Updated October 27, 2020 - 8:04 am
With more than 1.3 million subscribers, Jirard Khalil, better known online as The Completionist, has been a fixture on YouTube since he began his channel in 2011.
But Khalil has had a complicated relationship with internet fame, and his journey hasn’t been without highs and lows.
“Quite honestly, I know everyone out there wants to become a content creator, wants to become a streamer and wants to become a podcaster but there is a very dangerous side that people don’t know exists and you don’t know it’s there until you achieve it,” Khalil said.
It’s enough that he’d take a very different tack if he was starting over today.
“If you were like, ‘Hey start a career right now in 2020,’ I would say no,” Khalil said. “I would pack up my things and go home. I would much rather go work for a game company or games media press.”
But there is one thing that keeps him going — the people.
“The fans are the biggest reason why I keep going,” Khalil said. “This career’s given me my life. Without the fans, I wouldn’t have a career and I wouldn’t have the life I have.”
Khalil also feels a sense of responsibility to his employees.
“Without my team, I would still be one guy in a room,” he said. “I’ve been lucky to have the support system that is my team.”
Before starting The Completionist in 2011, Khalil had dabbled in YouTube, but it wasn’t until his friend Jon “JonTron” Jafari introduced him to Egoraptor and Dexbonus that Kalil became inspired to pursue gaming videos.
“The next day, I quit my job at Best Buy,” Khalil said. “I took two months to make the first episode of The Completionist. Egoraptor and Jon and their YouTube friends, who are now my friends, shared the video and it went viral because of them. In 2011, if a YouTuber liked or commented a video, a YouTuber was born.”
His first video earned more than a million views.
“I was given a career overnight,” he said.
But Khalil soon learned an important lesson. His second video didn’t go viral and received a fraction of the views.
“I learned early on that this is going to take some time,” Khalil said.
But Khalil knew the kinds of videos he wanted to make.
He set up a schedule of completing one game a week — a schedule he has kept in the nine years since. His desire to not only beat a game, but fully complete every objective, started early.
“When I was a kid, my parents were concerned that I was beating games too quickly,” Khalil said. “My parents told me I couldn’t buy games, I had to rent them. So a lot of my completionist inspirations stemmed from showing my parents I completed a game, otherwise I couldn’t rent a new one.”
Originally, Khalil thought the appeal of his videos was about whether he could complete a game. But he realized it changed.
“What I realized is I’m the Completionist,” he said. “I complete it every time, otherwise I wouldn’t have made a video. If we can’t intrigue the viewer with will he/won’t he, let’s try to intrigue the viewer with the process. What’s it like to complete the game. How does it affect how I ingest a game?”
Nine years later and Khalil is still going strong, but it hasn’t been easy. He is recompleting the first 120 games he played on his channel after a falling-out with his former friend and collaborator Greg. And, after Khalil started his company, That One Video Gamer, the internet was quick to go from supportive to venomous.
“I went from being an underdog, man of the people to, I want to say, like a corporate villain just because I own a company and I started to make things legitimate,” he said. “The narrative changed.”
And the way YouTube is set up, Khalil said it puts a lot of strain on creators to always produce content.
“A lot of it comes down to how YouTube has trained its audience,” Khalil said. “It really seems like a hamster in a wheel. At some point, the wheel’s gotta give or the hamster has to give. It just never ends.”
More recently, a change to YouTube’s algorithm caused issues on some channels, leading to decreased views.
“There was a pretty big algorithm change that, for the first time ever, really hit my channel in a scary way,” he said. “It’s hit a lot of creators’ channels and they’re not saying anything because they’re scared. We’re all scared because there’s no answers.”
It’s enough that Khalil is pursuing other ways to earn income.
Given the stress he has faced, it’d be understandable if he wanted to step away. But Khalil has no plans to do that anytime soon, and that’s because of the relationships he’s formed.
“I’ve met fans that have become my friends,” Khalil said. “I’m on a first-name basis with a lot of my fans because I’ve gotten to know them and respect and trust them. They are the biggest reason why I keep going.”