We chat with popular British gaming YouTuber Alastair Aiken, who will be in the capital for Games Con Middle East
Gaming world record holder Alastair Aiken to host UAE masterclass
One of Britain’s most influential YouTube stars, with a mind-boggling 2.8 billion views, a combined 13.1 million subscribers across two channels and three Guinness World Records, will be making an appearance in the capital this weekend. Alastair Aiken, more commonly known as Ali-A, will be taking to the stage at the first-ever Games Con Middle East on Saturday, to host a masterclass on the video game Call of Duty: WWII, which was released on November 3.
The bearded, baseball-cap-wearing 23-year-old vlogger began his ascent to online fame in 2009, when he started uploading short gaming clips to his YouTube channel. Although his main business is Call of Duty, he also created a second channel dedicated to videos about Pokémon, Minecraft and Need for Speed. Aiken’s first graphic novel – Ali-A Adventures: Game On – was released by Puffin and Random House Children’s Books in the United Kingdom and the United States last month. An American company called Scuf Gaming even released a blue-and-white Ali-A Game On game controller for PlayStation, Xbox One and PC for US$169.95 (Dh624), to coincide with the novel’s release. We caught up with Aiken to find out how a YouTube gaming star is born.
How and when did you first get into gaming?
AI got into gaming through a few of my older friends, who lived on the road down from my house. They were really into Mario Kart and Smash Bros on the GameCube, and I started playing with them. Soon after, I fell in love with video games.
How did your parents and teachers react to your interest?
My parents have never been huge on games but, for me, it’s always been a very social experience. I’ve either had friends over, or we would connect online while playing games, and we’d chat for hours because we had fun. As long as playtime was limited, and didn’t effect my school work, both parents and teachers were okay.
What is it about the game ‘Call of Duty’ that you love?
I think I love COD because I’m constantly striving to be the best, and do even better with every single game I play. I always feel like I’m one step away from pulling off a crazy game, where I go flawless [don’t die] and go on a crazy streak, which would make for an amazing video. I’m always competing for the number one spot in a multiplayer lobby, and I love getting on and proving I’m the best.
How does the game keep evolving to maintain your interest?
Games need to evolve, and in the case of COD, there’s a new release yearly, and four huge DLC [downloadable content] packs that get released every few months. They add new weapons, maps and content to keep everyone playing and make it all feel fresh. Without the steady release of new content, it would get stale quickly. Games that offer updates and additional content during their lifespan always have a more engaged and happier fan base.
What does the future hold for gaming, in your opinion?
It’s a tough question. I think both VR [virtual reality] and AR [augmented reality] are the future of gaming, potentially. I actually think AR is a lot cooler; bringing in augmented reality into your everyday life sounds amazing, but wouldn’t necessarily work for games like Call of Duty. I think there’ll always be a place for just a good old controller and TV set-up for gaming, but the possibilities AR and VR offer are very cool and will certainly take off soon.
Is there something you want to accomplish in this field that you have yet to do?
My next goal is to reach 10 million subscribers [on my main channel]. You are rewarded with a small YouTube plaque at 100,000, then a Gold Play button at one million. But if you manage to attain10 million subscribers, you’re given an impressive Diamond Play button that only few people in the world have. I’m around 600,000 subscribers away, so I’m hoping I’ll reach it in 2018.
What advice will you have for players in your WWII masterclass?
Watch lots of YouTube videos of good players, and watch what they do in all situations. Make sure your class loadouts [or multiplayer classes] are set up correctly. Use a high-quality headset to listen out for footsteps and other important audio questions. Just play a lot. The more you play, the better you’ll get.
Alastair Aiken will give his ‘Call of Duty: WWII’ masterclass at the Games Con Entertainment stage on Saturday from 2pm to 2.45pm
The lowdown on Games Con
The inaugural edition of Games Con Middle East, the latest offering from the team that runs the successful annual Middle East Film & Comic Con, is the latest regional testament to the strength and pull of the international gaming industry. This year, an estimated 2.2 billion gamers across the globe are expected to generate US$108.9 billion (Dh400bn) in revenues, according to a Newzoo Global Games Market Report released
Until Saturday, among the YouTube stars who will be on hand to meet fans and play each other live on stage, are two members of a group called the Sidemen: Vikram Barn, also known as Vikkstar123, and Joshua Bradley, or Zerkaa. They will join fellow British star Alastair Aiken and his partner, Clare Siobhan, who has become a gaming celebrity in her own right. The couple like to make videos while they play Pokémon Go with their dog Eevee, and they will also host their fan meet-and-greets in Abu Dhabi together.
Popular voice actors, including Chloé Hollings (Overwatch, Widowmaker), D C Douglas (Resident Evil/One Piece/Star Trek Enterprise) and Brina Palencia (Mad Moxxi), will not only meet fans, but also sell them personalised voice recordings.
There will also be a Cosplay Contest Friday from 6.15pm to 7.30pm for best portrayal of gaming characters, with prize money of up to Dh7,000 for individuals and Dh10,000 for groups. Gamers will have the chance to test as-yet unreleased 2018 titles including Monster Hunter: World and Dissidia Final Fantasy NT. There will be a strong educational aspect to the event, with visitors getting the chance to learn more about the regional scene in gaming development. There will be free game-design and development workshops on offer throughout the entire weekend.
Games Con runs from today until Saturday at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. Some of the content is only available for those who are 18 and older. A one-day standard ticket is Dh75 and three-day standard pass is Dh200. Super VIP passes are sold out, but there are select Dh500 VIP three-day passes left. For tickets and more information, go to www.me-gamescon.com