When YouTube game personality MatPat posted his first YouTube video in 2011, he was a recent graduate of Duke University, and held a degree in theater and neuroscience, and he was struggling to find a job. But what started as an in-depth discussion of quantum mechanics and the 1955 video game Chrono Trigger jumpstarted a decade-long career on YouTube with his channel The Game Theorists — and redefined how online fandom discussed theories. Now, 12 years later, MatPat — legal name Matthew Patrick — is the host of the 2023 Streamy Awards. And he tells Rolling Stone that as one of YouTube’s OG creators, he’s not just excited about having made history — he wants to make sure the culture sticks around.
“One of the things that is cool to call out at this point, having such a long history on the platform, is [that] we’ve crossed into this idea of being able to span multiple generations of online viewers,” Patrick tells Rolling Stone. “One of the goals for us has always been to allow for the next generation of creators to rise up and take hold of our platform, and do cool new interesting things with it.”
On Sunday, Aug. 27, Patrick will take the stage as the host of the Streamy Awards, which celebrates the achievements and successes of online media. (Dick Clark Productions, which owns the Streamys, is owned by Rolling Stone’s parent company, Penske Media Corporation.) While the award show was started in 2009 to recognize web series, it’s now branched out to encompass creators across platforms.
In the years since Patrick and his wife Stephanie first launched The Game Theorists, the channel has created a name for itself for its in-depth analysis of popular fan theories for video games — and grown into a team with several other hosts. Instead of play-throughs or game guides, the channel focused on popular theories fans had about a character’s backstory, or diving into a game’s lore, and trying to use those clues to predict what future installations of the game could look like. The Game Theorists popularized going as absurdly deep into theories as possible, building out community-wide lore for everything from major franchises to single trailers. Nothing was off limits, and no theory was too wild. As a result, the brand has expanded into a YouTube empire, with 17.7 million subscribers on the main channel alone, and hundreds of millions of views every month.
“Back then, being a full-time YouTuber was not a thing that existed. And bit by bit, we were able to find an ever-increasing, ever-passionate fandom and community,” he says. “Here we are now, where we have five channels, 40 million subscribers, and a really cool community that stuck with us for the better part of 12 years, which is incredible. So to be able to host the Streamy Awards, and to stand up on stage in a room full of top creators is a really nice kind of peek at the mountain.”
Patrick says that while he’s already started working on what his turn on stage at the Streamys will look like, he’s most excited about the chance to celebrate the long history the creator economy has already had — and remember it before it gets buried by the future. While the Game Theorists and its other channels have become synonymous without deep dives and intense scrutiny, the channels and their writers are also dedicated to preserving and maintaining internet history. Fanlore has often represented how a community is thinking, responding, and interacting with the content in front of it. And as the years have gone by, Patrick says the expansion of nerd culture into the mainstream has made past fanlore even more important for newer audience members. It’s why he’s dedicated to keeping his channel as inquisitive and open as possible, and why he’s excited about an award show that could go further to preserve the internet and creator economy’s biggest days.
“We live in a very fast-paced society where there’s always going to be more content to consume,” he says. “The Twitter feed never stops. On TikTok, there’s always a new video just below the one that you just watched. So being able to take time and reflect on how far we’ve come, and the past 15 years of content, I think that’s really valuable for maintaining a sense of history and maintaining a sense of perspective. It is going to be a fun evening, as well as a great show that kind of looks forward to the next generation of where we’re headed.”