Saturday, March 2, 2024
FeaturesSpotlight Interviews

Spotlight on… Dylan Zaner, aka 8BitDylan

Dylan Zaner, better known as 8BitDylan, is an online content creator both on YouTube and as a Twitch partner. He also works full time for Twitch as a Community Marketing Specialist.

Alongside his regular streaming, Dylan has created a number of ‘reality show inspired’ series on YouTube using the Sims including Big Brother and Survivor! Be sure to check out his channel here.

I met with Dylan to talk about the world of streaming, his YouTube series and also being openly gay in the video game world.

Robin: Hey Dylan! So good to meet you, let’s start out with you introducing yourself to our readers.

Dylan: Hey everyone I’m Dylan Zaner also known as 8BitDylan online and I love making a fool out of myself online! I’m originally from Omaha, Nebraska but currently living in San Francisco, California. I am a full time employee for Twitch, but also have been creating content online for the last 5 years as a full time job as well.

How long have you been a content creator and streamer for?

I’ve been a content creator for 5 years now with me being on YouTube for 4 1/2 years and me streaming on Twitch for another 5. It is crazy how fast time has flown by, but in other ways it feels like it has been forever since I uploaded my first video.

How did it all start?

I actually got interested in making videos at a very early age. My mom found this really old VHS camcorder at a thrift store one day and I used to tape over old tapes and make my very own home videos on them. Weird skits and stuff that a 8 year old might find funny, because I was 8 at the time!

I didn’t really consider uploading to YouTube or streaming to Twitch until I was doing an internship over the summer in South Dakota for Public Health and I lived in a giant frat house with 10 other interns in my program. We used to all hang out a ton and eventually we thought it would be a funny prank to make a fake haunted video and leave the tape in the house for the next batch of interns to discover the following year. Instead it ended up just being us making silly videos on this video recorder we had and watching them back to make each other laugh.

It was then that everyone caught on that I had a knack for this and they encouraged me to start making YouTube videos so I decided to try it out once I got back from my internship and that’s what started my journey into this industry.

You stream four nights a week now on Twitch, so is this a full time job for you now?

It isn’t actually a full time job anymore, but it used to be. I started it up in college as a hobby after an internship I took over the summer and it didn’t really become a full time job until a year after graduating college.

I lived a pretty unhealthy work life balance of working a part time job, uploading a video every day, and then streaming every day to try and grow my business as fast as I could while also making content I enjoyed. Now days I would never recommend anyone do that because there are much easier ways to make money creating content online, but back then it was a struggle to support what you love to do through the thing that you love to do.

Eventually I made enough money from uploading videos and streaming that I was outpacing what I made from my part time job and it was actually costing me money to go into work because of the cost of travel to get to work everyday. 

The first 2-3 months of being full time were rough, but eventually I made enough money that I actually made up for quitting my part time job pretty quickly and was able to get back on my two feet.

What was your work before streaming?

Before streaming I worked as a sexual health research assistant… edgy I know… and that really opened my eyes to what I could do professionally out in the world. I was going for my Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health and was determined to go down that career path, but I felt very creatively stifled so when I started creating videos online and streaming it really sang to me and I felt way happier doing something I loved.

Eventually streaming on Twitch helped me get a job at Twitch and now I am a Community Marketing Specialist for Twitch due to my knowledge of the streaming community and I love my job a TON! It also allows me to still stream and make a fool out of myself 4 nights a week!

Your YouTube channel is hilarious! I love how you’ve meticulously recreated TV shows like Big Brother and Survivor in the Sims! Your most recent series was Drag Queen Survivor… how long does it take to set all the characters up? 

Gahhh you have no idea how happy that makes me to hear that. I’m so excited that people actually watch and enjoy the videos I make. I feel like personally I make some really weird series that people are not used to seeing on YouTube and that’s what I love to do.

A lot of my bigger series like The Sims 4 Big Brother and Survivor, The Sims 4 Danganronpa, True Life of a Yandere, and more, are ones that can be huge time sinks. It takes months of planning, filming, and editing to get that content out to the public to the level that I want it to be.

That was the tough part about doing this full time was that I took major pride and joy out of creating videos like those that were much more difficult to produce, but also trying to monetize them enough to reward the amount of time I was putting into them. Eventually I wasn’t making enough so instead of focusing on the money, I decided to supplement my funds with my growing Twitch career at the time to allow me to have that creative outlet that YouTube provided me.

How do you get the inspiration of what to create?

I definitely get a lot of my comedy inspiration from a lot of the movies I grew up watching. Older films like the Naked Gun series were great when it came to physical comedy and the Scary Movie series for its wonderful use of one liners. I loved watching comedy films growing up so it definitely leaned me in the direction of my self deprecating humor and quick wit.

