Have you heard of Stampylongnose? If not, you or your kids are probably over fifteen.
“Stampy,” as he’s known in our house, posts daily Minecraft video tutorials and other gaming content on youtube. Minecraft is the block-building video game I agreed to buy for my eight-year-old son last year after watching the PBS documentary, Digital Media, New Learners of the 21st Century. I was intrigued by the way that New York City’s Quest to Learn charter school uses games—traditional and video—to educate children about systems. I thought Minecraft might be fun/educational for Felix. Otherwise, I’m pretty strict about video games in the house.
Back then, I didn’t realize that Minecraft had two modes, “Creative,” and “Survival,” and that in the latter, all sorts of threatening “mobs” (mobiles) would attempt to get Felix and destroy him and his constructions. He had to learn how to build/survive through trial and error, which meant dying and re-spawning a number of times, losing hours of work and accumulated resources. When I suggested that Felix just “stay in Creative Mode and build neat things,” he looked like I’d asked him to stay in diapers.
In Creative Mode, everything is just given to you,” Felix explained. There aren’t as many challenges or risks and therefore “it isn’t as much fun.”
Nor are there any written instructions (in the PC version, unlike the Xbox or pocket versions), and so we non-gamers were of little assistance. It was probably inevitable that Felix would start gravitating to the virtual world for guidance.
Enter Stampylongnose, a cheerful twenty-something-year-old Brit in the guise of a blocky yellow tabby (“Stampy Cat”). Felix fell for him immediately.
“Sometimes he creeps into your world and Stampy’s you,” he told me with obvious delight.
“What’s that mean?” I asked suspiciously.
“He leaves a cake hidden someplace. He loves cake.”
“But how can he get into your world?”
“Only if you invite him.”
“Oh…” I said, relaxing a bit. My son is not allowed to play online yet.
Stampy’s youtube channel appears quite harmless and helpful, espousing cool, first-hand building and evading tricks with kid-friendly yuks on the side. But after a couple of weeks of listening to the same voice cackling from my son’s room, I began to wonder, Who is this guy, really? (Pee Wee Herman with a British Accent?) And who are his friends, Amy Lee and iBallistic Squid? What kind of influence are they having on my kid? Will Felix start talking like Paul McCartney? Giggling like Ricky Gervais?
Since I couldn’t bring myself to watch an entire episode of Stampylongnose—the rapid commentary and movements through blocky terrain give me a migraine—I opted for some gentle sleuthing on the net. Turns out that one day last December, Google created an uproar by removing Stampy’s entire oeuvre from youtube without warning. Although a few mothers reacted with uncharitable glee (comparing his “screechy laugh” to “nails on a chalkboard”) most were in genuine shock, as if someone they (vaguely) knew had just been abducted.
Here’s a small portion of a thread that ran on the Mumsnet Forum that day. (I’ve deleted usernames and shortened it considerably):
SOMEONE HAS HACKED STAMPY’S ACCOUNT and ALL his videos have gone and his YouTube channel has been terminated………My daughter noticed it within 2 mins of it happening, she was watching one of his videos and then they all went ‘pooph’
DS is going to go into meltdown around 3.45pm
BeJesus, fuck knows how I’m going to break that news.
We have a no screen policy until weekends, will they be able to sort this?
OMFG!!! DS will be horrified.
Thank god DS has gone to play with a friend after school so he won’t find out
Oh God, dd2 will be gutted. Me, less so.
It’s not hacked. YouTube/Google deleted it with no explanation.
We are all shocked too. #savestampy
No No No ds 2 is running around shouting why
He is so inoffensive, his voice does grate a little, but thats what headphones are for
Oh FFS. noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. DD is going to be devastated.
#savestampy is trending in the UK
Twitter says he’s back on youtube.
Yay go stampy!
Protestors sent over six thousand signatures/messages on behalf of Stampy to youtube/Google in less than one day, and by that night, all of his material was reinstated. Since then, Stampy’s popularity has swelled enormously. A recent visit to his website revealed over 2 million subscribers. (This far exceeded Felix’s guess, which was “one hundred.”)
Although I’m usually quite comfortable in the Loner Camp, this sort of solidarity was heartening. It’s also a relief to find that Stampy’s not just my son’s private fixation, but the kind of obscure international phenomenon you only know about if you have kids of a certain age, and that millions of moms like me are out there listening.