• Wed. Dec 2nd, 2020

Dimancherouge

Technology

Into the Mother Lands interview: Twitch invests in an RPG show led by people of color

Critical Role has played an important roll in the rise of actual play RPG livestreams and podcasts, turning these from a niche to a major player in the streaming ecosystem. According to measurement firm StreamElements, viewers watched an aggregated 19.5 million hours of such shows on Twitch an YouTube, a 1,142% increase over 2018. 2020’s numbers are likely higher.

And one of the best of these actual play shows is Rivals of Waterdeep, a Wizards of the Coast-backed project. It started in 2018 in conjunction with Dungeons & DragonsWaterdeep: Dragon Heist storyline. It’s now in its 8th season, and the project features some of what I consider the deepest role-playing you can find in any D&D show.

Tanya DePass is one of the Rivals‘ players. And she’s teaming up with B. Dave Walters, whose credits include the transmedia Electropunk project, A Darkened Wish (an actual play show with a comic book series from IDW Publishing), the documentary project Dear America, from a Black Guy (which seeks to talk about the Black experience in the U.S., racism, and the need to listen and treat each other with respect), andvarious other video and gaming projects. They’re teaming up for a unique RPG project: Into the Mother Lands, which launched with an actual play broadcast on Sunday. It airs at 4 p.m. Pacific on Sundays on Twitch.

Into the Mother Lands is landmark for several reasons. First, it’s a Twitch-sponsored project, showing that livestreaming companies realize that they need to invest in the content creators that grew their platform. Twitch also left all the decisions to DePass, giving her and her team full control over the project. They’re making a tabletop RPG for this as well, using the Cortex Prime system.

The result is a rarity in tabletop gaming: a project that puts people of color at the forefront, from designing the game to playing it onstream. DePass and Walters have assembled a creative team that includes some well-known names in the actual play field, such as Gabe Hicks (a game designer and actor), LaTia Jacquise (D&D Adventure’s League community manager, game designer, and actor), and actress Krystina Arielle. It’s also a sci-fi show, which helps it stand out from so many fantasy-RPG projects on Twitch.

And if the first episode is any guide, Into the Mother Lands already shows a great deal of camaradeire with the cast. I discussed this project with DePass and Walters last week, before their premiere. This is an edited transcript of our conversation.

GameBeat: How did the Twitch partnership come about for the project? Did Twitch approach you, or did you approach it?

Tanya DePass: A little bit of both. I’ve been working with Twitch on some things. I pitched a few things, most of them either supporting work I was already doing or a couple of new shows, one of which, Frostmaiden, was going to be coming out at the time we started talking. I already have a channel for the non-profit I run, I Need Diverse Games, and there’s a weekly show going on there. I was trying to get support there. Also, I do another sci-fi RPG. They said, there’s already a lot of stuff out there. There’s fantasy out there, a lot of pre-established IPs. What about doing our own story? I said, sure? I like to write, and I like science fiction. Dave and I are firmly entrenched in D&D and other RPG fantasy settings. We threw out some ideas. I’d already been talking to people in case any of the pitched shows came to fruition, and we went from there. Once we came back with an idea and budget, they said, OK, let’s do this.

GamesBeat: Why science fiction over fantasy?

DePass: There’s a ton of fantasy RPG shows out there right now. There’s not a dearth of fantasy if you want to watch it. There’s not a lot of science fiction. I can think of maybe one or two people that are doing a Star Trek RPG, because Modiphius has that license. The Dishonored RPG is out there, but I don’t think anyone is streaming that. Some friends of ours do cyberpunk. But I can’t think of five or six people I know of doing a science fiction stream. Any day of the week, you can throw a rock and hit a fantasy stream on Twitch.

GamesBeat: Is Twitch sponsoring your show, or is it sponsoring creation of the game IP as well?

DePass: I have a set budget, and follow the parameters of the budget. We’re making a new IP. Control is fully mine. I’m the business executive, as it were, to go out and get contracts and NDAs. We’re in talks to forward and expand it out. For now we’re focusing on getting everything for the stream ready, but there is a world and an RPG system being created.

