Inside Viva La Dirt League’s YouTube empire (2023)

Viva La Dirt League have been making YouTube videos for nearly a decade, and they’ve just launched their biggest series yet. Sam Brooks talks to the creators about what makes this channel so special – and successful.

If you watch the first video that Viva La Dirt League uploaded to their YouTube channel nine years ago – a Starcraft parody set to Blue’s ‘All Rise’ – the overwhelming feeling is that of goofy, earnest joy. In it, Viva La Dirt League founders Adam King, Alan Morrison and Rowan Bettjeman (along with two co-stars) sing along to the 2001 hit in an Auckland warehouse, swapping out the lyrics with references to an inexplicably popular game from 1999. It’s funny, and holds up a lot better than a decade-old music video parody has any right to.

The video has the hallmarks of a certain era of internet video (as does the group’s name, a reference to Starcraft with two words chucked on the start because “Dirt League” was taken). The production values aren’t especially high and it’s shot in the omnipresent, barely-furnished warehouse that seems to feature in every comedy video of the late 2000s. The costume design is best described as “already purchased”. There are only men on camera, so you can comfortably assume there’s no makeup team.

You get the feeling that it came about after someone asked a question starting with, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?”.

Eleven years after that charming, low-budget video was uploaded to YouTube, Viva La Dirt League are continuing to follow that whim, just in front of a much larger audience. Their channel has 3.43 million subscribers on YouTube, and has amassed 860 million views in the past decade. The first episode of their latest series has been watched, as of this writing, almost 570,000 times.

(Video) Clubbing in the Wild (David Attenborough nature documentary parody)

With the exception of Rekt, a 2017 series funded by NZ on Air and YouTube’s Skip Ahead scheme, their success has been achieved outside the confines and structures of traditional media, which is currently in slow-mo freefall. Instead, they rely on their audience to keep them afloat. On Patreon, they have over 4,000 subscribers, contributing over $27,000 to the channel a month in exchange for exclusives and the warm feeling of supporting creators they like.

Inside Viva La Dirt League’s YouTube empire (1)

Adam King, a founder alongside Bettjeman and Morrison, describes the group as “online content creators”, perhaps one of the least descriptive word groupings in modern English, but it’s not inaccurate. “We make skit comedy, based primarily on nerd culture. It’s primarily video games, but also movies and TV.” When he describes the channel to anyone over the age of 40, he says the easiest comparison is Monty Python.

Viva La Dirt League started off with music video parodies and such, but their bread and butter for the past few years has been what King calls “logic parodies” – essentially looking at video games and deconstructing the logic. “For example, in fantasy games, if you get struck by an arrow or some magical spell hurts you and you’ve got half a limb missing, then you eat a piece of bread and that restores your health. What does that look like in real life?”

These logic parodies began with PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the game that kicked off the battle royale craze) and have since included popular franchises like Apex Legends (peppier battle royale game), Red Dead Redemption (sad cowboy game) and Dark Souls (mean monster game).

D&D Logic is their latest series, and it’s their biggest yet. In “backstories”, several Dungeons and Dragons characters, in full costume and makeup, tell their increasingly ludicrous histories to each other. It’s a spot-on parody of overly eager tabletop players who craft backstories for their character that make no sense, especially given that characters tend to start these campaigns at level one.

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The production values are nothing like that very first video, ‘Eight Pool (8 Pool) Music Video’, which now sits at nearly 800,000 views. The visuals in this new series are sharp as hell: the costumes look like they could’ve been pilfered from Amazon’s Lord of the Rings wardrobe before the show ran off to England, the makeup looks like it’s the kind you spend hours in a chair for, and the set looks closer to The Witcher than Medieval Times.

The group has also started another series on another channel (Viva La Dirt League D&D, 213K subscribers, 10 million views) where they will stream their own tabletop gaming sessions. Says King: “D&D has a lot of the similar kind of game logic that video games have. So we definitely saw the possibilities there, but then also Rob had been dropping a whole load of hints that we should do it as well.”

Rob is Robert Hartley, a full-time Dungeon Master. He both writes and stars in D&D Logic, but this isn’t his first appearance on the channel. “We played D&D together two years ago, and it went well,” he says of how the collaboration came about. “During that series, there were a couple of times when we were doing green screen cutaways of what their characters are experiencing in the real world, and because they were taking on the role of those characters, it meant that we could also take the mick out of the logic of the world.”

