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

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Is professional chef the only profession where people rank their nationality over a chef’s experience and qualifications? Does that happen to physicists?
I suspect you'll find that a physicist that's American, Japanese, or German will be viewed a bit more positively than one from, say Argentina. nationality comes with preconcieved notions about educational background from the country in question.

And like Dennis Leary says... "Irish... cuisine?"
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I suspect you'll find that a physicist that's American, Japanese, or German will be viewed a bit more positively than one from, say Argentina. nationality comes with preconcieved notions about educational background from the country in question.
But would someone on a message board dismiss a physicist’s work simply because they were Argentinian?

(and if so, there’s a word for that)

and like Dennis Leary says... "Irish... cuisine?"
I’ve had some delicious meals in Ireland and some horrible meals in France. National stereotypes aren’t a good thing, and in the modern age are generally not true; and also not great optics when coming from the most powerful, privileged nation on Earth. Always punch up! :)

[Edit — and I’m pontificating far more than I mean to! Sorry about that! It’s all meant good-naturedley! Waaay off topic though!]
 
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Celebrim

Legend
Always punch up! :)
If you insist.

You are way over the line here and if anyone else was acting this way they'd likely get removed from the thread.

You have distorted the clear meaning of what I was saying in favor of some sort of made up position that was never remotely connected to what I said, and you are now engaged in various personal slanders.

"If an American chef told me he could do better fish and chips than me, I’d probably agree he could."

Sure, I'd definitely agree Paul Hollywood could bake better than I do, but that's not the assertion he made or one that did or would have annoyed me. If Paul Hollywood asserted he was a better baker than me, that would be a totally defensible position. But what Paul Hollywood did was dismiss an entire country, it's cuisine, and it's cooks - not just me, but every pie cooking grandma and chef in the country. What he said was equivalent to the rude, insensitive and close-minded American who goes to Italy, and then complains how the food is better at Olive Garden and how no one can in the country can make a decent 'spaghetti'.

"Is professional chef the only profession where people rank their nationality over a chef’s experience and qualifications?"

Paul Hollywood's nationality was not something I ever challenged so do not continue to flatter yourself with the idea that I was. No one, least of all me, has questioned his ability to bake on the grounds of his nationality. Indeed, the comment in question that questioned a nations ability to bake was his, and not mine. But in whatever mood you are in, you've decided to prove that I'm the one being racist or whatever you are insinuating.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
If you insist.

You are way over the line here and if anyone else was acting this way they'd likely get removed from the thread.

You have distorted the clear meaning of what I was saying in favor of some sort of made up position that was never remotely connected to what I said, and you are now engaged in various personal slanders.

"If an American chef told me he could do better fish and chips than me, I’d probably agree he could."

Sure, I'd definitely agree Paul Hollywood could bake better than I do, but that's not the assertion he made or one that did or would have annoyed me. If Paul Hollywood asserted he was a better baker than me, that would be a totally defensible position. But what Paul Hollywood did was dismiss an entire country, it's cuisine, and it's cooks - not just me, but every pie cooking grandma and chef in the country. What he said was equivalent to the rude, insensitive and close-minded American who goes to Italy, and then complains how the food is better at Olive Garden and how no one can in the country can make a decent 'spaghetti'.

"Is professional chef the only profession where people rank their nationality over a chef’s experience and qualifications?"

Paul Hollywood's nationality was not something I ever challenged so do not continue to flatter yourself with the idea that I was. No one, least of all me, has questioned his ability to bake on the grounds of his nationality. Indeed, the comment in question that questioned a nations ability to bake was his, and not mine. But in whatever mood you are in, you've decided to prove that I'm the one being racist or whatever you are insinuating.
I apologise. I was merely (intending) to be flippant, not to upset you.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I barely watch TV because it doesn't hold my interest, so shows like CR aren't on my list. I gave it the old college try, three separate times. I also don't like audiobooks - they go tooo slow.

But my kids love to watch things. They put them on in the background and work on art or whatever, and still get it.

shrug Maybe it's generational. Not in a "they are doing it wrong" (aimed at either generation), but expectations of pacing and amount of attention given have grown with different context.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
And jelly is jam in your language, right? It sounds pretty horrid to me. But yes, I have heard that Americans eat that.
It’s delicious. And it’s not one of those “because you grew up with it” things. Every person from outside the US I’ve introduced to a PBJ has been absolutely delighted by them.