GamesBeat: When it comes to Twitch’s involvement, does it both fund and promote Into the Mother Lands? What’s it involvement? 

DePass: No, I asked all those questions. I said, do you need to sign off on the cast, on the writer? Nope, all our decisions.

GamesBeat: Are you both writing it together?

B. Dave Walters: I’m lead-developing the game, but we have an entire squad of very gifted storytellers, people who have contributed to a lot of games. Tanya has the final say on things. There’s me, there’s Gabe Hicks, Eugenio Vargas, Jasmine Bhullar, LaTia Jacquise. I believe that’s everyone on the writing side. And Sharang Biswas.

The first time Tanya and I talked about this project, the number of episodes we needed to produce by the end of the year, I said, yeah, sure, that’s plenty of time. Then you get out the calendar and look at it, and you realize, oh, that’s actually zero time. When we hit development, we had to start running fairly quickly. The ideas coalesced quickly. We had to decide if we were going to try to create our own system or use an existing one. We quickly settled on the Cortex system because of our previous relationships with Fandom and D&D Beyond.

It’s been a great experience putting the whole thing together a piece at a time. I say a piece at a time, but there’s been multiple occasions when it’s like the third floor is being built while we’re still laying concrete in the basement. It’s been interesting in the sense that this has been unlike any game that I’ve ever worked on.

We had the opportunity to talk to the cast and ask them, what do you think is exciting? Given the genre and the parameters we’ve laid out, what do you want to do? Because then we can go back and make that work in the game. It’s not like D&D or other existing properties that we’ve participated in, where your options are laid out before. It’s like coming to a restaurant and ordering versus having the chef come out from the back and say, we can make you anything. You tell us what you’d like. That’s been a fun way to have many development tracks all happening at the same time.

GamesBeat: Can you give an example of how that worked, where you talked to the cast and asked what they wanted, and you incorporated that?

Walters: Not to go into too many details, but one of the cast members definitely wanted to play a fighter-healer hybrid, but we still wanted it to feel tangibly different from a paladin. Building a warrior-priest specifically for one of the characters is something that happened.

GamesBeat: Is your work, when it comes to the science fiction, toward a Warhammer direction, or more toward a Star Wars direction, or something new, a mix of ideas?

DePass: I don’t play Warhammer, so I don’t get that reference, but when it comes to Star Trek and Star Wars, it’s not that they’re out and about in space. They’ve gotten to this planet and been there for a while. I might be bold enough to say this is all new. We all have our influences, but we’re not saying, it’s like Star Trek with all black and brown people. This is a world we’ve created collaboratively. You’re not in space for years. You’re not on a planet and constantly going out in space.

Walters: I know a bit about Warhammer and the mythology, and it’s not so much like Warhammer in the sense that great sweeping battles aren’t a big part of it, any grand sweeping intergalactic conflict, although as the story goes on the story will expand in scope. It’s not quite hard science fiction, but things like magic won’t play a huge role in it. There may be some advanced technology, but not techno-wizardry throwing fireballs.

For me the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek is that Star Wars is a dark, scummy universe where evil has won and good is on its heels. Good is always fighting back, but you’re always on the losing side. Star Trek is hopeful exploration in a brighter future. What we’re trying to bring to this, although I agree that this is all new — if anything, the exploratory, expansionist, let’s find out what’s around the corner because we want to vibe of it is what we’re after. We’re already living in the darkest timeline, so we didn’t necessarily want something that was going to be super heavy and bleak. Although of course I’m sure we’re going to have many surprises and twists in store for the cast in the course of the story.

Herding cats

GamesBeat: Dave, have you been a lead developer on a project before?

Walters: Like everyone, I’ve picked at my own system for years, doing my own thing. But this is my first time lead developing a game with a team of other people. It’s been good. I was very honored when Tanya approached me about it. But I think the main thing that I brought to the table is, when we started talking about the base, I said, well, that means we have to do this and this and this by this day. She said, well, why don’t you make sure that happens? OK!

