Mikey Herbert is the force behind Hellstorm Wargaming, a full-time YouTube channel and Twitch Stream that mixes Warhammer 40k hobby content with classic YouTube tomfoolery. Wargamer interviewed Mikey about his life as a social media personality and full-time Warhammer nerd.
Lest you think he’s ‘just’ an influencer, we’ll add that Mikey is a competition 40k player – he took his Space Marines (the only Warhammer 40k faction he plays competitively) to the Warhammer Fest grand tournament. He even runs his own tournament series, a qualifier event for the Warhammer World Championships.
He knows 40k inside and out – he just doesn’t let himself take it too seriously.
WG: You’ve got a pretty carefree attitude – is that you, or something you had to cultivate for YouTube?
HM: I had a little bit of confidence anyway but not a great deal, but it’s just unregulated now. Unregulated confidence that extrudes into “I don’t care and everything is funny”. That’s how it developed into this brand… can you call it a brand?
I was once dubbed by a company “The most Youtubery Youtuber they worked with”. Because everyone else is a bit the same and I’m very different. I took that as a compliment.
I feel like on YouTube and online culture as a whole there’s a particular way people make Warhammer content – a painting tutorial, a battle report. Then there’s normal YouTube, which is Zoomer Humour, just unhinged content all the time. I see myself as more of a YouTuber – I make YouTube content with a Warhammer spin on it, rather than making Warhammer content.
There’s a YouTuber I watch who takes content that’s already been done and make it their own and they call it the yoink and twist, and I do the same thing, I yoink other people’s content and then twist it with Warhammer.
Could you give us an example?
There’s a typical video trope called an Amazon stream, where your live chat sends you links to Amazon, everyone’s going to vote and whatever it is you’ll buy it to open on Stream. It’s a really generic thing – it could be anything, a microwave, an air fryer, a blanket with an Anime character that’s looking rather suspect on it.
Whereas I gave my credit card to my chat to buy bad Warhammer merch. It was really bad. I spent nearly $1000 on bad Warhammer things and it’s definitely not made that back in adverts.
What did chat make you buy?
A body pillow?
Not a body pillow. A really bad ring with a giant Space Marine head on it. A bathmat that has three tick boxes, ‘Loyalist’, ‘Heretic’, and then ‘Fabulous’, that has a tick mark next to it. The guy who made that on Redbubble actually saw the video and told me “You’re the only person who bought this”.
What were you, before you went into the chrysalis and came out as a YouTuber?
I was an electronics engineer. I did music technology in college, I wanted to produce music. I was in a band at the time, I recorded an album with them – it was pretty decent I’d say, but maybe that’s rose tinted glasses. Then I was gonna go to university, but my auntie who worked at the University of Sheffield pointed me at a job there. I ended up staying there for nearly seven years.
In 2020 this weird thing happened and everyone stayed inside, it was crazy. I was made redundant in the middle of it. For most people that’s not something you want to deal with, but I’d been furloughed for three months and I was just making dumb Warhammer videos whenever I could.
I thought “this is quite fun, I get paid a wage to make videos now”. I used my redundancy as a nest egg. I had maybe a year of wages to live by – I wasn’t going on holiday any time soon.
The next day, after I was made redundant, my girlfriend Georgie was moving in, also in the middle of the Pandemic. She was going to university to do a Master’s degree, she’d moved across the country, she had no job.
We were a bit like “Well, shit.” I had to take the lid off the unregulated confidence, waft it everywhere, and I’ve been making dumb Warhammer videos ever since. We’re nearing on three years. Three years in June.
You met Georgie through Warhammer, didn’t you?
Very early in the channel I did event coverage as well. I teamed up with the honest Wargamer to cover the Last Chance Open in Southport. It’s the last chance to get ITC points before the Las Vegas Open.
I’d met Georgie at the shop running the event six months before, and she was basically running the event I was going to cover by herself, doing a lot of the organisation. We got chatting and the rest is history. We’re pretty cute to be honest, it’s not often you can say “I met my girlfriend of four and a bit years at a Warhammer tournament, but I’m that one guy”.
Has there ever been a moment where you’ve felt like you ‘made it’?
I’ve never gone “Okay, we’ve made it” because I don’t think I have. That constant fear that this could stop any day – I could be working at Tesco tomorrow – is a blessing and a curse. So when I haven’t made a video in a day I know I need to power through nine hours of editing to put out a video today or tomorrow. On the other hand, existential dread is not good for your mental health a lot of the time.
How much of your house is taken over by your channel?
Just over a year ago I moved my “Battle Report Studio” out of my dining room which is alcoved to my front room, so that took up half of my downstairs… now it’s the two spare bedrooms. [Pointing to the room he’s in] This is the main spare bedroom, then there’s a box room which is the 3D printer farm, or ‘The Forge’ as I like to call it.
So, pretty similar to an Only Fans content producer?
