On Hot Pepper Gaming
Hot Pepper Gaming had its last episode today and I wanted to write something personal about it. I had this joke that I would always say when somebody talked to me about the channel - that it was sort of silly how the most successful thing I’ve ever done was the dumbest idea I’ve ever had. Classic self-deprecation, but the more I said it the more I realized just how important this dumb idea was to me.
Myself, Erin, and Jared started HPG half as a joke and half as a creative outlet to sort of prove that we knew what we were talking about. When we began, we were all lower-rung creatives working predominantly at Maker Studios - a YouTube multi-channel network. My only claim-to-fame at that point in my creative career was that I had something small to do with the Harlem Shake becoming a thing, and I really, REALLY didn’t want that to be the only accomplishment I had in my life.
I approached Erin about the idea, who called up Jared to join up with us. With a borrowed camera, $20 worth of craft supplies, and a weekend of work, we had shot the first three episodes of Hot Pepper Gaming. We planned to post weekly for a couple months regardless of if it gained traction or not, but on the first episode we were already growing faster than we could follow.
It’s sort of a funny thing how collaboration works. I remember being completely fine with filming Hot Pepper Gaming on a white background, but Erin’s simple suggestion that we use a yellow backdrop meant so much to the branding and style of the channel that I don’t think we would have succeeded without it. Erin, Jared and I all had something to contribute to the project, all of which combined together to create something much bigger than the sum of our parts. And because of this we were able to travel around the world, interact with fans, and sit in rooms with people we respected not only as their creative equals, but later on as their dear friends.
There’s so many great stories that I’ll post whenever I get nostalgic about Hot Pepper Gaming, but for now I just wanted to say something small that I think might describe my feelings better than me droning on about this will. We used to film Hot Pepper Gaming out of Erin’s old apartment, and after the first shoot we decided to grab dinner at a bar next door. I remember us all sitting at the bar, eating pub burgers and toasting to whatever the hell we just did, in our post-pepper andrenaline-rushed euphoria. I remember one of us asking hey, what if this actually does well, and then us all shrugging and laughing.
I’m currently on a flight back from Montreal, Canada, where Jared and I participated in Square Bowl, a yearly charity event that this year supported Doctors Without Borders. We were sitting on a balcony of an apartment in Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, watching the sun set over a park that was freshly-covered with snow. He and I talked for a while about how we were raising money for an important charity with a group of friends and creative collaborators we loved; and how so many of them we knew, specifically, because we had hurt them with hot peppers.
I don’t know what I would say to 24-year-old, fighting-tooth-and-nail-to-create-stuff-and-have-people-care-about-them Vernon if I had the chance, but to think about myself then and see myself now is surreal. I owe so much to this dumb little project, and I’ll never forget it.