DePass: You’re like, I can herd those cats!

Walters: So let’s do it. It’s been a great experience to be a part of. Anyone familiar with my work knows I take storytelling seriously. I take gaming seriously. The fact that this is an opportunity to escape and take your mind off your troubles for a time, but also an opportunity to live your own mythos and tell your own story with your friends — we’re looking forward to the audience coming along with our crew, but also soon being able to assemble their own crew and tell their own stories too.

GamesBeat: When it comes to the development of Into the Mother Lands, you’re working with people in different locations. COVID hasn’t really impacted how you would approach this. Or has it?

Walters: Not really. In fact, it’s made it easier. The people with Cortex, they’re mainly out of Alabama where Fandom is based, but the lead game designer on that, Cam Banks, is in New Zealand. And then Tanya and I are in different cities, all different places. If anything, even though Zoom was of course already a tool, now having spent three quarters of the year at COVID University, everybody is far more adjusted to being able to get together and talk. Most of it has happened in emails. We need this, we need that, we’ll work on it. We get together and touch base and collaborate and scatter again to make it happen.

GamesBeat: How is the playtesting going when it comes to having a remote setup?

DePass: It’s been good. Cam Banks over at Fandom has taken time — his Monday morning, or Monday afternoon, he meets with me and Eugenio Vargas who’s our storyteller. We walk through sample scenarios. Dave, Eugenio, and Cam have given us good resources. This is going to be for every one of us. Most of us are used to a d20 system where a die determines success or failure, and others determine how much you’ve done a thing. We’re all getting used to it. But it makes sense, because I’ve played other systems and other people have. I know that Dave has worked on other games where it’s not the same setup. It’s going well. We all have cheat sheets. We all have info. Part of our Session Zero is we’re not just jumping into the action on Sunday. In Session Zero, we’re explaining some of this. We’re not giving away too much detail, because we don’t want to say, here’s the whole story, now you don’t need to watch anything else. But also explaining the Cortex system, because I think we’re the first show that’s getting to use it. It’s not officially out. I know in October a quick-start and sample will be out that people can use. Is that right, Dave?

Walters: A new edition is coming. Some Cortex-based systems have come out before. They definitely did Firefly. I think they did Supernatural. But a new edition of the bones that we used for our story is going to be released soon.

DePass: It’s Cortex Prime, not the old system. This is all new.

Walters: One of the advantages that we have here, we wanted to make this stylistically different than many other games that you’ve played. Both Tanya and I have participated in discussions around the use of races in games, “evil” races, the ones that are always less intelligent but stronger. We wanted to flip a lot of that on its head. Part of that is reflected in the mechanics, in that this game will not have an attribute system. It’s mostly going to be based on values and skills, in terms of what you believe and what you’re good at. Because then it becomes more about the individual and less about, “all of these people are [blank].” Well, no. You may have tendencies to be better at one thing or another. Maybe these people tend to be taller or these people tend to be stronger. But it’s more about you. What does this individual care about? What is this individual good at? To help short-circuit some of those other tropes that get baked into so many games. Dwarves have to be Scottish, elves have to be beautiful, that sort of thing.

Creating a new universe with people of color

GamesBeat: Does the title “Into the Mother Lands” have any significance?

DePass: It was both our brains at work one night, chatting. We talked about the concept. What does it mean? Going into what is — for a lot of people, we talk about going back to the motherland. Going into what is now your motherland, your home — it’s more about, I’ve accidentally wandered away from the house. I forgot what to wear. I don’t have the keys anymore. Someone else lives there now. This is now my home. This is the motherland. You have made it your own in the time since these folks originally landed on the planet to the time our game is set in. About 1,500 to 2,000 years passed from when they arrived to when we start playing.