While the original trio are involved in D&D Logic, working with collaborators like Hartley allows them to take their foot off the pedal a little, says King. “We’ve seen the people that we’ve been collecting around us and going, ‘Holy crap! We’ve got an awesome, talented bunch of people!’ And they’ve got stories that they want to tell as well. We want to embody the ‘as the seas rises, all boats rises’ mentality, and foster lots of other voices in New Zealand to tell those stories.”

(Video) Guard Day is for players only!

This series is their biggest yet, with a main cast of 10. The makeup and costume effects are as impressive as any broadcast (or streaming) fantasy show you might watch, and in some cases more impressive. The scale of the production impressed Hartley, who was writing and showrunning for the first time. “Because they’re successful, I already had an established costume and props department that I could talk to,” says Hartley. “I could tell them what I wanted, just put it out there, and they’d come back to me with images. It was my imagination literally coming to life.”

King is keen for that experience to continue as Viva La Dirt League continue to branch out. “We would love Viva to be a platform for creators to make awesome stuff in the future, and so at the moment we’re experimenting with getting some of our close key collaborators to make shows for us.” One of their next plans is for frequent collaborators Britt Scott-Clark and Ellie Harwood to make a logic series based on The Sims.

Especially notable about Viva La Dirt League, particularly within the niche they inhabit (nerds, video game and otherwise), is the immense audience support they enjoy. There’s the financial support, of course – those Patreon numbers don’t lie – but the genuine enthusiasm that floods through their YouTube comments is what makes you briefly believe the internet isn’t the cesspool it’s often made out to be.

King puts their good-natured fandom down to the global appetite for New Zealand comedy, but also to the specific relationships that a medium like YouTube creates. “One of the beauties of online content is that the creator-audience is so intertwined compared to TV or movies. You’re really creating an audience. We’re so happy that we’ve managed to create an audience that is very, very nice compared to some gaming audiences out there.”

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Good vibes beget more good vibes, Hartley says. “It’s self-serving in a sense, because the people who do come in new might have this aggressive attitude, and the people in the community will call them out. I mean, it’s on YouTube. You can watch it for free! You don’t have to stay here and watch. If it’s not your thing, just leave. So the community keeps itself nice and friendly and encouraging.”

Content creation, as nebulous a term as that may be, has changed since Viva La Dirt League launched back in 2011. A content creator can be anything from a social media influencer, to an illustrator putting out artworks, to someone like yours truly, writing articles for an online magazine. While YouTube isn’t exactly traditional media yet, it’s not far off – “YouTuber” is a respectable job now, after all.

While King can see VLDL expanding into TikTok in the future – the channel has an account, but doesn’t yet make content specifically for the platform – he says they’re not looking to make a move into TV any time soon. “Traditional media to me is still something that has been either funded by a studio or funded by advertising, and that’s not how YouTube works. It’s funded by the audience, it’s funded by views, so that middleman doesn’t exist.”

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    While a potential pivot to TV is something they’ve discussed, the group is adamant they’re not interested. “I always say to people who want us to do that stuff” ‘I can see the love in your comment that you want us to do it, but deep in your soul, you don’t want us to do a Netflix show,’” says King. “We’re making what we want, getting paid for it, and you guys are getting it for free. Why would we make a show on Netflix when we’re doing exactly what we want here now?”

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    It’s a fair point. Their latest video has had over half a million streams in less than a week. Any local comedian, give or take Matafeo or Darby, would kill for those numbers. Hell, any of our networks would kill for those numbers for one of their shows. Why would Viva La Dirt League jump through the hoops of traditional media only to be met with more restrictions, a smaller audience, and ultimately, fewer chances to do the stuff they actually want to do?

    Beyond the impressive numbers, the real achievement of Viva La Dirt League is the uplifting enthusiasm that runs through everything they do. That first video, which I maintain still holds up, has the kind of infectious joy that you only really get when people want to do something cool together. It’s been nine years, 869 videos and nearly a billion views, but the most remarkable thing about Viva La Dirt League isn’t that they’re so successful – it’s that they’re still having a shit-ton of fun doing exactly what they want to do.

    Stories like these are powered by the generous support of our members. If you value what we do and believe in the importance of independent and freely accessible journalism – tautoko mai, donate today.


