One day in early May, Melburnian Jacob Turner put on a suit of armour and filmed a seven second TikTok video to an audio track.
He asked what the viewer would do if he showed up to a date looking like that.
The next day, the 25-year-old security officer had 1000 followers, and he has just celebrated reaching 100,000 followers (and counting) and 1.6 million likes across his account.
“It’s really just gone up since then,” Jacob – who goes by @mr._brightside__ on Tik Tok – says. “Ever since, I’ve just kept building this little community which has been amazing.”
In February, there were 1.6 million Australian Tik Tok users, Roy Morgan data shows, with numbers rising fast. About a third (35 per cent) are under 30, and many are aiming to capitalise on the viral platform that is the sixth largest social network globally.
The inspiration for Jacob’s videos come from positive and often funny anecdotes and memes, mostly about the tabletop game Dungeons and Dragons and his passion for LARP – Live Action Roleplay.
“It’s a bit like rugby for nerds,” he says.
Jacob describes LARP – in which players assume the role of a character in a fictional world and participate in combat with latex weaponry – “LARP is a fantasy world where you can be whoever you want, be your true self and fully immerse yourself in a fantasy environment.”
Swordcraft, the LARP game that he most actively participates in, has 6200 followers on their official Facebook group, with nine chapters around Australia. Nationwide there are nearly 30 LARP groups and games listed over a number of local directories, with many more smaller, invitation-only games run – all with unique gameplay styles, storylines and settings.
Many of Jacob’s videos since his first post went viral have featured his signature suit of armour, earning him the nickname Armour Bae from his loyal fanbase.
Jacob didn’t expect to make it big on Tik Tok. “I didn’t really have a lot to do … because we’ve been under strict quarantine, so I needed to find something to satisfy my creative outlet,” he says.
After finding out he missed out on hoped-for work, he says he was feeling sorry for himself and needed something to do.
“A friend of mine got me into TikTok and said, ‘why don’t you start making videos?’”
At first, he says he felt apprehensive about the idea, saying, “I didn’t want to be one of those guys.” However, his outlook on using the platform has changed in the months since. “It’s become something I’m really proud of.”
Jacob’s best friend and the instigator of him making videos, Harrison Gunst, also a LARPer, says that, “it’s been really wonderful watching him grow” throughout his time on the platform.
“He really loves creating new content, and I think everyone should have that opportunity to do what they love.”
Jacob grins ear to ear when asked what the best thing to come out of his time on the platform is.
“I’m gonna be really corny and say meeting my partner … we knew the same people, are into the same things. It’s a miracle we hadn’t met yet – TikTok was the thing that finally brought us together.”
Jacob attributes his success in part to having fun with it and not taking himself too seriously, and doesn’t focus so much on building his following as much as “just making videos because I enjoy doing it”.
He suggests the same for others looking to make it big on Tik Tok. Jacob is still working outside of Tik Tok, but he’d love to be able to create content full time.
Harrison has big hopes for Jacob’s success on the platform as well. “I hope he gets himself going steady. He’s been playing with new ideas, started up new accounts on different platforms … I love it.”
For now, Jacob’s just enjoying “being able to spread positive messages,” and “having fun, making cute videos and meme-ing.”
He’s focusing on diversifying his content and platforms, setting up a Twitch streaming account and, after his followers insisted, a Patreon to help fund more diverse content for his fans.
“It’s only just the beginning and I love being able to show people what I love doing … I can’t wait to see where it goes.”
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Jacob regularly creates TikToks with important messages for those who might be struggling.
These videos tell his viewers things he says are “important for people to see”.
“It’s really good having the following I have that I can put out those positive messages when they need to be heard.”
One of his most popular videos – Top 5 ways to get to Valhalla, with nearly 600,000 views – shows him in costume with upbeat music, before shifting to show him staring straight into the camera and telling his viewers, “you’re still needed here”.
“The thing that’s changed for me is early on when I’d put a video out like that, it wouldn’t reach many, but now its reaching tens of thousands of people and people are commenting saying, ‘I really needed that’, and that warms my heart.”