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From tabletop to screen: The entertainment industry behind role-playing games


Olivia Price, a senior in English and theatre design and technology, presented her research on "Investigating invisible labor practices in TTRPG Actual Play" at this week's Auburn Student Research Symposium. She and her co-authors, Associate Professor of English Emily Friedman and Department of Theatre & Dance Chair Chase Bringardner, discuss their findings with Things You Didn't Know You Didn't Know host Brandon Etheredge.

Online streaming and multimedia filming of Tabletop Role-Playing Game, or TTRPG, Actual Play has become immensely popular in recent years. The invisible labor practices in designing, producing and distributing these shows is mostly obscured from viewers, despite these processes being integral to the form. As TTRPG Actual Play joins the entertainment industry in television and film deals, the invisible labor conducted behind the scenes has become exponentially more relevant.

Price's study mainly consists of information obtained through interviews and site visits with industry professionals. These practitioners offered insight on their labor processes, material necessities, noticed trends and expectations for the future of Actual Play. A bibliography of resources has been started through the collection of academic articles, peer-reviewed works, social media interactions and other mediums through which the Actual Play community communicates.

The study found that the labor frameworks in use are largely informal and reminiscent of those in theater, television and film settings. Industry professionals who produce Actual Plays are often members of these other entertainment communities, which fuse closer together as the industries progress. New frameworks for invisible labor continue to form and be revealed as the Actual Play production community develops, further encroaching into television and film. Lifting the veil that separates the viewer from the labor has illuminated the economic and academic potential of this field in terms of production frameworks, entertainment, live performance and viewership.

This study serves as the basis for future investigations of invisible labor in Actual Play, providing a vocabulary and expectations for continued exploration.

Tags: English Theatre and Dance Students Research

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