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Smosh’s Ian And Anthony On Their Food Battle Video Game And YouTube Notoriety

by Kyle Hilliard on Oct 30, 2014 at 08:50 AM

Smosh, founded by Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla, is one of the most popular YouTube channels, period. Ian and Anthony define comedy entertainment for a young generation, and the two have decided to make a larger, much more involved video game than their previous release, Super Head Esploder X. Food Battle, based on a video the two create annually where they battle with a donut and an assortment of foods, is an action RPG coming to mobile devices this year. We got a chance to speak with Ian and Anthony about making the game, their comedy influences, and the sort of games they play when they’re not making goofy videos.

Game Informer: Is this something you’ve wanted to do for a long time? Your channel is not entirely video game focused, but certainly a big part of it.

Anthony: Yeah, we’ve always wanted to make a game. I know for me, and probably Ian too, growing up we were obsessed with video games. We were kind of obsessing over this idea of, “What if we could make our own game? What would we be able to add into it? Let’s make a game that’s actually funny.” Our viewers love when we create stuff that has video game references, or even a whole video game parody. Two of our most popular videos ever are music videos about video games. There’s our Assassin’s Creed 3 song, and then our Legend of Zelda rap. It just seemed to really make sense for us to make a game.

How did it come about exactly? Did someone approach you guys? Or did you guys have an idea you took to developers?

Ian: Food Battle is a long-running series that we have on our channel. It goes back to 2006. We do an annual video called Food Battle. It’s something our viewers are very familiar with. They’re always asking, “When’s the next Food Battle?” We’re big fans of gaming. A couple years ago we came out with a game called Super Head Exploder – it was a side-scrolling shooter. We really enjoyed that and the viewers really enjoyed it so we always kind of wanted to make a mobile game that was deeper than that. We started pitching ideas, and we’d gone through a bunch of different concepts before we landed on Food Battle the game. We’re loosely using the Food Battle name to make the game, but we’re really excited about it.

I did get a chance to play Food Battle a little bit. It’s an action RPG. Is that a genre you guys are particularly interested in?

Anthony:  I’m a huge fan of that. I love the Legend of Zelda series. Basically N64 was my favorite era of gaming. All the action games – Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie – all those games were my favorite where you’re trying to get to the end of the quest but you’re collecting things and learning new weapons and powers. That’s something that’s influenced me.

Ian: Yeah, and I’m kind of a fan of more of the recent actions RPGs, like Mass Effect is my favorite franchise. I really had a lot of fun with the Witcher 2. That kind of translates over, using different weapons for different enemies, changing up your strategy with how to approach certain enemies.

How involved are you guys in the actual development of the game? Are you doing writing? What is your role in the game other than the inspiration?

Anthony: We’re heavily involved in every single aspect of the development. First there was the concept. One of our biggest hurdles was first we had this huge idea for the game. It was basically more of a free-roam game but then we were looking at it on touch-screen devices and it was really difficult to control a character without finding a brand new way to do it. That was our first hurdle, and that really helped us solidify the actual style and the way we play the game. We have involvement in basically every build. Every Wednesday I’m downloading a new build, playing through it, almost the entire game, giving notes on how I feel things are working. So basically every aspect of the game, and the writing. There’s a lot of dialogue in there. The guys at Roadhouse wrote most of it but then we went through and gave it a Smosh-y voice and made sure it really stood out as something funny to us, too.

Could you tell me in great detail what Smosh-y voice is?

Ian: [laughs] I don’t really know what that means either.

Anthony: It’s something you know internally in your soul that you don’t know what it is.

Were there any surprises in developing a game that you guys weren’t expecting?

Ian: we’re not game developers, so we didn’t know the limitations of making a game. When we first thought of making a game we thought, “Okay it’s going to be 3D platformer, open world, RPG, do all this. And then they’re like, “Okay, that’s going to cost you $100 million.” So yeah, I get really crazy just going super creative with all these ideas for the game, and sometime they’re so far-fetched and out of the realm of possibilities that it literally would cost $100 million to make, to add some of these things in there that I think of. I think that was the hardest thing to cope with, was being like, “Okay, we’ve got to keep it in the realm of what we can actually do at this point.”

Coming Up Next: The surprising influence of the Smosh YouTube channel and Ian and Anthony's feelings on their notoriety...

