Let me start this with the least controversial statement I could possibly muster: I think Halloween is pretty rad. So rad, in fact, that I look forward to it all year and the moment I see those leaves start to change color, it’s on! I’m normally not one for traditions, but when it comes to Spook Season I definitely have a few of my own. Every year I put up a big fake spider outside my house, watch Trick r Treat, and hit as many Halloween parties or shows as possible. It’s October 12th right now as I’m writing this, and while most of these traditions are in full effect or at least planned out, something’s missing.
For the past 7 years, Canadian YouTube “Let’s Play” channel, Super Best Friends Play have been uploading an annual horror game marathon called the Sh*tstorm of Scariness. While the formula would vary occasionally from year to year, generally this meant that the channel’s founders Matt McMuscles and Patrick Boivin would play a different scary game every day in October. Sometimes they would be popular and well-known like one of the Silent Hill games, but more often than not, they were obscure indie titles scraped from the bottom of the Steam barrel. However, last year would be the end of this tradition.
There was a Sh*tstorm here, it’s gone now.
On December 16th, 2018, a video was uploaded to their channel with the title, “Super Best Friends (FINAL).” It featured the aforementioned founders Matt and Pat along with additional channel contributor Woolie Madden explaining to the audience in a very direct and honest way why they were disbanding, and for those of us who had been following them for years, it was heartbreaking to see. Especially since the reason given was, “Matt and Pat are no longer friends.” I found myself getting unexpectedly emotional over the whole thing when it happened, and even re-watching it to write this, Woolie saying, “we expected nothing, and you gave us… everything” still hits me hard.
Now, this whole situation may seem silly to you. I realize that Let’s Plays are a thing that you’re either into or you’re not, and if you don’t “get it” then I’m not here to convince you that you’re wrong and they’re actually super cool. What I am here to do is to try and put into words what this channel and more specifically this annual marathon meant to me, because this being the first year without one has got me feeling some type of way.
Aside from the odd video featuring Woolie or Liam Allen-Miller (for that window of time where he joined up as the fourth member of the Best Friends Zaibatsu), the Sh*tstorm videos would generally have a pretty consistent dynamic. Matt was the resident horror fan, even getting married on Halloween. As such, he would be the one to find the games and check them out in advance to make sure they would be a good fit. Pat, on the other hand, generally went in blind. He’s pretty crass and sarcastic, but is also quick to shriek in terror at a good jump scare.
The thing that made these videos really stand out for me (and this applies to their whole channel in general), is just how genuine they were. If you’ve been on the Internet for any length of time and seen any “Let’s Plays” of horror games, then you’ve inevitably encountered the guys who play up the drama and mug for the face-cam with overblown reactions when anything remotely spooky happens. This isn’t something that I ever felt with the Best Friends. The vibe would stay light and fun, akin to walking through a local haunted house with your pals. A growing tension, a jump followed by laughter, and an ever-increasing number of inside jokes about Woolie’s apartment and “mysterious jogos”.
The importance of these inside jokes cannot be overstated here. They were never the biggest channel, often ignoring the call of the YouTube algorithm to play whatever weirdo nonsense they found interesting, instead, but their particular brand of humor rewarded continued viewing. This is what made them a cult classic in a sea of trending topics. One off-handed comment could be taken by the fanbase and spun into a thousand memes in less than 24 hours, and a year later they would still be popping up in places you’d never expect. If you’ve ever played Shovel Knight, then you’ve likely encountered one of their longest-running gags without even knowing it.
As far as the games they played on the Sh*tstorm, it’s impossible to talk about all of them. They did 31 videos a year for seven straight years, so here’s just some overall thoughts and highlights. The janky ones were always worth a good laugh. Matt has a background as a game tester and Pat occasionally knows what he’s talking about, so their criticisms usually had a bit more substance than you’d typically find in similar videos. They did touch on some well known titles, and their video on Five Nights at Freddy’s and Spooky’s House of Jumpscares are both highly entertaining. Pat shrieking at an adorable cartoon ghost popping up will always get me.
Personally however, I really enjoyed when they were surprised by the quality or effectiveness of an unknown gem. The works of indie developer Puppet Combo come to mind, with their unique blend of 80’s slasher movie scenarios and PS1-era graphics. Home Sweet Home’s three parter that begins with a boxcutter wielding ghost and ends with a kaiju-sized “zombie freakazoid” provided a great sense of mystery and genuine spooks, all while featuring a toilet gag as the most memorable moment. No other video fits this description better than their play through of Anatomy, though. The game is bizarre, playing out as a first person exploration of a single dark house while collecting audio tapes which compare said house to a human body. Pat is immediately on edge, exclaiming “Matt, I hate this!” right off the bat. He even has his character jump up on a table with their back to the wall while listening to to the audio tapes just in case something might sneak up on him. The video is tense and fascinating and their “jokes as a way to deal with discomfort” brand of humor is in top form.
Like I said, this is the first year without a new Sh*tstorm, and re-watching the old episodes feels like visiting friends that I haven’t seen in a while. There’s a lot of people who play a lot of spooky games on the Internet, but this was special. This was an event, and maybe this still all seems silly to you, but that’s ok. The Best Friends Zaibatsu’s influence reaches far; their fanbase are as strong as ever; and each one of them continues to put out content on their own. Aside from their individual YouTube channels, Pat and Woolie continue to appear on a podcast together under the name Castle Super Beast. I don’t know how well I’ve succeeded to explain all this, but either way, here’s to all the good times watching our favorite Bumble Kings fumble their way through poorly designed stealth sections and screech at cheap jump scares. See you, Space Cowboys.