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Critical Role PSA: You are not Matt Mercer

And I say that's their own fault for comparing themselves to professionals when they're just starting out.
First, blaming the victim is never a particularly good position in anything.
Second, this which would be fine if they had someone else to compare themselves to. Previously, new DMs had no comparisons as they were starting blind or had the comparison of a friend. There were no professionals.

Now, people might start the game only having a professional as a point of reference and having no idea if they'll measure up.

I don't find that to be the case.
That's nice.
I do.

I very much feel exhausted and drained after a gaming session. I sleep like crap after, because my mind is going at 110%. I agonize over my mistakes. I try to be better and provide a great game and always try to be better than last time then beat myself up when I fail.

And I've been doing it for like 28 years, so I'm not some rookie. But I also know what I'm capable of and how I've done better in the past.
And now, I also know where I stack up to professionals. Because 5 years ago I would have said I'm an awesome DM. And now I estimate myself as "adequate". I'm the big fish in the very, very small pond.

Yes, striving to improve is great even if you're already very good at something. This doesn't require thinking that your past or present effort is terrible either. It's just an acknowledgement that one can always get better in any domain.
It's nice when you can get a sense of progress and personal accomplishment. But it's hard if you never seem to be nearing the impossible goal you have set for youself, let alone others.

Wow. That is some stinkin' thinkin' right there. This is why you don't compare yourself to other people, but rather to the person you were yesterday. If you're better than you were yesterday, great. If you're not, work harder at it.
In theory, yeah. And if were that easy psychiatrists would be paid 15 cents and operate in stalls on the street.
It's easy on paper, but who I was "yesterday" was so much happier and better off.
People's minds do dumb things and make irrational decisions. Such as comparing your skills to a professional DM.
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
That's nice.
I do.
Sounds like an opportunity to work on that.

It's nice when you can get a sense of progress and personal accomplishment. But it's hard if you never seem to be nearing the impossible goal you have set for youself, let alone others.
Maybe don't set impossible goals?

In theory, yeah. And if were that easy psychiatrists would be paid 15 cents and operate in stalls on the street.
I never said it was easy. Few things worth doing are. But it's far more effective than beating yourself up about not being someone else.
 

Okay then. I’ll and.

AND when kids finds out they can’t play basketball like Jordan many give up. Some practice and get slightly better but after failing badly, many people just stop trying.
The disparity between what they’re capable of and what others can do is just too great. And there’s the knowledge that no matter how hard they try, how much they practice, they’ll never measure up.

DMing is a very draining and defeating activity at the best of times. You spend so much of the game being “the enemy” while also trying to enable fun. And it’s sometimes hard to tell if your players are having fun and are merely satisfied. If they could be having more fun with someone else as their DM.
And you always know you can do better. You see the mistakes you make. You remember the bad calls the awkward scenes, the forgotten rules, the slow scenes, the problems in the encounter, the bad tactic, and the flaws in your craft. Every artist hates their own work.
This is human nature.
The uncertainty of wondering whether the grass is greener is hard enough when said allegorical grass is theoretical. But when you can see and watch the green grass on the other side of the DM screen and know for a fact how much greener it is, it’s depressing. Defeating. Disheartening.

Okay, dodgy AF metaphor aside, it’s just easier to be easy on yourself as a DM when your only points of comparison are your friends and their shitty DMing. But when you can watch Will Wheaton, Deborah Ann Woll, and Mr. Mercer it raises the bar of “good” and even “adequate”.
And when you know your players have also seen said DMs that’s more than enough to give someone an inferiority complex.
And some people take the challenge and decide to improve themselves until they reach that goal.

We don't have kids listen to Mozart so that they will never try and compose music, we have them listen to inspire them to take up that challenge and create their own music.

Sure, someone might look at a Van Goh and decide that their shitty painting will never amount to anything and they never try and paint again. Others look at it, and are inspired to keep going and try and reach that bar.

