"'Sup guys! This is Cracken, and today we're gonna beat 'Fantasy Survival' on the hardest difficulty, using the worst auto-generated party I can get from a total of 20 rolls."
I'm a MeTuber. Name's Michael Greene. 29 years old. An ex-good-for-nothing, if I may say so, although I don't trust myself to not mess everything up again.
"Last time I did this, you guys said I 'cheated' because I chose a party with an assassin. But overall, that was the worst party. Two F-rank heroes. No melee character. What more do you want?"
I grew up thinking I'd be something. Like, there would be a spot waiting for me in the "real world". Grow up, graduate from school, get a job, learn, grow, and boom. "Normal" life. Your own place, good food, hobbies, friends, girlfriend. But I forgot to take one thing into account: Me.
I got in my own way. Everything I started, I ruined. Couldn't stick to anything. Quit when things just started to get going. Quit right before the final job interview. Quit before I lived to see myself succeed or fail. Mom used to say it was because I got hit in the head with a baseball bat once as a kid. But who knows? Can't ask her anymore.
Either way, I was too scared. Too scared to see things out. To live out my decisions.
"Shoot guys. I'm too lucky. First roll, I'm at a B-rank hero, one warrior, an assassin, and a medic. This is the perfect party to start the game with on 'Doomed to Die' difficulty. Well, not what we're doing today. I need a bad party. A terrible party. C'mon, give me some a goblin."
I started MeTube because I wanted to play video games. I wanted to play, but felt too much like a piece of crap to play without doing anything "productive." (I was out of a job.) So I started recording my screen and talking over it. The videos were boring. Would-rather-turn-off-MeTube-and-read-a-newspaper boring.
But I could live with that. My face wasn't on anything. My name wasn't on anything. I felt safe. Safe enough fail miserably. To make mistakes. To know something wasn't good, but still upload it to see if it went anywhere.
"I'm on my fifth roll already and I'm not getting any junk parties. I told you I'm lucky. I might have to add some rolls. Maybe make it thirty instead of twenty?"
At some point, it was the only thing making me feel anything remotely good about myself. I was living with my brother. Or more like, I was crashing in his den. I absolutely hated running into him around the house. Every encounter was a reminder of how I saw myself. A "loser."
Luckily, he wasn't around the house much. That let me shoot videos without messing up my self-esteem. If he was around for them in the early days, I probably would have quit. What are you thinking? MeTube? Playing video games? Grow up, I would have told myself in my brother's voice.
"Oooh, first roll that's pretty rubbish. We got some D-ranks, we got an F-rank goblin in the party. That's exactly what I need. You know, somebody work on a mod to allow parties with duplicate heroes. Like 5 goblins in one party. I mean, they wouldn't listen to anything you said, so it would be all luck, but it'd be pretty funny."
Let me say something random: I used to hate my voice. Really hate it. Made me more self-conscious than anything else, including my hair, which is saying something. Every time I had to speak in front of people in school, I would act like a smartass just so I wouldn't have to "try." Just talking, making jokes, I was fine. But when I tried to say something "properly," my voice would start shaking. When it got bad, I also stuttered.
"We're down to the last 3 rolls guys. This better be good. So far, the worst party we got was the D-rank party with an F-rank goblin. I mean, that's bad for beating the game on the hardest difficulty, but I want the worst party possible for this video. I know you guys like seeing me suffer."
Uploading shitty videos consistently got me to listen to my voice, objectively. I couldn't get around it when I was editing. And I knew nobody wanted to watch Let's Plays where the person wasn't speaking. I knew since MeTube was my one and only hobby that stuck with me. Damn. That makes me feel like a deadbeat.
"WHAT? A B-rank assassin and a B-rank barbarian? Guys, game over. This is the best auto-gen party I've seen in my 3 years of playing 'Fantasy Survival." I gotta save this save file for another video or something."
Slowly, I gained confidence in my voice. My voice got deeper. I could speak louder and know I sounded energized, not ridiculous. My pronunciation got clearer. To be honest, I don't know if anyone else noticed. But to me, the difference was night and day. I didn't feel like an idiot talking to store clerks. That was a big leap.
"Wow. we're really down to the last roll. I did 10 extra rolls already. 29 auto-gens and only one you can call really 'bad.' What can I say. I've got good luck, at least when it comes to dumb stuff like this."
I started applying for jobs again. This time, I didn't feel petrified.
