Curmudgeon's Corner: So, what's the deal with Critical Role?

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
The title pretty much says it all.

But to elaborate-

I love all the attention that TTRPGs get. Even if they aren't TTRPGs, they are just RPGs. Yeah, you heard me, CRPGs. You can just go straight to H-E-double hockey sticks, so long as you take your C with you!

So I appreciate podcasts, and shows, like Critical Role for developing more of an audience.

...but I just don't get it.

I've tried to engage with it (Critical Role, that Dan Harmon one), but it's just not for me. If I wanted to watch a show, there's approximately 5 billion shows and movies to watch; I'm literally DROWNING in content.

And, more importantly, why would I want to watch others play a game that I can play myself?

I have the same, strong, revulsion to most Twitch streams; why would I watch someone else play a videogame that I can play myself? That's, you know, weird.

Look, I get that this is the classic, Old Guy Yelling at Clouds argument ("What's with the kids these days, riding around in their funny cars and blasting their hip hop music and shooting the jerbs????"), but I don't get the appeal.

Also, I understand that people can make similar arguments about, say, sports or music (why watch football when you can do it? why go to concerts that you can play?) .... to which I have two answers: A. Shut Up. B. It's difference.

...ahem. Seriously, though, is this something I'm missing? Can someone explain the appeal to me, or how I might get to understand this?

Or am I doomed to forever not be able to waste hours of time watching other people play, and be forced to play myself instead?*




*Yeah, I did that. What are you going to do about it? ;)
 

Celebrim

Legend
I'd say that our tastes are pretty different.... but watching someone else play an RPG is something I find I can't do.

I can watch someone else play a video game, something which my wife doesn't get and even I find a bit weird.

But I get bored out of my mind watching someone play a RPG.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I'd say that our tastes are pretty different.... but watching someone else play an RPG is something I find I can't do.

I can watch someone else play a video game, something which my wife doesn't get and even I find a bit weird.

But I get bored out of my mind watching someone play a RPG.
It obviously appeals to some people! I feel like I'm missing something.
 

Celebrim

Legend
It obviously appeals to some people! I feel like I'm missing something.
Well, we are both missing out obviously. There is a community of people who enjoy Critical Role and we're on the outside.

But I'm not convinced I'm missing something. I think perhaps they are.
 

Aebir-Toril

When life gives you Lenin, make Leninade!
I'm not an old curmudgeon, but, while I do enjoy watching people play a video game quite a bit, I despise watching people play a TTRPG, it's just so boring for me (not to mention, ridiculously time-consuming).
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I'm not an old curmudgeon, but, while I do enjoy watching people play a video game quite a bit, I despise watching people play a TTRPG, it's just so boring for me (not to mention, ridiculously time-consuming).
Ugh! Well, at least we are all in agreement on watching people play TTRPGs. GO OLDS!

But how do you and @Celebrim manage to watch people play video games? At most, I can watch a very short clip if it's a gameplay hint (how to get past X boss), and then only if there isn't a written guide.

I may have to petition to remove your OLD cards. No more control of the thermostat! ;)
 

Aebir-Toril

When life gives you Lenin, make Leninade!
Ugh! Well, at least we are all in agreement on watching people play TTRPGs. GO OLDS!

But how do you and @Celebrim manage to watch people play video games? At most, I can watch a very short clip if it's a gameplay hint (how to get past X boss), and then only if there isn't a written guide.

I may have to petition to remove your OLD cards. No more control of the thermostat! ;)
Well, as I said, I'm actually not old. I'm pretty young, but I agree that watching people play TTRPGs is boring. Video games are more visual, I think.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
The title pretty much says it all.

But to elaborate-

I love all the attention that TTRPGs get. Even if they aren't TTRPGs, they are just RPGs. Yeah, you heard me, CRPGs. You can just go straight to H-E-double hockey sticks, so long as you take your C with you!

So I appreciate podcasts, and shows, like Critical Role for developing more of an audience.

...but I just don't get it.

I've tried to engage with it (Critical Role, that Dan Harmon one), but it's just not for me. If I wanted to watch a show, there's approximately 5 billion shows and movies to watch; I'm literally DROWNING in content.

And, more importantly, why would I want to watch others play a game that I can play myself?

I have the same, strong, revulsion to most Twitch streams; why would I watch someone else play a videogame that I can play myself? That's, you know, weird.