It isn't fair to blame someone for being good at something just because it might discourage someone or make them feel inferior. Mercer isn't grinding his fame in people's faces and trying to make them feel inferior, he often encourages people to find their own voices and create their own games. If people don't get that message, it isn't his fault.

First, blaming the victim is never a particularly good position in anything.
Second, this which would be fine if they had someone else to compare themselves to. Previously, new DMs had no comparisons as they were starting blind or had the comparison of a friend. There were no professionals.

Now, people might start the game only having a professional as a point of reference and having no idea if they'll measure up.
Who is the victim here? A DM who holds themselves to a high standard then gets discouraged when they don't measure up?

How many amatuer musicians do people listen to on the radio? How many amateur actors do they see on the big screen? How many games made by first time programmers do they play?

People are constantly exposed to individuals who are much more skilled than they are in a field. It is a fact of life. If someone gets discouraged and never DMs again because their first attempt wasn't Critical Role, then that is a shame, but I would never call them a "victim" of the "Mercer Effect". It isn't Matt's fault. Just like when I tried my first game and it was a disaster it wasn't anyone's fault, even though I had a DM as inspiration to try. Should I blame that person for showing me what a Good DM was and then I didn't live up to that idea? Should I blame Tolkien because the first book I tried to write didn't work the way I wanted?

This idea just doesn't hold water for me.


People's minds do dumb things and make irrational decisions. Such as comparing your skills to a professional DM.
That is on them. Not the professional they are comparing themselves too.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
If you don't DM like Mercer, so what? There are other ways to DM. Find your strengths and play to them, avoid your weaknesses (or work to improve them); keep your expectations realistic for you. Always work to get better, but understand that improvement will probably be incremental (and it will probably be difficult, especially when the low-hanging fruit moves just out of your reach). Be inspired by Mercer, sure--if there's something he does that works, and you can do it too, do that; but he's not the only DM in the world, and he's not the only DM you can/should learn from. Read a lot, keep an eye out for the weirdly true (and the truly weird), play new games, read games you don't play.

For the record, I don't watch CR, but I don't think my games are all that dissimilar to Mercer's, except I don't have his production budget, gift for voices (to include sound effects), or patience for forty-five-minute haggling sessions. Or his players; the people at my tables are awesome, but they wouldn't fit in at Mercer's table (and most of his players wouldn't fit in at mine).
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Okay then. I’ll and.

AND when kids finds out they can’t play basketball like Jordan many give up. Some practice and get slightly better but after failing badly, many people just stop trying.
The disparity between what they’re capable of and what others can do is just too great. And there’s the knowledge that no matter how hard they try, how much they practice, they’ll never measure up.

DMing is a very draining and defeating activity at the best of times. You spend so much of the game being “the enemy” while also trying to enable fun. And it’s sometimes hard to tell if your players are having fun and are merely satisfied. If they could be having more fun with someone else as their DM.
And you always know you can do better. You see the mistakes you make. You remember the bad calls the awkward scenes, the forgotten rules, the slow scenes, the problems in the encounter, the bad tactic, and the flaws in your craft. Every artist hates their own work.
This is human nature.
The uncertainty of wondering whether the grass is greener is hard enough when said allegorical grass is theoretical. But when you can see and watch the green grass on the other side of the DM screen and know for a fact how much greener it is, it’s depressing. Defeating. Disheartening.

Okay, dodgy AF metaphor aside, it’s just easier to be easy on yourself as a DM when your only points of comparison are your friends and their shitty DMing. But when you can watch Will Wheaton, Deborah Ann Woll, and Mr. Mercer it raises the bar of “good” and even “adequate”.
And when you know your players have also seen said DMs that’s more than enough to give someone an inferiority complex.
I would question whether those kids who played basketball after watching professionals, but gave up after not being as good, were not pursuing a fleeting fancy. They might never have even tried basketball had they not watched those professionals and been inspired. I seriously doubt that, in the absence of having watched those professionals, they would have worked hard and become excellent players themselves.

