Pope Francis. Tim Cook. Angela Merkel. PewDiePie?
Yes, it’s true. Felix Kjellberg, the Swedish gamer known to his tens of millions of online fans as PewDiePie, has been inducted onto this year’s Time 100, Time Magazine‘s annual list of the most influential people in the world.
Kjellberg has built an online empire (at 43.5 million subscribers on YouTube, his global fanbase eclipses the entire population of Canada) through his wildly popular “Let’s Play” videos and vlogs, and now sits on the latest iteration of the Time 100 among the likes of Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Olympian Usain Bolt.
The list (which is not ranked) was established in 1999 as a form of recognizing influential people
around world. The final selections are chosen by Time’s editorial team, with nominees coming from the magazine’s international staff and the previous year’s inductees. Those profiled don’t necessarily have to be considered a “good” influence. For instance, North Korean president Kim Jong Un is among those who made it into the “Leaders” section. Rather, the finalists were chosen for their ability to generate headlines, start major conversations and spark change in their respective industries.
Kjellberg was included under the “Pioneers” section, which is dedicated to people who’ve made major advancements in science, technology, business and media.
The enthusiastic gamer has become something of an unofficial face of the YouTube community, proving that online creators can make not just good money, but millions of dollars through branded content, merchandizing and rev-share opportunities.
He’s also penned his first book, a collection of anecdotes and inspiring quotes entitled This Book Loves You, which landed in the top spot on the New York Times Bestsellers list the week of its release in November 2015. Recently, he and his multi-channel network Maker Studios partnered to launch the gaming-focused creator network Revelmode. He’s also the creator and star of one of YouTube Red’s original series, the unscripted variety show Scare PewDiePie.
In the Time feature, Kjellberg was profiled by South Park co-creator Trey Parker (who previously featured Kjellberg voicing an animated version of himself on the linear comedy). Parker wrote of YouTuber: “I know it might seem weird, especially to those of us from an older generation, that people would spend so much time watching someone else play video game… But I choose to see it as the birth of a new art form. And I don’t think anyone should underestimate its most powerful artist.”
Kjellberg was the only person on the list who is primarily a digital content creator. Others making the cut, such as Master of None’s Aziz Ansari and Beasts of no Nation star Idris Elba, have starred in digital originals.