I also have a HUGE love for reality television which is apparent if you look at my YouTube channel. I love playing in ORGs (Online Reality Games) and Minis (one night versions of Big Brother and Survivor) with friends online whenever I get a chance.

These type of social games are ones that have shaped the content I love to make when it comes to dramatic timing, cliff hangers, edgy storytelling, and clean edits to get the point across that I’m trying to make.

You’re streaming four nights a week on Twitch now, do you have any plans to come back for another full series on YouTube?  

I actually am currently working on the next reality show Sims 4 series right now! It will be a completely different style then I have previously done before because I have to freshen things up after doing this for 7 seasons.

This season will be called Big Brother Beach House: Masters of Mess and will feature 14 different YouTubers, Celebrities, and Online Personalities who are dramatic, messy, or evil in some way shape or form. Expect lots of drama and backstabbing then ever before since I’m giving the Sims all negative traits which will really add some spice into the game.

I am also fully filming the series live on my Twitch channel so chat will get to react live to things as they happen and also give me an audience to bounce ideas off of. Then the episodes will be loosely edited and uploaded to YouTube. Look forward to that later this year!

That sounds awesome and I can’t wait to see it! Have you always been out and proud on your channels? 

I’ve always been out and proud on both YouTube and Twitch thankfully. My original username used to be 8BitHomo online because I wanted people to know before they even clicked on my channel what they were getting themselves into. It had its advantages, but eventually I wanted to hone my branding to be more about me so I changed my name to 8BitDylan, plus it is much more brand friendly and easier to find me through that username.

I take pride in knowing that I helped bring in a new wave of gay on websites like Twitch because the LGBTQ scene was very small when I joined. I certainly wasn’t the first queer streamer on Twitch, but I was definitely one of most vocal back in the day when it came to making sure LGBTQ people were treated fairly in the gaming space and that we had a seat at the table when it came to the streaming one.

How do you find being an out and proud streamer? 

I find being out and proud extremely rewarding. It allows me to provide a space for people coming into the stream to be themselves while also not shying away from talking about LGBTQ topics alongside laughing at ourselves through LGBTQ humor.

What challenges are there being LGBTQ and being into video games? 

I don’t think there are “challenges” to being LGBTQ and being into video games, the issue is being accepted in gaming culture and also being out. Many times people will say “what does being gay have anything to do with playing video games or being a nerd?” when in actuality many queer people find safety in nerd/geek culture because we grew up ostracized from many social circles for being “different”. This in turn allowed us to create our own kind of nerd/geekdom that was steeped in queer icons and culture. 

What more do you think the industry could be doing to make video games more welcoming for LGBTQ people?

I think what really needs to be done is calling for more true representation in the gaming space not just in the games we play, but the jobs that makes those games. We need more queer writers to be staffed, more queer coders, especially queer people of color who are vastly underrepresented in the spaces despite queer people of color being just as nerdy as the rest of us. I think once we change gaming culture from the top down it will begin to trickle down and change the gaming community at large, hopefully for the better.

What was the one game that defined your childhood?

Wow this is SUCH a tough question! If I had to choose one I would have to say the Mortal Kombat series just because I remember playing that all the time with my brother and creating tournaments and investing myself in the story it was a ton of fun.

Some honorable mentions though are Shadow of the Colossus which was a game that blew my mind growing up with how well it told a story without any real dialogue and Kingdom Hearts because who doesn’t love an action game with Disney characters.

What are you currently playing?

Since working for Twitch and still streaming I’ve noticed that my gaming appetite has changed quite a bit. I find myself being able to play games an hour or two at a time the most enjoyable due to my super busy schedule. When I’m not streaming games I find myself playing games like World of Warcraft or Dead by Daylight. When I am traveling though I love picking up my Nintendo Switch and playing games like Mario & Rabbids, Splatoon 2, and many more since there are so many great titles on the Switch.

What does the future hold for Dylan?

The goal right now is to start establishing my life here in America with my husband. Once we get settled here in San Francisco expect even more crazy streams and innovative series that randomly pop up in my mind. I don’t think I’ll ever stop making weird stuff online because it feels like a biological function at this point that I have to do. I get a huge kick out of investing a lot of time and effort into something and seeing the public enjoy all of the hard work I put into it. 

How can our readers keep up with you?

Make sure to follow me on Twitch for streams 4 times a week. I stream every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6PM PST and every Saturday morning at 10AM PST.

My YouTube channel currently isn’t receiving any new uploads until I can finish the 7th season of my upcoming Sims 4 reality show, but please go check it out to see all of the weird whacky videos I have uploaded over there.

Finally make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to get the low down on my life and any crazy adventures I find myself on!

Thanks for having me Gayming Magazine!

Robin Gray

[He/Him] Robin is the Founder of Gayming Magazine. He's on a mission to fly the LGBTQ flag proudly over the video games world and drive forward authentic representation in the industry, in the press and in the games we love.