For many young audiences today, YouTube celebrities and Twitch streamers are more recognizable names than movie stars or traditional sports athletes. That's not a new phenomenon; Variety provided data backing up that claim back in 2014, boldly proclaiming that names like PewDiePie meant more to today's teenagers than a name like Jennifer Lawrence.
So don't be shocked when we tell you that a 24-year-old raised in Fort Worth has achieved fame and fortune by playing games like Minecraft, Call of Duty and Fortnite on the internet. Commonly known by his fans as PrestonPlayz or TBNRFrags, Preston Arsement is the celebrity that your kids want to be when they grow up.
Arsement has been "pretty much a nerd from birth," he says over the phone. He was at the right age to take advantage of the YouTube boom several years ago. In fact, he might tell you that he was too early, taking his first crack at video fame when he was just 15-years-old. "I loved Call of Duty and I saw this guy doing informational videos, and I thought, 'Hey, I could totally do this!' That's what started the YouTube trend for me," he says. But there was a caveat.
"I was terrible at it. I was God-awful. I wasn't able to get any viewership. Basically no subscribers.
"I ended up taking a hiatus for a little bit and putting together a different strategy, and I came back at it again when I was 17."
For round two, Arsement got his parents more involved in his career aspirations and also started streaming live gameplay videos in addition to pre-recorded content. "That, for me, was extremely helpful back when both platforms were, I guess you could say, much smaller," he says. "They were still large platforms, but [there was not] nearly as much saturation as there is now."
Now, he has millions of fans following him across YouTube, Twitch, Twitter and other social media networks, working regularly from both is home in Colleyville as well as an office in Grapevine. Don't think his life is entirely about playing video games alone 24/7, though. Arsement recently got married, and when the newlyweds aren't at home with their cat, you might find them out and about in D-FW eating Korean barbecue, or you might find Preston playing paintball.
Most recently, Arsement signed on to be both a minority investor and a public face for Dallas-based esports team Team Envy, which Overwatch League fans will recognize as the group behind the Dallas Fuel.
"I met [Envy owner and CEO] hashtr0, Mike Rufail, a long time ago," Arsement says. When Team Envy was looking for an influencer to help them grow, a former employee of Arsement's, now at Team Envy, said, "I know the perfect guy."
"I want to become part of the face of Team Envy as much as possible," Arsement says. "I love working with the guys there. They're really, really talented, and it's fun. I got there a few days ago and we were just drinking energy drinks and laughing about random stuff that made no sense. It's really fun to work with these guys. So going forward I really just want to make content with everybody at the offices, especially some of the pro players, and just have a blast. I want to continue to show face and bring as many people as I can to Envy, because I've always loved their morals and values and their company and who they are as a team. They're somebody I want to attach my name to."
In addition to being in front of the camera, Arsement is invested financially and behind the scenes. "I have minority [stake] in the company, so I can't change company structure or anything like that. I just really want to help the company grow and bring some influence and awareness to Team Envy, and do it with as much positivity as possible and in a good way."
Positivity is a big deal for Arsement, and it's been a major factor in his success as PrestonPlayz, where he often plays family-friendly games like Minecraft. Unlike too many of YouTube's biggest celebrities, who have been highly controversial in the past for questionable content in their videos, Arsement tries to keep things clean. Part of that is due to his religious faith as well as the desire to set a good example for his younger siblings.
"Nowadays I think a lot of the younger generation, their role models and the people they look up to are YouTubers," he says. "It's not necessarily superstars or movie stars nowadays, they love YouTubers. So I think you want to be somebody who's very rooted and very grounded in who you are and making sure you're always setting a good example."
If you talk about relating to a younger generation right now, one video game is more likely to come up than any other: Fortnite. Arsement is no stranger to it, and he even played in a big celebrity tournament in June, teamed up with hip-hop artist Lil Yachty. He posts videos about the game regularly, and it will be part of his relationship with Team Envy.
"I think the thing about Fortnite that people are gravitating to is the regular updates they release, and the fact that it's kid-friendly but also adult-friendly," Arsement says. "It's got something to lose -- you've got 100 players, and only one person or one team of people can win. ... They're just doing everything so right. It's kind of crazy to see that."
Given his high levels of success at such a young age, Arsement, too, seems to be "doing everything so right." If this pace keeps up, he may end up being one of the most being one of the most recognizable celebrities to come out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.