Ali-A interview: “I don’t think I’ll ever get past Fortnite’

Ali-A is now part of Fortnite (Image: Epic Games)

GameCentral talks to Ali-A about becoming a Fortnite skin, the next generation of YouTube, and the difficulties of sharing your personal life.

If you have searched for anything related to Fortnite on YouTube, there is a good chance that you have found Ali-A. The 28-year-old British YouTuber, real name Alastair Aiken, has become one of the biggest content creators in Fortnite since its release in 2017, with over 17 million subscribers on its main channel. Like Ninja before him, his dedication to the title has manifested in a true re-creation of himself being implanted into the game world.

Ali-A’s Fortnite skin launched last week, and is the latest addition to the Icon Series – a line of cosmetics that revolves around celebrities, artists, and influencers. Since it started in 2020, with Ninja’s debut, the line-up has been surprisingly chaotic – from other creators like LazarBeam and TheGrefg to basketball legend LeBron James, singer Ariana Grande and England footballer Harry Kane.

The inclusion of Ali-A marks the first time a YouTuber has been recognized in the UK. While it’s an important moment of appreciation for someone who’s built their career gathering tips and covering relentless Fortnite updates, the process of making skin a reality involves its fair share of work as well — with Ali-A collaborating back and forth with Epic Games starting last year.

Ali A. says: “I used to work with it a lot. I had a clear vision from the start that really helped me. I actually gave Epic Games a little slideshow – which wasn’t impressive – but just the ideas I came up with and how I thought it would be really cool to be represented in the game. To me, there are two extremes, you can look for a similarity – so you’re inside the game and look as close to you as possible – or you can choose this super version of you. I was like, I’d like to have both sides of this scale. This is what happened in the end.

We’ve been on the same page from the start. I’ve made so many critical comments, whenever they email me, I reply right away. I often jump on my computer and start recording video comments for them just to be very specific. You only get this chance once and the fact that I got it, I was as if I was going to do it as much as possible, as best as possible, and I think it resulted, I hope, in a complexion that people really enjoy.”

In a world where success is often associated with chasing trends to maintain a high viewership, Ali-A sees this look as validating his commitment through the fluctuating popularity of Fortnite over the years. As someone who originally started out making videos about Call Of Duty, he’s no stranger to focusing his channel’s focus to be at the mercy of views — as he himself noted in a video last year. “My YouTube channels are my business now, I’ve grown from just a hobby to a business and I have to do what works,” he said at the time.

As he now juggles multiple channels across different games, presumably for the sake of a financial safety net, there is a sense that Ali-A’s success with Fortnite, underscored by honoring his skin, will make his presence in the community steadfast.

I don’t think I’ll ever get past the fact that I’m in Fortnite. to [Epic Games] To specifically turn to me and say, We want you in the game, you can’t be any bigger than that. In my opinion, this is the pinnacle you can reach as a builder in the Fortnite space, so it’s super valid.

Fortnite is still a huge game and was the biggest game in the world at one point, but just like with any game some people get bored, some people get old and lose interest, but I stuck with that. The entire period, he says.

I’m still here making content every week, and I think that’s proof of the fact that I’m stuck in the game [and] Covered many aspects. My fan base has followed me through those years and for Epic Games to recognize it’s really special.

He may have reached new levels of popularity in recent years with Fortnite, but Ali-A is counted alongside KSI and PewDiePie as part of the first wave of rising stars on YouTube. He began making game videos in 2009, using a device “sold functionally to record DVD players for people”. After some success, he decided to take a gap year, aged 18, to pursue YouTube full time when it was barely recognized as a viable career path, with his spare option to study “something related to mathematics” at university.

Fast forward to 2022, and Ali-A’s Singles Show has grown into a team-supported business that helps edit and upload content and manage its finances. It’s an example of what you can achieve on YouTube, at a time when the competition for the same niche has never been higher. If he had started in today’s YouTube climate, does he think he would have the same level of success?

