A Retrospective of RocketJump & Freddie Wong

If you’re fortunate enough to know of RocketJump, Freddie Wong and the impact the team had on shaping YouTube, then I’ll cut to the chase… It was announced in October 2021 that the team (whatever that is now) is working on their first feature film.

We’re shooting our first feature, and we’re looking for anybody who owns a 90s era import tuner (the more tricked out the better!) in the SoCal/Utah/Arizona area. We’d pay to use it for our shoot in November – hit us up!

RocketJump on Facebook

Then a month later they announced they were looking for a Nissan 300ZX and haven’t leaked another detail since. One can presume they found the vehicles they were looking for, filming has started and within the next year or two, we will probably get something similar to Video Game High School (VGHS). Not only is this something fans are bound to be excited about but it also revitalizes memories of a simpler YouTube.

For those that missed the RocketJump experience, here’s the history of a little channel turning into one of YouTubes biggest and ultimately fading away, what felt like, overnight.

When the YouTube channel started in 2006, YouTube and RocketJump were a lot different. YouTube hadn’t been acquired by Google yet, After Effects wasn’t typically software anyone had access to and the channel itself wasn’t even named after a gaming technique. Meet the humble beginnings of freddiew (later FreddieW) a small channel uploading random videos and semi regular iterations of Guitar Hero skits. All lead by, soon to be YouTube Star, Freddie Wong.

This was around the peak of the Guitar Hero craze and he was capitalizing on going viral to the point that Freddie, himself, was flown out to San Francisco to perform his ever so random but highly skilled Guitar Hero abilities at YouTube Live. YouTube Live was a pretty big event, hundreds of fans and Internet celebrities attend as well as Katy Perry and will.I.am.

Tay Zonday, of Chocolate Rain fame, was an announcer. There was a laser show… Bo Burnham did his song and dance. For those of us that watched, it seemed like the internet was going to replace TV and celebrities of the past would soon be overshadowed by those who could capture an audience on the internet.

The event was supposed to be an annual thing but we only got it once–the channel was then, quickly, hidden by Google. Fortunately, the full thing is on YouTube still and is a true time capsule. Oddly enough, Freddie not only played Guitar Hero but opened up for Deep Purple’s Joe Satriani who finished playing the track on a real guitar.

The channel continued to randomly upload Guitar Hero skits and a couple of failed attempts of break out of being a one hit wonder but it wasn’t until college friend BrandonJLA started to collaborate. The use of After Effects and other 3D software intrigued audiences on how a small channel could do things we had only seen from Hollywood.

At the peak of their YouTube fandom, the channel was dominating the top 10 channels on YouTube and racking up millions of views with each new upload. Freddie and Brandon had hit gold. The channel was getting a reputation for video game themes, childhood throwbacks and guns; lots and lots of guns.

They had mastered “skits” and it was time for a new challenge, a full fledge web-series. The series theme was simple: what would a universe look like if video games were the major subject in high school? With season one releasing in 2012 to instant success, the channel evolved from being Freddie’s to now being called RocketJump with full time employees and actors working around the clock.

With 21 fantastic episodes and 3 seasons, I couldn’t imagine a world where VGHS didn’t exist. Yet, Brandon decided to leave after season 1 to pursue indie game development. Fortunately for us viewers, this did no damage to the greatness that VGHS became. Still, looking back it was the start of Rocket Jump’s slow demise to disappearing from YouTube.

Brandon had always been the brains behind the channel if you’re comfortable with calling actor Freddie the brawn. Without Brandon we lost that extra bit of “How did they do that?” feel every video had. Freddie may have been the front facing man with jokes but together they were pulling off something fresh and new every time. When a company starts to get too big, even as an indie film studio, people start to have different needs or visions. What was the future of RocketJump? Probably lost somewhere still grasping at the doors of Hollywood.

I look back at this moment with a bittersweetness because I would die for a chance to have experienced this form of creativity and friendship. Then to evolve into the team that would end up creating VGHS would be like the gods’ never ending smile on my life. So in 2015 when Hulu came knocking on the company’s door, it probably seemed like the right move. They would have their own show, money, and ultimately, YouTube and Hulu’s audience. I imagine this felt like the next step in achieving their dreams of being big time directors and actors.

Unfortunately, Hulu wasn’t the internet and as die hard as fans were, it didn’t mean we’d be willing to pay for something we loved for watching for free.

After VGHS many grasped onto the idea that a Video Game University would come out. There was such high demand for it but instead we got a cartoon series. One of the biggest draws was the actors we had fallen in love with who worked at the company. The difference between Hollywood and YouTube is your set of actors are going to be the same familiar faces playing different roles. That’s how YouTubers thrive, the same faces entertaining you every week.

Sadly, from my knowledge the only person to break out of RocketJump into the next level was Johanna Braddy, costar of VGHS, as she became a main actor for TV series Quantico shortly after VGHS ended. But she wasn’t RocketJump, we all either wanted to see Freddie make his debut Hollywood film or return to YouTube with bigger and better projects.

Even after the Hulu experiment went through its trial, the channel never returned back to its formal glory. A few videos here and there gain some traction but looking at the video list, there’s a lot of that original charm missing. What killed them? Hulu? The main crew getting older and wanting real careers? YouTube becoming more competitive with more channels being able to emulate their video editing skills? It’s hard to say. Freddie did explain his take a few years back blaming it on no one cares about YouTubers in Hollywood.

Which returns us back to the shocking news of 2021 – RocketJump is working on a feature film. Knowing what we saw from VGHS and the drift kids (drifting was a class subject in VGHS), I can only imagine where this film is heading if they are using 90s era imports. Naturally, I wonder if we’ll see familiar faces we were used to seeing (looks at calendar) 7 years ago? Probably not, but (marvel movie spoiler) I never thought I’d see a certain Spiderman again on the big screen.

The internet is an interesting time capsule and so is YouTube. It seems no one ever grows up, PewDiePie nearly looks the same for the past 15 years. Channels that have some how stuck around for the past decade have evolved to stay relevant but the people behind them seem too familiar, like family. I don’t know what to expect out of a RocketJump feature film. I don’t even know of Freddie Wong’s involvement with it. I couldn’t imagine a project without him, but at the same time, I couldn’t picture a project without the major cast I remember before the end of VGHS.

Looking at the channel now, I don’t really know any of the faces. I never latched onto Anime Crimes Division and it seems with most episode not even hitting a million views, neither did their early fans. We haven’t seen a video from the team since Nov 2, 2018 and I wonder if RocketJump is even relevant enough bring old, much less new fans in this day and age. Once a channel dies, it seems it’s nearly impossible to be revived. I don’t know any channels that have done it successfully.

A part of me hopes for it to be successful and we see a return to the channel. I want to relive the good old days of YouTube. I miss being at awe and entertained by the brilliant team at RocketJump. What will happen? Fans can only hope something great, because that’s all we have. — KITE0080

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