I think it's the same thing with CR. Maybe someone watches it and is inspired to try their hand at DMing but is disheartened when it doesn't go well. However, I doubt such a person would have even tried DMing in the absence of CR. Even if they did, I severely doubt that they would have the commitment to stick with it and improve.

If you try basketball and decide it's not your thing, that's okay. At least you tried it and expanded your horizons a bit.
 

It isn't fair to blame someone for being good at something just because it might discourage someone or make them feel inferior. Mercer isn't grinding his fame in people's faces and trying to make them feel inferior, he often encourages people to find their own voices and create their own games. If people don't get that message, it isn't his fault.
I'm not blaming Mercer in any way shape or form.
I'm just saying I can understand people being intimidated by his skill and the impression he has made in the community.

Who is the victim here? A DM who holds themselves to a high standard then gets discouraged when they don't measure up?
YES!
The person who is exposed to something new and tries it out only to fall short on every concievable metric. Because being a DM is hard. Super hard. And being a good DM is even harder.
Even before Critical Role was around it was hard enough to get people to try DMing or run their first game because the position is intimidating. Now it's just that much more so.

People are constantly exposed to individuals who are much more skilled than they are in a field. It is a fact of life. If someone gets discouraged and never DMs again because their first attempt wasn't Critical Role, then that is a shame, but I would never call them a "victim" of the "Mercer Effect".
Yes.
But people aren't "continually exposed" to Dungeon Masters. Many people might only have seen one or two before trying the game.

It's a different situation than athletes or musicians when you know how rare talent is and how rare it is to be famous at it. It's common knowledge what they do is challenging.
But Matt makes DMing look easy. And running a game doesn't seem as hard as writing a song or making a three-point basket. So it can be that much more disapointing to crash and burn.

It isn't Matt's fault. Just like when I tried my first game and it was a disaster it wasn't anyone's fault, even though I had a DM as inspiration to try. Should I blame that person for showing me what a Good DM was and then I didn't live up to that idea? Should I blame Tolkien because the first book I tried to write didn't work the way I wanted?

This idea just doesn't hold water for me.
Just because it didn't happen to you doesn't mean it doesn't happen to other people. Not everyone things and reacts the same.

But try and think back to that day. And after that disaster did you feel disheartened and disappointed? Did you run a second game the next week or take a break?
Because for a lot of people, they take a break. They don't get back up on the horse. And trying again becomes even more intimidating because you know how un-fun the experience was and how you cost everyone a rare evening of gaming.

Also, you don't know anyone whose first time running a game was a disaster and they never ran a game again? I've played with several people like that in my times in Living Greyhawk and Pathfinder Society. And that was before Critical Role.

That is on them. Not the professional they are comparing themselves too.
Translation: "It's their fault they feel sad."
 

I would question whether those kids who played basketball after watching professionals, but gave up after not being as good, were not pursuing a fleeting fancy. They might never have even tried basketball had they not watched those professionals and been inspired. I seriously doubt that, in the absence of having watched those professionals, they would have worked hard and become excellent players themselves.

I think it's the same thing with CR. Maybe someone watches it and is inspired to try their hand at DMing but is disheartened when it doesn't go well. However, I doubt such a person would have even tried DMing in the absence of CR. Even if they did, I severely doubt that they would have the commitment to stick with it and improve.

If you try basketball and decide it's not your thing, that's okay. At least you tried it and expanded your horizons a bit.
I think the difference is anyone who picked-up D&D blind 10 or 20 years ago had no idea they sucked as DM. I certainly had no idea in the early '90s how bad of a DM I was. I happily ran my games blissfully unaware I was making every DMing mistake in the book.

And many players took up DMing duties because their current DM was bad. The bar was lowered to "I can't be worse than this chucklehead..."

Now, we have a better idea of what a good DM is and what our players will be judging us against.
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Translation: "It's their fault they feel sad."
In a significant sense, it is. It certainly isn't Matt Mercer's fault that someone impressionable watched him and came away with unrealistic expectations of what they could accomplish themselves. But that doesn't mean we have to be unsympathetic - after all, they probably didn't have any other metrics to go by. They aren't absolved of any responsibility simply because they didn't know better.

