If someone had told fifteen year old me that one day I was going to sit at a laptop computer and watch a bunch of D&D players wrack up over four million dollars sponsoring an animated film I would have laughed and thrown my lunchroom pizza at you. I grew up in a time and place where playing role-playing games were looked down upon. It was a fringe and misunderstood hobby. Some people even thought it was a dangerous cult.
Even with the derision aimed my way, I never understood why more people couldn’t understand how fun it was, what it could be used for, the level of joy it could bring. I think a lot of us, regardless of our age, have dealt with that at one point or another. Regardless, we have held on, found our friends, played, created, and continued to run with our dreams.
We’ve done that for a long, long time.
Flash forward to today.
Like many of you yesterday, I watched the Critical Role Animated Special Kickstarter page funding amount roll upwards at an insane speed. It felt like a rocket launch as it blasted off, arched upwards, and sliced through the atmosphere. It funded it’s $750,000 goal in less than an hour and, well, it just kept going.
I cannot imagine what it must have felt like with the Critical Role team. To see that much support swell from everywhere? So quickly? Watching this play itself on Kickstarter, seeing that #Critters was trending on Twitter in the United States, I realized something far more powerful was happening than just an animated special getting funded.
As mentioned, this is a misunderstood hobby, a fringe bastion of geeks and nerds who didn’t fit in. Who play “that dumb game” in the basement. To watch a troupe of talented entertainers carry their story forward with so much joy has moved us. Their laughs, sorrows and adventures have become ours because we carry that same passion. We love to see them succeed because they echo that success back to us.
As gamers from the basement, we’ve never really had that before, have we?
And though they’ve blazed the trail, this isn’t just happening with the Critical Role team. It’s now happening with other troupes, other game streams. We are finding each other in ways never before seen with the hobby. Go to Twitch and look at the Dungeons and Dragons or Tabletop RPG category. The numbers there have doubled, possibly tripled lately. Spend some time on the #Critters hashtag on Twitter and look at the outpouring of artwork and support.
This has been going on, building steam over the past five years and then, yesterday, this fun group of voice actors and D&D players called Critical Role said, “Hey, we have this idea about an animated series for our characters and could use a little help making it happen.”
That was all that was needed and we have now become a part of something much bigger than ourselves. This would not have happened five years ago, a decade ago.
This isn’t just about funding for an animated show.
The horns have sounded and this feels like a gathering of a tribe. Not just #Critters but a much larger tribe of role players, gamers, geeks and nerds. A tribe looking at some leaders and saying, “You’re doing good work. Lead the way for us. Keep doing what you are doing. We love you. We have your back.”
Money garners attention and changes everything. This will gather a lot of attention, some good, some bad. (For instance, when was the last time something about roleplaying games featured in Fortune magazine?) That “silly game in the basement” just rolled in 4 million dollars in approximately 24 hours. Some wise investors are going to start asking, “What other games can do that?” Dungeons and Dragons and role-playing is going to be on the map like never before as producers and studio heads begin to fully understand the stories that get created around the table can also be marketable, that there is actual value there. We already knew this but now THEY know it too.
Like I said, good AND bad attention.
It’ll be several months before we start to get an idea of what the effects of this might be. Hopefully, this helps the entire hobby including those folks that create these very games we play. Not the manufacturers and producers but the writers, the designers, the artists. We need that to happen. We cannot forget them.
We are entering brand new territory and, in one way or another, we all understand this. It’s an exciting feeling that the party, whatever it may end up being, is really about to start. I am so very excited for the Critical Role troupe and I hope they keep their head and stay true to their hearts in all of this. I’m even more excited for the roleplaying game community, industry and tribe.
We cannot forget the openness, caring and support that got us here. Let’s not forget where we’ve been, what we had to deal with and how we arrived. Let’s keep enjoying each other’s stories and lets keep looking out for each other, young and old.
And, lest we forget, we should get ready to watch a really cool, kick-ass cartoon late next year.
Get your dice bags ready, gang.
Tomorrow is a brand new day.