Last winter, my 6-year-old begged me to bake him a cake decorated with his favorite Minecraft-playing YouTuber, Stampylonghead (aka Stampycat, Stampylongnose, Mr. Stampy Cat and Stampy). Fredrik wanted this cake - not to eat - but so we could take a picture and send it along to Stampycat himself, all in the hope of getting added to Stampy’s “Love Garden.”
Naturally, as a modern mom in an age when predators can lurk in virtual life too, when I heard of my son’s desire to be put in a strange man’s Love Garden, my Stranger-Danger Alarm Bells rang off the hook. My first instinct was to forbid the watching of this site. But instead of responding to my son’s request with a shrill, “You wanna do what to get into WHAT?!” I instead heeded some wisdom I’d recently read. Perhaps it was time I took a closer look and an actual interest in this Stampycat fellow, whom my son, along with millions of other kids, adored.
So as I wandered back over to my computer, where yet another of Stampy’s Minecraft “Let’s Play” videos rolled, I asked Fredrik to tell me more about this Love Garden and the cat behind it. I was plenty familiar with Stampy’s high-pitched giggle and drawn out “byeeeeee” at the end of every show. I knew Stampy as the cake-loving, story-spinning cat character who’d taught my son so much about Minecraft. But as Fredrik pointed out, Stampy’s Love Garden was a simple yard outside Stampy’s Minecraft house that was lined with gamer names. He told me how you got there and clicked a video showing the history of Stampy and his channel. My fear faded and my fandom of both Stampycat and Joseph Garrett, the 23-year-old British man behind him, grew.
I’m thrilled that YouTubers like Stampy exist, and I see signs of God’s common grace at work.
How could it not as I learned that upon discovering his enormous pre-teen fan base, Stampy cleaned up his language? And how could it not as I heard Stampy recount the “worst day of his life” (when Google deactivated his YouTube page last December), but told viewers, “so much good came from it.” Those are the role models, those are the lessons I want my kids learning!
In fact, it might just be a tiny over-exaggeration to say that hearing this bolstered my faith in humanity - certainly in YouTubers.
We’re so conditioned to sink into our World Gone Bad beliefs and see the vast expanses of the online world as a dangerous - or, at least, wasteful - place. But as I watch my kids turn to YouTube to sharpen their skills in everything from Minecraft to restringing a lacrosse stick to learning new ukulele chords, I’m thrilled that YouTubers like Stampy exist. And I see signs of God’s common grace at work.
Sure, skeptics will argue - perhaps rightly - that Stampy’s decision to clean up is just good business. And indeed it is (Stampy’s meetings with Jack Black and Disney speak to this). But in a day and age when Internet stupidity and recklessness reign supreme, when we rightly fear for what our kids see and hear online, it’s refreshing to know that some people take their position seriously, that some, like Stampycat, take responsibility for their words and the medium and their message, that they transform their own square inches, blocks of love gardens and lovely worlds.