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Inside every marketing firm's boardroom and quadruple co-sponsored tech networking event are people squawking endlessly about the very thing that Freddie Wong does effortlessly: Tapping into the gamer-savvy market, blah blah, making your content “clickable,” blah blah blah.
Meanwhile, on a recent Monday, Wong is taking out the trash — literally. He and his business partner/consigliere, Brandon Laatsch, are ridding their downtown L.A. warehouse lair of all the soda cans and fake pistols that accumulated during the recent E3 video game convention.
Wong and Laatsch are best known for their special effects-laden YouTube videos that combine video games with real life. “The Rocket Jump,” for instance, with 11 million views, shows a live-action Wong in the middle of a video game, watching teammates get fragged and figuring out how to use a shoulder-fired rocket to vault over a wall and save the day. All of it is shot with realistic-looking blood spurts, explosions and the tight editing rarely seen outside of Hollywood blockbusters.
Wong's video “The Rocket Jump”
“We just make things geared toward guys like us,” Laatsch says as he sits at his desk, a warren of electronics, computers and hard drives. “It may be a difficult demographic for other people, but for us … it is us. We can't tap into the 40-year-old mom market. There's nothing less cool than outsiders trying to do something like this and getting it totally wrong.”
The USC grads have been doing this gig full-time since spring 2010, living the full-creative-control dream that their studio-shackled peers may never get to realize, monetizing views by teaming with YouTube and various sponsors. Plus, they have little to no overhead, they rely on partnerships for their gear, their actors are themselves and their friends, and their special effects are rendered with Adobe AfterEffects and DIY know-how.
Up next: Their behind-the-scenes videos
Wong and Laatsch are true to the open-source nature of their generation: They make almost as many behind-the-scenes and how-to videos as they do original content. For Video Game High School, a web series that follows a n00b (gamer-speak for a “newbie”) through a futuristic elite gaming academy, they've included behind-the-scenes tutorials on how they made it.
“We're going to answer specific questions we get, like how to make a realistic gunshot, where do we get our guns, and all that stuff,” Wong says. “At the end of the day, we always ask people what they want to see and show them how we do it,” through communication with fans on YouTube comments and Twitter.
Wong's channel, Freddiew, has about 3.3 million subscribers and 650 million views since 2009, all while the bigwigs are all still trying to get it. Meanwhile, Wong and Laatsch clearly get that there's nothing to get — the secret is to make cool shit and be nice about it.