NerdBacon Interviews! – Matt Zion (Wreckless Eating/Zion Mainframe Gaming)
As are many in the internet realm these days, I am a bit of a YouTube fan and a while back, I came across a channel called Wreckless Eating. The videos are largely food reviews of various types, eating challenges, and a monthly main show that usually involves eating things you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
The creator, Matt Zion and his friends seem to have a blast and it led me to become a fan and regular viewer.
I later discovered that Matt is a gamer and has a Let’s Play channel called Zion Mainframe Gaming as well!
He was kind enough to take some time to chat with me recently about both of his channels and a bit about his experience in the gaming world.
InfiniteKnife: Hi Matt! First of all, thank you so much for taking some time to interview with us today!
Matt Zion: No problem. Thanks for having me!
IK: Let’s jump right in. So, tell me a bit about your biggest endeavor, Wreckless Eating.
MZ: Well, we used to do backyard wrestling for about 10 years. Our group was called Omega Wrestling, which can still be found on YouTube, but nobody really cared about it (aside from us actually doing it) and we lost the place we used for our events. After that, there was a period of about 6-12 months we didn’t have much else going on and I needed a hobby or something to do, so our YouTube channel was actually started out of boredom.
I’m actually glad we didn’t find some of the other popular channels out there doing food review/challenge videos because we thought we were among the first to do this kind of thing and may not have had we known it was already around.
IK: Who were some of your inspirations to even think about doing a YouTube channel based around eating gross food, reviewing items, and challenges?
MZ: Actually, a couple of the big inspirations for Wreckless Eating were from TV. Shows like Bizarre Foods and Man v. Food on Travel Channel for the odd/gross stuff and challenges, respectively were favorites of mine and I thought it would be cool to do some of what they did.
IK: At this point, you guys are at over 400k Subscribers and over 85 million views on YouTube. Was there any one particular video that really got those totals to jump, getting them on the fast track to where they are now?
MZ: The first time we had a huge momentum builder as far as views/subs was Brad Jones, The Cinema Snob, who reviews a lot of B-movie horror type films. He gave us a shout out because we reviewed an energy drink based on a movie he reviewed. I tweeted the review to him and he gave us a shout out. About a month later, he asked if we wanted to do a spot on one of his reviews and we did a thing on 4 Loco together.
That was a good one, but perhaps the biggest momentum builder for us was when we met up with and shot a collaboration video with L.A. Beast, another YouTube personality who does mostly food videos. It just so happened that he had 2 videos go crazy viral on the web right after we posted our video with him. While we kind of “rode the coattails” of the success of his videos around the same time, it really helped us get a lot more exposure.
IK: Of your various series, it seems that Wreckless Eating Shorts (aka. W.E. Shorts) is your biggest and if not, which do you consider to be the biggest?
MZ: Well, WE Shorts is our longest running show, for sure, as that’s been going since the very beginning. That and my show CarBS are our biggest “money makers” on the channel. They are what keep the channel going as far as financial support goes, but a lot of people do come to see our Challenges and Main Shows that are produced less often. Many don’t realize that we are funded by our Ad Revenue from our hits on YouTube and those shows we produce more of allow us to get more expensive/rare items for our bigger shows. A few examples are ostrich eggs and armadillo and can be quite pricey.
IK: Recently, you were able to travel around the country to do a few events for Pizza Hut and Arby’s. Have any companies come to you guys and asked you to review a certain product?
MZ: We got a bit of compensation to review an energy supplement a while back but mostly we just consider ourselves more “company friendly” and they kind of keep their distance for the most part.
It’s kind of a 50/50 thing. We can be totally professional if we are asked to do some kind of product placement but then there are some products we rip into pretty bad on some W.E. Shorts.
We got a little flak from working with Pizza Hut, but it worked out great for me because I love Pizza Hut! I consider them to be the best out of the fast food pizzas so when they offered to fly us down to try some new products I said “Of course! I was going to try that pizza anyway!”
You’ve gotta be careful, though. There are YouTube channels out there who are essentially paid to give positive reviews about products that aren’t actually all that good.
We’ve been fortunate with some of the big chains we’ve reviewed such as Pizza Hut, Arby’s, and Carl’s Jr. (Hardee’s in the Eastern US) and they have pretty much flat out told us to be honest about what we think of their products.
IK: You’ve mentioned in your videos before that you do the majority of the editing. Were you into video editing before Wreckless Eating began or did this get you into it?
MZ: I actually do it all! It started with the backyard wrestling as I was the video editor there, as well. It’s something I’ve been doing a long time. Even before the backyard wrestling, I actually did some music video editing. All told, I have close to 12 years of experience doing it.
IK: There are a few fun little things in your videos like the “Let’s go, princess!” and your whip when giving your ratings that add a fun little flair that (I think) sets you apart from others. Where did those 2 things come from?
MZ: The “Let’s go, princess” was an old Randy Couture infomercial from back in the day. It was some kind of workout equipment and the idea was Couture was calling you a “little girl” if you didn’t use this product and at the very end he drops the line with some dramatic music and it always made us laugh.
The whip was just a little inside thing. There were other people doing their ratings for things and I just wanted to have something I felt was unique.
IK: So, did you guys ever think the channel would get to where it is now when you posted your first video? What did you think would actually happen in the very beginning?
MZ: When I first came up with the idea was very different from what the channel is today. The original plan was to have (co-creator) Chris Wreckless and I bring a few mystery items that everyone would have to try and it got to a point where he got lazy so I just started grabbing things.
