but I don't want it to get stale, so we've tentative plans for some on-location episodes. Also, I'm toying with doing some live streams. As mentioned above, I'm off to America in a couple of weeks, and even thought I might do some live streams from there, if I can find the time while over there.
I've also an urge to do a podcast... I just don't know what about yet.
In short; I want to keep evolving the Digi brand, and keep the channel feeling fresh, and move towards it looking more professional (even if the content continues to be as sloppy and shambolic as ever). My Patreon has really helped with that; I've bought new sound gear in recent weeks, a couple of new cameras, and three new lights. None of that would be possible without your support.
I need to get the Digitiser The Show rewards fulfilled, but there's no doing that until the live show is edited. And that's kind of dependent at the minute on how soon I get the footage back.
After that... sometime next year I'll have hopefully got it clear in my head what the next big project is. I've already mentioned that we've considered doing a sort of Saturday morning kids' show for grown ups... but even that I'm wavering on now. It's a great idea, but it feels so "big" that I'm daunted by it.
You have to remember that all of these major projects are mainly on my shoulders, and I need to know we're going to raise enough money to make it happen... and without the gaming community's wider support (which brings with it the sort of expectations that led to me compromising the original vision for Digitiser The Show anyway) I don't know if we'll get it.
It might even be that the way forwards for Mr Biffo-style weirdness is the live arena, but right now, I've even been toying with doing something along the lines of Mr Biffo's Found Footage again; another free-wheeling stream-of-consciousness, that would require less budget, and have less expectation around it.
And then there's this site...
Digitiser2000 was started because I needed it.
I'd missed writing stuff that wasn't scripts - I'd even missed writing about games. I had an itch that I needed to scratch, and I needed something that was mine. It was a lovely surprise when it transpired that I still had an audience - though far smaller than back in the day - and that led to discovering such a lovely community of like-minded weirdoes.
The site has never been a huge hit. We've had spikes of interest, where the views have soared, and though I was never doing it for the views - again, which bring a sort of responsiblity to maintain them -it's frustrating that it has never broken out, and telling that I don't write as many posts as I did in the early days.
I'm going to be honest... I don't know if I need it anymore, in the same way. I'm now getting that itch scratched in other ways, and five years in since the rebirth of Digitiser, what it is and what the brand means, especially now that I legally own the rights to it, has evolved. I've instinctively fought against that, because there'll always be a part of me which thinks I have to give people what they think they want, but it's probably time I listened to myself.
What this means, where we go from here, I don't know, but you can see from the recent long, personal, posts on here and Patreon that I'm trying to figure it out. I've got a platform, I've got a loyal, core, audience, and I'm very lucky to have all that. If I lose some of the audience and Patrons along the way that remains preferable to making stuff for others rather than myself. Hopefully new people will come aboard.
I'm not going anywhere, and this site will always remain as a focal point - but I just need to discover what it is I do with what I already have, and be sure that it's exactly what I want to do.
Stay tuned, and thanks for all the support over the past 5/27 years.