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Play, Performance, and Participation: Boundary Negotiation and Critical Role


Play, Performance, and Participation: Boundary Negotiation and Critical Role

Hope, Robyn (2017) Play, Performance, and Participation: Boundary Negotiation and Critical Role. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Critical Role is a livestreamed spectacle of play, in which eight professional voice actors come together once a week for a session of the tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons. This show first launched in 2015, and, after one hundred and fifteen episodes spanning nearly four hundred and fifty hours of content, reached the conclusion of its first major narrative arc in October 2017. In this time, the show has attracted a dedicated fanbase of thousands. These fans, known as “Critters”, not only produce creative fanworks, but also undertake massive projects of archiving, timekeeping, transcribing and curating Critical Role. The main project of this thesis is to argue that Critical Role facilitates an ecosystem of ideas, where ideas change hands quickly and fluidly – and, in doing so, it has caused familiar boundaries between author and audience to blur or even collapse. In some cases, this blurring allows for incredible collaborations between fans and performers; at its most challenging, the collapse of familiar author-audience dynamics creates unfamiliar conflicts with no obvious solution. Using Erving Goffman’s model of interactional frame analysis, this thesis will isolate different areas of challenge, collapse, and change. First, it will demonstrate how the dynamics of traditional tabletop roleplaying transform when the roleplayers are put before an audience. The Critical Role cast must negotiate double identities as both players and performers. This thesis will then transition to the behaviour of the audience. The act of watching Critical Role requires a keen understanding of the different frames at work inside the show, and fans have done a considerable amount of work to help each other understand these frames. Finally, this thesis will establish the concept of the fan frame. Both Critters and cast members consider themselves fans in some way. While familiarity with fan culture helps these two groups understand each other, it also creates conflict when the values of fans do not line up with the demands of online content production.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Communication Studies
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Hope, Robyn
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Media Studies
Date:November 2017
Thesis Supervisor(s):Consalvo, Mia
ID Code:983446
Deposited By: ROBYN HOPE
Deposited On:11 Jun 2018 01:44
Last Modified:11 Jun 2018 01:44
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