‘A Heist With Markiplier’ breaks expectations, steals hearts


Griselda Eychaner

The thumbnail for A Heist With Markiplier. The video has already gained over 8 million views a week after its release.

You’re crouching inside the museum; it’s the night of your big heist. In front of you is your partner in crime, the one with whom you’re pulling off this heist — Mark. You stay there for a moment; he reminds you to stick to the plan. Then, without warning, he grappling-hooks out of sight. 

This is the setup for the story of A Heist With Markiplier, a YouTube Original that makes the viewer a character in the fictional world of the story. 

Created by Mark Fischbach (known as Markiplier), A Heist With Markiplier is only the second of its kind; the first is A Date With Markiplier. Both are directed and starred in by Fischbach. However, thanks to its sponsorship from YouTube, A Heist With Markiplier has a lot more in store for the viewer. 

It doesn’t take long for you and Mark to find what you were looking for — a strange box containing something mysterious and powerful. Mark walks up to it and carefully lifts it off the pedestal. For a moment, it seems fine. Then the room is lit up by red light. Alarms blare. Mark turns to you, and asks you a question: how do you want to escape? 

Here’s the thing: A Heist With Markiplier does everything it can to make the viewer feel like part of the world. The perspective is similar to that of a first-person video game, with characters addressing the camera as if they are talking to you. Gender-neutral terms are always used for the viewer. Arms and legs appear whenever action is involved. 

However, the single most important — and most unique — thing about A Heist With Markiplier is the control it gives the viewer over the story. 

A Heist With Markiplier is cut into segments in such a way that at the end of each one, you are given a choice between any two things; two annotations appear on the video that, when you click on them, lead to an entirely new video that continues the story from the previous one. 

The number of choices it takes varies, but eventually, you’ll reach an ending. Then there’s only one annotation, which leads back to the beginning so you can start again. 

This isn’t the first YouTube video to use annotations to create a “choose your own adventure,” but it’s certainly one of the most popular. In fact, the only one with more views is its predecessor, A Date With Markiplier. Through these videos, Fischbach is helping to popularize a potentially powerful storytelling tool for creators. 

However, this system wouldn’t be nearly as effective without all the different branching storylines and endings you can get. Fischbach uses the system to his advantage, giving his story that much more effectiveness. The story (and acting) is very cartoonish and exaggerated in all the right ways. 

There are exactly 31 endings, all with very different outcomes. Every single choice you make has the potential to lead you into either a zombie apocalypse, a pirate crew, or aliens; many of them are played by various friends of Fischbach’s, such as Matthew Patrick (MatPat) and Dan Avidan and Arin Hanson (Game Grumps). 

You might think the point is to get all the endings. You can do that if you want, but it’s not. The idea is just to try out different choices because it’s fun to see where it goes. 

In a world where endings are binary and not getting the “perfect ending” is a failure, A Heist With Markiplier stands out — not only by featuring many wonderful endings, but by putting the focus on the journey instead. 

That’s what sets this series apart from everything else on YouTube: it’s made for the viewer. The story is what you decide it should be. And it will go in a completely nonsensical direction no matter what you choose, so you can pretty much do what you want without fear of consequences. 

If you do get a bad ending, you can just try again! Who knows, might be even better the second time around. Maybe you’ll even figure out what’s in that mysterious box…