In First Retirement Interview, MatPat Reflects on 13 Years of YouTube, One Last Game Theory and the ‘Dawn of a New Era’

On the eve of his official retirement from YouTube, Game Theorist creator Matthew Patrick, better known as MatPat, walked down into his basement where he’s edited and uploaded nearly 3,000 videos on his various YouTube channels throughout his 13-year career.

The room was utterly dark, with the only light coming from a dimly lit blue computer screen tucked away in the corner.

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Unable to move and standing in the room — struck by the realization that he’d never interact with that space in the same way again — MatPat says he felt a feeling of “catharsis,” being both overwhelmed with gratitude for all the people who’d contributed to his channels’ success and a recognition that his relationship to those people was transitioning.

“That’s the last time I’m saying, ‘but hey… that’s just a theory,'” he recalls. “This is my last time in the recording booth doing voiceovers; this is the last time I’m standing in front of a green screen doing shorts, and bit by bit, you say goodbye to the different pieces of yourself as you unwind yourself from them.”

MatPat’s retirement as host of the Game Theorists channel, which has over 19 million subscribers and produces analytical and entertaining content exploring the science, history and theories behind video games and popular culture, would officially come on Saturday, March 9, with the upload of a video titled “MatPat’s Final Theory,” which, as of Thursday, surpassed 9 million views.

MatPat’s farewell video marked the conclusion of nine final theory videos, following his announcement to retire in January. The news of his departure, after nearly 15 years in the limelight, garnered widespread attention, with his retirement announcement video accumulating 19 million views.

His career has spawned four other successful channels — Film Theorists, Food Theorists, Style Theorists and GT Live — collectively amassing nearly 45 million subscribers and around 18 billion views. This platform has allowed MatPat to cultivate a dedicated fanbase, known as “theorists,” who have generously contributed to his numerous multi-million dollar charitable endeavors, such as those benefiting St. Jude Children’s Hospital, raising upwards of $6.3 million.

Other achievements include creating “Game Lab,” an online reality show exploring video game science, meeting Pope Francis and hilariously presenting him with a copy of the video game “Undertale,” hosting the Streamy Awards with record-breaking views and appearing in the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie, alongside numerous other accolades.

But MatPat (who joined the interview wearing a friendship bracelet given to him by a fan) says his “theorists” are the reason he’s been able to accomplish all he has.

“I wanted the channels to inspire a curiosity and a sense of critical thought in people, to get them to question the media they’re consuming, the food they’re eating, the style that they have and to have fun learning and finding,” he says. “To inspire a generation to ask, ‘Hey, is this how things should be done? Is this the right thing to do?’ and then pursue that answer because they’re confident that they’re smart, capable and able to undergo the research to do it.”

That begs the question, why leave it all behind?

His decision was influenced by his desire to spend more time with his wife and channel co-creator, Stephanie, and their son, Oliver. However, he also expressed a need to explore new creative paths without fearing repercussions on his channel’s visibility in YouTube’s search algorithms due to straying from his established content.

Though MatPat aspires to host a “Jeopardy-like” gameshow, he’ll settle for working to bridge the gap between online creators and mainstream media, as he wants to uplift fellow creators and plans to produce and host an upcoming fashion show to do just that. Amid collaborations with other creators and a keynote speech at PAXEast, he’ll continue to engage with fans through GT Live and his new website.

As for the channels themselves, MatPat’s retirement doesn’t mean they will go off YouTube. Instead, he’s passing the metaphorical baton to four other creative directors — each responsible for hosting one of the core lineup of channels.

When reflecting on his legacy and what he’s learned as host of Game Theory, MatPat says he’ll never again doubt the power of small actions and their ability to ricochet off each other, cascading into what he believes will eventually become a more significant, more impactful event.

“I never would have suspected that there would be tens of millions of people eager to listen to me count animatronic toes or talk about the real-life science of ‘Minecraft’ or whether Mario could break a block with his fist,” MatPat says. “My takeaway is, whether in a small way or a big way, your actions matter. Your enthusiasm is infectious, and your curiosity is infectious. So go out there, live it up and approach every day like it’s a new opportunity.”