I started taking MeTube more seriously. I loved how it made me feel. It made me feel worthy, from time to time.
I got a job doing customer service. Over the phone! Using two languages!! English and my parents' mother tongue. I had applied for jobs like this in the past, got the offer, or got to the final interview, and just bailed. Now I knew. I could probably do it.
But it was when I started making these videos─beat a game on the hardest difficulty with the worst starting setup possible─that everything changed. It got me over the tipping point.
That was the first time one of my videos went "viral." Before that, everything was growing slowly, each upload leading to a few subs. I liked and replied to every comment. And this was different.
"If I don't get a terrible setup this next roll, I'm just gonna have to go with that party with one F-rank goblin. I'm basically starting with 4 D-rank heroes on the hardest difficulty, so I'm still gonna get my ass kicked."
When the video started getting tens of thousands of views, I got scared. I felt like the next video had to top that one. Or at least be as good. Every comment encouraging me─"Keep up the good content" or "You're gonna be big on MeTube someday"─made it worse. I was going to ruin everything. Disappoint everyone. Return the favor with "bad content." Turn out to be a nobody "on MeTube someday."
The viewers loved the video. I thought, Should I make a similar video? Should I make a video with the same challenge, but bigger? Doesn't that look stupid? If I just upload the same kind of video twice in a row?
Needless to say, I was thinking too much.
"Let's go. I've reloaded my save file. This is definitely the last time I'm doing this. I don't care if I don't get a good video out of this."
"...Actually, I do, so if you're waiting with me for this final roll, give the video a thumbs up for good luck. And of course, if you haven't subscribed yet, do that too. You're awesome."
"Now, the moment of truth!"
I was thinking too much, but I got myself out of that rut somehow. Looking back now, that was the moment I stopped thinking of myself as a complete deadbeat─a loser who was out to get in his own way, ruin anything that might remotely end well, and hating himself more than anyone as a result.
So how did I stop thinking too much? Well, it was luck. And some personal growth.
I remembered watching a video about characters. They said that sit-com protagonists and comic-book superheroes did well, not because they grew and changed and provided novelty. Instead, they gave us predictability in how they approached the world. They gave us something to expect. Here's an example: The main character hates raw fish? Take him on a date with the woman of his dreams to a sushi restaurant. You're already expecting something. This resonanted with me. I loved serials of all kinds as a kid. YA novels, anime, sit-coms, and superhero movies.
This gave me the much needed license to post the same kind of video again, and again, and again. Being known as "the-guy-who-makes-already-difficult-games-even-harder on-himself" sounded more interesting than being known as the guy who hates sushi, which itself was interesting enough for TV.
Now back to my video.
"W-what?? Are you serious?! Are you guys seeing this?"
I couldn't believe what was on the screen.
"Every hero in my party is an F-rank! Has anyone ever seen this before?"
On my last reroll, I'd gotten a whole party with only F-rank heroes to start the game with. This included an F-Rank goblin. Not one higher tier hero like assassin or barbarian either. Not even a regular old warrior to help me survive the earlier rounds.
Goblin - F-Rank.
Priestess - F-Rank.
Elven Archer - F-Rank.
Vampire - F-Rank.
Succubus - F-Rank.
It was ridiculous how bad this party was. But this would be good for content. Great for content.
I'd gotten lucky again, sure. But do you know who can't get lucky? People who don't stay in the game. It's only those who stay in the game long enough that find themselves in with luck.
Good job for sticking with it, Michael.
"A goblin and a bunch of support heroes. I don't think I'm beating the game today, guys. If I come even close to beating the game this video, that deserves a like and a subscribe and a share. Common. I'm pretty sure I can't do it. I might have to collab with a speed runner or something."
There I was. Thinking myself lucky. I used to think, every day, about what a failure I'd been, and how nothing I tried my hands at didn't work out. Now, in my head, I was lucky! Fortunate! Blessed with serendipity!
And I did get lucky. This video was gonna be awesome. It was going to take hours and hours, but awesome.
Well. It would have been awesome I ever got to finish it.
As I was saving my game file, I felt a trembling.
"W-woah. Is that an earthquake?"
The trembling grew stronger.
"Do you guys see my floor lamp moving? That's crazy."
"Wait, is this safe?"
The lights went out.
"WHAT? Oh my god please tell me the footage saved. Please, how is this happening?"
I started fidgeting with my computer. I had to know the footage wasn't lost. I wasn't going to let some earthquake mess up what I had going.