What Gets Me Mad about Actual Plays
Over the last few years I have replaced my weekend Netflix video binging with AP watching, so I am becoming very familiar with AP (“Actual Play”) tropes. While there are a few different types, such as studio shows vs remote games, the ones that totally annoy me are the viewer participation types. Some people may tell me I'm wrong, but hey: this is my March Madness, and my soapbox.
There are many streaming networks that use viewer participation to gain funds, while a few of them use it for entertainment. These attempts at audience interaction may indeed bring in some money, but it's always at the cost of some serious distractions. First, viewer injections distract the players from telling their story, often leading them to break away from the developing story at the worst possible times. Second, they disturb the pace of the story: they force everyone to slow down in order to deal with the changes they introduce. Lastly, they distract from the focus or elegance of the story the group is trying to tell, changing course in a variety of illogical ways, while the poor group is forced to handle the randomness of wacky viewers and their lack of discipline. (Google “Boaty McBoatface” if you think crowd-sourcing always results in desirable suggestions.) With all these distractions going on, things often become so disjointed you may not even be able to understand the story being told, and this makes it hard to forge a connection with characters and players.
The rare exception to this rule is Encounter Roleplay's Call of Cthulhu series of APs . The game raises its funds by selling critical successes and failures, as well as random rolls off a list of truly horrific effects. And this tactic works, mostly due to the Players' and GM's remarkable ability to remain in character and improvise quickly. Not everyone can do that, and not every game can handle it.
Look. I understand that you need funding for your work. It takes a lot to do things right. But before you go injecting zaniness and chaos into your games, look for other ways. Consider selling subscriptions. Consider using Patreon. Remember that we watches your shows for a good game and a good story, so unless your viewer interactions add to both of these things, please think about other funding actions.