Your Role (Roll) is Critical

Geek and Sundry produces a show by the name of Critical Role, which is about the various misadventures of the collected crew of voice actors in the world of Dungeons and Dragons. Given the potential success of such the streaming show, I began to wonder why the creators had also decided to include a podcast about said show within the programming underwent by Geek and Sundry. Was this an attempt perhaps to branch out to another audience in an attempt to grab eyeballs? Was it about allowing those who had missed prior material the opportunity to catch up? What relevance did choosing a podcast mean for such an attractive streaming site? Those were the questions I had thought of when I began to research the podcast.

To give you all a little insight into the podcast itself, allow me to familiarize you all with more information about it and the context surrounding it. Dungeons and Dragons is a collaborative, teamwork based role playing game where one creates a character and then narrates what they do. The podcast goes up every Thursday, following the live streaming of its counterpart. One can find it upon the website, I-Tunes, or Google Play for free. So far, there have been two seasons, sum 158 episodes with episodes lasting generally three hours long. It’s produced by Podbean, a company which assists others interested in podcasting, providing the means by which they can host podcasts and assisting in drawing an audience to the prospective podcaster through advertising.

Now, as for why the choice of the producers was to utilize a podcast, I believe that McHugh’s work on the revitalization of audio mediums at the hands of podcasters is both relevant and can explain how podcasting has benefitted from the sound medium, evolving beyond it. In his work McHugh references Braun, a prominent producer that developed the idea of acoustic film. Braun states, “My God, what a feeling of liberation! We no longer wrote about a subject, we recorded the subject itself. We were acoustic cameras, shooting our sound material in the wild, then combining it into productions.” (Braun, McHugh, 68) Recording a subject thus helped to give it an immediate sense of realism and distinction that is freeing. McHugh again references this sense of freedom when they speak of Shapiro’s work. Shapiro states,

“‘I think the idea of podcasting is interpreted often as more casual, less rigorous [than radio]; in terms of craft, it’s talkier. But on the other hand it can be braver and more playful and more experimental. So I think there is a liability to this concept that podcasting is different and there also is a real reward […] podcasting doesn’t have to be different but I think makers do feel a little bit more liberty with the form, thinking of themselves as podcasters versus radio producers.'” (Shapiro, McHugh, 70)

Podcasts have these two benefits which acoustic storytelling affords them: They are allowed to tell their story as they want to, because they are beholden to themselves. And their material has an innate sense of realism to it, an authenticity that derives from its source. This is very important to telling a good story when one is narrating the adventures of a fictional world. Your audiences have to be able to relate to the characters, and they can do so better with the freedom of sound than the medium of the screen.

Sources Used:

Development, PodBean. “Critical Role.” Critical Role, Geek and Sundry, criticalrolepodcast.geekandsundry.com/.

McHugh, S. (2016), ‘How podcasting is changing the audio storytelling genre’, The Radio Journal – International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media, 14: 1, pp. 65–82, doi: 10.1386/rajo.14.1.65_1

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