    Inside Viva La Dirt League’s YouTube empire? ›

    The founding members are Rowan Bettjeman, Alan Morrison and Adam King, but their productions have featured other regular cast members such as Byron Coll, Hamish Parkinson, David Correos, Britt Scott Clark, Ben Van Lier, Ellie Harwood, and Robert Hartley.

    Does Rowan actually work at Playtech? ›

    The episodes are filmed in a real computer store called Playtech in Auckland New Zealand, but the actors don't actually work there.

    What nationality is Viva La Dirt League? ›

    Hailing from New Zealand, Viva La Dirt League creates some of the funniest gaming-inspired comedy skits. Learn how they amassed a global audience.

    Who is the girl from Viva La Dirt League? ›

    Brittany Clark a.k.a Britt Scott Clark is a New Zealand actress and part of the core support cast for Viva La Dirt League.

    When did Adam join VLDL? ›

    Adam joined Viva La Dirt League in 2015 when the channel was in it's infancy. After 5 years of Starcraft music videos the then Co-Owners Alan and Rowan were looking to freshen up the channel.

    Is Playtech New Zealand real? ›

    Playtech is New Zealand's fastest growing IT hardware supplier specialising in high end and gaming related hardware.

    Who is Playtech owned by? ›

    Sagi founded Playtech in 1999. It was floated in 2006 on the London Stock Exchange at a price that valued the business at approximately £550 million. He has since scaled down his holdings to 4.6%, as opposed to 81% at the time of its IPO. He has since invested in hi-tech companies and real estate.

    Is Playtech from Viva La Dirt League a real company? ›

    Although Bored is set in the Playtech store it is a completely independent production created solely by the VLDL team - our store is basically just the set!

    Is Ben a member of Viva La Dirt League? ›

    Ben Van Lier is a New Zealand actor and one of the core support cast for Viva La Dirt League. He has made 225 appearances (Full List).

    Where is Viva La Dirt League headquarters? ›

    Viva La Dirt League are from Auckland, New Zealand. ExpandWhat is the best way to watch Viva La Dirt League videos?

    What is Ellie's full name in Viva La Dirt League? ›

    Ellie Harwood - Social Media Manager - Viva La Dirt League | LinkedIn.

    What's the meaning of Viva La? ›

    French phrase. : long live the difference (as between the sexes) See the full definition.

    What game has Honeywood in it? ›

    The Last Soul is a classic online MMO RPG with a view from above that is set in the fantasy world of the Kingdom of Honeywood.

    Is Alan Morrison Married? ›

    Personal life. Morrison and his wife, Anne (nee' Scherck), have two daughters, Rebecca and Nina. Nina is currently working as an attorney for the non-profit organization, the Innocence Project.

    Was Rowan Bettjeman in Avatar? ›

    Avatar (2009) - Rowan Bettjeman as Soldier - IMDb.

    Was Rowan Bettjeman in Spartacus? ›

    Spartacus (TV Series 2010–2013) - Rowan Bettjeman as Lead Hunter - IMDb.

    Was Rowan from Viva La Dirt League in Spartacus? ›

    Rowan is the professional actor of the trio and has appeared in many projects as a cast member and extra, including NZ television series Shortland Street, Spartacus, Legend of the Seeker and yes, that is him in that scene in Avatar.

    Where is epic NPC man filmed? ›

    The world is based on award winning games such as 'World Of Warcraft' 'Skyrim' 'Witcher' and many other online fantasy role playing games. Filmed at The Howick Historical Village and with costumes from The Crucible role playing society NPC man brings a high quality production value to the small screen.

    Who is Rowan's wife Viva La Dirt? ›

    The "angry Yorkshire girl" in Angry Girl is Rowan's wife Claire.

    Who is the CEO of Playtech? ›

    Welcome to

    Did aristocrat buy Playtech? ›

    Feb 2 (Reuters) - Aristocrat Leisure's (ALL.AX) bid for gambling software company Playtech (PTEC. L) fell through on Wednesday after the British firm's shareholders rejected the 2.1 billion pound ($2.84 billion) offer.

    Is Playtech a unicorn? ›

    There are around 1150 unicorns in the world and Playtech is proudly one of them. But we are more than an average unicorn. We are one-of-a-kind.