I want to talk to you guys about your channel a little bit. There was a Variety survey that came out highlighting your channel as the most influential among teens on YouTube in terms of entertainment and content.  How do you guys feel about that? Did you ever expect to be so widely viewed in that way?

Ian: We just do what we enjoy, and we’re just glad that people enjoy our content. We’ll just keep making it for them.

Anthony: We woke up that morning the article came out and everyone was like, “Congrats!” We were like, “What? What’s happening?” and then we looked at it. I thought there was some kind of typo or something. I didn’t think there was any way we’d be up above all those amazing people.

So you don’t have a, “With great power comes great responsibility,” mentality following that article?

Ian: Yeah, it scares me. So much “responsibility” with our “great power.”

What kind of comedy influenced you growing up?

Ian: We watched a lot of cartoons and stuff. My favorite movie is Spaceballs. Whenever I can throw in that oddball humor, I take the opportunity. Just really crazy humor like that.

Anthony: We were really into South Park, where they’d have the random comedy stuff, but then they’d have some stuff that had a message to it…

Ian: Social commentary.

Anthony: … and I really liked when they did that, so we kind of do that, too.

What kind of sketch comedy do you enjoy?

Anthony: When YouTube first got started, we were big fans of The Lonely Island. Before they got picked up on SNL, we were watching their music videos on YouTube. That kind of influenced us to try to make our own original music videos.

Ian: We didn’t really watch a lot of sketch, so it was kind of weird that we started doing it.

Anthony: Growing up, we never planned on doing comedy or sketch or anything like that. We just made a couple of YouTube videos and people enjoyed them, so we kept making them. We were like, “Okay, let’s keep doing it.” I’ve never been considered a funny person a day in my life before I made videos on YouTube, so it’s kind of weird for this to happen.

What are your long-term goals? Do you want to keep making games?

Anthony: As long as our viewers want the games, we’ll keep making them. They’re responsible for this game in the first place – this was an Indiegogo-funded campaign. They wanted the game and they funded it. We’re just trying to give them what they want. We really enjoyed making these games, so as long as they want them, we’re going to keep making them.

What were some of your favorite games of 2013?

Ian: I just started playing The Last of Us. I picked it up and played five or six hours straight. It’s so good, but it’s so intense that I’m kind of afraid to go back to it. It’s so emotionally draining. I’m more of a fan of games I can just sit down and enjoy. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy a challenge, but when it’s too challenging, I don’t have fun with it. You’re never going to see me play Demon’s Souls, ‘cause that game is just for people who like being punished. Anthony’s a bit of a Nintendo fanboy – he’ll admit that himself – and he really likes platformers, but I’m more of an RPG kind of guy.

Anthony: I’m a huge Nintendo fan. I don’t have too much time these days but I always make time for my Nintendo games. I just got the newest Smash Bros. and I can’t stop playing that. You know the new Super Mario World for Wii U definitely was my jam for a month straight. And then, aside from Nintendo, I’d say Titanfall was actually the first FPS I ever played online, that was pretty fun for about two weeks.

Have you ever heard from the creators of the games spoofed on your channel?

Ian: You know, it’s funny actually; one of our very first videos that we made in 2006 was a lip sync video to Mortal Kombat. I guess it was a song from the movie, but  either way – the company emailed us and was like, “Hey, we love you guys’ parody of our thing, everyone here at Midway loves it. We think it might be boosting our sales. We love you guys.” Then it’s funny because around that same time The Pokémon Company in Tokyo removed our lip sync video. We’re like, "Don’t you know we can be helping promote you to the generation that might be a little older than where you’re marketing to right now?"

Have you guys been approached with requests to make videos for certain games?

Ian: Yeah, the Assassin’s Creed III music video was a sponsorship for Assassin’s Creed III. We also went on to do another one for Assassin’s Creed IV. We actually work a lot with the video game companies and it’s awesome because they kind of allow us to do mostly whatever we want, because our videos are typically violent and full of racy stuff, and their games are typically violent and full of racy stuff. Abomination. Yeah, we have a Smosh Games channel as well with a few other guys on there. We get a lot of deals to do some games on there as well, which is perfect.

Anything else you guys wanted to add?

Anthony: Well, I just want to add that this game will definitely be fun for people who don’t even know who Smosh is. We built a game that will just be fun for a broad audience, but people who do know who Smosh is will get a few more references and stuff like that, but it’s definitely going to be fun and we added a bunch of funny stuff too.