I remember the first time I heard about DanTDM. My nine-year old son Felix was lounging on the sofa, with all of the tween angst that being nine can bring.
"I'll never meet DanTDM," he sighed.
Quick confession: the word never – said without trying – makes me break out in hives.
"Well, let's find a way to meet him," came the confident response of someone who doesn't yet know this 25-year old YouTube sensation has over 13 million (yes million…) subscribers, and his videos have been viewed over 9 billion (yes billion…) times.
Billed as 'one of the most viewed YouTube creators on the planet', DanTDM's book Trayaurus and the Enchanted Crystal has also been #1 on the New York Best Sellers list (hardback graphic books) for 12 weeks.
At that point, all I knew is that DanTDM lived in England, filmed himself playing video games, and he seemed to like Minecraft a lot. And I knew kids loved him. Like belly-laugh, thigh-slapping, giddy-smile kind of love.
Anyway, long story short: after much pitching and planning we had a 20-minute interview locked in, and my son learnt a good life lesson: It's better to try and fail than not try at all – because you may just succeed.
And Felix hasn't stopped doing errands since. Win-win.
The meeting IRL (in real life)
Here's what I learned on the day my son met his online hero.
1. They are both shy
I knew my son could be a little shy. But I wasn't prepared for DanTDM to open up within seconds about his own shyness too.
Within minutes of walking in that door, all skinny jeans and big smiles, Dan gave some great advice to a star struck Felix.
"Being shy is not a bad thing at all," he said. "I would definitely describe myself as shy. But the older you get, the more you come out of your shell anyway with life experiences.
"And if a kid gets stuck along the way," the 25-year old continued, "I would say to them to talk to friends, teachers or your parents about how you feel. Your parents definitely know what they are doing."
2. Dan TDM is a really nice guy
When asked how it feels to have 13 million subscribers on YouTube, Dan is just really, really happy about it. As you would be.
"It is absolutely insane to have people know who I am and what I do," he says, with no hint of arrogance or entitlement.
Got to love that.
3. The minority is the new majority
While watching my son bond with someone a little bit like himself – give or take a 16-year age gap and a few million subscribers – a happy thought struck me.
My son – a creative quirky awesome kid – has chosen a creative quirky guy as his role model. Younger generations are increasingly doing this nowadays; finding their own tribes, thanks to the popularity of YouTube.
So, rather than being fed a handful of tightly-managed mainstream role models – something we experienced ourselves as kids – kids now choose who they want to identify with.
4. Felix and I nearly missed a big bonding opportunity
As our meeting came to an end – after Dan TDM and Felix swapped notes on which Pokèmon they've caught (apparently Gengar is good to catch) – Dan shared a final piece of advice.
"I think if parents just sit down with their kids and play some games with them, it's a really good thing to do," he said. "Not just to monitor what they're actually watching, but to stay close to them too.
"Parents should make an effort to see what games are about. Gaming has a negative stigma but I think we can change that. It can actually be very social."
Felix's smile exploded at this point. Or maybe it was when Dan autographed Felix's t-shirt and posed for a photo or ten. (I may or may not have taken a selfie at that point, just sayin')
Lesson learned, and appreciated. Thanks Dan, you're the man – both online and in real life.
Parents who missed out on buying tickets to Dan TDM's January 2017 shows at the Sydney Opera House can take heart. Dan TDM will be back in September 2017, with tickets going on sale in March. Sign up to the mailing list to access all the details.