We're coming up on five years since I brought Mr Biffo and Digitiser out of retirement, and it feels like it's time to shake things up in a dramatic way.
I'm going away at the end of next week for a bit, so there'll be a little break in service for a while. That's probably good, and the right time for it. I think we all need it.
Some of you will have noticed that I've announced that the Digitiser videos are dropping down to one a week. I'd just had a feeling in my gut that the audience was struggling to keep up with two a week... and this was confirmed by a couple of polls I did over the weekend. Overwhelmingly, most people wanted less.
I know a few of you are disappointed, but it's going to give me more time to work on the edits, and "plus" the eps a bit. What that means... I don't yet know, but it feels like we're just getting started with them.
What's more, I've now got a clearer sense of direction, which is what I've been searching for of late.
Something I've been struggling with for months is how to follow up Digitiser The Show. The immediate inclination was to do more of the same. I loved doing the live show - I think it was a triumph - but as I got further away from the filming of the series, I became less enamoured with the idea of repeating myself.
As we filmed the Digitiser Minis, we've moved away from gaming, because it was feeling restrictive. We've talked about using the Digitiser The Show format for a show that isn't about gaming - possibly called Bubblegun - but even that idea I started to waver on, because I couldn't hit upon a conceit for it that got me properly fired-up creatively.
On paper the idea of doing a kids' show-for-adults should've excited me - I thought it would do - but it just wasn't happening. I think to do the idea justice we need a Digitiser The Show-size budget, and I'm pretty certain that without video games attached then we'd never raise enough. The jury is still out as to whether enough people enjoy what we're doing on the Digi Minis, so it would end up having to come out of my own pocket (as a lot of Digitiser The Show did anyway).
Which would've been fine if it satisfied me creatively, but I wasn't sure it was going to. Not when the Digitiser Minis were pretty much scratching that itch anyway. I'd rather we'd called them 'Bubblegun', and use the ideas in the weekly episodes. But too late for that now probably.
At the same time... I had this weird cognitive dissonance thing going on, because everything was under the Digitiser brand. It was also confusing for the people who associate Digitiser with gaming. Digi casts a long shadow. It brings with it a certain set of expectations. Anything I do under the Digitiser name will be compared to the Teletext era, and because of that I will always feel restricted by it to a certain degree.
Even if it's only me doing the comparing, I struggle to escape from it.
So, I want to do stuff which I find creatively fulfilling and freeing. I'm over halfway through my life and I don't want to waste the time any longer than I have to. I've had a tough few months, with various important people in my life dying, and it has sort of lit a bit of a fire under me.
Digitiser has given me so much, but I need to break free of it, I think. I need to stop hiding behind it. When I came back five years ago, that was literally what I was doing. I came back as "Digitiser" - not as "Mr Biffo" - because I was scared of getting the sort of unpleasant attention which had driven me away in the first place. I thought Digitiser would take the focus off of me... and it did.
Since then though, because the vast majority of you have been so decent and kind and supportive, I've increased in confidence. Back in 2014 I couldn't have imagined I'd ever reach a time where I'd put my face on YouTube. That's down to you lot.
Yet at the minute, I feel almost like I'm working for Digitiser - that everything I do is somehow beholden to it, when in reality... Digitiser is just one of the things that I want to do. Now that I know my skin is thick and calloused enough, I need to own my work more, and step out from behind the brand.
I would love to have the time to try a podcast, more live stuff - things which have less pressure on them to succeed, that give me the space to experiment. Much as I'm disappointed at the Minis going down to one day a week, my brain hates a vacuum, so it'll be filled with me trying different things.
I've had a few people suggest pitching to people with money, but... there was a reason I stopped taking comedy ideas to broadcasters and production companies. The sort of stuff I want to do simply doesn't have an outlet in this country, and I sometimes find the comedy community in the UK cliquey and soul-destroying. I'm old now; I no longer tick the right demographic box. Plus... my day job is writing for broadcasters and producers. I've got enough of that going on already.
So, here's what I think is the way forwards, in both the immediate future, and slightly more longer-term.
Firstly... there'll be one more Digi Mini next Sunday before the hiatus.
Secondly, this site is going to remain as a hub for everything I'm doing. I'd change the name of it if I could, but it's probably too late for that. It might nonetheless be more blog-y, and feature stuff that's of interest to me beyond video games. It might also still talk about video games. But I need to give myself permission to not always have to do that. It's long overdue, frankly.
