By Walt Hickey
Welcome to the Numlock Sunday edition. Each week, I'll sit down with an author or a writer behind one of the stories covered in a previous weekday edition for a casual conversation about what they wrote.
This week I wanted to do something a little different, it’s going to be a weird week to say the least, so I mixed it up and reached out to one of my absolute favorite internet creators, Kofie Yeboah of SB Nation, to talk about his work.
Since the medium he works in is video, I’ve never actually been able to include his work in the newsletter, but I watch everything that Kofie puts out there pretty much immediately, and he’s one of my favorite creators on the internet. His stuff is statty, it’s fun, and and looks great.
His specialty is sports video essays, including his recent work on Fumble Dimension with Jon Bois or the independent, engrossing features he’s made on his own. His team at SB Nation recently became Secret Base, and it’s absolutely worth following as they expand beyond video. I’ve included some of his hits in the interview below and this week if you find yourself in need of an hour of engrossing, cool stuff, it’s worth a watch.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Kofie, you work for SB Nation and you work on this very cool kind of internal laboratory style team called Secret Base. Just to kick it off, do you want to talk about what you do, what the ambitions are there, and maybe a little bit about some of the work that folks might know you from?
I work on Fumble Dimension. Jon Bois and I have been working on it for the last year. We’ve made five videos, they're all about 25 minutes long, some are even an hour. We try to just stretch the fabric of game development while also telling a funny, comedic story. I'm part of the group Secret Base, which used to be SB Nation's YouTube channel. We rebranded that channel and added a website on SB Nation.
We make a lot of videos things, like Beef History, but also have a lot of things we're interested in and not everything can be a YouTube video, so sometimes we turn it into just regular blog posts. For instance, we learned with Dorktown that not everything can be a video, but there are some one-offs where we'll throw up some charts and then talk about certain things. We do reviews, we have Media Club and we also like talk about behind the scenes of our work. Our friend J.Z.,he works on editing, but he also shares things on how to create certain videos. So, it's a community where people can both come hang out with us and just learn more about who we are as people and creators.
One of the things that you work on is called Fumble Dimension. Do you want to talk a little bit about what that is and how you approach storytelling about games?
Fumble Dimension is a very Twilight Zone-inspired show where we try to stretch the fabrics of the sports video game, or whatever video game we are interested in, and try to tell a funny story and have some stats as well. So, it's both funny and informative, like we have data, I would think of it as a very video game-y science experiment that we like to do.
That's why the videos always take so long to make because we are creating the entire premise, we are meticulous with how we craft our data, how we write our script, because whatever the final product is, like, 80 percent of what we did to get to that point isn't really shown in the video. So, now that we have Secret Base as a website, I'm able to put that extra data all in one place. Anyone that really loves the videos is able to go on the website and learn even more about what we did.
Again, the commitment is so awesome here. I guess just let's go with an example for folks who might be unfamiliar. One of the more recent videos that you did there was called "You made us hit 3000 batters" and you basically crowdsourced a season of Mariners baseball. How did that go?
It went okay! The season took me two weeks to simulate because I was always head up then head down on this spreadsheet of all these fan-made choices, and we had to capture all the video, then write the script and then edit it and run the 162 games. Then I had some extra time on my hands while Jon was working on his part, so I just decided to make a skit because I felt like it. Basically, our process is, “Hey, we want to have this, this and this, but we do want to go off road or add some skits or add some funny stuff." Then Jon is a great boss and allows that flexibility. He’s always believed in my ideas. So, it's a good working dynamic.
Yeah. Jon, folks might know, he innovated Breaking Madden, which was an early application of how can you take a video game and drive it like you stole it. And I really enjoy how that ethos is still very much here.
When I first came on the team, all I knew was that I'd be working with Jon, I didn't know in what capacity. We never really set on video games or whatever, we were just going with, "I'm going to work with Jon and we'll figure out what we want to do." So, Jon comes up with the idea and he's like, "I always loved what I did with Breaking Madden and the NBA Y2K."
He had kind of gone away from that to make Pretty Good and Chart Party, all of that. So, we wanted to go back to just messing around with video games and also having the crazy aspect as well as the stats and make the statistics fun. It's been a pleasure to work on that, especially with Jon. I know Jon has to go back and forth between Fumble Dimension and Dorktown, so it's good that we have a great working dynamic and pacing as well.
On your own channel about two years ago, you had a whole series on game shows that I thought was just really, really fun as well. What draws you to talking about games, be it sports games or other games.
For me, for a personal YouTube channel, I wanted to make stuff that wasn't out there already, and I didn't see a lot of game show video essays, and, basically, that's all I did in college: watch Game Show Network with my dorm mates. It was just a couple of videos about game shows that I'd seen. It was my personal YouTube channel, I really wasn't doing it for views and I wasn't doing it for a career at the time, I did it to improve my video editing and writing skills. I still had a full-time job at the time. I was just like, “I want to eventually get into video, but I can't do that if they don't think I'm serious through this process, you know?”
What's your favorite thing that you've worked on?
My favorite thing I did was a documentary on the history of high school sports mixtapes. That's on my YouTube channel. It's about two hours, It took me to me maybe six months to do, and the reason why it stuck so close to me is because you see all these basketball highlight websites now and all these YouTube channels and whatnot, but back when I was just starting in high school, those sites weren't all around to document them. You had Ball Is Life and Hoopmixtape to just document highlights or whatever.
We talked about Ball is Life, Hoopmixtape, we talked about John Wall, the NBA lockout, and then we talk about the media landscape now. Not only were those sites changing and helping out the high school sports media landscape, but they actually changed the sports media landscape in general, and I don't think a lot of people know that. It was good to document what's happened over the course of 10 years, and sports media highlight culture now, what influences have come from mixtape sites, and all the athletes that have come through that circuit.
Wrapping things together, what do you have coming up? What are you looking forward to? What do you have coming down the line?
Well, we have numerous things down the line. I'm working on a Fumble Dimension as I speak, and we're kind of wrapping up for that one.
We’ve kind of kept that one a little bit of a secret, but I think if you liked Out of the Park Baseball, then you'll definitely like the next video. I have some more consistent blog posts, and I'm going to get back into writing a bit more and hopefully down the line I'll be able to have a podcast and do more Twitch stuff as well. I just have to get all of that stuff off the ground. This allows me to be at my best creative-wise and it's just so refreshing to work with a bunch of people who just love all the wacky stuff about sports, you know?
Yeah, there are very few things that I'm just like, "oh, video posted, I need to check it out immediately" but I got to say the stuff that you guys are putting out is that.
Yeah, I'm one of the biggest fans of the people that I work with. It's kind of rare to be like, "oh man, my coworker made something, I need to stop everything and watch it" because you're that interested in what your coworker is doing. And that's such a cool dynamic here. I'm like, “Oh, a new Rewinder dropped, I can't wait to see what Seth and Clara have in store.”
Folks can check you out at Secret Base and you also just launched a Substack with songs, right?
I have a newsletter it's called Shuffle Mode where basically I just share with people five songs that I like, or just am feeling this week. There are so many songs and so many artists where I think that if I even put one person on to that song that I found, then that's a W for me.
That and following my Twitter account, that's where I basically plug all of my stuff. I have a Twitch and YouTube, and Instagram as well. I just think that Twitter is the most centralized place to follow me and keep up with what I'm doing.
If you have anything you’d like to see in this Sunday special, shoot me an email. Comment below! Thanks for reading, and thanks so much for supporting Numlock.