In recent years, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) has become a popular form of entertainment on YouTube for both players and the people that like to watch it. Live streaming and “live play” campaigns account for a lot of the surge in popularity that we’ve seen. Critical Role is arguably the most popular group with the first episode of their first campaign having over 5 million views (DeVille 2017).
Other groups worth noting include: The Dragon Friends (an Australian based group), girls guts glory (an all female group) and The Oxventurer’s Guild. Due to its popularity and contemporary relevance, I want to research this topic further in order to produce a video essay that explores how a particular group of D&D players on YouTube have created a community around the role playing game.
Additionally, my interest in this topic comes from my background in creative writing. I’ve always been fascinated with the creation of story lines in games and D&D is a great example of how games encourage writing; one writer says “There’s much to be said for writing, or at least creating stories, in a collaborative way… It’s what makes playing tabletop roleplaying games so enjoyable.” (Abrahamson 2017). Not only is D&D collaborative , but also cooperative. Players work together in order to defeat the big boss at the end of the quest or reach a treasure; sometimes a quest may focus more on a particular player and it becomes the goal of the players to help them achieve something.
“Opportunities exist for players to be able to work together to achieve a win-win condition. A cooperative game does not always guarantee that cooperating players will benefit equally or even benefit at all.” – Zagal, Rick and Hsi, 2006
What is Dungeons & Dragons?
D&D is a table top role playing game that was created in the 1970s by Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and David Megarry. It focuses on strategy and creative thinking to solve problems and win battles in quests created and guided by a dungeon master (DM) (Mazzeno 2019). Players create their own characters and their backstory and act as their character during the game. Sets of dice – the most common being a D20 – are used to determine whether characters succeed or fail in performing certain tasks and the story changes based on how players role.
One of the most interesting aspects of this game is the collaborative storytelling between players and the DM. As Pierce says, “on it goes, weaving an intricate narrative from thin air… [it[ systematizes what the good writer instinctively knows – the key to a gripping story is tension. (Pierce 2019).
The Oxventurer’s Guild
The case study I will be focusing on is a group called The Oxventurer’s Guild. It consists of five players from two YouTube Channels: Outsidexbox and Outside Xtra. Their DM is Johnny Chiodini from the YouTube channel, Dicebreaker.
The group started their campaign in late 2017 and have continued to play together. Due to recent self-isolation restrictions, they have adapted by playing through skype and live streaming the videos as they can’t play in person. I’ve chosen this group as my case study as they are the first D&D videos I watched and the storytelling style is something I find very engaging. The DM has created quests that relate to each character’s backstory and it’s obvious he has gotten to know how is players will react to certain situations in order to help him create his quests.
This period will be spent expanding on the pieces of research I’ve already found and compiling it together. This will include looking online at the D&D community (Reddit, blogs, comments on YouTube) to see what I can find about what other people are saying about my chosen case study as well as what writers have said about D&D and how it relates to their writing.
I’ll use this time to organise my notes from watching my case study’s D&D quests and begin the development of my video essay script. I’ll also be asking a friend who is also a writer to watch one of the quests to see if she is able to draw anything from it to directly help her with her writing.
Early on in these four weeks I’ll be looking at trying to play a session of D&D online to try and gain some firsthand experience by using Roll20 if I can. I’ll also be putting out a script for my video essay in order to get feedback which I’ll then use to edit and refine the script before I start creating the video essay. I hope to have the final product finished by the end of week 12 or early in week 13.
Abrahamson, BL. 2017, ‘Dungeons and Dragons on Collaborative Writing: What the Inklings Might Have Learned’, Mythprint, vol. 54, no. 1, p. 4
Mazzeno, LW 2019, ‘Dungeons and Dragons’, Salem Press Encyclopedia
Pierce, E. (2019). Playing Dungeons & Dragons Will Make You a Better Writer. [online] Medium. Available at: https://writingcooperative.com/playing-dungeons-dragons-will-make-you-a-better-writer-14058b4a337d
Zagal, J. P., Rick, J. and Hsi, I. (2006) ‘Collaborative games: Lessons learned from board games’, Simulation & Gaming, 37(1), pp. 24–40.