In 2010 Swedish Industrial Economics major Felix Kjelberg dropped out of college to focus on his YouTube channel. His online persona nicknamed PewDiePie became so famous that the now 26-year-old Kjelberg decided to release his own book of inspirational quotes… you know, just like the "big guys":
"It is the book that changed the world. It illuminated the light of the human spirit… in the same way that Jesus, Ghandi and Kanye [did]."
And it looks like Kjelberg, who starred in the book ad himself, is only partly joking. With 43 million subscribers he is YouTube's first and biggest celebrity.
PewDiePie is known for recording himself playing videogames. The whole genre he's working in, is actually called "Let's play", or LP. It differs from other similar types of gaming videos, such as walkthroughs or strategy guides, because it focuses on reviewer's jokes and his individual experience with the game, rather than being just a source of useful info.
Here's a taste of what PewDiePie usually does in his videos. On screen there is a teenage anime schoolgirl character riding a bicycle up the stairs:
"Come on, come on… Yeah! F*&k you, stairs! Where's the school?"
Even though PewDiePie's gameplay is far from perfect, his videos have been viewed more than 11 billion times. He calls his fanbase "Bros", or the "Bro army."
So why are these people so captivated with the PewDiePie phenomenon? In a recent interview to the Today Show the YouTube legend himself said it's because he likes to engage his viewers:
"I think there are many reasons, but people feel a connection to me when they watch. It's like hanging out and playing a game together".
PewDiePie and many other players who do "professional gaming" for living, have quickly become true digital age celebrities.
But fame is not everything. "Let's play" videos bring huge ad revenues to their authors. In 2014 The Atlantic suggested that PewDiePie's monthly revenues could be somewhere between $140,000 and $1.4 million, while smaller channels can still earn between $500 and $1000 a month. And as this newly formed community of gamers is growing, it looks like it could very well establish a separate form of mass entertainment soon — a genre with its own Hollywood-like professional unions, award ceremonies, star chronicles and gossip columns.