Walters: Obviously it’s a POC-led development, a POC-led cast. There’s a strong current of Afrocentrism in what’s effectively a science fiction story. We have a premise in place that explains why colonialism has no place in this story and has not affected these people. It won’t be the driving force of the story. Of course there are going to be conflicts of different types. There are aliens. There are enemy nations. But let’s go there and take all their stuff because reasons, that’s not the motivating force behind anybody’s actions.

GamesBeat: Is there an inherent conflict in the background of the world, or is it more about your characters and the people in the world exploring who they are in the confines of the universe?

Walters: Both. The example I used many times during development is — the thing we had to nail down first was the stuff you were going to see early in the story, and we could flesh out around that. Remember, in Star Wars, all we got was that for a thousand years the Jedi were the peacekeepers of the Old Republic. That was it. And then we do Star Wars, and that one little sentence has [makes explosion noise]. In game development, a lot of the time people fall in love with their lore and mythology. I’m gonna write a thousand pages about how the gods hewed this world out of the rocks. But at the end of the day nobody cares about that, at least not initially. What they care about initially is, hey, check this out, if I’m like a space samurai, does that mean I’m so fast that I always go first? You have to start with, who are you in this world? And then you start building out from that. You’re going to see them as dots on a tapestry that has a huge backdrop of richness and depth, and of course conflict. If we’re blessed to do this for a long time, what’s happening by season five will have very organically grown geometrically compared to what you see in season one. But it’s that core of, what are you going to do and why — that will never change.

GamesBeat: The work of yours that I’m most familiar with is the D&D comic series A Darkened Wish. One of the things I got back from that was love and loyalty, in the way the characters interact. Is that something you’re trying to get into here as well?

Walters: Of course you have human beings with free will, so who knows what’s going to happen? With Darkened Wish, what I was trying to do, and you did catch on that — my niche of storytelling in D&D is high-level play. But even in other games, even in things like Vampire that I’ve done a lot of work in — I’m less interested in what you can do and more interested in what will you do? What are the consequences of your actions? If you’re a powerful character, a wizard can destroy an entire army alone. That’s why in the opening pages of Darkened Wish, you see that. A wizard drops a meteor swarm on an army and blows up a lot of people. That’s something a wizard can do. But once you get past that, well, what are the consequences of that? Why are we fighting on this side? Why are we opposing that army versus this one? The personal choice of — if we do this right and we hit the notes right, there should never be a point in this story where we all understand that those people are irredeemably evil. That the Joker is stealing the Eiffel Tower because he felt like it. You know? That’s bad. If the Joker is going to be stealing the Eiffel Tower, well, it turns out the Eiffel Tower was built on a neolithic burial ground and someone is siphoning souls through the Eiffel Tower to poison the water. Or something. Something. The villain is the hero of their own story. Any time you have an enemy nation, they have a reason why they’re doing this that makes sense to them. Ideally it should make sense to you, whether or not you agree with it. That brings the conflict that makes a story worth telling or a game worth playing.

Above: One of the concepts for “Into the Mother Lands.”

Image Credit: Vanessa “PleasantlyTwstd” B.

GamesBeat: Why did you choose now to make this project? Is it just because of the confluence of Twitch coming to you and you guys talking about it, or was there something else driving the creation of this?

DePass: Mostly just the right time, the right place, here’s the opportunity to build in the time you have. But it does open the door to tell a story that’s not all angst and woe. As Dave and I have said, we’re living in the worst timeline. I don’t think 2020 can get much worse, knock on wood now that I’ve said that.

Walters: Don’t test it.

DePass: The other part of it is, we, being black folks, people of color, we don’t usually get to exist in postapocalyptic stories, science fiction stories. We’re fodder. We’re the person that dies, usually, so the white hero can go off and learn to be the person, suddenly learn humanity by seeing this terrible loss of life that is not like you. And realize we’re “all the same.” But I also wanted to tell a story that can be happy, where people are doing their thing, where there are bad people who happen to be brown, and it’s not because of a moral failing. It’s not going to be the mental illness trope of, you’re bad because you’re crazy. We don’t get to fail. We don’t get to fail up in society. But what if there was someone who’s decided, I’m going to be a man with dark skin who’s not a great person? But I still, for whatever reason this is, I’m going to go along on this adventure. Or I’m not happy with my lot in life and this is my chance to change it.

