Popular YouTube Gaming Channel ‘RDC World’ Brought 20K Gamers To DreamCon In Texas, Here’s Why
When Marcus “Mark” Vincent Phillips Jr. and Affiong “Aff” Harris created their RDCworld1 YouTube channel in 2011, they were banking on the idea that there were people like them looking for, well, people like them. In the years since its inception, YouTube has connected like minds across the globe to the tune of billions. Could it do the same for two Black men from Texas who loved anime, video games, sports, and creating comedic takes on culturally relevant topics?
It would seem so. After welcoming Leland Manigo, Desmond “Des” Johnson, Benjamin “Ben” Skinner, Dylan “Dyl” Patel, and most recently Johnathan “John” Newton, the Real Dreams Change the World crew was complete—and so was their place in history as one of the most popular YouTube channels ever.
With over 1 billion views and 6.5 million subscribers, RDC World has found its audience both online and in real life. They’ve cracked the code on etching out a space that is so uniquely their own that even a constant onslaught of content doesn’t drown out their voice on the internet.
So it is no surprise that their fifth annual DreamCon, a gaming and anime convention, brought nearly 20,000 people to Austin, Texas, including a host of major brand partners like MTN DEW. For Paul Mascali, PepsiCo’s head of esports and gaming, collaborating with RDC World was an essential part of a commitment to diversifying the industry. “Working with DreamCon and RDC World is a perfect launch point for us to talk directly to this particular audience and show them the work we’re doing from a brand standpoint,” Mascali said. “Given all the amazing work that RDC does, it was a no-brainer for us. They are true leaders in this space.” MTN DEW has set its sights on investing in the next generation of Black gamers at HBCUs through its Real Change Challenge, which will award $500,000 in prize money this year.
DreamCon may still be in its infancy, but what is abundantly clear is why it will continue to grow. What the members of RDC World have done is create a truly inclusive, celebratory, and safe space for the dreamers, the creators, and the gamers who often feel left in the margins at other conventions. They’ve infused every part of the experience with authenticity that oozes out of everything they create. In every event, room, and moment at DreamCon, the prevailing message is “you belong here.”
BLACK ENTERPRISE was invited by MTN DEW to attend DreamCon and talk to the men who created it all.
BE: This is the fifth year of DreamCon. Tell us about the business side of putting something of this magnitude together.
John: The first few years we did it, we were stressed just trying to get tickets sold. Now people are wrapped all around the building in the middle of a Texas summer. There was a lot of learning and mistakes we just had to make, but it’s crazy to see how it’s all come together. Transitioning from social media videos to an in-person space like this—I’m still shocked right now. We could not have imagined that we would ever have 20,000 tickets sold.
Mark: On the growth part of it: The first two years we only had 800-1,000 attendees, and to get here today and see this amount of people… Just staying consistent and sticking to the plan the whole time really worked for us. And believing that like-minded individuals of color would all come together at an event that we happened to build.
BE: Anime and gaming are more socially acceptable now, but that’s definitely a more recent trend. You started out making videos about this, but your success is pretty unparalleled in this space.
Dylan: It’s getting more and more acceptable. It’s really easy to find people who have similar interests in gaming now.
Mark: The last 10 years we’ve been making gaming videos. But I will say people were kinda hiding that interest before. Lately it’s become more cool to say you’re into anime.
BE: It’s one thing to make a safe and profitable space on the internet, but transitioning that into bringing people from all over the country to one central location in droves, that’s another skill altogether. What do you attribute that part of the success of DreamCon to?
Affiong: This may come off as a template answer, but it’s truly the key for us: authenticity. Staying true to who we are so that our audience can find us. Everybody in this group has a very big passion for one particular part of our overall vision, and that helps to keep us focused. Film, sports, video games, anime—we’re really clear on our passions, and that helps us connect to the right people.
BE: This is a very cohesive group. You guys are also friends who are in business together. How foundational to your success is the friendship between you all?
Mark: It’s everything. I really feel like that. If we weren’t friends, we wouldn’t still be doing this. It’s been like 12 years. In general, if it was just a business, we would have already gone our separate ways, but the friendship really holds everything together. We do things that are not work, by choice, to spend time with each other. That helps us push towards success even more and stay fired up to keep working.
BE: What has been the key to longevity for RDC World?
Desmond: The quality of the work we’re putting out, I think. We’ll all come together, think of an idea, and we’ll really be honest about whether we think it’s funny. We think of the quality first. And there’s no way we’re showing the world something we don’t like ourselves.
BE: If you could describe DreamCon for BLACK ENTERPRISE readers, how would you define it?
Ben: With DreamCon versus some of the other ones out there, we’re not run by companies. We have partners but they don’t decide what we do here. It’s the reason we made it. We were going to all these conventions and always felt like something was missing. We knew that if we put elements of who we are and what we do into something like this that we could surpass every other convention out there. When you come here and you experience this, you feel like you’re really part of it. At other conventions, I’ve just felt like I am there to spectate. We didn’t want people to feel like that at DreamCon. You don’t know who runs the other cons, but you know we run it and you’ll see our faces. You know the other Black gamers and anime creators who’ll be here.
BE: Tell me about partnering with a legacy brand like MTN DEW, which has for a long time been affiliated with the gaming community, and the Real Change Challenge you’re collaborating on.
Leiland: In short, it’s a blessing. Being able to work alongside a great brand like MTN DEW and have it centered around Mortal Kombat, it doesn’t get better than that. Knowing that they’re dedicated to helping Black gamers, specifically, it’s really good for everyone involved.