Watch Us Roll

Essays on Actual Play and Performance in Tabletop Role-Playing Games


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About the Book

Actual play is a movement within role-playing gaming in which players livestream their gameplay for others to watch and enjoy. This new medium has allowed the playing of games to become a digestible, consumable text for individuals to watch, enjoy, learn from, and analyze. Bridging the gap between the analog and the digital, actual play is changing and challenging our expectations of tabletop role-playing and providing a space for new scholarship. This edited collection of essays focuses on Dungeons and Dragons actual play and examines this phenomenon from a variety of different disciplinary approaches. Authors explore how to define actual play, how fans interact with and affect the narrative and gameplay of actual play, the diversity of gamers (or lack thereof) within actual play media, and how audiences can use actual play media for more than mere entertainment. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Shelly Jones is an associate professor of English at the State University of New York at Delhi and an editor for Analog Game Studies. Her research examines analog, digital, and role-playing games through the lens of intersectional feminism and disability studies.

Series editor Matthew Wilhelm Kapell teaches American studies, anthropology, and writing at Pace University in New York.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Shelly Jones

Series Editor Matthew Wilhelm Kapell

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 226
Bibliographic Info: 23 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7762-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4343-4
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Studies in Gaming

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Shelly Jones 1
Introduction: From Actually Playing to Actual Play
Shelly Jones 5

What Is Actual Play?
Actual Play Reports: Forge Theory and the Forums
Evan Torner 20
Birth of a New Medium or Just Bad TV? Framing and Fractality of Actual Play
Julia J.C. Blau 32

Audience, Framing and Flow
Critical Role and Audience Impact on Tabletop Roleplay
Robyn Hope 56
Communal Narrative in Actual Play Environments: Roles of Participants, Observers and Their Intersections
Anthony David Franklin 74

“Your fun is wrong”: Actual Play and Fans
Diversity and Audience Interaction in Critical Role and The Adventure Zone
G.L. van Os 88
Critical Fails: Fan Reactions to Player and Character Choices in Critical Role
Christine Dandrow 118
Actual Play Audience as Archive: Analyzing the Critical Role Fandom
Shelly Jones 136

Commodification and Pedagogy: Other Approaches and Uses of Actual Play
Consumable Play: A Performative Model of Actual Play Networks
Mariah E. Marsden and Kelsey Paige Mason 158
Actual Play as Actual Learning: What Gamers, Teachers and Designers Can Learn About Learning from Actual Play Videos
Alex Layne 189

Shelly Jones 208
About the Contributors 213
Index 215

Book Reviews & Awards

• “The research is well done…remarkably readable…recommended”—Choice

• “A valuable addition to the academic literature on roleplaying games”—Doug Maynard, professor of psychology, State University of New York at New Paltz

• “Shelly Jones’s Watch Us Roll is a natural 20. Filled with insight and engaging discussion of Actual Play shows like Critical Role, The Adventure Zone, and Acquisitions Incorporated, the essays in this volume explore the history, sociology, psychology, and cultural background of these experienced and fun Dungeons and Dragons players. Whether an actual player or an actual play watcher, prepare to create your character and roll for initiative with Watch Us Roll.”—Paul Booth, DePaul University, author of Board Games as Media