Geek Culture and the Rise of Critical Role

Back in 2015 I stumbled across the Geek and Sundry network on youtube. I found them while watching Wil Wheaton’s show Tabletop, but I was soon perusing their website and then their Twitch Channel.

If you aren’t a gamer, Twitch may sound more like a designer drug than an interesting website. Twitch is an online network of people who livestream their video gameplay with the world. They login to their timesuck of choice and hit the stream button. Usually these players are good enough to want to show off their skills. Others are mediocre players, but hilarious or entertaining channel hosts. With millions of active users coming to the site daily to watch their favorite (sometimes professional) gamers go in and destroy newbs, make speed runs, and achieve high scores, the gaming community has latched onto this idea and hasn’t let go.

I’ve never been hardcore enough to really care about watching other people play DOTA, League of Legends, or World of Warcraft, but I knew of the site. My reason for browsing through Twitch this time around wasn’t to watch video games though. I wanted to see more of the show Critical Role.

Critical Role is a Dungeons and Dragons show produced by the Geek and Sundry network and released on youtube after the fact. Professional voice actors Marisha Ray, Taliesin Jaffe, Laura Bailey, Travis Willingham, Sam Riegel, Liam O’Brien, Ashley Johnson, and Orion Acaba play a modified version of Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons led by their Dungeon Master Matt Mercer. The show is nothing short of an improv show set in a medieval fantasy realm that’s been curated by decades of dedicated game designers, content-hungry role players and over-caffeinated teenagers.

I had already watched the first few episodes on youtube and was hooked, but Critical Role was still in its infancy and new episodes were being livestreamed on Twitch every Thursday. I had to watch more. One Thursday I cleared my plans for the night, popped some popcorn and settled in for a night of DnD.

Tabletop role playing games have been a part of my life for a few years, and Dungeons and Dragons had been my first foray into this realm of nerdy, geeky culture. But I had crossed a line.

I wasn’t just sitting around a table pretending to be a half-elf sorcerer with friends. No, I was sitting on my couch watching other people on my television sit around a table pretending to be fantasy characters. Even the guys I played Dungeons and Dragons with in College thought I was going a bit overboard. But I didn’t care.

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I became attached to the characters, enthralled by the storytelling and invested in the outcome of the fiction created  by these people. I quickly became a Twitch subscriber (donate monthly) to Geek and Sundry and watch the show every Thursday. With special guests like Chris Hardwick (Nerdist) Patrick Rothfuss (Author), Mary McGlynn, Will Friedel (Boy Meets World), Felicia Day (Geek and Sundry), and Vinn Diesel the show is rarely a let down.

After introducing my girlfriend to Dungeons and Dragons she too became a fan of Critical Role and it is now a weekly ritual at our place. I consistently turn down events and engagements to watch on Thursdays, and while the cast is a bit smaller after Orion Acaba left and Ashley Johnson splits time between shooting the NBC Television Series Blindspot in New York City and her home in Los Angeles it never gets dull. You may actually recognize Ashley Johnson from 90’s sitcom Growing Pains as little Chrissy Seaver.

The show has thousands of viewers each week and a dedicated following. They have labeled themselves “Critters” and are possibly the most friendly, supportive and giving fanbase I have ever experienced. I’m proud to be a part of these people.

The biggest problem with introducing people to this show is not actually its nerdy nature however. It is the amount of time it takes to catch up to the current releases. After 88 episodes averaging over 3 hours a piece you have 339 hours, 30 minutes, and 28 seconds to catch up on from the beginning.

Luckily Geek and Sundry has broken this down for you in a manageable binge schedule.

Even if you aren’t interested in Dungeons and Dragons this show can be an extremely interesting look into a culture tabletop gameplay. I recommend it to people all the time and when I run into a fellow critter, the geekiness can’t be contained.

Watch Critical Role on Geek and Sundry’s Twitch Channel every Thursday at 7PT.

 

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