Editorial: TTRPG stream shows flood viewers with options

Featured photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

Recently, the need to organize and schedule out my leisure time arose and it became apparent that I needed to organize my Twitch viewing habits. After writing down all the stream shows I watch live or on VOD, I realized something: there are a ton of shows I watch.

I even went to the effort of color coding them by game system: green is D&D, red is Vampire, blue is Star Trek Adventures, pink is Star Wars, and the lone burgundy game is Stars Without Number. After setting this up, I started thinking about the plethora of streaming shows that broadcast tabletop RPGs.

If one was to attempt to list all of the shows available to watch on Twitch alone, one would probably have to make it a part time job. There are dozens of shows for even the most obscure game system and new game systems seem to pop up on a regular basis. D&D is usually the most prevalent game, with Vampire quickly rising as well. But you also have shows using Tales From the Loop, Stars Without Number, Dungeon World, Star Trek Adventures, three different Star Wars systems and even games using Honey Heist and Weave. There are so many systems!

At first, I went the cynical route. How can any one person keep up with this many shows? There are far too many! There’s no way anyone can dedicate the amount of time required to watch them all. Even if one person chose one game system to watch, there are so many shows that use that system that it’d be hell to keep up with.

The other thing that came to mind was the threat of over-saturation. With so many shows, choice paralysis seems inevitable. Just in the D&D section of Twitch alone there are so many shows to choose from, it’d be nearly impossible to pick one to start with. And if someone is anything like me, I hate coming into a show in the middle of the story. I need to watch VODs to catch up. The sheer amount of time investment is overwhelming.

But after thinking about it deeper, I realized that there isn’t a reason for people to watch everything. Everyone has their favorite systems. Dipping a toe into the waters of a show via watching a single episode is the best way to get a feel for the show, the cast and the style of storytelling the show offers. As much as I hate coming into the middle of a story, it does help me choose whether or not to invest my time in a show because it makes me ask, “How did these characters reach this point? What events led them to make these choices? Who the fuck are these people?” If a show can get me to want to know these things, I will watch it regularly.

What happens when you like many different game systems? I suggest sampling shows and narrowing them down even further if you want that much diversity. You can do that by asking yourself whether you truly feel invested in the story being told. Is the cast interesting and entertaining? Does the DM or GM run a clean game? Does the game broadcast at a convenient time for you? Are the VODs available without monetary investment?

All of these things should be considered when choosing your tabletop RPG viewing schedule. Pick your favorite systems, find shows with cool casts and a compelling story and make sure you have access to VODs if you can’t make the live broadcast. If a show is particularly entertaining, don’t forget to toss them a few bucks to keep the show on the air. Often, a show’s ability to draw viewers and gain subs and donations determines the show’s life span. Always support your favorite shows!

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