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How (and why) Minecraft YouTube raised hundreds of thousands for cancer research

<h5>A collage of Minecraft players wearing purple ribbons in support of Technoblade</h5>
<h6>Claire Shin / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
A collage of Minecraft players wearing purple ribbons in support of Technoblade
Claire Shin / The Daily Princetonian

Editor's Note: On June 30, 2022, Technoblade passed away due to cancer. His family announced it in a video titled, in pure Technoblade fashion, “so long nerds.” He was 23 years old. The author’s reflections on the passing were appended to this essay on July 7, 2022. The original essay appears below, as published on Oct. 24, 2021.

In late August, millions of Minecraft fans across the world lit up as they saw a “new video” notification from Technoblade, who, at 9.28 million subscribers, currently has one of the largest Minecraft YouTube channels. The record-breaking streamer hadn’t uploaded a video or streamed in two months, and dedicated viewers had been anticipating a new video for a while.

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Upon opening it, though, many were taken aback by the somber title, “where I’ve been,” and strange thumbnail, which was nothing more than a black screen. Personally, I was a little relieved when I started actually watching the video and realized it was another one of my favorite YouTuber’s Bed Wars commentaries, rather than a face-cam video or other unusual video style typically used by other YouTubers in their bad-news videos. I thought he’d explain some understandable reason for why he hadn’t been active online — recent controversies. General stress. Maybe he’d been just going through a period of demotivation.

The actual news hit me like a bomb: he had cancer.

The news was unexpected and jarring for all Minecraft YouTube and Twitch viewers, not just dedicated fans of Techno. Mary Davis ’22 primarily watches WilburSoot and TommyInnit, not Technoblade, but her friend, a Techno fan, had told her about the video and said it was “bad” without explaining why.

“I was at a rehearsal for something or the other, and I was like, ‘OK, I’ll watch it later,’” Davis began. “So I pull it up on my phone when I’m walking somewhere, and when he said he had cancer, there was that beep after he said that where I was like, ‘Is this a meme and he’s quitting YouTube and this is his way of saying that? Because I don’t think 21 year-olds — they don’t think about getting cancer, you know?”

Since then, the Minecraft community at large has seen an outpouring of love for one of our most viewed content creators. #TECHNOSUPPORT was trending on Twitter for several days, and everyone, from the viewers to the streamers themselves, was putting their efforts towards donating to cancer research.

Minecraft Championships (MCC) hosted an event on Aug. 28, a day after Technoblade announced his diagnosis, and several content creators pledged to donate tens of thousands of dollars towards cancer research. Popular YouTuber Dream, for instance, pledged to donate a dollar for every point his team earned in the event; he ended up donating $21,409, with fellow content creators Skeppy and Awesamdude agreeing to match the donation, for a total of $64,227 from just the three streamers. Streamers F1NNSTER and TapL announced they would donate a dollar for every point they received individually. Well-known Twitch streamer Fundy pledged to donate all proceeds from his MCC stream and an additional charity stream afterwards towards the same cause. Minecraft YouTuber Grian stated on-stream that he would be donating a portion of his funds towards cancer research, independently of MCC. Finally, the Aqua Axolotls team, which consisted of streamers Tubbo_, Antfrost, Fundy, and 5up, pledged $50 for each time they swore during the stream. Many of those who did not donate money played their part in cancer awareness by wearing lavender ribbons on their in-game avatars during the event.

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All of this took place two months ago, but the Minecraft community is still going strong in its enormous support for Technoblade. Just a few weeks ago, on Sept. 25, he ran a charity stream for the Sarcoma Foundation of America, and he heavily implied during the stream that this was his type of cancer. In just under four hours, he was able to raise almost $400,000 for cancer research.

[Spoilers for Technoblade’s latest stream ahead!]

While I was unfortunately not around to view the event live, the stream has since gained over seven million views, and while it’s not very high relative to the viewership of Technoblade’s regular videos, this is an incredible number for a four-hour-long stream. The premise of the stream was that he would try to beat survival Minecraft while viewers would be able to donate a certain amount of money to either help or hinder him. This would include everything from deleting the item in his hand for $150 to spawning in a friendly wolf companion for $50. Initially, every time a certain donation milestone was reached, a new “hunter”— a fellow content creator — would enter the game to stop Techno from reaching his goal.

I was taken aback by the speed at which he reached the milestones. The stream was meant to be one of many charity events to take place over 28 days, and the goal over that month would be to raise $250,000. Viewers demolished that goal by raising that amount in two hours. In total, he donated and raised $382,000 for cancer research in a single event.

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Given his success already, I’m so excited to see what exciting content Technoblade puts out in the future for charity. As events get more and more exciting, I wouldn’t be surprised if viewers manage to raise millions over the 28-day time period or if Technoblade breaks some sort of viewer count record along the way.

From the solidarity between so many of my beloved Minecraft creators when they wore lavender ribbons during MCC to the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for cancer research, I’m unbelievably proud of the Minecraft YouTube community. As someone who has (thankfully) never had to experience the anguish of having a loved one suffer through cancer, I foolishly thought it wasn’t something that affected me. Since then, I’ve taken time to educate myself on sarcoma, which has had relatively less research. Educating myself has helped me to deal with the news and stay strong.

The community has been doing the same, making sure to keep in mind the context of the news; after all, our favorite content creator is young, has access to the best healthcare, and has no history of chronic health problems, as far as we know.

“The tone that I’ve been getting from him [Techno] and his friends is that this isn’t a fatal thing,” Davis said. “I was more worried when I found out than I am now.”

We believe he’ll beat cancer the same way he beat countless other YouTubers and streamers in Minecraft duels. And when he eventually recovers, we’ll once again overrun Twitter and YouTube with Techno’s signature motto: “Technoblade never dies!”

***

It’s with a heavy heart that I provide this article with an update that I hoped I would never have to make. As of June 30, 2022, Technoblade passed away due to cancer. His family announced it in a video titled, in pure Technoblade fashion, “so long nerds.” He was 23 years old.

Technoblade was one of the funniest people to ever walk this planet, and he was remarkably talented. Even while battling stage IV cancer, he never stopped thinking about his audience and continued, despite brutal rounds of chemotherapy and knowledge of the odds, to make videos using biting, self-deprecating wit to make viewers laugh through all the pain. These are platitudes I have seen repeated in an incredible outpouring of love and grief across Twitter and YouTube, but they are platitudes because it’s all true. He loved his fans immensely.

In his video, he left a message that said, “If I had another hundred lives, I would choose to be Technoblade again every time, as these have been the happiest years of my life.”

And if I had another hundred lives, I would choose to be Technoblade’s biggest fan and supporter every single time.

***

Claire Shin is a Contributing Writer for The Prospect at the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at claireshin@princeton.edu, or on Instagram and TikTok at @claireshin86. 

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