Is Prank Culture Ruining YouTube?

26 February 2016, 16:25 | Updated: 8 May 2017, 17:09

New TV asset
Nicky Idika

By Nicky Idika

More like "yikes" culture.

YouTube is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Over the years we've seen it capture the seemingly unreachable niches of popular culture and emerge as a towering giant of video content. One of those cultures that YouTube has captured so succinctly is "prank" culture.

This week Sam Pepper announced that he would be changing the format of his prank videos (into not so awful content) and made the somewhat surprising admission that much of his content was staged. While he was making that particular revelation, Sam also implicated other YouTube pranksters (not by name, but you get the idea), by suggesting that many of the "pranks" we watch on YouTube by other creators are also staged. 

So when we watch these prank videos, I guess the expectation is that they are authentic. There isn't much we can take away in the knowledge that an elaborate prank has been produced, rehearsed, and strategized. Unfortunately, that's exactly what is at play here and it may be killing the genre. 

Big name pranksters include Vitaly, Ed Bassmaster, Roman Atwood, Fouseytube and the like. Over the years these guys have seemingly one-upped themselves and each other in the YouTube prank-everse. There are hidden cameras, fake cheating scenarios, death gags. Name something that offends the boundaries of human decency and it’s been done before. 

Here is a video of Roman Atwood “killing” his own son.

In the suggested section of this prank are videos with titles like, “Crazy Sex Tape Prank”, “Throwing Kids Off A Cliff Prank”, and “Cracked His Head Open!!!!!”.

Pranking on YouTube has become such a thing, that there is a full length film by these creators coming out later this year entitled “Natural Born Pranksters”

Like Jackass The Movie, it’s equal parts injury, toilet humour, and pyrotechnics. The film is a novel idea but it will definitely flop in theaters. If these so called pranks rub you the wrong way then you definitely are not alone. 

Assuming Sam Pepper is to be believed, pranking and prank culture is so competitive on YouTube that it only serves to encourage creators to make wilder and wilder content. In essence, they’re competing to earn clicks and feed their families. Which is a good thing. But they're doing it in more out of control ways. And that's a bad thing. 

That’s why many of them are relentless in the way they involve their loved ones in their videos. Those cheques are important and everyone has to participate. 

As far as we know, there has never been a prominent member of the pranking community to come right out and say that most of the content in the genre is staged. Sam Pepper is the first and it will be interesting to hear directly from other pranksters what they think of his admission.

But it all makes sense, as these creators fight to become more well known, their pranks will continue to expand into territory we’ve never seen before. "Staged kidnapping" kind of territory. And, as we’ve learned with Sam Pepper, people don’t respond well when they think you’ve crossed a line. 

But do these YouTube pranksters even know where the line is anymore?