Look, I get that this is the classic, Old Guy Yelling at Clouds argument ("What's with the kids these days, riding around in their funny cars and blasting their hip hop music and shooting the jerbs????"), but I don't get the appeal.

Also, I understand that people can make similar arguments about, say, sports or music (why watch football when you can do it? why go to concerts that you can play?) .... to which I have two answers: A. Shut Up. B. It's difference.

...ahem. Seriously, though, is this something I'm missing? Can someone explain the appeal to me, or how I might get to understand this?

Or am I doomed to forever not be able to waste hours of time watching other people play, and be forced to play myself instead?*


*Yeah, I did that. What are you going to do about it? ;)
The argument, “why watch other people play a game when you can play it yourself?” relies on the assumption that you can play it yourself. I think this is why the usual “well, why watch Football when you can play that yourself?” comeback falls flat for most of the people who make this argument. Sure, in theory you might be able to play football, but in reality you can’t just do that any time you want. At minimum, doing so would require organizing enough people for two teams and all the necessary equipment, not something you can just do on a whim. And even if you did, you and your friends are unlikely to be able to play at the level professional players do.

The thing is, not everyone can just play D&D themselves. It’s a group game, so at minimum it requires getting a group together, which realistically isn’t something you can just do on a whim. And even if you did, you and your friends are unlikely to be able to be able to act at the level of professional (voice) actors. That’s all before considering the fact that a lot (a LOT) of people who like the idea of D&D are too intimidated by the rules, the social aspect, or both to be comfortable actually playing it themselves. For those people, watching critical role gives them a taste of what interests them about D&D without having to learn the rules or put themselves out there with a group of other people.

Another part of the appeal of watching sports is the social element. For many sports fans, it’s more about the ritual of getting together to watch the Big Game than it is about the game itself. This is also true of Critical Role. For many fans it’s more about a shared experience with their friends who also watch it than about the show itself.

Lastly, Critical Role (and games like it) has a story, with characters, that people get invested in for much the same reason they might get invested in any serialized TV drama. They want to know what happens next in the story. This is kind of doubled for Critical Role because of the para-social relationship it fosters with the actors. People get invested in the actors like characters on a reality TV show, so there’s a double-whammy of potential investment.

EDIT: For the record, I actually don’t actively follow Critical Role. I do understand the appeal, but not enough hours in the day for me to want to spend 3-4 of them watching a D&D game I can’t participate in. I do enjoy The Adventure Zone though. Shorter episodes and a smaller, more focused group help a LOT.
 
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Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
I don't watch them a ton. I've watched maybe 4 episodes of CR (at the end of their original run) and a few dozen of MCDM (which I do like but 3 hours is a lot to keep up with).

I just watched one that DND Beyond posted yesterday from Game Hole Con with Chris Perkins DMing and Pat Rothfuss and a few others as players. It was 2.5 hours and I was laughing my butt off almost the whole time.

I think for me when I do watch them, I enjoy the stories that they're weaving, but I also enjoy the camaraderie of the players. That's the best part of TTRPG for me and to get a hint of it even when I'm not playing is fun.

If I do watch, it's usually on my headphones at work, more listening than anything else.
 

cmad1977

Adventurer
I listen to the podcasts. Don’t watch. I do it as a ‘watching the tape’ type thing.

Situations crop up and I think to myself ‘I’d handle things in X fashion’. Then I see what the Gm does and wether I can see why they made the calls they made.

I don’t really care about the actual role-playing so much.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
My friends kids watch other people play minecraft. the don't even play it. the watch other people play it.

I don't get it.

I like CR but it's soooo long. Harmonquest I can watch. It's short and pretty funny, the rotating celebrity guest makes each episode feel unique.
 

Gradine

Archivist
Oftentimes it's the personalities involved as well.

My partner always thought it was weird how much I watched Let's Plays until I sat her down to watch Griffin McElroy's Nuzlocke run of Pokemon Y, which combined two of her favorite things (pokemon and Griffin McElroy yelling at things). She also got me into The Adventure Zone for similar reasons, even though neither of us had had any luck actually watching live plays of tabletop games (with the rare previous exceptions being Wil Wheaton's Tabletop [and even then Dragon Age was the only TTRPG episode we actually enjoyed] and Titansgrave).

