A B.C. teenager has made it possible for youth to roleplay as both civilian and public servant in an expansive video game recreation of Vancouver.
Ethan Larson, 17, grew up in the Lower Mainland and when he was around 10 created the YouTube channel Frozen Donut. In 2017 Larson uploaded his first video of him and his friends playing Roblox, a platform where people play games made by other developers. Five years and over 600 videos later Larson’s channel has over 27,000 subscribers who tune in daily to watch Larson play within a map of Vancouver he created.
Now the biggest Vancouver-specific Roblox content creator on YouTube, Larson explained in a recent interview with Vancouver Is Awesome the desire to create the channel came from wanting to emulate other YouTubers he looked up to.
"I just got into Roblox because every other kid was playing it at the time,” Larson said. “I just wanted to really share my experience on how I play and just wanted to have a great time with people in line."
Indeed it must have seemed like every other kid was playing it. In 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, over half of U.S. children under the age of 16 reportedly played the game to stay in touch with friends while stuck at home.
While Larson is the face behind Frozen Donut, the Roblox recreation of Vancouver was a collaborative effort with his friends. Playing the role of coordinator, Larson and his team of 10 developers were able to complete a second, more detailed version of the city in just one year. “Vancouver V2,” as Larson calls it, was launched in its pre-alpha stage in December last year.
Not only did the pandemic bring more people to play Roblox, but it also gave Larson and his team more time to hone in on the details of the latest Vancouver map. So far Vancouver V2 has all of Stanley Park complete as well as the downtown core. This fulsome environment allows for what can really only be described as city roleplaying.
Players can easily join as civilians and complete tasks for money or take the more risky route and commit robbery, a longstanding favourite among players. To combat the thieves and other criminal shenanigans, players can apply to become police officers, paramedics and firefighters. Larson’s YouTube channel tends to focus on those interactions, a theme Larson said stems from a fascination with emergency health services he had as a kid.
Even as the main face for Vancouver-related Roblox content, Larson never expected the channel to grow as large as it has.
"It's a great community and lots of positive things happening,” he said. “There are great experiences, I hear from people within the city all the time, how it just makes their day whenever they're logging on."
To see the city for yourself you can play the pre-alpha launch of Vancouver V2 right now for free.