One thing’s clear: MatPat’s presence on YouTube will be sorely felt and missed, and that’s not a theory…

In an exclusive first interview since the airing of his final video on YouTube, MatPat talks to Variety about his 13-year-long career, YouTube’s efficacy as a platform, the shrinking divide between content creators and mainstream media and his final theory.

It’s been a few days since your retirement. How do you feel? 

It feels great, it does; it’s the dawn of a new era. It has been so satisfying to celebrate and to be able to take the time to celebrate with the community and the team for the last 13 years on the platform.

What has the reaction to your final theory been like? 

I couldn’t have imagined the finale going any better. Fan response has been tremendous. I think it found the right line of being broadly satisfying to anyone who has tangentially heard of the channels or is just like checking in on the big YouTuber who’s closing out his term.

In true Game Theorist fashion, you created a total of six endings that fans could piece together from clues you seeded out in previous videos. Which of these six endings was your favorite? 

I think the “lore-keeper ending” (which saw “Five Nights At Freddy’s” creator Scott Cawthon’s appearance) is one of my favorites. It felt like a good final moment, a good final arc for my character as host of the Game Theorists. All these years, I’ve had this like one final boss of the lore of “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” and so for me to ascend into the realm and have the gates of heaven open to me, with the lore laid out in front of me by the guy who created it. I think that was really satisfying.

On the flip side of that, I think the real ending, or ending six, was really meaningful for me because that was the real ending. That was me signing off not as a character but as a person. It was me getting to see the team start to interact amongst themselves. It’s me, as the proud parent, who’s sending them off to college and being like, “I bid you well.” This was a passing of the torch moment.

What’s your favorite theory? 

This finale video was great. I love that one. I look at that video, and not only am I proud of it as the end of my journey, but I’m proud of it because it really was a team effort for everyone to showcase their little contribution to the channel.

I think both parts of the Mario theory, “Rosalina Unmasked” from early Game Theory, are a great distillation of what the format of Game Theory really was. It pulled on lore bits from international versions of the games and real-life science. It pulled on all the levers that a perfect episode of Game Theory does.

What works about YouTube as a platform for content creators? What are its strengths, and where can it be improved? 

What works about the platform is the democratization of entertainment and the AdSense, the monetization that’s in place. On the negative side, YouTube is a meritocracy, so it rewards you for uploading regularly, but it also means that there is no cap; YouTube is a creative treadmill that you have to be prepared to go on and go on and go on and go from now until forever. The second you put your foot off the break or start to slow down, you’ll see that reflected in the numbers.

You made a cameo in the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” movie. Is acting something you’d like to pursue in the future? 

Oh, I’m a terrible actor. So I should not.

“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a fantastic example of Internet culture seeding into the mainstream. Can you talk about the franchise’s impact? 

It’s unbelievable that this small indie franchise from this guy who made it at the darkest time in his life ended up becoming a literal billion-dollar business, and everything that’s trickled out from it. From gaming to YouTube creators, literature and filmmaking, it’s wild to think that a franchise that has touched nearly everything in media was popularized on YouTube. Then you have the Blumhouse movie and its success, which I don’t think many people anticipated. If you don’t think that that’s changing the conversations with other game studios and the way that the film industry is shaping horror movies moving forward, then you’re not paying attention.

On the topic of FNAF, you got to meet the creator of the series. What did you guys talk about? 

We talked about our long, storied history. He had some insights to give me about my theories on the franchise, and I had some insights to give him, so it was a very educational conversation for both of us. There were definitely some questions I had for him as far as like “Midnight Motorist” and the FNAF Box and what was going on with “Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach,” and we talked about some of those things. And to the degree that we talked about them, I can’t really say, but he may or may not have given me some answers.

What’s your favorite memory from your time on YouTube? 

As I was on my way out of VidCon Europe, there was this one girl who came up to me with tears in her eyes and gave me the biggest hug. Once she calmed down and was able to catch her breath, she told me the story about how she had been unable to talk or had refused to talk for the last five years of her life because of the various experiences that she had had in her life and her childhood. She had given up on talking and felt like she had lost the ability to do it right, and so she was largely living mute in her day-to-day life. She said that watching our videos had inspired her to find her voice and speak again, and that was one of the moments that really hit home. I always knew that our videos were fun and entertaining, but to see the role our videos played in other people’s lives was incredibly impactful and fundamentally shifted everything about how I approached the community and how I wanted to structure our content moving forward.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

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