So again, what we can do when we spot them is pick them up, dust them off, let them know that we all had our own disappointments, and help them move on to their next attempt.
 

Matt Mercer is not victimising you. There are no victims here.
Matt Mercer isn't victimizing us, true.
We're victimizing ourselves.

Either rightly because our players are judging us unfairly against an impossible standard or wrongly because we just think they are.

Sounds like an opportunity to work on that.
The list of things I need to work on is long indeed and only getting longer.

I'll add "stop overthinking about DMing" to it between "stop agonizing about retirement" and "stop medicating with alchohol." Right after I finish this whiskey...
 

In a significant sense, it is. It certainly isn't Matt Mercer's fault that someone impressionable watched him and came away with unrealistic expectations of what they could accomplish themselves. But that doesn't mean we have to be unsympathetic - after all, they probably didn't have any other metrics to go by. They aren't absolved of any responsibility simply because they didn't know better.
Nobody gets to choose how something makes them feel.

So again, what we can do when we spot them is pick them up, dust them off, let them know that we all had our own disappointments, and help them move on to their next attempt.
And how we do that isn't to tell them it's their fault for having unrealistic expectations.
 

S'mon

Legend
Matt Mercer isn't victimizing us, true.
We're victimizing ourselves.
I guess then instead of blaming the victim, we should blame the perpetrator. :p

BTW, GMing really isn't hard. Grab a simple dungeon or roll up a random one, make or grab a newbie town (Hommlet, Phandalin), have players make 1st level PCs, and you're off. I do think there is less GM support in newer games; reaction tables, wandering monster tables, robust treasure tables, all make it much easier. if in doubt I recommend running Moldvay or Mentzer Basic D&D to get your mojo back - retro-clones like Swords & Wizardry are ok too, but I think the limited level range of Basic sets helps focus. The Pathfinder Beginner Box is also very good at supporting the GM.
 

S'mon

Legend
Nobody gets to choose how something makes them feel.
No, but we can choose how we react to that feeling. I tell my depressed students "Don't feel bad about feeling bad" - ie it's normal & common to get depression in Higher Ed, it's an occupational illness - and this always helps them IME. Likewise you can't help your reaction to Mercer, but you can help what you do about that reaction.
 

I'm not blaming Mercer in any way shape or form.
I'm just saying I can understand people being intimidated by his skill and the impression he has made in the community.
Sure, I can see people being intimidated. I'm also seeing the other side of people being inspired.

And, I guess I'm missing your point since you seem to be focusing entirely on the negative aspects of what impact Mercer could be having on the community. There are also people who saw famous, successful, bad-ass actor Vin Diesel goofing around and playing DnD because of Mercer. How about the impact that might have had to show people ashamed of their love of fantasy games that there is nothing to be ashamed of.

You know, one of my memories from Middle School was doing a computer project for Dungeons and Dragons, one of the first links I found was to Dark Dungeons by Jack Chic. It was one of the first five links.

It isn't even in the first three pages anymore. Neither is Critical Role, but I don't doubt they had an impact in making the game so popular and changing this aspect.


YES!
The person who is exposed to something new and tries it out only to fall short on every concievable metric. Because being a DM is hard. Super hard. And being a good DM is even harder.
Even before Critical Role was around it was hard enough to get people to try DMing or run their first game because the position is intimidating. Now it's just that much more so.
I disagree, not only do I think it is less intimidating, I can guarantee more people are trying it than used to. Maybe that means more people are falling short too, but they never would have tried before CR, so that is still a net gain.


Yes.
But people aren't "continually exposed" to Dungeon Masters. Many people might only have seen one or two before trying the game.

