Rage against the Machinima

YouTube's stars and multichannel networks are at odds over money and creative control as the site grows

"There's a lot of ridiculous contracts out there," Duncan says. "Gaming is something we should support, not hinder by locking people into these really bad contracts, so I came up with the idea of, well, let's build a union for gamers, by gamers."

Everyone in Union for Gamers, Duncan says, would be entitled to the same CPM, which would be raised every year. Gamers no longer would be forced into restrictive contracts — union members would have the right to leave whenever they saw fit.

He promises "resources to help people create better videos," adding, "and we'll do the labor, the administration, and ad-serving side, allowing them to monetize their content."

Ben Vacas ran Braindeadly
Ben Vacas ran Braindeadly
Hugh Hancock helped create the Machinima movement that spawned the current web video network
Hugh Hancock helped create the Machinima movement that spawned the current web video network

But labor, administration, and ad service are essentially what networks like Machinima do. When questioned, Duncan admits that this new "union" is really more like a new network — albeit one with high-minded intentions — and therefore competition for Machinima.

Not coincidentally, it's a network that counts several former Machinima creators among its partners. Its public face, in fact, is none other than Bachir Boumaaza, better known as Athene. Boumaaza, the 32-year-old self-proclaimed "Best gamer in the World," is a bona fide YouTube celebrity who had 589,798 subscribers at the time he left Machinima publicly in support of Vacas.

Boumaaza announced the partnership in a video posted two months after he left Machinima.

The video appeared on July 17, but Boumaaza was intent on leaving Machinima even earlier. In a video posted in March, two months before he denounced Machinima in solidarity with Vacas, Boumaaza posted a video about Union for Gamers.

So Vacas's contract dispute, and Boumaaza's much-publicized support, proved to be great publicity for the new venture. But Duncan insists that Machinima's problems are real. Even without an upstart competitor to fan the flames, the blowback was inevitable.

"The community was already upset that they were getting locked into these contracts, and I come by and say, 'Well, also: It's probably not fair either, guys, you should probably look at that,' and I think that's probably what sparked that off." 

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