Gaming

A Dungeons & Dragons actual play show is going to sell out Madison Square Garden

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Dropout's Dungeons & Dragons at Madison Square Garden.
Image Credits: Dropout

What does Taylor Swift have in common with a group of improv comedians pretending to be wizards? They can both sell out Madison Square Garden (… and also, their fans kind of hate Ticketmaster now).

Dropout’s Dungeons & Dragons actual play show, Dimension 20, is getting pretty close to selling out a 19,000-seat venue just hours after ticket sales opened to the general public. To the uninitiated, it may seem absurd to go to a massive sports arena and watch people play D&D. As one Redditor commented, “This boggles my mind. When I was playing D&D in the early eighties, I would have never believed that there was a future where people would watch live D&D at Madison Square Garden. It’s incomprehensible to me.”

It is indeed bizarre, albeit fun. But in this monumental moment for the actual play genre, the triumph is eclipsed by the biggest frustration that links sports, music and now D&D fans: Ticketmaster. As Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan said amid the Taylor Swift-Ticketmaster scandal, the company’s failures “ended up converting more Gen Zers into anti-monopolists overnight than anything [she] could have done.”

In the case of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour, fans were upset because demand was so high that Ticketmaster’s system couldn’t handle the traffic. For Dimension 20, the culprit is Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing. As more people try to buy tickets, the price of the tickets increase. About an hour after the Madison Square Garden tickets went on sale, the few dozen upper bowl tickets left were $800. Three hours after, these tickets are around $330, which is still very inflated.

“Went onto the presale, tickets were $500+ for the worst ones, we assumed they were scalpers and that the actual sale today would have normal priced tickets… $2000 for the lower bowl!? I know it’s not dropout setting the price but wow is that a LOT of cash,” a Redditor posted. And as a commenter astutely pointed out, thanks to dynamic pricing, Ticketmaster itself is actually the scalper. Of course, Dimension 20 fans are frustrated, especially since the show’s content is overtly anti-capitalist.

Despite the pricing debacle, the demand for the show is a great sign for both actual play shows and the creator economy at large.

Shows like Dimension 20 and Critical Role, which recently played a sold out show at the 12,500-seat Wembley arena, are not the reality of every creator. But 10 years ago, these sorts of pop star-sized productions for online creators would be unthinkable. In 2013, it was a big deal — worthy of a New York Times writeup — that YouTubers John and Hank Green played and sold out Carnegie Hall, which seats about 3,000 people. Now, the lines between internet people and “real” celebrities are less present than ever.

Even the story behind Dropout, the production company behind Dimension 20, exemplifies these changing tides. When the comedy site CollegeHumor folded, one of the company’s executives, Sam Reich, acquired the company, which has since evolved into Dropout. Now, Dropout produces a variety of comedy shows (in addition to Dimension 20) that capture the lightning in a bottle that has eluded more traditional shows like Saturday Night Live. Like SNL in its best moments, Dropout’s cast members are as compelling as the actual shows — if you think Lou Wilson is funny on Dimension 20, then you’ll probably want to watch his episodes of Game Changer, and so on. The beast of Dropout feeds itself. Meanwhile, four of Dimension 20’s cast members started the creator-owned actual play podcast Worlds Beyond Number last year, which now has over 30,000 paid subscribers on Patreon, who pledge $5 a month to the project.

This milestone for Dimension 20 is all the more evidence that the relationship between Silicon Valley and the creator economy hype cycle is completely irrelevant to the actual careers of creators. Sure, venture funding for creator companies has fallen from its peak, but who cares? Creators can sell out Madison Square Garden.

The biggest names in D&D are going independent on ‘Worlds Beyond Number’

Dungeons & Dragons content creators are fighting to protect their livelihoods

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