It’s far more narrative-driven than games that I’ve played, games that we’ve both worked on. It’s not just about going out and slaying the monster because I’m the hero. Maybe the monster is me. We don’t know how people are going to play the characters. Even though we’ve said, here’s what you want to do, here’s the culture you’ve chosen to play, here’s the job you’ve decided to do, everyone is going to bring their own flavor to the table. For all we know, someone is going to say, it was me all along. I’m going to murder everyone. Hopefully they won’t, but you never know.

GamesBeat: Could it also be a case of, yes, I am the monster, but I feel like I know what’s right for everyone else and I’ll impose this on everyone else to save them?

DePass: If someone chooses to play that way, but the world isn’t being built that way. We have enough people like that in the modern day. I’m not trying to make an Elon Musk face, but — what if that is their actual mindset? Like Dave said, a villain is the hero in their own mind. If they honestly think they know better than everyone else — how many movies have we seen where the villain is like, only I can cleanse the world? Only I can save humanity from themselves? If someone plays it that way, we’ll run with it. But there’s not a culture, not an inherent storyline waiting to happen where that’s the thing. Because honestly, I can’t speak for Dave, but I’m kinda tired of that, the evil genius that knows better from everyone else.

Walters: Yeah, there is no — I was about to say there is no Empire. That’s not true. There is an empire. But, I say wearing my Darth Vader T-shirt, there is no Empire. There’s no, we have to cast off the yoke of that specific group of individuals and then everything will be fine. It’s not that. And even the way we’ve construed some of our enemies — we worked on subverting the expectations of tropes, but making sure we hit the notes of certain tropes. Games are a fairly well-worn territory by now. Everyone can comprehend the idea of the tank. I’m the one that takes the hits. I’m the one that gives the hits. I’m the one that heals the hits. We tried to stir that up, of course. Who’s doing the rogue stuff? Who’s the sneaky stabber? We’re going to hit those things. But also, a lot of the conflicts we’ll find with the enemy factions, many of which will be the same race of sentient beings that still end up in opposition to each other — a lot of the conflicts just come from very different ways of thinking. We have a race of creatures that are non-specifically bird people. We have a race of creatures that are non-specifically hyenas. We have a race that are non-specifically cephalopods, octopi. They just process life differently, and that should manifest in their actions. Because it’s not so much about good and evil. It’s all about perspective.

Expanding opportunity

Above: Actress Krystina Arielle plays Cyla-919 in “Into the Mother Lands.”

GamesBeat: When it comes to your cast and your development group, it’s all black and brown people, right? Was that something Twitch asked for, or is this something you were empowered to do?

DePass: I made that choice consciously. Dave and I — I don’t want to say lucky, but we know folks from Critical Role. We worked heavily on a D&D show that I’m going to be GMing in the middle of doing this. There are plenty of shows that have an all white cast and crew. Rivals is I think the only show that’s an official WOTC partner show that’s all people of color. I wanted to do that with our story. They say, here, you are in the driver’s seat. Rarely have I been on a production — even with Rivals, we still have to answer to WOTC. This is the group that I wanted to put together. When we look at expanding it out and saying, here is your book, this is what you wanted, I’m going to try to make that happen as much as I can, if Twitch comes back and says, here’s X money, go farther and make it happen, and we can just do it ourselves without Kickstarter or something. To me it was a very deliberate choice.

