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In 2015, a YouTube gamer named Sketchek announced he was leaving behind the platform because he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Then, he disappeared, and much of his community thought he had died.
But in a stunning turn, Sketchek—best known for playing Team Fortress 2—reemerged on YouTube on Thursday, saying his illness and assumed subsequent death had all been a lie.
“There’s something I need to get off my chest that’s been killing me,” said Sketchek, who has about 30,000 YouTube subscribers. “About three years ago, I announced that I had contracted a non-specific terminal illness. I want everyone to know that was a lie. It was a sick joke. It was a ruse. I was never ill, not even a little bit.
“You might say that I was mentally ill because I thought it would be fun to convince a lot of people that care about me that I would fucking die. But I’ve been feeling really bad about it lately. I can no longer bear the weight of my sins, and I’ve decided to come out with the truth and apologize for lying.”
He got the idea for pretending to die during a trip to Japan without his computer. He realized there that video games had ruined his life, that they had stolen something from him. Sketchek said he was feeling bitter, and he wanted to put an end to his YouTube channel. But instead of simply walking away from content creation, he said, “I wanted to go out with a bang.”
Though his goodbye video has been deleted, it was resurrected by Ronocc.
In that video, Sketchek—who said he had an illness in his central nervous system—said he was “very ill, my health is gradually ticking, and the clock is ticking.”
Now, Sketchek said he hopes he didn’t cause grief. “I am of the opinion that you should be able to joke about anything you want, as long it’s funny,” he said. “In this case, it really wasn’t funny.”
Even to this day, he said he couldn’t help but love the feeling of “taking someone for a ride.”
After he left YouTube, Sketchek said he didn’t play video games for about a year. Slowly, though, he got back into playing Team Fortress 2. Then, he began feeling guilty about what he’d done.
“I still don’t know exactly why I did it,” he said. “I don’t expect forgiveness. What I did was pretty indefensible. But I hope can you still enjoy my content regardless.”
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.