It's a different situation than athletes or musicians when you know how rare talent is and how rare it is to be famous at it. It's common knowledge what they do is challenging.
But Matt makes DMing look easy. And running a game doesn't seem as hard as writing a song or making a three-point basket. So it can be that much more disapointing to crash and burn.
And those one or two didn't make it look easy?

The fact that I can watch a game with dozens of athletes makes it seem like it is pretty easy. I mean, there are literally hundreds of professional athletes and they make it look easy.

We know that it isn't the case, so why is it different for Matt? Because no DM has ever been famous before?


Just because it didn't happen to you doesn't mean it doesn't happen to other people. Not everyone things and reacts the same.

But try and think back to that day. And after that disaster did you feel disheartened and disappointed? Did you run a second game the next week or take a break?
Yeah, I took a break. Yeah, I was discouraged. Hell, I thought I was a failure as a person.

Do you think seeing Matt being successful would have somehow made it worse? I was in a gaming club. We had dozens of successful games going. I knew people ran campaigns that lasted years and I had failed to run for two sessions.

Think about that for a second. I knew that "other people" could run for years at a time with "no problems" but I didn't know how they did it. With CR, you can literally watch and see how he does it. You can see him get caught off-guard, you can see his plans fall apart around him and he laughs about it in joy.

Isn't that better than having some imaginary bar that I can never see, some perfect ideal in my head that has no form except "better than me"?


Translation: "It's their fault they feel sad."
If you feel the need to assign blame, then who else should we blame?

You said Matt isn't to blame, so who is? Who should stop doing what they are doing so that these people aren't feeling bad about themselves?

And if it is no one's fault, why turn around and say "Mercer is having a negative impact because this is happening."?


Nobody gets to choose how something makes them feel.


And how we do that isn't to tell them it's their fault for having unrealistic expectations.
I don't disagree with either of these statements. I agree with both of them actually.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
And how we do that isn't to tell them it's their fault for having unrealistic expectations.
Oh, I think we can definitely let them know their expectations were unrealistic. I think people who are disappointed with themselves need to be told that Matt Mercer's DMing skills weren't built in a day. He's played and DMed for 20 years. He's been developing his voice skills since he was in high school 20 years ago. There's no way he had the skills then that he does now. And yet, he obviously had fun or he wouldn't have continued.
 

Sure, I can see people being intimidated. I'm also seeing the other side of people being inspired.

And, I guess I'm missing your point since you seem to be focusing entirely on the negative aspects of what impact Mercer could be having on the community. There are also people who saw famous, successful, bad-ass actor Vin Diesel goofing around and playing DnD because of Mercer. How about the impact that might have had to show people ashamed of their love of fantasy games that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
Because this isn't that thread. This is a thread about how you're not Matt Mercer and the "Matt Mercer effect".
I imagine a "hey, lets talk about all the awesome stuff Matt Mercer has done for the hobby" thread would be just as long. Heck, just discussing 826LA would take a few hundred words.

Yeah, I took a break. Yeah, I was discouraged. Hell, I thought I was a failure as a person.

Do you think seeing Matt being successful would have somehow made it worse? I was in a gaming club. We had dozens of successful games going. I knew people ran campaigns that lasted years and I had failed to run for two sessions.
Maybe.
Especially if you weren't in a gaming club and the only other person you saw running was Matt.
If you ran for your friends to introduce them to D&D and it was a disaster, it'd be very easy to give up than try again.

If you feel the need to assign blame, then who else should we blame?

You said Matt isn't to blame, so who is? Who should stop doing what they are doing so that these people aren't feeling bad about themselves?

And if it is no one's fault, why turn around and say "Mercer is having a negative impact because this is happening."?
As you say, no one is to blame. Mercer is having a negative effect AND a positive effect and I think it's clear the latter outweighs the former for a net positive. Which is the thing: Matt could be an overwhelming positive effect on the D&D Community and an intimidating figure that people have to live in the shadow of.

But blaming the people who are having problems or dismissing the problems doesn't fix things. Nor does it help those people move forward and keep gaming.
 

