OverSimplified Really Knows How to Make History Fun


When I first stumbled upon the channel OverSimplified back in my early high school years, I remember not having high expectations for the channel. History channels on YouTube tend to be either in one of two categories: parades that lose accuracy as their video progress or gritty serious videos which lack the passion or semblance to make learning history fun. When I spotted the somewhat cartoonish art style of the channel, I thought it who be a repeat of the former. Yet, OverSimplified completely excelled my expectations, and to be honest, somewhat dumbfounded me at how entertaining yet accurate simultaneously it could be. 

The YouTube channel, OverSimplifed, is run by a 28-year-old Irish-American named Stuart Webster, and was started back on October 28, 2016, with his first video titled “WWI- OverSimplified(Part 1).” Today, that video has over 42 million views and the channel has around 7 million subscribers with a total of 26 videos each ranging from around 10-20 minutes. 

What makes OverSimplifed exceptional—and in my opinion, enjoyable—isn’t its short video time or even its particular topics but the phenomenal story-telling and easily digestible information packed into every episode along with its keen ability for flow and humor. 

What makes OverSimplifed exceptional—and in my opinion enjoyable—isn’t its short video time or even its particular topics but the phenomenal story-telling and easily digestible information packed into every episode along with its keen ability for flow and humor. 

As I mentioned before, it isn’t easy to blend history and humor when it comes to teaching. The main point of a history channel is to inform the watcher of events that occurred in the past and educate them on the specifics and power players in the conflict. However, it’s difficult to keep that sort of teaching from getting bland and repetitive. In some cases, it’s even harder to focus on the whole concept of the video and zone out so you retain nothing the creator wanted to teach. Adding humor often helps balance that nitty-gritty stuff and keeps the attention of the viewer zeroed in on the video, but if too much entertainment is put into the learning process you risk losing the whole purpose of the video. It’s the yin and yang for each history creator, and rarely does it ever come in a perfect balance. 

For OverSimplified, this challenge of learning is combatted in one of the most creative ways I’ve seen so far. The channel utilizes its simple art style to narrate the lesson in an unseen way, by including simple character designs with little detail the creator can focus on creating dramatic poses and scenes which format real-life events. 

Often, the body language of each character is used to describe feelings in dramatic ways with exaggerated movements like constantly shifting arms, head nodding and turning, and random changes in facial features and sounds. No scene is left without movement of some sort even when there is just interaction between the two characters. And little changes like squinting, whispering, or even changing directions are used to convene emotions. It’s something akin to a comical skit that emphasizes body language and silly mannerisms infused with an informational scene. Strangely enough, it’s highly effective at both exemplifying historical events and entertaining the viewer even when no obvious jokes are made.

Another tactic used by OverSimplifed which seems unconventional, but is peculiarly adequate, is cultural references. If you pay close attention when watching an OverSimplifed video, you’ll find that the creators tend to put references to modern media in what seems to be the most random places or scenarios. The most obvious example of this delightful tomfoolery is seen in the video titled, “The Pig War,” where the cover art is a direct reference to the infamous Star Wars series but with early nineteenth-century characters; there are even two men holding flags like light sabers and a pig dressed up as the fearsome Sith Lord.

Overall, OverSimplified is an honest joy to watch. The creator’s other-worldly knack for story-telling, exaggerated skits, movement, and hilarious pop-culture references could make any person snort or laugh because of their absurdity alongside a surprisingly informational and educational experience that would leave any student or adult with a higher level of understanding in the overall events covered in the video. I recommend it to any student who struggles to find a channel that can be both entertaining and educational in one way or another.