I am an avid Twitch viewer which, considering I am nowhere near the demographic of the average Twitch viewer may seem a bit odd. It is even stranger when I admit that I don’t really watch video game streams. I have tried, but I get bored really easily. Instead, I watch a few coding and tech channels and a metric ton of roleplay and world-building channels.
I have been a storyteller all my life and tabletop roleplay has always been a critical outlet for cooperate world-building for me. I didn’t think I would enjoy watching others do that without me, but it is fun watching people engage with a world, create characters, expand and grow and find something magical. So, I watch and I cheer whenever I can.
I cheer silently. I do this primarily because I hate Twitch chat and the concept of community that Twitch tries to force. There is a level of access between creator and audience member that doesn’t appeal to me as an audience member. I don’t need a shout out. I am not looking for recongition. I am just looking to support the creators I enjoy. They don’t owe me recognition.
That is the challenge I find with trying to connect with the TTRPG community online. I am not really a fan in the sense that others are fans. I like Critical Role, but I like it as a creative work. I am not tied to the people, and I am more interested in the show and the channel as it evolves. I follow certain performers. I think Deborah Ann Woll is an amazing GM, and picked up a sub to DemiplaneRPG just to watch Children of Earte. Again, though, I am not really interested in Deborah Ann Woll thinking, “Wow, Geoff likes my show.” She is putting out the work, and I am happy to support it. Roleplay is an artform. It always has been. In some sense, my interest is in the art and, yes, in the business of the art. It isn’t in forming some quasi-bond with a community whose only shared connection is enjoying what amounts to exceptionally-long television show.
But there’s the rub, I still am looking for a sense of community (as are we all). I find myself sometimes envious of the small communities that gather, chat, and create. I don’t believe you can buy access to that, and that people try is kind of sad. For me, community is participatory and bounded. Paying money doesn’t buy you access to a community - it buys you access to the work the community produces1. I just don’t think people realize that. To find community then, requires connection outside of those channels.
I just wish we were all better at building those places.
Note: a creator-managed Discord server is a creative work not a community. It may host a community (or several communities) but it is still a mediated work between creator and fan. ↩︎