Basically, here's what happened: a couple of days ago, the folk on Yogscast did a live stream in which one of them, Simon, chose to portray that absurd new Digitiser character Beanus. They're a huge network - Digi is dwarfed by their millions of viewers - and I found it flattering.
I sort of wrongly assumed they'd give ample shout-outs to the original source of Beanus. And they kind of did mention me a couple of times in the two-and-a-half-hour stream, albeit in a sort of bare minimum, throwaway fashion, I felt.
Certainly throwaway next to the presence of Simon-dressed-as-Beanus throughout the entire stream, during which his stupid catchphrases and characterisation were used wholesale, including during a moment where he was involved in a nod to their sponsor. Which I'd never have agreed to.
Regrettably, I'd not been contacted about any of it beforehand. The first I knew is when people on Twitter told me about it.
Bouphe, a fan of Digi, general good egg, and part of the Yogscast team, kindly posted links back to Digi in the chat, but when the Twitch stream was uploaded - probably automatically - in its entirety to YouTube, there was no link to the Digi YouTube channel or... anything.
It felt... I dunno... kind of unfair? Not least because - judging from comments - a lot of their fans had seemed to have missed the whole "Beanus is the intellectual property of Mr Biffo" comments, and took it as given that he was their character.
I tweeted at Simon and Yogscast to give us a link and maybe retweet our original video... which Simon did, after Bouphe got involved (though he'd already linked to our new Beanus merch on Redbubble, for which I'm grateful). They've also belatedly added a link to Digi's original video, which I appreciate, albeit with the disclaimer that Simon had just dressed up as the character "For Halloween".
Yet it was the fact that fans were thinking Beanus was theirs which sort of pissed me off. And the more I thought about it, the more pissed off I felt.
Thing is, I didn't want to be pissed off. Beanus is stupid, and crap - that's the entire joke - and it seemed daft to me to get precious over something so ridiculous. I wasn't expecting it to take off like it has (though now that he isn't going to be just a one-and-done joke I'm going to have to slightly alter his look away from the original off-the-shelf mask).
Yet it has been brilliant the way people have embraced this fundamentally terrible character, creating fan art, songs, games... dressing up as him, and the like. The last couple of weeks have been hilarious. Yet this - coming from such a major channel - seemed initially in a different league, if only on a what-is-decent-and-right level (before you even get into any sort of legal ramifications).
It's a struggle to get recognition on YouTube at the best of times, and our shift away from gaming saw us really struggle for a while before subs started creeping up again. You need to leverage every opportunity and tool at your disposal; if people are responding to Beanus then you can be sure we'll ride that wave until it breaks.
When I saw Yogscast using Beanus I was pleased initially... as I felt it was going to be an opportunity to eke out, potentially, some extra views. Unfortunately, it became apparent that this clearly wasn't going to happen.
In fact, sort of the opposite had happened: a stupid character we'd created was, to all intents and purposes, being seen as theirs, with only the most cursory, easy-to-miss, credit to me (and not even the channel). I wouldn't have cared had they given us a link in the first instance, without me needing to get on my high horse about it.
To stem the tide of Yogscast viewers being unaware that Beanus was mine, and hoping to drive some traffic our way, I asked on Twitter for people to leave a comment on the video. And they did, in droves, because the Digi community is awesome and crazily supportive.
It has had the desired effect on one level - our subscribers really shot up overnight, which I hadn't anticipated - yet on another level, there was the predictable backlash from the Yogscast fanbase. You can imagine the sorts of tiresome messages I woke up to.
For the record, I know no ill will was intended. It was just poorly considered, and clearly Simon is a fan if he chose to dress as Beanus. It just felt they could've done a little more given that we are - relatively speaking - small fry compared to them. I mean, just a bit of contact beforehand would've changed everything.
I've really appreciated the likes of heavyweight 'Tubers like Jim Sterling really getting behind Digi by retweeting our videos - it makes all the difference when you're kind of up-and-coming/a washed-up 90s games journalist - and I guess I assumed Yogscast were intending to do the same.
Here's the thing, though... I hate being involved in situations like this. I mean, I'll protect what's mine to my dying breath, as should everyone - whether they've had footage from their videos, or their music, used without permission or whatever - but I'll also choose my fights.
Like many, I kind of abhor conflict, but that in itself kind of butts up against me also hating injustice, especially when there's a perceived power imbalance.
Ultimately, though, I'll usually get to a point where I'm asking "Does it really matter?", and normally conclude that it doesn't. Most things online get forgotten about after a few days, and most things I'll let slide these days. Everyone moves onto the next round of gossip soon enough, as will be the case here.
Unless, y'know, they're some weird myopic obsessive with multiple sock puppet accounts...
I mostly despair at the drama that sometimes goes on in fandoms, people bickering and sniping over situations that are just so meaningless in the grand, universal, scheme. I find it profoundly wearying. Heck, I'm sometimes envious that the sorts of spats people have if all that's all they've got to worry about in life.
That's no slight to anybody that feels aggrieved ever, but I've got - I hope - a healthy firebreak between what happens online and what happens in the real world. Thus, I try to stay out of all of it, for the most part.
I so didn't want to get protective over this, I didn't want to create a whole thing, or conflict between Digi's audience and The Yogscast audience, but nonetheless something did bubble up inside me that led me to feeling proprietorial. Sometimes you can't help feeling what you feel.
It happened a bit with Goujon John, when lots of people started using Voiceover Peter in their own videos. There wasn't really much I could do about it because in that instance he wasn't saying he was Goujon John. It was more like having a cool toy I'd found snatched away from me, and the other kids were using it to play the game I'd come up with. The Beanus situation did feel different... but I was still annoyed that I let it affect me.
I guess it was about the context and what feels appropriate.
While obviously we want as many pairs of eyes as possible on what we do, the primary goal of the Digi channel is that it's meant to be a bit of fun. I've got a career elsewhere already, but I do love that - from time to time - being Mr Biffo lets me flex my creative muscles in a different sort of way to my day job. The more people who are on board with that, the more I can, potentially, create.
I mean, next year I really want to run a campaign to fund a new series in the spirit of Mr Biffo's Found Footage, and I'm going to need the community to get behind me as much as possible.
Anyway... what am I trying to say here? I guess that, while I'm still kind of annoyed that this happened, I'm letting it go because I've got no ill-will or axe to grind with Yogscast or their fans. Even the ones who called me names. I'm mean, responding to any of that would be like picking a fight with the village idiot.
While it's often fun to toy with the small-minded, as I do sometimes in the Digi comments, I honestly can't be bothered at the moment. Again, I don't want the drama, and I am old and I am tired.
Yogscast has rectified the situation as much as they can by giving a link, rather than digging their heels in, so hats off to them for that. And thank you to Bouphe for being so gracious in sorting it out.
We're all playing online, we're all part of the wider community, and we should all be helping one another, whether we're big, or small, or somewhere in the middle. We shouldn't be trying to undermine each other. We should all be enjoying playing in the playground together, not snatching toys off the other kids. But equally, it's okay to share them if we want to. And if somebody doesn't want to share their toys... then tough. Get your own toys.
Most importantly, it's vital to understand what is fair use and what isn't. I'm fortunate in that I did a couple of courses on copyright law back in my journo days, but exercising some common sense goes a long way. If you're unsure... just ask.
If you're ever going to be using things that other people have created, it's only right and fair that they get appropriate credit. Ideally, you'd approach them in the first place, if only to cover your own back.
Better still... y'know... just come up with your own, completely original, ideas. Trust me: it'll make you feel a whole lot better about yourself.