I might, however, go the Buck's Fizz route and call it "Mr Biffo's Digitiser", or something. We'll see.
Then I need to still get the Digi The Show rewards fulfilled, which I'm feeling horrifically guilty about. I've been waiting on the second camera footage from the live show, which still hasn't arrived yet, but I'll at least get the single camera footage uploaded for Patreon and Kickstarter backers before I go away, by way of an apology.
Then the Digi Minis will continue in much the same vein, hopefully with another step up in production values, but I think I'm going to bundle all of the ones thus far as "series 1". They, like this website, will be the constant going forwards. When I return, I'm going to do a little relaunch for "series 2". We've got filming planned with Ashens and Larry, and the former is likely to appear in the first batch of new eps.
There might be more exclusive videos for Patrons (indeed, a recent one about Sea Monkeys will probably remain as a Patreon exclusive, if only to spare us from the outrage of animal rights activists).
Far bigger, and more significant, is that I think I'm going to rebrand the Digitiser2000 YouTube channel as "Mr Biffo". It'll free me up from all the weird baggage that Digitiser brings, and that way Digitiser The Show becomes just another thing I've done, alongside Mr Biffo's Found Footage.
And then, after Christmas, I'm going to be ramping up towards a new crowd-funding campaign for a direct sequel to Mr Biffo's Found Footage.
I've been testing the water of various different ideas over the past six months. All have had merits, but only this one has gotten me genuinely excited. Like properly, truly, already-started-work-on-it excited. And the best thing is, my wife, Sanja, is excited too - and she needs to be, as she'll once again be producing it with me every step of the way.
It's still in the embryonic stages as an idea, but we have a format and a "story" already, and the structure will be completely different to how we did it last time, while not losing what the fans of it loved.
I'm so much better now as an editor that I can't wait to see what I can achieve. We know more about production, we can make something that is even more ambitious with our limited resources, and we're going to deliver a show that rewards the increasing number of people who have, of late, been asking for more.
Like the original, it'll be incredibly silly and surreal, but dark with weird horror and sci-fi undertones. Yet it will told in a completely different, bigger and better, way, that will challenge what I'm capable of.
Why this? Because it's what I want to do, simply. I want to make another messed-up sketch show, and I need to give into that, and shove aside this guilt I have whenever I do something that isn't about video games. Mr Biffo's Found Footage has my name - well, my stupid fake name - embedded into the very title. In that respect, it's perfect.
I had the best time making the first series. I worked with people who have since become friends, taught myself a bunch of new skills, and felt completely creatively fulfilled. Best of all, it's working in the arena I find most comfortable: love-it-or-hate-it.
The new series will be standalone, in as much as you will be able to watch it without having seen the first series, but there'll be links for those who are familiar with that world. I'm also going to revisit an idea I had for series one: there'll be a sort 'alternate reality game' embedded in it - with clues that you'll be able to solve, which will lead 'players' to something in the real world.
And we already know what that something is...
I would also like to, possibly the year after next, put on some sort of Found Footage live. Again, the format for that has been rattling around my head for a while.
So, that's all of that. I know some of you are going to be disappointed - I accept that what I want to do is never going to be what everyone wants me to do. I know a large number of people just want to hear my opinion on video games, but where I'm at right now in my life - unless I'm making a living out of it - I've no massive interest in doing so.
My current opinion on video games is: I'm a bit bored of talking about them.
I know too that this is going to see my audience diminish. Already over the past month or so the views on this site have dropped off a cliff, and the double blow of videos about balloons and owl pellets has seen the Digi channel haemorragh subscribers.
If the price I have to pay to keep as big an audience as possible is to continue writing and making stuff that I'm not interested in... then I no longer want to pay it. I don't desire the biggest audience ever, just one that's on board for the ride. I really relied on the Patreon income this year when funds were tight, but that has held me back in a creative sense, because I always worry that they'll desert me if I drop gaming altogether.
I need to get over that, and accept that it's about audience refinement, and that means whittling it down to an absolute hardcore of people who love what I do, by refusing to compromise. Which is fine with me.
Will I come back to video games? Of course. But not just yet. I need a break.
Right now the things I'm interested in are dicking around with my mates on camera, playing around with editing videos, and documenting the fall of The Xenoxxx Empire...