S'mon

Legend
I'm pretty confident in my GMing overall these days, but I've had a ton of screw ups and a ton of failed games. The '90s was particularly bad, but I remember a decade later it took me umpteen attempts at running the Wilderlands to get it right. I certainly felt bad about my failures. But I learned and eventually found or relearned stuff that worked.
 

Because this isn't that thread. This is a thread about how you're not Matt Mercer and the "Matt Mercer effect".
I imagine a "hey, lets talk about all the awesome stuff Matt Mercer has done for the hobby" thread would be just as long. Heck, just discussing 826LA would take a few hundred words.
I've never seen the "hey, Matt Mercer is helping the community" thread. Not once.

And hey, that fits into the PSA. You aren't Matt Mercer. You haven't inspired hundreds of thousands of people. You haven't created more DnD campaigns across the world. You haven't helped donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity.

Obviously though, that sounds mean, telling people they aren't highly successful. Clearly, it is much better to hurl stones at the people who are successful.


Maybe.
Especially if you weren't in a gaming club and the only other person you saw running was Matt.
If you ran for your friends to introduce them to D&D and it was a disaster, it'd be very easy to give up than try again.
So, since it can happen sans Matt, why are we talking about it like Matt has something to do with it?


As you say, no one is to blame. Mercer is having a negative effect AND a positive effect and I think it's clear the latter outweighs the former for a net positive. Which is the thing: Matt could be an overwhelming positive effect on the D&D Community and an intimidating figure that people have to live in the shadow of.

But blaming the people who are having problems or dismissing the problems doesn't fix things. Nor does it help those people move forward and keep gaming.
If I ever run into a real person who has that issue (other than my friend who is a critter and has good ideas, but feels she can't DM, who I constantly try and support) then I won't dismiss their concerns.

But, in this entire thread, I think there has been only one person who personally saw or expeirenced this "problem" most of us don't.

And I don't see any threads started by those people asking for help.

I do see a lot of threads started abnout how CR is having a negative impact on the community.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I think the difference is anyone who picked-up D&D blind 10 or 20 years ago had no idea they sucked as DM. I certainly had no idea in the early '90s how bad of a DM I was. I happily ran my games blissfully unaware I was making every DMing mistake in the book.

And many players took up DMing duties because their current DM was bad. The bar was lowered to "I can't be worse than this chucklehead..."

Now, we have a better idea of what a good DM is and what our players will be judging us against.
I picked up D&D roughly 30 years ago. I would have done just about any darn thing short of murder to watch a DM with even half of Mercer's skill DM. Instead I muddled through blindly, making just about every mistake a newbie DM could make.

If CR had been around, I very much doubt I would have been intimidated or disheartened by Mercer's skill. Rather, I would have been grateful for an example to learn from. I didn't really find one of those for a decade. I can only imagine how many less mistakes I would have made.

I certainly wouldn't have felt judged against Mercer. If my players want to compare me to Mercer than they're welcome to go play in his game instead.

I was overjoyed when I finally found an experienced group I could learn from. I never felt like the group was comparing me against the other DMs, though I was worse in many respects since I was still learning. But I also brought fresh ideas and perspectives that the existing DMs hadn't previously considered (some of which they ended up adopting).

It seems to me as though you're advocating for ignorance being bliss, which is not a viewpoint I can agree with. I know some people do see things that way, but IME their ignorance just makes them less consciously aware of their misery while simultaneously trapping them in a perpetual cycle of said misery.
 

jgsugden

Hero
...I very much feel exhausted and drained after a gaming session. I sleep like crap after, because my mind is going at 110%. I agonize over my mistakes. I try to be better and provide a great game and always try to be better than last time then beat myself up when I fail.

And I've been doing it for like 28 years, so I'm not some rookie...

Yeah, I took a break. Yeah, I was discouraged. Hell, I thought I was a failure as a person.
That is not healthy. At all.

Seriously - these are not healthy responses to a situation in which someone does something better than you. You could be well served to speak with someone that can help you address how you're responding to these situations.
 

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