Even better toasted!
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Anyway, back to the original topic. From my 15-year-old de-facto goddaughter:

“The big draw in critical role for me is less in the d&d aspect and more in the story and the characters. It feels like just another way to tell a story that happens to have some random elements. It’s also the joy of seeing people do what they love and have fun and the comedy and connection of a group of friends being ridiculous together, just like a lot of real life type YouTube videos.”

So, all in all, the game (at least in this young lady's view) isn't the point. It is about charming, friendly, interesting people telling an engaging story.

If your perspective is "watching other people play a game is boring", you might consider that your emphasis on the game is in the way of understanding.

 

Celebrim

Legend
When I coach soccer to youth, one thing that I notice is that immigrant kids have an advantage over typical American kids in as much as the immigrant kid is likely to have seen soccer played at a high level. This gives them some sort of mental template for what soccer looked like when played well.

For myself, I had the advantage as a young 12 year old budding DM of having a friend's college age cousin run several games for me, and the way he played the game was so much better than the way I had been playing the game that it was eye opening. It was like, "Oh... you can do that? That's amazing! I want to do that too." I've since come to realize that he was an exceptionally good player/GM, and played the game at above the level I've seen most adults play it and so I count myself really lucky to have at such an early age gotten such a good model to strive toward.

I've watched 'Critical Role', and to me it's not that big of deal because I've seen the game played this way for more than 30 years. Granted, to find that many really good players is amazing and I've only had as good of a group once, but the general way Matt Mercer is playing the game is the way I've pretty much always felt the game should be played.

My real hope with CR is that Mercer is out there being a role-model, leading young GMs to strive to play at a higher level, more literary, more artistic, more immersive, and ultimately just more fun. Because ultimately, the hobby isn't about editions or systems, but about GMs being inspired to make things, and groups of friends having a good time.
 

Haffrung

Explorer
My real hope with CR is that Mercer is out there being a role-model, leading young GMs to strive to play at a higher level, more literary, more artistic, more immersive, and ultimately just more fun.
My concern is Mercer has the opposite effect. I started DMing when I was 11 because DMing in 1981 meant drawing a dungeon on graph paper, populating it with monsters and treasure, and running my friends through it the next day. That was an easy on-ramp to being a DM. And that ease of entry is the reason why millions of kids under the age of 15 played D&D in the 80s.

Today, the expectations of what a DM should bring to the table is so much higher in terms of preparation, system mastery, story, roleplaying, etc. Prospective new DMs seem extremely intimidated at taking on the task.

Should those who DM long-term strive to master a host of skills associated with the role? Sure (though I don't think Matt Mercer's approach suits every table). But in my experience the hobby doesn't face a problem of DM laziness or lack of skill - it faces a problem of finding people willing to take on the job in the first place.

TLDR: more people will step up to the plate and DM if we set modest expectations for what DMing requires, rather than pointing to Matt Mercer and saying "do that."
 
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Haffrung

Explorer
It’s also the joy of seeing people do what they love and have fun and the comedy and connection of a group of friends being ridiculous together, just like a lot of real life type YouTube videos.”
Yes, in that sense CR fits in with a whole genre of Youtube videos. I wonder if the popularity of this genre is related to the dramatic decline in the amount of face-to-face socialization teens and young adults today experience. So the videos are a kind of ersatz 'hanging out with friends' for people who have trouble hanging out with friends IRL.
 

Celebrim

Legend
@Haffrung : I can see that concern and I admit that it is a potential issue, but there is something about your tale that I don't think you are really considering and that's the difference between 1983 and 2019.

If you look at the games of that period, Car Wars, Battletech, Star Fleet Battles, and yes D&D, there was an attraction to them then that is no longer present in 2019. In 1983 the sort of video game that a person had access to was really simple. Anything more complex than something like Donkey Kong wasn't really possible, and personal computing was out of the reach of the average person. I think it is really eye opening to go back and play games from the Atari 2600. What people were doing with PnP was in part intended to fill a niche that couldn't be filled in any other way. The games people were implementing with rule sets were really pen and paper video games. If you go back and look at some of those advertisements for play by mail strategy games, they were trying to make a video game using their brain as the CPU and the rules as the software. I doubt many or any of them every really made it. There was a hunger for a form of entertainment that nothing in the environment could fill. Heck, we still have a few grognards on the boards who will tell you that an infinite pen and paper video game, a sort of glorified Nethack, is what D&D is really supposed to be and that all this modern stuff isn't really an RPG.

