Sometimes my mind wanders and I think about what the high school version of myself would say about where my life has ended up. If I could go back in time I’d hope the younger me would heed my warnings, pick a direction and stick with it. Then I remember that I was a little shithead who never took anything seriously and just talk about how cool it would be if weed were legal and eat some Cheez-Its.
I was a tremendous asshole back then and while a lot has changed, a lot stayed the same. I still am a jerk from time to time, I still have an unhealthy obsession with video games, and somehow, I kept a lot of my old friends. At least for a while I did.
Four or five years ago I started following the world of online video production very closely. The idea of content creation and being my own boss was incredibly appealing. It was a very “pie in the sky” moment for me. The market hadn’t become over saturated with gaming content and coverage, (at least in the YouTube space) and it was pretty clear to see the way people would consume information was changing. I wanted to get in on the fun, but just like in high school, I was lazy. I wasted a lot of time and didn’t actually start anything until mid-2013.
Around April of 2013, I reached out to one of my best friends I had known since high school. After purchasing a capture device and a microphone of questionable quality, I asked if he wanted to try this whole ‘let’s play’ thing with me. I explained to him the premise, showed him some examples of existing channels and he seemed to really be into it. We brainstormed some names we should use, and somehow ended up going by “The Combo Breakers”. This was a name I would ultimately come to hate.
Everything seemed great at first. My best friend and I were hanging out more than ever, playing video games and just talking like we normally did. The only difference was that from here on out, there was a microphone in front of us. We would record once or twice a week and then I’d edit and upload the finished products. I’d then blast them out on social media and various Reddit boards. I was having fun, some of the most fun I’d had in a long time.
“No one ever starts off doing it right.” That was a lesson I learned very quickly while pursuing this new hobby. We had a ton of audio and editing issues considering this was my first time doing anything like this. But after a few months I had a system going, I knew my shit and started to demand more of myself… and my friend. I was able to discern very quickly what was working and what wasn’t. I canned plenty of garbage we’d created because I refused to put my name to it. My friend wasn’t blind to this either, it’s what made him a valuable partner. As TCB (The Combo Breakers) started to gain traction and get some fans that weren’t people we knew, we started feeling pretty good about ourselves. We were producing great content on a regular schedule. Then the realities of real life started to set in.
Our schedules didn’t line up all the time, and we were out of content. This led to me inviting another friend to be apart of the channel.. The three of us would then become the core of the channel and continue to churn out great content. I was especially proud cause I felt a sense of ownership. Maybe it was buying the components, or being the editor or plugging our stuff on the internet, but I held TCB very close to me. So close that I started to treat my friends more like employees and less like people I’d made great memories with.
For months, I would push my friends to come over and make more videos. We barely interacted outside the channel anymore. I was possessed and my friends saw it. We’d fight about it, they’d call me out for being a slave driver, I’d fire back at them for not helping me on the back end of the channel. It was the nerdiest version of a bad marriage ever.
All the time this was happening, we were getting tons of praise from other small content creators which only served to justify my actions and behaviors. I wanted this to be successful, I wanted us to be able to do this forever and be comfortable. However, my ambitions overshadowed the reality of the situation. I was ruining a friendship over a channel that had 100 subscribers. It’s all so dumb when I think about it now.
This tension built up around us and listening back to some videos from that time, I can hear us getting more aggressive with each other. Eventually though, it got the better of us, and I shut down the channel in anger. I hated what it did to me, and what it did to us. The worst part about it all was I damaged my friendships, all for basically nothing.
I went on and created a new channel with some other friends of mine. It only lasted for a few months, but I greatly improved every aspect of what TCB was. New microphones, new software, new artwork. Everything was polished in a way that TCB wasn’t. Ultimately I ended that channel because I reconciled with my old co-hosts, and we brought The Combo Breakers back in a massive way with some new members on board.
Every bit of polish was put into TCB, and the content was better for it. Everything before then was now shit, and I hated it. We were growing twice as fast as we had before, and things seemed okay between us personally. Although, we still didn’t really interact outside of the channel. Maybe that was us acknowledging that our friendship worked in high school, it worked in college, but couldn’t withstand this makeshift employment.
We kept it going for another year and got more popular than any of us ever thought we would. We finally decided to call it quits again, and this time for good. We got new jobs, one of us even got engaged and moved in with his fiancé which made distance and travel a factor. Scheduling started to not line up anymore, and content was drying up. I knew what was coming, and I was okay with it this time. I talked to them about it, and while they weren’t enthused about the situation, I think they understood.
I put a bullet in the channel and wrote a nice goodbye note and made a video about it. I thanked everyone who ever helped me make that channel great, but made a point to thank the first friend I brought aboard the most. I felt like I sacrificed the most with him. The Combo Breakers effectively ended my friendship with him and I wish I could say I regretted it more than I do. I may have lost a friend or two, but because of The Combo Breakers I went back to school to get a degree in media production. This tiny, insignificant channel changed my life in some huge ways.
I think we were on this trajectory well before the channel even started. We got out of high school and desperately clung to something that worked then. We grew apart and that’s fine. We don’t hate each other by any means, but I think we all knew it could never be like the old days. We still occasionally talk and catch up and I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
I’ll still look back at The Combo Breakers and think “I could get the band back together.” Then I remember all of this. I’ll always appreciate the hell out of what we accomplished but I can’t do it again. It’s time to just move forward and leave some things in the past… Like a stupidly named channel. God damn do I hate the name ‘The Combo Breakers’. Good riddance.