From the time he could first hold a controller, Wes has been an avid gamer, though he didn’t know at the time this would eventually turn into a career with Smosh Games in 2012. Turning that passion into a career would see Wes become one of the main on-camera talents, but he also had an opportunity to hone other essential skills as an editor, a cameraman, IT supervisor, and much more.
Wes eventually parted ways from Smosh in 2018, citing creative and personal differences, but has maintained friendships with the majority of his fellow castmates. Wes would instead focus on his own career pursuing cosplay and streaming with his own channel IRL Bros on YouTube.
In fact, many people recognize Wes Johnson from his portfolio of popular cosplays including Marvel’s “The Winter Soldier”, and Nintendo’s “Link” from The Legend of Zelda.
Wes is also a committed philanthropist, utilizing the popularity of his channels to help raise money for various children’s charities including Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and St. Judes.
Wes Johnson’s experience at Smosh Games, his time now with IRL Bros, and his background in production for Digital Domain make him uniquely suited to provide insight into pursuing a career in cosplay and streaming.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life and why?
For me, I would have to say, my grandfather. For a long time, my mom was a single parent. It was tough on her, but my grandfather stepped in as a surrogate father figure for me and my little brother Brenden. I always looked up to him (Both literally and figuratively because he was 6’5″) because he was just such a kind person.
He was an incredible father/grandfather and to this day, I don’t think I’ve met anyone else quite as loving as he was. He wasn’t a millionaire, a movie star, or an astronaut, and he didn’t need to be. He was my hero as a kid because when he read me stories, he always did funny voices which actually inspired me to get involved in voice acting. He loved to sing, a passion that was transferred onto my mother and me, and he loved to read. Something that helped inspire my own passion for reading and writing.
My grandfather also loved kids. One of my greatest regrets is that I wasn’t able to have children of my own in time for him to meet them, but they will be told many stories about him and about what he meant to me.
Could you tell us how the streaming/cosplay community you’ve built is so unique?
I love my twitch community. They are some of the most supportive, and some of the kindest people that I’ve ever met online or in person. They help each other get through the toughest days, and many have made lifelong friends through my streams.
A lot of streamers base their success on how many viewers or subscribers they have, and those are important too, but I base mine off on how many people say that I’ve helped them. I just want to make the world a better place for people regardless of their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. My entire goal was to give people a place to feel safe and where they could go to meet others with kind hearts. I feel like I’ve done that with my streams.
What has been your favorite creative endeavor so far?
We have a huge charity project that’s in the works that I can’t speak on at the moment, but as of now it has to be my Dungeons & Dragons show “Yeet 4 Initiative”. My players are my friends and mods from my streams, and the entire thing is completely written by me. We’re not following a campaign book or a preconceived storyline. It’s all coming from my brain and I’ve written close to 500 pages of backstory and lore so far.
Could you tell us Wes, how the skills you developed at Smosh Games influence your career now?
Well for one, I got way better at editing while I was there. Some people don’t know this, but I started at Smosh Games years before I ever appeared on camera. My time there also really got me into gaming as a potential career. Before Smosh Games I never really at a gaming career as a possibility, because growing up I was always told that gaming “Wouldn’t get me anywhere”. It was a big confidence boost that I could now claim that I played games for my job. Of course, it was a lot more than that, but it still felt nice to say.
Where are you currently putting your creative efforts towards?
Currently, most of my creative energy is going towards the charity campaign my company is working on, and on my aforementioned Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Other than that, I love writing scripts and acting! I LARP with a lot of my friends via Twitch and that has been a blast.
Why is philanthropy so important to you?
Philanthropy is important to me because I believe that everyone should try to find ways to help others. I mainly focus on charities that help children. In my mind, if we make the world a better place for them, then they in turn will work to make it a better place for those who come after. As the saying goes “Children are the future”. Shouldn’t everyone want to make the future as bright as possible?
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue their own cosplays?
Honestly? Just do it. If someone wants to cosplay then go for it! It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent 10k on a costume or if you’re wearing a trash bag as a trenchcoat. Just get out there and have fun! That’s what Cosplay is all about, having fun and getting to meet those who like the same things you do!
What kind of tech would you recommend for someone looking to start streaming?
Well, that’s kind of a hard question to answer. Your exact needs depend on what kind of streams you want to do. For just chatting or creative streams, you only need a webcam and a computer. Gaming on the other hand can get a bit more complicated. You need a rig that’s powerful enough to run the games AND the stream, which can get pretty pricey. For those just getting started, I recommend trying it out on your console if you have one, before dropping big bucks on a powerful PC. A good mic is a necessity though, you don’t need a $1000 professional studio mic, but something better than a webcam is a must.