And the problem is that here in 2019 you will never recapture that age again, because its far too easy to play Diablo or Mass Effect or Kingdom Come or really any number of video games and get the thing that people in 1981 or 1983 were getting from D&D (or Car Wars or Battletech) that couldn't be gotten anywhere else.

Being able to make a dungeon is still and important skill, and encounter and scenario design is an art form that will never go away. But my suspicion is that if you aren't really bringing to the table something that video games can't deliver, then your game is going to be a passing fad. You'll play for a dozen times or something, and be done. The only way to hook this new generation will be with experiences that they aren't getting elsewhere, whether it's the social interaction, or the story, or whatever it is that a video game can't deliver.

I agree that the hobby lives and dies by the GMs. So if the problem is stepping up and delivering the Matt Mercer experience is too hard a hurdle for a young DM, we need to start finding ways to package that experience and redistribute it so that it's easier to get up and running. I had thought Paizo's adventure paths were doing that, but having experienced one now I realize, "Nope. Not even close."
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I wonder if the popularity of this genre is related to the dramatic decline in the amount of face-to-face socialization teens and young adults today experience.
The young lady who I quoted has exactly zero issues getting quality face-to-face time with her friends. She's pretty much the opposite of isolated.

So, while you might have a point in a broad sense, the quote in question should not be taken as indicating this.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
My real hope with CR is that Mercer is out there being a role-model, leading young GMs to strive to play at a higher level, more literary, more artistic, more immersive, and ultimately just more fun.
That would be nice. There's the issue that you can have the opposite impact, because those people are all professionals, and their production has skills and resources (including time and $$) kids at home won't have - meaning that their efforts at home are unlikely to match, and that can be pretty demoralizing and disincentivising.

There's a major difference between Critical Role and your own history - you got to play with a mentor. You got to take an active part of the event within your reach. Critical Role's production values may be too high to act as mentoring.

However that may be, my god-daughter's opinion suggests that if he has such an impact, it is really secondary. Because, again, the game of D&D is largely beside the point.
 

Celebrim

Legend
There's a major difference between Critical Role and your own history - you got to play with a mentor. You got to take an active part of the event within your reach. Critical Role's production values may be too high to act as mentoring.
True. I learned more in a summer playing with a mentor than I would have learned in years of time trying to invent the game on my own and learning from my own mistakes.

I'll still hope.

However that may be, my god-daughter's opinion suggests that if he has such an impact, it is really secondary. Because, again, the game of D&D is largely beside the point.
Well, ok, but that's not exactly encouraging.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
That would be nice. There's the issue that you can have the opposite impact, because those people are all professionals, and their production has skills and resources (including time and $$) kids at home won't have - meaning that their efforts at home are unlikely to match, and that can be pretty demoralizing and disincentivising.

There's a major difference between Critical Role and your own history - you got to play with a mentor. You got to take an active part of the event within your reach. Critical Role's production values may be too high to act as mentoring.

However that may be, my god-daughter's opinion suggests that if he has such an impact, it is really secondary. Because, again, the game of D&D is largely beside the point.
So what you're saying is that it's filling the role more of, say, Who's Line Is It Anyway? (In that it's a show about the improv, and the game rules don't really matter)?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'll still hope.
Nothing wrong with hope.

Well, ok, but that's not exactly encouraging.
Sorry. Accepting that one quote is by no means "data"... we still have to understand that reality is under no obligation to unfold as we desire it. I know that, since they started with D&D, it would be nice to think that CR's major impact would be D&D related, because, we care about RPG play. But the anecdote before us suggests that may not be the case.

CR's impact may be more toward the entertainment industry, television, and streaming media, than back to the game that spawned it. And that makes a heck of a lot of sense, really - the impact of, say, Nethack, was not back into the D&D it sort of emulated, but forward deeper into video games. And CR may be based in D&D, but it is as much based on streaming media and play of Twitch - it just started as a group of really talented people playign on Twitch, right? So, it is just as likely, or even more likely, to have more of an impact on twitch-type presentations than on RPGs.
 

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