“I achieved and experienced so much that university couldn’t offer me.”
The trippiest gamer on YouTube reveals the one line he'll never cross
Watching SMG4 on YouTube can feel like a fever dream.
Boasting more than 5.4 million subscribers, the channel is full of twisted, creepy depictions of classic characters like Mario, Kermit the Frog, and Peppa Pig. A modern machinima packed with eccentric humor, each video features models of these familiar characters going to school, reacting to memes, or competing in their own version of Squid Game.
But, as Luke Lerdwichagul, the 22-year-old Australian behind SMG4, is careful to note, he knows where to draw the line.
“We're always careful that we never place third-party characters in any hateful or defamatory context,” he tells Inverse.
Lerdwichagul has been making videos since 2009 and he’s built up a devoted fanbase by putting a unique spin on popular YouTube trends, like the rhythm title Friday Night Funkin or the animatronic hellscape Five Nights at Freddy’s.
Lerdwichagul attributes his success on the platform to staying authentic to the tone and content that made his videos popular in the first place.
“We focused on what we really enjoy, which is darker shows but with light-hearted comedy,” Lerdwichagul says.
Lerdwichagul spoke to Inverse about making videos, his favorite games, and why he left college to pursue his online career.
The interview below has been edited for clarity and brevity.
How has your content evolved since you started?
Things started off very amateur and with a low budget. But as time progressed, I learned a few tricks which culminated in higher standards.
Our content now incorporates a lot more serious storytelling, animations, and editing standards. Now we’ve started all-new original animations like Meta Runner and Murder Drones, which have all performed outstandingly. I couldn’t be happier creatively.
What was your favorite video game when you were younger?
Nintendo 64 Mario games. Particularly Super Mario 64 and the Mario Party games.
“What the viewers want is always evolving and expanding.”
Was there a specific moment when you realized streaming was more than just a hobby?
When I dropped out of university in 2017! That’s when I started creating full-time with my brother.
I dropped out because I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. My brother helped me realize that I should pursue what I enjoyed and that we had something really good going with the YouTube channel.
I’m really glad I listened to him because I think I achieved and experienced so much that university couldn’t offer me.
How do you deal with the use of copyrighted characters in your videos?
As of right now, they haven't said anything but that doesn't mean we're not aware that we're using their IP. This is why we're always careful that we never place third-party characters in any hateful or defamatory context.
We totally respect and love Nintendo and other companies for their games and characters.
What's the weirdest experience you’ve ever had while on YouTube?
After I met fans in real life, I realized how many people enjoyed my content.
I first started going to conventions like PAX and E3 in 2017 and that's when we began to meet fans in real life. Usually, they spot me somewhere in the convention and they'd come up and ask for an autograph. It was all so very wholesome!
We had a booth at Oz Comicon 2019 and Supanova 2019 to advertise one of our animated shows, Meta Runner. We saw so many real first-time reactions to our show and it felt great seeing what fans had to say!
We went on tour in early 2019 across the East Coast of America. That was the pinnacle of seeing the hype in person. It was all just love from fans and them asking for autographs, I'll never forget it!
How do you deal with burnout?
Burnout doesn't happen very often for me. If it does, I usually just push through it and try to find something to make me excited again.
How do the algorithms shape your creative process?
It definitely affects what we do, especially when thinking of the thumbnails and titles for a video. It's a challenge but it's one that we take advantage of, and adapt to the best of our ability.
As an example, the rise of Friday Night Funkin’s popularity had us make some SMG4 videos relating to the game which brought in a lot of new audiences and views, which was great.
“Things started off very amateur and with a low budget.”
As for our Glitch YouTube channel, things are harder there. We can’t just bring in pre-existing content — we wanted to make our own original characters, so we focused on what we really enjoy, which is darker shows but with light-hearted comedy.
That’s how Murder Drones came about and that has proved to be a great direction to go in. It really makes you focus on the creativity and writing of the show so algorithms don’t always kill the creative process.
Who are the creators you like to watch when you’re not making videos?
I don’t actually watch YouTube much since I’m always working. I usually love watching iceberg and mystery videos. So like Wendigoon or Lemmino.
What's the best game you've played in the last year?
It Takes Two. Really great game! The variety of game mechanics and absolutely stunning environments made the game just a never-ending adventure of fun and always made me ask "what will happen next?!"
How do you think YouTube will change in the next five years?
YouTubing is always about what the viewers want, and what the viewers want is always evolving and expanding. I can't say what exactly will change, but I know that it’s most likely going to be more challenging to stay relevant as time goes on.
What advice would you give to new content creators?
Definitely enjoy what you make, but you have to be careful of the algorithm and what viewers are looking for. Seek ways to adapt your content style to what YouTube favors. Unless you just want to make things for fun instead — then go crazy!
Streamer Secrets is an Inverse series where the most fascinating people online share insights about their creative process, the algorithm, and the future of streaming.