Elitism in RPGs

I literally almost started screaming at my phone recently when I noticed someone comparing casual RPG gamers to the wonderfulness of Critical Role.


Headed into somewhat grim and perilous territory.

Maybe I should just learn to stay off social media. I saw something the other night that really spiked my blood pressure. I got the impression from someone talking about the #mattmercereffect that us grumpy old “kitchen table” gamers where somehow of a lower caliber than the Critical Role crowd. I am still just shaking trying not to flip the f%*k out when I hear stuff like this.

I meditate. I pray for peace. Somehow this is one of those shadow elements of my personality that just keeps coming up for me to deal with. I have lots of contempt for statements that lead to elitism, hate, and divisiveness anywhere, but especially in my favorite hobby.

I used to get so angry back in my WoW days when I would hear anything to the effect of “Casuals are ruining the game!”

Because apparently there are people who play World of Warcraft 16 hours or more per day “professionally.” And the rest of us should just log off and close our accounts because we’re not fit to lick their boots or some junk. Whatever.

Yeah… screw that. I don’t play WoW any more because of toxic elitists. Yeah, you’re great at your game. Good for you. Moving on.

I don’t want to ever, EVER see D&D turn into that because of Critical Role or any other actual play podcast. Seriously, we’re all equal here. We’re not starting that elitism crap on my watch if I have anything to say about it.

Running a game at my kitchen table for my family every other week on Sunday is just as valid in terms of loving/teaching the game as anything on TV or the Internet. I’m not trying to disrespect Critical Role. Thanks for generating interest in the game and teaching people how to play.

Picture 1986. 14 year old me teaching the game and learning other games. 1991 college freshman at conventions running games for anyone who would sit down at the table. There were no cameras anywhere to be found. In fact, we used to be stigmatized, ostracized, and beat up for being game nerds back in the day.

Actors.

I used to be big into theatre and stagecraft back in high school. In retrospect, I wish I had spent more time running D&D. My stage days are long gone. My love of the RPG hobby and my family are still present. I do all kinds of voices and create all kinds of characters.

Critical Role on the other hand, is a performance by actors. Yeah, they have characters. Much beyond that it looks like an advertisement for Player’s Handbooks and whatever else they want to push for product. If it’s a bunch of actors doing improv under the guise of a playing D&D, that’s called, “acting.”

That doesn’t mean they’re better than anyone else in the hobby. In fact, I would go so far as to say you won’t find Matt Mercer anywhere near a game table if there isn’t a camera around. I like to pick on Matt because I know he’ll never stoop so far as to read or comment on anything I say. I’m small potatoes and he’s a big time Dungeon Master, ya know?

I think the #mattmercereffect is not so much unrealistic expectations put on the DM as it is another silly way to divide people.

I could be wrong. I stopped watching the mainstream news years ago. I stopped watching most TV and movies when I took up meditation and some other things years ago. Honestly, Hollywood has very little influence over my life these days. Yes, I still dip into TV now and again to watch anime and I did see Vox Machina on Prime. Meh? It was okay.

I’m a big YouTube fan, but I watch an absolutely fantastic variety of things on there. Yes, I’ve seen interviews between Todd Kenreck and Matt Mercer. I absolutely adore Dael Kingsmill and Ginny Di. There are a ton of RPG channels that I follow. Some are actual play podcasts, some are just random Op Ed stuff like I do on my blog every day here.

Again, no one is better or worse. I could fire up my own YouTube channel any time and talk about RPGs and other cool things until I’m blue in the face. It could happen. I think other channels probably do it a lot better. Some day I’ll put together a recommendation list of RPG YouTube channels.

My point is: just because you play D&D at your kitchen table in a casual way does not make you better or worse than a trained actor playing D&D professionally on TV. I would bet there are hundreds of DMs and GMs that would give up an arm and a leg to be running a game like that, sure. (Shit, give me a contract and I’ll do it.) But realistically, I just want to enjoy the hobby and I think most people would agree regardless of playstyle.

Onward and upward. I stopped shaking finally. Let’s look for ways to come together at the table, please? Thank you. I appreciate you.

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa always looking for more work. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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