    How much was Playtech takeover? ›

    Australian gambling giant, Aristocrat's offer to acquire the entire issued and to be issued share capital of the company at £6.80 per share, which has now lapsed, valued Playtech at £2.7bn representing a 58.4% premium to Playtech's share price one day prior to the announcement.

    What nationality is Playtech? ›

    Playtech was founded in 1999 by the Israeli entrepreneur Teddy Sagi in Tartu, Estonia, with partners from the casino, software engineering and multimedia industries.

    How many people work at Playtech? ›

    Founded in 1999 and premium listed on the Main Market of the London Stock Exchange, Playtech is a technology leader in the gambling industry with over 6,400 employees in 24 countries Playtech is the gambling industry's leading software and services supplier and partners with many of the world's leading regulated online ...

    How much is Viva worth? ›

    VIVA to USD
    AmountToday at 8:13 pm
    1 VIVA$0.00000099
    5 VIVA$0.00000493
    10 VIVA$0.00000987
    50 VIVA$0.00004935
    4 more rows

    What is the income of gamer fleet? ›

    Gamerfleet (Anshu Bisht) Net worth
    Total NetWorth₹2-4 Cr
    Monthly Income₹5-7 L
    Jun 10, 2023

    Does Playtech exist? ›

    Playtech is the world's largest online gaming software supplier traded on the London Stock Exchange Main Market, offering cutting-edge, value added solutions to the industry's leading operators.

    Is Playtech a good company? ›

    Is Playtech a good company to work for? Playtech has an overall rating of 4.1 out of 5, based on over 408 reviews left anonymously by employees. 78% of employees would recommend working at Playtech to a friend and 66% have a positive outlook for the business. This rating has been stable over the past 12 months.

    What companies are like Playtech? ›

    Playtech's competitors include Boom Sports, GAN, OpenBet, FSB Technology.

    What game is epic NPC man based on? ›

    A series of skits parodying the gameplay, glitches, bugs and physics of a range of role-playing games such as World of Warcraft, Skyrim and the Witcher.

    What gender is Ellie? ›

    Ellie, or Elly, is a given name, usually feminine. The name stands on its own or can be a shortened form of any of the numerous female names beginning with the syllable El-, in particular Eleanor or Elizabeth and Elvira.

    How old is Ellie last? ›

    In the first game, The Last of Us (2013), Joel Miller is tasked with escorting a 14-year-old Ellie across a post-apocalyptic United States in an attempt to create a cure for an infection to which Ellie is immune. While players briefly assume control of Ellie, the artificial intelligence primarily controls her actions.

    Where is Ellie's parents? ›

    Her mother was a nurse named Anna, although the identity of her father is unknown. On the day of her birth, her mother passed away. Before her death, Anna entrusted her closest friend Marlene to look after Ellie.

    Where is Rancho Deluxe filming? ›

    Production. Principal photography began on April 29, 1974 in Livingston, Montana. Other locations including Paradise Valley, Montana where most of the valley sequences were filmed.

    Where is dirt filmed? ›

    EL PASO, Texas (CBS4/KFOX14) — Imani films is releasing their newest venture, a crime drama titled 'DIRT'.

    Where was Cartagena filming locations? ›

    Cartagena was filmed on location in Cartagena, Bolívar, Colombia.

    Is Adam from Viva La Dirt League married? ›

    Adam lives with his fiancee and his cats Obi and Korra (named after Avatar Korra from the Legend of Korra series) and a calico cat called Ruby, all of whom make occasional appearances on his Twitch streams.

    Is Alan from Viva La Dirt League married? ›

    Alan is married and became a father for the first time in late 2019. Alan has a white shichi dog (cross between a Shih Tzu and Chihuahua) called Lola, who has her own instagram account.

    Is Playtech a real company? ›

    Playtech is the world's largest online gaming software supplier traded on the London Stock Exchange Main Market, offering cutting-edge, value added solutions to the industry's leading operators.

    Who is Alan Morrison married to? ›

    Anne Scherck


    1. All that effort for nothing #shorts
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    (Viva La Dirt League)
    3. Rock to the Face - NPC D&D - Episode 102
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    4. The Star Wars Test
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    5. The shame of reducing the difficulty
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    6. Weapon Regret #shorts
    (Viva La Dirt League)


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