We had the pleasure of sitting down with Forrest Waldron, creator of KreekCraft, to see what he’s learned from running his gaming channel. We discussed how his channel started, some early mistakes, balancing revenue streams, taxes and work-life balance. Kreek spoke candidly about what it was like to be a young adult choosing this path and gave some advice for newbies just getting started.
Video views: 1,152,708,062
Content type: Gaming
User created: Apr 9, 2014
Growing up and early missteps
When Kreek talked about growing up in Florida, he clarified quickly that it was not like beachy cities in Florida – more like rural, small-town vibes where everyone knows each other and everyone loves football. “There’s a lot of ‘outside stuff’ going on, and sports are really big,” he says of his hometown, “I couldn’t go to school in 8th grade though, not like physical school.” Recovering from surgery at that time, he opted for an online school instead of the usual home school route kids might take. The online school offered things like coding and programming classes that he couldn’t get in the local schools. Since he wasn’t able to be outside and active with his friends, he started gaming a lot. “Then it got to a point where I kind of needed another avenue of stuff to do, and that’s where YouTube came in.”
Forrest’s first foray into gaming was on Xbox. His username was FlyingEye128 – an easy shoutout to his birthday on January 28th and, as he tells us, “because I had this obsession with drawing eyeballs with wings. I learned how to do it, and I just kept doing it!” He laughed at the memory. “Eventually, I got into World of Warcraft with all my friends, and I couldn’t have FlyingEye, and so I used the random name generator.” It dubbed him Kreek. Later, when he started playing Minecraft, he found that Kreek was already taken, too. And so KreekCraft was born. As monikers go, it stuck.
He started his first YouTube account when the platform was still fairly new. In 2014, he shut it down and opened a new account. Reflecting, Kreek wishes he had stayed with the original account. “I felt like my videos had improved so much since I’d started — the first videos on the channel were just like, not even talking, just me punching a tree in Minecraft. It was so bad. And I thought having those on the channel would hurt the channel. Obviously, that’s just not how that works.” By starting over, he lost his opening fanbase, his longevity on the site and the accrued engagement stats. When you’re working with popularity and algorithms, these things matter.
Not getting a “real” job and finding success with KreekCraft
As Kreek got older, he chose to make gaming content instead of following more traditional paths, such as going to college and getting a payroll job. Most of his friends and family didn’t really understand. “Eventually one day came and I was like, ‘Oh I’m moving to Pittsburg and I’m buying a house, and everyone was like ‘Wait! What? How‘re you doing that?’” he laughed; the concept of getting paid to play video games online was still so new. Kreek also is quite careful with his money, adding to their surprise by just how much he was making on YouTube.
“I don’t really buy a lot of stuff,” he explained. “A lot of YouTubers, they’ll run out and buy a fancy car and it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, well he’s making money now,’ but I don’t really do stuff like that, I’m more of a saver person … So, the house was like the first big thing. Yeah, that was definitely the moment.”
KreekCraft’s revenue streams
Kreek’s launch into monetization on YouTube happened at a time when ad revenue was the only viable source of income. “I think my first paycheck was like $30, and it was crazy. I just made money on the internet, this is wild,” he reminisced. “Then, over time, YouTube added more options like Super Chat, livestream and fan donations. You can sell merch, and sponsorships come in eventually. It’s expanded a lot over the last few years, and I’m happy with how it’s expanding.”
Kreek’s personal favorite revenue stream is direct fan funding. ”I like fans being able to support you directly. You usually have a chunk of loyal supporters who are just always there. It’s a lot more stable in some aspects compared to ad revenue.”
“The problem with ad revenue,” he continued, “is that it can be very finicky. Back in the adpocalypse days, all the ad rates just went down and everyone was freaking out. But even throughout the year, it fluctuates so much. Near the end of the year, it skyrockets because everyone is selling toys for the holidays, but then in January, it plummets.”
Kreek doesn’t put a lot of energy into monitoring his own analytics for revenue. “Sometimes creators get too far into their own head about that stuff,” he warns. His advice is to focus on engagement and having a good time with your audience. The other parts will fall into place eventually.
A sad truth of content creation is that it can lead to burnout. “That’s something I’ve always struggled with,” Kreek shares. “I’ve gotten better about it recently.” Being a full-time content creator often forces you to be constantly on the clock. “Part of the job is staying connected to everything. I’ve gotta know what’s going on,” Kreek says. “If there’s some big Roblox update or something, I’ve gotta be here to talk about it.”
The job’s workload eventually caught up to Kreek. “There was a period back in 2019 where I just had no free time. My life was just wake up, do YouTube stuff, go to sleep,” Kreek reveals. Now, Kreek now has help to ease some of the load. “I’ve hired a few people. I have people that help me edit videos and that kinda thing. It’s helped take a lot of that workload off.”
He also makes sure he carves out some time each day to do things other than creating content. To Kreek, it’s important to make time for yourself, even if it’s just more screen time like watching a movie or playing a game that isn’t for YouTube. This helps keep the feeling of burnout away. “I have to have something else to look forward to at the end of the day,” he says.
Adulting and personal growth through KreekCraft
Running a successful YouTube channel and managing your finances at a young age can be quite stressful, but for Kreek, now 25, it’s been a largely positive growth experience.
“In terms of business and financial stuff, I feel like I’m just so far ahead of where most people my age are because, as a YouTuber, you don’t really have a choice. Like, taxes are complicated, but you have to do them,” he tells us. “You kinda get a head start because it’s forced on you.”
Being a YouTuber has also helped Kreek develop his social skills, too. “I’m a lot more extroverted now. I’m a very shy, keep-to-myself person in real life. But it feels weird because I’m like that, but KreekCraft’s not like that.” Kreek’s experience being a YouTube has encouraged him to step out of his box, like being on a panel at VidCon earlier this year. “That was terrifying,” Kreek reminisces, “I was going up in front of all these people, all these lights … but then I went there, and it was just like all the fans, ya know? So it was just like, I can do this. It’s fine.”
The fun stuff
With an audience of more than 4.5 M subscribers and so many years of running channels, there have been many highlights for Kreek. His favorite moments so far have been about the things that money can’t buy. “I’ll never forget hitting 100,000 subscribers because that was the moment that you get the plaque,” he beams. “And I know, they send you a gold one at a million, and I know a million is a big number, that was really cool, too … But that first one!”
Also, somewhere in the far corners of the internet, there’s a KreekCraft fandom page that mentions his favorite food is Pop-Tarts, and he wishes he could be sponsored by them. We had to ask. With a lot of laughter, he admitted this is still true. He wasn’t able to commit to a favorite Pop-Tart flavor because they’re all so good. “When I was a kid, everyone made the joke that I ate so many Pop-Tarts that one day they’d sponsor me. Now I’m in a position where they COULD sponsor me!” he laughed and agreed that it’s a really unique place to be in life.
Advice for the newbies
“I feel like the game of YouTube has changed so much in the past few years. The one thing I’d say is – and I do this all the time, too – study what’s working and what’s not working. What kind of videos are the big people making? How do they film their videos? How do they edit their videos? That kind of thing,” he advised. The days of posting unedited videos of punching trees on Minecraft without any narration are long gone. “That’s been done so many times. No one wants to watch that anymore. You gotta get to the interesting part, bring something new to the table.”