“I always said there was definitely a bit of luck in my success,” says Ali-A. Nobody was doing it right at first, so I’ve had the right interest in the right kind of thing all those years ago. If we jump ahead so far, what I’ve always said is that there’s obviously a lot of competition and a lot of people want to do it, but at the same time the number of people who were watching game videos when I started versus now – YouTube It is a space to watch gaming videos and people understand the platform and the fact that you can get a job from it.

So I think if you’re really really talented and really good at creating video content and you start to get some momentum and some traction, you’ll probably explode and grow faster than ever, [more] Even three, five, ten years ago.

Get a Fortnite skins

Ali-A’s Fortnite skins come in several types (Image: Epic Games)

Ali-A’s decade-long experience of staring at YouTube backend metrics was evident during our conversation. When asked if he would have done anything differently if he started now, he gave an amazing analytical answer about click-through rates, trying thumbnails for the best results, and tips for increasing average views with quick intros.

This drive to watch the numbers rise has been a source of criticism in the past — even among his peers. PewDiePie posted a video in 2018, at the height of Fortnite, accusing him and other Fortnite creators of clickbait tactics. This in turn triggered the widely adopted meme in Ali A’s video introductions into the stratosphere, which was later imitated by Lazarbeam, KSI, and many others.

To Ali-A’s credit, these hits are in good spirits, capitalizing on them in videos of his responses years later. Although he’s clearly worked the YouTube game to his advantage, in ironically watchable ways — like starting a syndicated channel with his wife and fellow content creator Claire Siobhan — mixing his professional and personal life in front of the camera is something he tries to avoid as he gets older.

“I probably have a bigger gap now than ever between what is work, Ali-A and work, versus what is Alastair, what I do at home and everything off-camera,” he says. Obviously, the more your engagement, the more often it helps build your brand, it builds that personal connection between you and your audience. The more they know about you, the more likely they are to stay and invest in you.

I think I’ve always had a lot of focus on the game I’m playing, so I’ve never counted on over-sharing my personal life, but there’s clearly a lot of things we’ve shared in the past. Claire and I got engaged a few years ago, got married last year, and I think we’ll be sharing our wedding video soon.

But there’s definitely a fine line, like if I’m going out with my buddies to London on Saturday, I’m not tweeting everything live and taking a lot of selfies. This is just my down time. I think the one thing I’ve learned that is of great value, to my mental health and not burn out, is to strike that balance.

Ali-A should also be part of a marketing campaign in Piccadilly Circus (Image: Epic Games)

He says, however, that his reluctance to be over-sharing may also be a sign of YouTube’s place in the culture in 2022. “I think maybe a few years ago I was sharing more,” he says. Like, when I moved out of my dad and moved into a new apartment, I would instantly share it with everyone. If I were to buy a new car, I would say “Guys, this is my new car!” It was a different time in YouTube, people were really excited about achieving these milestones. As YouTube becomes more mainstream, it’s kind of understandable that if you’re in the YouTube space and you’re big, you’re going to make some money.

So if you’re posting something about this new car or house, it’s not really as exciting as it used to be. It’s like, OK, maybe it’s just a show, so now I keep this stuff to myself.

Looking to the future, Ali-A’s next project mirrors his YouTube veteran. Starting in June, he will be joined by the likes of Loserfruit, Vikkstar123 and DanTDM as a judge in a talent competition designed to find the next big gaming content creator. The winner of the uTure Show will receive $100,000 (£79,300), along with plenty of exposure to help climb the algorithm’s rankings.

It remains to be seen if the talent show format will adapt well to YouTube, despite the amount of competition on the platform, the emergence of big personalities may be somewhat unfortunate, but it is a valuable necessity in 2022 and beyond.

“Nothing like this has happened before,” Ali A. says. I’m really excited to support people, invest my time helping them and pass on some of the things I’ve learned.

“YouTube isn’t going anywhere, so why not help people come over and maybe someday be older than me?”

By Adam Starkey

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