Yes actually, it’s exactly the same. Probably. Maybe. I don’t have a bed in here but maybe I should get a little fold out bed over there… I do have this “Subscribe to my Only Pegging” sign in the background here.
What’s that for?
People keep asking me to make an Only Fans, and people are insinuating I’m into pegging. I said something about a certain member of the Royal Family who’s also into pegging, and because I said “also into pegging” that insinuated that I was into pegging.
So what does the sign say?
It says “Link in the description, feet picks plus £5”. Reasonable prices, I would say.
Is YouTube a stressful way to make a living?
The great and problematic thing with YouTube is you have so much access to data about your audience and what they like and don’t like about your content. Every time you upload a video, after two hours, it shows you how well that video’s doing on a ranking system of your last ten videos.
So if it’s getting the most views, the most click throughs, the most watch-time, it’ll be a one out of ten and all the arrows are green, and if it’s really bad it’ll be a 10 out of 10 and all the arrows are grey and facing down. If you do get a one out of ten it shows fireworks.
When all the arrows are grey it can really do a number on you, “What have I done wrong, why am I not getting the fireworks anymore?” Your monkey brain wants the fireworks, now.
It’s something I really struggle with. I’ve got a really good concept and I’ve made loads of cool edits and I’ve got a really good point to make and then it’s all grey arrows. And then I’ll do something dumb that takes five minutes that goes to one out of 10.
When you get a one out of ten you want to ride that wave: “Okay I want to get another one out while everyone’s clicking on my videos”. When you get a really bad video, you’ll think “I’ve got a really bad video, so I need to make a new video right now to catch up because I’ve done crap today”. You’re constantly chasing numbers without realising you’re chasing numbers.
I think that’s why people get burnt out, because they’re constantly chasing. “I can’t cope with it any more, I can’t come up with any cool ideas, the thumbnails are crap, the title’s rubbish”.
Because that’s pretty much what you rely on: you rely on the thumbnail being eye-catching, but not a lie, the title being interesting, not too long, but also not a lie. And then in the first three or four seconds if someone clicks on it, they can think “Oh you’re boring, I’ll click off”.
I think that’s where burnout comes into it. The nice thing about being a Warhamme Youtuber is if I get burnt out on gaming content, I can rely on hobby content. It’s a really nice change of pace. Recently I was working on the new stuff, talking about Space Marines coming out and Warhammer 40k 10th edition release content – everyone’s doing that, so it’s really saturated, so it wasn’t doing so well.
But I saw a video of someone converting an Ikea piece of furniture into a hobby storage unit and thought “That looks fun, I’m gonna make a video out of it too, with my own spin on it”. And that did really well.
That’s a great thing about Warhammer in general, right?
It’s multifaceted. It’s a nice thing about Warhammer as a content creator, you have options: I can talk about gaming, but if I can’t be bothered, I’ll talk about the hobby, if not I’ll talk about the narrative. If you get really bored you can change the game and do the same thing. You know, talk about Star Wars Shatterpoint instead.
How long does it take to make a battle report video?
You know I don’t do them so much any more, but I’m gonna try and revitalise them for 10th edition. For a normal bat rep you’re looking at between six and eight hours filming on average. And then in terms of post-production editing, I usually spend two to three work days on them. So you’re looking at 30 hours for one video.
An old school battle report, like what I was producing previously, is like an hour and a half, if not longer. No one sits down to watch a battle report like a movie, they have it on in the background while they’re painting miniatures. And in the best battle reports it’s more about the people playing rather than the game itself. The game itself is a vessel to get memes in.
That’s why I pivoted quite heavily to talking head chat streams and videos. You can spend 30 hours on a battle report video and it just does okay. Or I could sit and read something on Warhammer Community and get similar views, and that takes an hour tops to make. Or a fun little hobby project that might take five hours to film and then maybe 10 or 20 to edit because there’s way less footage to deal with.
Your early battle report videos had some really daft skits in them – will we see them again?
That was the best part of making a battle report, this funny minute at the beginning. The problem was people watched the funny bit and then wouldn’t watch the rest of the game. You’d get the YouTube analytics and see the average watch time and when people are clicking off, and it was always at the end of the skit.
But yeah, I’m planning on bringing those back. Spoiler for the plans in the next couple of months!
What are you most proud of?
Just the community I’ve built, I think, and I know that’s really cliché to say. Ever since I started doing like face to face, talking heads content of just me being an idiot, I’ve really built up a community I really enjoy being a part of. There’s just a really good bunch of people that are all really nice, really helpful to each other.
It’s so weird because YouTube is all analytics driven, it’s all just numbers? So it’s always a weird moment to remember “That isn’t a number, that’s a person watching it on the other end of a screen somewhere”. I’m trying to attract the attention of people – I’m not trying to attract a click.
That’s what I appreciate most, and I’m very thankful for it.