If you’re an avid gamer on the web (even more so if you’re a PC gamer), then chances are you’ve come across the name TotalBiscuit a few times in your life. Even if you aren’t, the name has likely appeared on your screen here and there as you peruse the endless void that is the internet; and in the past week you’ve probably heard that the persona in question has passed away. This isn’t a joke by the internet or some hoax by an unscrupulous troll, whether you knew him or not, whether you liked him or didn’t; the gaming scene has indeed just lost a prominent voice whose silence echoes through feeds and forums to this day.
This article will be a brief eulogy for the man known as John “TotalBiscuit” Bain.
Let’s start with a basic rundown; John Peter Bain was a British video game commentator and pundit known primarily online as TotalBiscuit. Beginning in 2005 up until 2010, Bain began his foray into the gaming social sphere by running World of Warcraft Radio (WOWRadio) – a fan made radio station that would prove to be so popular that it even garnered acknowledgment and respect from World of Warcraft’s creators themselves, Blizzard Entertainment.
After WOWRadio aired its final broadcast, Bain went on to create his own brand called The Cynical Brit. That was indeed what he was known as early in his career, alongside the name TotalHalibut before finally settling on TotalBiscuit – a name chosen in homage to the fantasy book series Discworld by English author Terry Pratchett. Bain would truly come to build his successes from this point forward, making use of his website and YouTube’s then flourishing ad-revenue system to create content he loved while simultaneously earning a living.
His most popular series of videos, “WTF is…” was a first impressions review on various video games that sought to inform viewers on games that they would potentially like to try out. The main claim to fame of these videos however, was that they often featured lesser known indie titles to his audience with Bain’s reasonable judgment as commentary. Many of these titles would skyrocket in popularity due to Bain’s mentions, with Digital Extremes’ Warframe and Supergiant Games’ Transistor being some examples.
Aside from supporting good game developers, Bain also sought to support good community leaders in the gaming industry; hosting the Co-Optional Podcast alongside his friends Jesse Cox and Brooke Lawson. The podcast would feature guests from around the gaming social sphere such as YouTuber AngryJoe or actress Felicia Day and they would go on for 2 to 3 hours regarding issues and topics regarding video games. The podcast is often praised for its candid and simple style, showing the more human and realistic side to these online personalities as well as their casual opinions on what goes on in their lives.
Though with all the things he’s done however, no one becomes as well known as TotalBiscuit online through good deeds alone. As always, controversies contributed to Bain’s fame, due in no small part to his direct and merciless manner of speaking when it came to things he didn’t like. Bain would receive multiple copyright strikes on his YouTube channel through the course of his career by some unprofessional game developers that didn’t like what he said regarding their games. This action is of course, completely illegal and is the literal definition of censorship for the basest of reasons. While some argued that Bain was perhaps a bit too harsh, general consensus agreed that ultimately, Bain’s criticisms were all valid and he was helping the gaming marketplace be better. And as people talked, the brand of TotalBiscuit only continued to grow larger and larger.
Indeed it is perhaps for that very reason that John Bain became as notorious as he was – that being his deep seated passion for consumer protection. Having a degree in law, Bain was no stranger to litigation and would vehemently fight against anything he saw as unlawful in gaming. As some companies in the past decade have tried to push their luck in regards to their greed when selling games, Bain was in no short supply of criticism. An example would be his boycotting of Mass Effect 3 due to its practice of day 1 downloadable content. There was no doubt that Bain was one of the best advocates for consumer rights when it came to video games, during a time when the law had yet to catch up to the progressions of the online world.
Bain would continue to garner both admiration and hatred over the years, many of his detractors citing his holier-than-thou attitude and sheer brutality when dishing out his opinions. Whenever he criticized a game, many of his followers would flock to said game’s developer and harass them – this was often used against him claiming he supported this behavior (he did not). Some criticized his stance on GamerGate and LGBT issues, which we will not go into because that is a massive can of worms and a huge story in itself.
Bain’s past would often return to haunt him as well, with many people digging up his old Tweets on Twitter where he’s shown to be a rather bitter person, Bain has apologized profusely for these Tweets and has indeed mellowed down over the years leading up to his untimely passing. If anything is to be said, it is that Bain perhaps lacked a bit of tact in his delivery, though seeing the amount of good he’s done for the industry, being as forward as he was might be what we needed.
In the roller-coaster of controversies and successes through his career, Bain would unfortunately discover in 2014 that he had bowel cancer. From that point onward it was an entirely different ride in itself for Bain and his fans. There would be news of him getting better, only to get worse again, times where he’d be going strong only to eventually cancel some videos he had planned. In 2015 many were elated when he announced that his bowel cancer had gone into remission, only to discover months later that it had metastasized to his liver. Doctors gave him a 2 to 3 year life expectancy.
Since then, Bain gradually took steps away from his job as it really was too taxing for him amidst the various treatments and therapies he was receiving. His fans thankfully understood, and were glad enough that the content wasn’t stopping but just slowing down. This was until April of this year when it was revealed that the cancer had grown and had become resistant to all forms of treatment. Knowing he did not have long to live, Bain officially announced his retirement and sought to live the rest of his days amongst family and friends. A month later, Bain’s wife announced on Twitter that he had fallen into a hepatic coma and passed away in his sleep. John Bain was only 33 years old and leaves behind his wife, Genna and son, Orion.
In the past few days, fans, general gamers and video game companies have filled forums and feeds with their support. United in their sadness for the loss of one of gaming’s champions. A fundraiser has been made for the grieving family, while many others have made their own personalized tributes to Bain. Sure, many bitter and vitriolic individuals have started coming forth to dance on his grave, but in the end what can we take away from all this? Because in the end John Peter Bain did more good for the gaming industry than many of us did put together. Do we judge him for his harsh words? Or do we judge him for his actions?
Personally? I think John Bain was a good man, well intentioned though abrasive. He paved the way for so many and I do think the gaming landscape would be worse off had he not existed, the sheer outpouring of grief is testament to the fact that he did something, and he did something right. From his dry sense of humor, to his clear love of the art form, he will be dearly missed. Few can hold claim to his unshakable integrity alongside his sheer passion, and the world is truly poorer for his passing. I can only hope that one day all of us, even his son, can look back upon his videos and still envision the magnificent man known only as TotalBiscuit.
Rest well John Peter Bain.