People have cried reverse racism, I know. There’s plenty of shows out there that are all white, and where’s the racism cry when you see shows that are all white people, or they have the one black or brown person on as a guest? This isn’t a slight at friends we know, but when we see a show every week that’s all white folks, and no one is complaining, no one is saying this is racism — even when we talk about Rivals, we still get pigeonholed as the diverse show. They never talk about the quality of the show or the people on it. I wanted to break out of that, because that’s why I get so angry when people pull the, oh well, skin color doesn’t matter. If it didn’t matter, you wouldn’t have replied to me this way. You wouldn’t have said this. I know there’s a cartoon out there that a lot of people reply to me with. It’s the “oh no” cartoon of, go make your own! But then when you do, but not like that! We’re excluded! There’s always going to be people like that, where they feel like — I’m uncomfortable when it’s not about me.

Walters: Like I said, as a person whose life is built around storytelling, the reason why we keep telling the same stories, the hero’s journey, the kid from nowhere who’s the chosen one, who goes on an adventure and saves everyone and comes home again, it’s about the journey of individuation. It’s about the psychological process that every human being has to go through, or at least is supposed to. I think the vast majority of us never make that journey, but that’s what it’s about. That’s what resonates with all of us. That only works if you have an opportunity to see yourself reflected in the narrative, to see yourself reflected in every stage of that narrative, to see you as the hero and the villain and the mentor and the opposition and the shadow and all of that. You have to be all of those things, and that’s often lacking in these stories.

Another thing that people tend to overlook, in agreement with everything Tanya said, is that everyone on this project is also objectively qualified. We all have the credentials. We’ve earned the positions that we’ve earned. This is by no means something that is against white people. Adam Bradford, Cam Banks, Cortex, they’ve been pivotal to this. I’m sure not every single involved at Twitch has been a person of color. It’s still a collaborative effort, and now this particular ensemble is trying to do this particular thing. Most people that say, but where are the white people, are absolutely doing that in a disingenuous manner. Neither Tanya or I are very polite to those people.

GamesBeat: You talked about having to defend the quality of your cast and your team. Why would you do something like this if you don’t pull in talented people? How frustrating is it to have to defend that?

Walters: You know, but you see — I mean, don’t get me wrong. I can’t speak for Tanya, I for one have been overwhelmed by the positive response to this. We knew we were going to make a dope game, make a dope show, and everybody we put it in front of has been like, what? Lots of people want to talk to us. There’s a lot of buzz and hype. Clearly there was an appetite for this that was even greater than what I knew was out there. That’s been very exciting to see.

GamesBeat: I know Rivals gets pigeonholed as the diversity show. But in my opinion, of the WOTC casts, it’s my favorite. You guys go deeper with your characters and tell a richer story. Is it imposing to live up to that? Because you’ve done such a good job with Rivals, how are you going to compare to that?

DePass: It’s apples and oranges. Rivals is a group thing. It’s D&D. It’s something we’re part of, but this is something that we’ve created together. At least for me, I’m going the extra mile to make sure it doesn’t turn into “Space D&D,” but not, with all brown people. I’m trying not to get super emotional about it. This is something that I got to create. This is something that we built from the ground up. And yes, it took Twitch money, because I’m not going to make somebody do this for free. There’s no way I could ask these people to work on this for free. But to be able to say, here, give me your creative energy, give us a story, help us build it together, and then to see it play out in real time. Dave has said it’s like the Wallace and Gromit thing where Gromit is throwing down the tracks while the train is going. But it’s apples and oranges. D&D has been around almost as long as I’ve been alive. It’s changing. It’s getting better.

We’re very proud of Rivals. But this is our thing, and I want that to stand alone. I’m not trying to beat Rivals, top Rivals, because it’s not a competition. The last thing I want to do is compete against myself, because I’m the DM on Rivals. That would be a little weird. But I want it to be its own thing. I want it to stand out. I put it out in the ether that I want Motherlands to be on the level that Critical Role has. For people to want to do cosplay, to do fan art, to be excited every week to see this show, to ask if it’s Sunday yet. Because I firmly believe that what we’re doing can get there. What we have now is — we could do the stream tomorrow. We only have a few days left, but still. But everyone who is involved is a powerhouse. It’s a dream to get to work with these folks. It’s not a matter of topping Rivals or equaling Rivals. We’ve put this together with our blood, sweat, and tears, and we deserve a place at the top. We’re going to get there.

