Wes Johnson, perhaps more commonly known by his online persona and Twitch name Wes_IRL, has been streaming homebrewed Dungeons & Dragons campaigns to an adoring audience since early 2020. Now a notable name in the cosplay, roleplay, and live streaming communities, Wes first made his name back with the Smosh Games series of YouTube videos. But Wes' Smosh time came to an end in 2019, and since then, his focus has been on streaming his own content, and building a unique supportive atmosphere for his fan base. Let's take a look at how Wes sets himself apart.
Early Years of Entertainment: Long Hours, Hard Work
Breaking into the entertainment industry is a famously difficult proposition. Without any straight paths to the top of the streaming industry, Wes had to work his way to the top by beginning at the bottom. In the early years, around 2012, Johnson began working with a company known as Mahalo where he made walk-through videos centered on video games. A hop and a skip later, Johnson would have an interview with Smosh Games for an editing position.
After joining Smosh through an audition with Anthony and Ian, Wes quickly made a name for himself on the platform. Two years as an editor would propel Wes toward a hosting role with the rest of the cast. Wes didn't give up his editing gig either! Johnson said of that period of his life, "We would shoot until 6 PM and I'd have to go back and do a full day of editing on everything we shot." Johnson went on to explain that many days he wouldn't leave the office until 4 AM, often returning a few short hours later.
Wes said that he knew he wanted a change in his career after growing nauseous whenever he opened his editing program. Johnson remarked to a colleague at the time, "I can't do this anymore. I'm literally dying."
Smosh Games would bring in a new editor to allow Johnson to focus on his hosting duties full time. Despite how stressful the situation had grown, Johnson was still able to establish his name on a major channel, something that would prove vital as he branched out onto his own.
Twitch Streaming Changes the World
We are living in the era of instant communication and information. It has never been easier to connect with our celebrity idols or creative mentors. Twitch is one of the largest streaming platforms on the planet and even one of the Top 15 websites visited in the United States of America. Originally designed as a platform for streaming games and sharing content, Twitch has grown into the public square for streaming, gaming, and content creation.
Through June, Twitch viewers would consume more than 724 billion minutes in 2021 alone. To say that streaming is here to say would be to put it lightly.
Branching Out and Leaving Smosh
After deciding to leave Smosh, Wes knew that he wanted to change the way he approached his creative work. Johnson admitted that he had feelings of relief when he departed from the channel, but instead of focusing on the past, he utilized that experience to fuel his present by establishing the IRL Bros YouTube Channel.
On the IRL Bros channel, Wes would grow his brand by focusing on the things that fueled his passions the most. This meant that Wes began posting more cosplay content, going viral for various characters, including The Winter Soldier from Marvel's Captain America: Winter Soldier and Link from Nintendo's famous Legend of Zelda franchise.
Along with his gaming and cosplay content, Wes began to showcase his creativity and passion for roleplaying through the Yeet 4 Initiative on Twitch, an online Dungeons & Dragons campaign that he had created himself.
What IS Yeet 4 Initiative?
Combining all of his talents into a singular effort, Wes launched the Yeet 4 Initiative campaign on Twitch. With thousands of followers, Wes found viewers were really excited to engage in this new creative effort. Mixing in his love of cosplay, Wes began developing an expansive story with deep lore that he one day hopes to convert into a series of novels.
Developed as a homebrew Dungeons & Dragons campaign, Yeet 4 Initiative is a handwritten roleplaying scenario featuring Wes as the Dungeon Master and some of his closest friends as the various characters involved. Every week, Johnson streams adventures live as viewers and characters alike explore their fates in real-time.
Johnson says of the Yeet 4 Initiative, "It's the storyline that keeps people coming back every week."
What makes the story so fascinating is the depth that Wes and his friends will go to keep the stories fun and entertaining for fans. Wes writes all of the character arcs himself after gaining permission from each performer in the show. This collaborative effort allows Johson to unveil surprises every week that leave fans and cast members laughing or gasping with joy. Plus it's all for a good cause.
Building a Better Online Community
More than just a way to spend some time with fans, Wes also uses his Twitch as a way to raise money for various charities. Johnson has overseen fundraisers during his Yeet 4 Initiative streams with proceeds going to the St. Jude's Hospital as well as the Children's Hospital in Los Angeles.
Motivated by his expanding fanbase, Wes is completely focused on crafting an experience that is personable, warm, and welcoming for everyone. Wes underscores how important kindness is from within his community. Johnson says, "I love my Twitch community" before adding, "They help each other get through the toughest days."
For members of the community that cannot participate in the long live streams, Johnson uploads each session in its entirety to the IRL Bros YouTube account.