Parker Coppins is a YouTuber who’s been doing comedy-gaming content for years. Now, Parker is the star of Disney’s new gaming show ‘Parker Plays.’ MFR talks to him about the new show, how he started on YouTube, and more!
How long have you been doing gaming content on YouTube?
PARKER COPPINS: It really depends on how you define it. I started with Runescape, probably seven or eight years ago. That was just me messing around, where I’d upload videos for my friends or whatever. Then there was a competition by one of YouTuber I looked up to in the Runescape days, who had a community channel. He was like “Yo, dude, we are doing this crazy competition where I’m uploading a video on my channel from one of you guys, the fans.” And I was all up on that. So I ended up making this “In Real Life” video, where I was at the mall, just kinda trolling people, I guess. He liked it, so he uploaded it on that channel, and that’s how I got started on YouTube. I started getting maybe a thousand or two thousand views on a video at that point, and I was freaking out. I was like “dude, I’m famous. Don’t touch me right now, I’ve got a thousand-some views.”
How long have you been doing it solo, specifically on your ParkerGames channel?
Well, originally there was MinePlex Official, which was a Minecraft server. It was probably about two years ago now that I switched the channel completely over to Parker Games, and I branded it as just myself. I would do a lot of collaborations, but I mainly focused on doing videos solo. This past year or so, I’ve been doing collaborations, but I’ve mainly been trying to do solo stuff. Which I like, but… y’know, I like friends as well.
You’ve now got your own show, Parker Plays, on DXP. Can you talk a bit about exactly what DXP is, and how you came to be a part of it?
After 9PM, essentially, Disney XD turns into DXP. So that’s stuff from gaming, to entertainment, to Let’s Plays, to competition and e-sports stuff. About a year ago, when Maker Studios was bought by Disney for an insane amount of money, Disney started asking “How do we start making digital content?” So they started having YouTubers start making digital content for them. That’s when this one production company came to me about a year ago, and asked me if I wanted to make a pilot. They liked my gaming stuff, and wanted to set me up with a group of people to make something like what I was already doing. So we sat down with a guy named Woody Tondorf, who’s done a lot of stuff with Machinima, and we wrote down what the core concepts for the pilot would be. We spent the next two weeks filming those, and I edited those down into… basically, into YouTube videos. That’s kind of what that was, just with a bigger crew and production.
We sent that out to Disney, and then we just waited. We waited for, like, seven months, and then we finally got the green light. They were like “Yeah, go ahead and make your show, but you have a month and a half to do it.” And we were like “oh God, oh God, okay.” So at that point, we just sat down and record six to seven games, 90 minutes each, all day, and then sent that to the editors. We have a fantastic team – the comparison between YouTube and TV is just insane. It’s hard on YouTube, because you essentially have to do everything. From the acting, to the camera, to the lighting, to the editing, to the uploading, to the social media – everything. For TV, all I have to do is sit down in a chair, play games, and make jokes. Then everyone has to do everything else. That’s my dream come true.
Do you have a favorite segment that you’ve done so far for the TV show?
Well, there’s two things I love. One is the really, really weird games. Obviously I love games that are beautiful and cinematic, and took five years and a team of five thousand people to make, those are great. But the ones that were made by people in their basement, in like two days for a 48-hour game jam – literally, there’s a game where you’re in a zombie apocalypse, and you have to go to the moon. But to do that, you first have to get a PIE, that shoots CHAIRS, to get your BANANAS – it’s all non sequiturs, and it’s ridiculous and stupid and great. Those are my favorite games, because you never know what to expect.
The second thing that we love to do is skits. We’ll take a Let’s Play, where maybe I said something strange, and Joel Rubin – who’s an amazing writer – will sit down and make a skit out of it. Some of them we don’t even really plan. For one, we were like “Hey, we have this sword, we should do a crazy samurai fight scene.” We spent the next two hours choreographing this one-shot fight scene, where I’m going around and killing all the members of the crew. That was so much fun, just a whole family of people open to trying new things and experiment. It’s been a fun project.
Have you gotten the chance to bring on a lot of friends or collaborators for the show?
Definitely, yeah! I’ve had some of my friends, who fly out for other events, that I say “Hey, we’re shooting the show right now, do you wanna hop in and be a guest?” We had Graser, a friend of mine who was in our Minecraft YouTube group forever ago. We shot with him, shot with another YouTuber friend Shubble, a couple friends from SourceFed… I think we’ve had four or five guests on so far that have just been my friends. Like, nobody in TV knows them, but they’re my friends, so I want them on the show. No one knows me either, so why not, right?
You’ve also done some non-gaming comedy stuff on YouTube, like Hayter Street and Sugar Pine 7. Do you find you have different style of comedy when you’re not doing gaming content?
Well, it really depends. I did a lot of acting and improv – that’s really where I started. The gaming came out of that, because I was like “I’m bored, I’m playing games anyway, might as well make jokes while I’m doing it.” But it’s been fun working with the Sugar Pine 7, because you get to test your boundaries. On the show, I’m making jokes about whatever’s happening with the game. On Sugar Pine 7, I get to play a character. I get to be comedic in this very different way, where I’m very awkward and shy, and have no idea what’s going on. And then with Hayter Street, we get to test the boundaries as well. One of my favorite things is where we did a news segment, and I also played a character Carl the Car Salesman. That’s just fun, to play different characters and test them out.
What do you think is the significance of Disney embracing gaming? Do you think we’ll see more mainstream media doing video game content?
In my opinion, it would be very silly for anyone to not hop on the bandwagon. I think Disney hopping on it first, taking the child-friendly version of YouTube, and putting it on their own platform, giving them a budget… it’s interesting to see gaming transform from YouTube. Because right now, YouTube IS mainstream. That is where people go. It’s funny, because YouTube has millions of viewers – like, just Pewdiepie or Jacksepticeye alone – so Disney is the underdog in this situation. They’re coming from below, wondering how to transform themselves to make it different and push the boundaries. So they’re making real shows out of it, instead of just having you sit in front of a computer playing games. It’s a way for them not to say “Hey, here’s something popular,” but a way for them to say “Here’s something people like – let’s make the Disney version of that.” It’s nice to see that they’re not just taking something popular for their own network, they’re making it their own, which I really appreciate.