Streaming platforms investing in content

GamesBeat: I know Twitch provides a platform for Actual Plays, but it also benefits and profits from those. Is it time for Twitch, for YouTube and the other platforms, to be investing in creators to make games, as Netflix and Amazon invest in shows and movies?

DePass: I think so. Playing other people’s games on Twitch is one part of what people do, but really, independent contractors only stream there. We’re getting the benefit of it, because it’s on my channel. We created a channel, but mostly just to get the name. But how many different ways, especially since Amazon Studios is right there, and they’re making games anyway — there are so many creative, talented people that are either doing their own content, coding, whatever it is they’re doing, because Twitch isn’t just for games. And with as much money they’re making off the content we provide, a 50-50 cut for most people, I think it’s time to put that back into the people that are basically keeping you open. And if someone reads that at Twitch and gets mad at me, oh well. It’s not like I haven’t said this before. We’re contractors. People think that, oh, you’re a partner, what did you do to get this kind of money? I hustled my ass off for six years. Dave knows this, and I know he’s going to give me that uncle look.

I hate talking about myself. But people say, oh, you’re so lucky, blah blah blah. No, I busted my ass. This has been my game for six years. Not just streaming, but doing the inclusion work, talking to people that don’t always want to hear what I have to say, traveling, being in audiences where people think diversity and inclusion is bullshit. Someone will say, well, it’s the SJW thing, how dare you, everything is equal, I just care about a good game. But then they’ll turn around and say, but you’re excluding me. Didn’t you just tell me to go make my own? And now that I’m doing that, you want to be included. Which is it? Twitch has the power, the money, and the resources to go to creators and say, we’ve seen the work you do. Here’s funding. Here’s your parameters. Let’s see what you can do. That’s another layer that’s been daunting to us. Knock on wood, we’re not failing, but let’s say we crash and burn. That will shut the door for other people that could have had the same opportunity.

Walters: I tell people that yes, I’ve been lucky. I’ve rolled some crits at opportune times. But my own efforts have allowed me to hold that advantage. I often say that there are two things I can tell you do not exist: the completely self-made person, and the overnight success. Anything you think just came out of nowhere and exploded, it didn’t. I assure you. A lot of work has happened behind the scenes. A lot of planting seeds and watering and weeding before a thing takes off. It just so happens that it’s our time now, and we will not stop.

GamesBeat: Is it time for more companies to license actual play shows to make TTRPGs and video games?

Walters: Sure. Acquisitions Incorporated has done it. Again, I come from the creative side of things. I made movies. I’m making a movie now. I’ve had television produced. I’ve very much lived in that world. To Tanya’s previous point, Netflix has proven the thesis that it’s worth funding original content for your platform, especially when everything is so competitive. Any time you have a thing that people love, it makes sense to adapt it.

The only thing you cannot do, as a corporation, is when you intentionally set out to say, this will be the next blockbuster franchise. That usually feels very fake and disingenuous. Everyone knows instantly that you’re trying to do it. “This is the new tentpole franchise movie!” They force it out and those movies tend to bomb, because you can’t force significance. You can’t force epicness. You can only create genuineness, and then let those things happen. If people are loving the Not Another D&D Podcast and whatever and want to participate in it, have at it.

The reality is, a big part of the reason, presumably, that Twitch is doing this show, it’s because Tanya has proven that she can create a product that the marketplace will respond to. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist. It is still dollars and cents. This isn’t a charity mission. They believe they’re going to get something out of this. We believe we’re going to get something out of this. It just makes sense to align everybody and move in the same direction so everybody can win. So yeah, of course, convert everything. Adapt everything.

Correction, 3:13 p.m. Pacific: We identified Eugenio Vargas as David Vargas in the section about playtesting. We apologize for our mistake.


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