When Chris and I originally discussed starting the channel, we’d thought that it could eventually bring us some kind of financial gain because what we’re doing hadn’t really been tapped into yet (not as much as today, anyway) and there was far less competition than, let’s say a let’s play gaming channel, of which there are a multitude online.
IK: That’s actually a good segue into our next topic of focus in this interview,
IK: In addition to Wreckless Eating, you have a Let’s Play channel, Zion Mainframe Gaming. What inspired you to create that one and were there any existing channels or personalities you wanted to emulate?
MZ: The first thing I wanted to get out there on this interview is that my friends, particularly Old Man Tom (who makes appearances on WE videos) and I started a Let’s Play channel because we simply love gaming. If it became something we weren’t able to get any kind of ad revenue for, we’d still do it in some capacity.
A few inspirations that come to mind are Paul Soares Jr who is mostly known for playing Minecraft, which I, oddly enough, find pretty dull to play but fascinating to watch certain people play. He also really opened my eyes to indie games due to a series he does called Indie Test Drive.
Others I really enjoy are Northern Lion who play mostly The Binding of Isaac, Bear Taffy, and several others. I spend a good deal of the time I should be working watching these various channels.
IK: ZMG has about 24k subscribers and 1.6 million views. Do you think a lot of this traffic comes from the plugs you add to your WE videos, particularly your CarBS videos?
MZ: Yeah, a vast majority of the viewers for ZMG come from the WE channel. Before I started plugging the channel, it was dead as hell. I mean NOBODY was visiting, but I can’t blame them because the Let’s Play channel community online is pretty over saturated.
We were originally going to call the channel Wreckless Gaming but I didn’t want to do that because I’ve seen a lot of people just add their known name + gaming at the end. I wanted to make more our own thing and not have to worry about plugging it much but soon realized the plugs were how we’d get viewers.
It kind of comes in waves. In the beginning, fans flocked to the gaming channel but after a while seemed to kind of turn on it and now it seems people joke with me about it and how much I plug it and it’s kind of leveled out.
I do like that once people actually stop and look at what we’re doing and see that we’re really passionate about the games we’re playing and not just playing what’s popular to get views, they generally seem to enjoy it overall.
IK: So, how long have you been a gamer? Was there a particular game or series that got you started when you were younger?
MZ: When I was really little, I had an NES and remember that I had a few sports games I enjoyed, but what really got my interest in games going was when I got a Genesis.
One title I particularly enjoyed was Batman & Robin because it was co-op so I could play with my friends. I also really enjoyed the Sonic series. I remember how mind blowingly awesome it was when a friend could take control of Tails in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
One of my all time favorite games that I’ve played is Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I love the series and even have several tattoos inspired by the Elder Scrolls games.
I also really enjoyed the Dark Cloud series on PlayStation and PS2.
My true love for gaming that made me believe that I’d never give up gaming came with the release of the N64. That system holds a ton of nostalgic value for me, though some of the games don’t hold up as well anymore.
After that, I mostly got into gaming on my PC and that’s what I do almost exclusively now.
IK: Do you have a favorite game or genre of PC game you like to stream?
MZ: We do a lot of zombie games on there because they’re accessible and generally easy to jump into. We’re also just zombie fans.
I’m not super picky about the games we play, though. I’m open to try just about anything. One game that comes to mind that we had a lot of fun with was Terraria. I started to burn out a bit after 40+ episodes on the channel, but Tom still plays it on his own time.
IK: Getting back to the zombie/horror game genre, did you play any of the iconic horror series on consoles such as Resident Evil or Silent Hill when you were growing up?
MZ: I mostly watched others play those games because I’m a giant pussy, haha. I bought Resident Evil 2 on the N64 when it was ported over at full price (about $60 at the time), brought it home, played for about 5 minutes and put it away because I got too freaked out.
I have early memories of watching friends play Silent Hill and remember just saying “Nope” to myself as I watched them.
We’ve tried to get some of the more horror based games onto our channel but Tom would be the only one likely to take them on and even he won’t do them anymore.
IK: Have you guys ever considered taking your Let’s Plays live and using a service like Twitch to play?
MZ: Yeah, I’d like to do that at some point, but my work with Wreckless Eating takes up a vast majority of my time and ZMG takes up another huge chunk. I also try to have a bit of a personal life with the little time I have left after all that.
We’ve had fans ask us to do it and I think we’ll look more into it eventually, but time is the main factor and the focus is definitely more on Wreckless Eating and Zion Mainframe Gaming on YouTube right now.
IK: Before we go, is there anything else you’d like our viewers to know about either WE or ZMG?
MZ: One thing I’d like to get out there that I get asked a lot is what someone looking to start something like a new YouTube channel needs to do in order to be successful.
My first bit of advice for that is you can’t start off thinking about money. I’ve had people start one and straight up ask how long before they start making any and those are the ones that are going to fail.
We didn’t make a dime for the first 2+ years. You need to be doing something you really enjoy and love because it’s going to take a long time to make your first check. A lot of new users out there get burned out because they don’t have the passion, so it’s super important to love what you do.
My favorite channels are ones where people are just being themselves and having fun like I do with my friends.
I’ve known most of the guys I do videos and game with for 10+ years, so I like to think we’d still be hanging out and doing the same stuff we do for YouTube now.
Even if you become successful and people say they don’t like what you’re doing, it’s still super important to do what you love and are interested in because you’ll find your fan base, it just takes time.
Also, be as friendly as possible to any bigger YouTubers you interact with. Try to do as many collaborations as possible, as well.
IK: That’s all the questions I had, so I just want to say huge thanks again for taking the time for this NerdBacon interview!
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