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TotalBiscuit: A Gaming YouTuber Who Championed The Rights Of Consumers

TotalBiscuit: A Gaming YouTuber Who Championed The Rights Of Consumers
Cameron Baird | Red Bull Content Pool

Written by 

Tarran Stockton

Posted 

24th May 2022 10:31

What did TotalBiscuit mean to you? Some of you may recognise the name and instantly think of YouTuber John Bain, a gaming critic who was known for his authoritative tone and candour. You might envision Axiom esports, WoW Radio, the Co-Optional Podcast, and WTF is.... All these things certainly spring to mind, but he represented much more than that. Who was he? What he did he mean to me and others? And how is his legacy still felt to this day?

John "TotalBiscuit" Bain, spent most of his career as a video game commentator and critic on his YouTube channel - TotalHalibut. He was a shoutcaster for both Starcraft II and Planetside 2, and the owner of Team Axiom, who competed in the former game. As one of the biggest PC-focused YouTubers, his channel skyrocketed into popularity, accruing two million subscribers over his career. His Steam curator page was also the biggest page for years, an example of how much people valued his insights into video games. 

The man had a real presence that is still felt to this day, with his opinionated and pointed critiques helping him become one of the most prominent voices in the industry during his peak. As an enthusiast of PC gaming, TotalBiscuit didn’t accept poorly made ports or lacking options menus for games, with a very idiosyncratic focus on FOV sliders and frame-rates. He had a venomous dislike for anything that arbitrarily limited the performance that his hardware was capable of, and I think it’s held to some effect, with PC ports only improving over recent years. This went beyond some sort of entitlement - he was a genuine force for consumer advocacy and didn’t accept companies screwing over the little man in any way.

Perhaps the most notable example of this was during the lead up to the release of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. Warner Bros. had declined to offer many traditional games media outlets pre-release copies, instead offering access to YouTubers who had to sign a contract that could only allow them to be positive about the game. TotalBiscuit went about exposing the deal because of his belief in honesty and openly disclosing promotional videos, something which saw him come into conflict with the Yogscast at one point, after he criticised their lack of honesty for sponsored content. 

During my formative teenage years, I was introduced to TotalBiscuit through a friend of mine. It genuinely was an event that set the future course of my life, getting me into PC gaming and consequently the independent scene. From there, I only grew to love video games even more, seeing the true potential in an industry that didn’t get its fair shake in a lot of ways. He’s ultimately the reason I wanted to get into games media, drawing the critical voice out of me and introducing me to the concept of critical thinking, which has shaped how I’ve consumed media since. 

His strong ethical principles were an inspiration, influencing how I viewed the relationship of corporations vs consumers. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was my first real exposure to the concept of class-conciousness - just viewed from the lens of video games and commerce. Although his effect on me has mostly pertained to the sphere of gaming, ideas like consumer advocacy or class-conciousness are universal. My moral compass and wider political beliefs certainly changed from the exposure, not all at once and maybe even at times unconsciously, but I can trace the roots with full clarity. 

I don’t mean to sit here and paint the picture of an angel, TotalBiscuit had his publicised issues, he was flawed, and he was human. But they’re not important, this isn’t a review of his character. I didn’t know the man, only the public moniker that we all knew him by. He was an entertainer and informer I found by chance, but I’m thankful because the exposure has undoubtedly contributed to the person I am today. My journey into the game industry has only really just begun, but if I have one goal, it’s to effect it positively and to continue the fights he progressed for the betterment of the industry.

You may have picked up that I’ve been referring to TotalBiscuit in the past tense throughout. Sadly, in 2015, he was diagnosed with bowel cancer, and despite fighting with his trademark stubbornness and grit, in May 2018, his career, marriage, and fatherhood were cut short after falling into a hepatic coma and passing away. He was only 33 years old.

The grief and sorrow could be felt across the internet, with all manner of gaming figures and companies voicing their sadness at his death. To this day the top post of r/Games is still the Tweet announcing his passing. The comments make for a bittersweet read, where users reminisce over the games he led them to discovering and look back at his fervent advocacy for the little man, lamenting that they’ll never hear his booming voice again. 

There may never be someone that can fit the gaping hole that TotalBiscuit left, he was a one of a kind games personality. However, there is solace in his immortalisation as the 'LUL' emote for Twitch and the legions of fans, like me, who were influenced for the better from his work. 

 

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