Of course, the thing everything I mentioned above has in common is that they are all heavily edited in some way (except for TAZ, which generally comes in small enough chunks to be digestible without editing). Most of the LP's I watch are fairly well-edited too, but again, it boils down to the personalities more than anything. There are LPers I watch who play games I have no interest in but which I still enjoy watching, and LPs of games I love that I can't stand because the LPers are awful or just obnoxious.

Critical Role's assortment of players have at least some measure of popularity outside their TTRPG endeavours (the same of course is true of Wil Wheaton and the McElroys) which I think is what is really necessary to build the kind of crossover audience that then gets into the games themselves.
 

aramis erak

Explorer
I don't get the appeal either for TTRPG, but I've known friends/relatives of the host who were entertained by listening to play, but don't/won't play themselves.
 
I kind of understand the appeal of listening to an RPG play out for the story, I suppose, but that's heavily dependent on the quality of the editing and the RPers. But for me in general, RPG streams typically are just way too long, both as episodes and as campaigns.

That said, watching a few RPG episodes can be a wonderful complement to a rulebook when learning the mechanics of an unfamiliar system. A streamed game provides a provides a lot of context-- and usually a fun story, to boot!
 

Istbor

Explorer
I don't get the appeal of reading and answering posts on a message board from old folks.

I mean... don't they have grandchildren for this? Can't they get their 'hip' information elsewhere? Why can't they just hop into their old sedan and listen to the Beach Boys or something.

I feel like they need to stay off my Internet lawn.

Harumph!
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
The title pretty much says it all.

But to elaborate-

I love all the attention that TTRPGs get. Even if they aren't TTRPGs, they are just RPGs. Yeah, you heard me, CRPGs. You can just go straight to H-E-double hockey sticks, so long as you take your C with you!

So I appreciate podcasts, and shows, like Critical Role for developing more of an audience.

...but I just don't get it.

I've tried to engage with it (Critical Role, that Dan Harmon one), but it's just not for me. If I wanted to watch a show, there's approximately 5 billion shows and movies to watch; I'm literally DROWNING in content.

And, more importantly, why would I want to watch others play a game that I can play myself?

I have the same, strong, revulsion to most Twitch streams; why would I watch someone else play a videogame that I can play myself? That's, you know, weird.

Look, I get that this is the classic, Old Guy Yelling at Clouds argument ("What's with the kids these days, riding around in their funny cars and blasting their hip hop music and shooting the jerbs????"), but I don't get the appeal.

Also, I understand that people can make similar arguments about, say, sports or music (why watch football when you can do it? why go to concerts that you can play?) .... to which I have two answers: A. Shut Up. B. It's difference.

...ahem. Seriously, though, is this something I'm missing? Can someone explain the appeal to me, or how I might get to understand this?

Or am I doomed to forever not be able to waste hours of time watching other people play, and be forced to play myself instead?*




*Yeah, I did that. What are you going to do about it? ;)
I think it's just that different people like different things. My brother likes heavy metal music; I don't. I like D&D; my dad has no interest in it. My other brother has never read a comic-book to my knowledge or watched Doctor Who. You don't like live-streamed games, but others do.

If it's done well, it can be as good as TV. There was a group that was running one of my games which I listed to in podcast format (time being a factor, and I can do that while walking the dog) that I was pretty addicted to.

Look, I get that this is the classic, Old Guy Yelling at Clouds argument ("What's with the kids these days, riding around in their funny cars and blasting their hip hop music and shooting the jerbs????"), but I don't get the appeal.
I mean yeah, it literally is that. You've answered your own question. I'm not sure that any explanation from a fan is going to make you suddenly like hip hop music if you don't. :)
 

hawkeyefan

Explorer
I’ve watched a fair bit of streamed games. I can’t really get into Critical Role, though, because of the length and the amount of participants. But shorter games with a smaller group can be entertaining.

Most won’t compare to other forms of entertainment, though. But, for me, I work at home, and actual play videos are something that i can have on in the background and still get my work done. If I miss a bit here and there, it’s usually not a problem.

I also find that they’re really, really helpful to see how a game works. Just RPGs overall, yes, but also a specific game. When I decided to try Blades in the Dark, I watched some streaming games run by the author, John Harper. These videos were particularly helpful in that the rules were still being finalized, so you got to see some design concerns being worked on or rules being changed based on how they played.

These aren’t just videos of people playing....they often work as instructions on how to play.
 

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