A couple of years ago, when Chromecast first launched, my relationship with YouTube changed. Previously it was a place where I occasionally watched a few short viral videos. If I spent more than a few minutes there a week that would be a heavy week for me. After Chromecast launched and I could watch on my television I started seeking out more long form and original content. Having spent many years swimming in the deep end of the gaming pool I was drawn towards Wil Wheaton’s TableTop series. It’s a series where in each episode Wil explains the rules to a different board, card, or dice game then plays a round with celebrity guests. I got through most of season one before deciding I don’t need to watch the entire series, but I’ll instead pick and choose the titles that interest me.
A couple of months ago I was eager to read Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One. I don’t really make the time to read anymore so I opted to listen to the audiobook instead. Over the course of a few weeks I listened as I drove to and from work. The audiobook is voiced by Wil Wheaton. I was happy with his reading. While I was listening to the audiobook I had a friend recommend a John Scalzi novel called Redshirts, so I made that my next audiobook. It, too, was read by Wil Wheaton and I’ve just finished it and given it five stars.
A couple of days ago I was listening to Chris Hardwick interview Wil Wheaton on the Nerdist podcast. The two of them get along like true best friends. They were even joking that some people have referred to Wheaton as the B-side to Hardwick’s A-side. During the podcast they mentioned shenanigans that occurred at the Con Man panel at San Diego Comic Con. I quickly found a video of that panel on YouTube and watched it on my TV that night. During the panel it was stated that Hardwick and Wheaton were college roommates back in their UCLA days – that’s why they get along as they do.
It seems that everywhere I look nowadays Wil Wheaton’s footprints are visible. It is so much so that I look favorably at him as a taste maker. The man has voiced a lot of audiobooks and if I ever find myself at a loss for a title I think I’ll search for his name and choose something he’s done. It’s the same thing with games. When I need a suggestion I take a look at games that he’s had on his show, watch the episode, and make a decision. I’ve just started listening to his podcast, Radio Free Burrito, and soon I’ll start watching his new YouTube show, Titansgrave.
I don’t mean to gush about Wil Wheaton. I don’t enjoy the entire body of his work, but I see his name as something of an indicator. He’s named, created, and touched enough stuff that appeals to me that his brand is akin to the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. When I see Wil’s name somewhere it gets my attention and consideration, especially because it doesn’t seem like he’s owned by advertisers. I don’t mean to gush about Wil Wheaton, though. Instead I mean to gush about the brand of Wil Wheaton. I mean to gush about all of the geeks who have made names for themselves by drawing their audience of geeks and steering that crowd towards moar good stuff. The pop culture landscape is very Himalayan and people like Bonnie Burton, Felicia Day, Chris Hardwick, Adam Savage, and Wil Wheaton are my sherpas. They watch the same shows as me and they play the same games as me and create and discuss things of interest to me. When I see their names my attention is captured. Of course I also realize that through friendships and compensation their endorsements can be compromised, so they are only the first layer in my pop culture filter. Hardwick is probably the highest risk for being compromised. I see all of these people gravitating towards things I already know that I like, though, and using their time to be involved with those things, either discussing them or creating around them. We have enough overlap in taste that I’m willing to trust them about other things they like. There is so much content and so many sub-cultures and so much to try to filter through that it’s nice to have high level taste makers help sort it all.