Anything can become a full-time job if enough people are paying attention

Sunday, September 3rd, 2023

Matthew Mercer is the most famous Dungeons & Dragons player in the world:

Critical Role is a miraculous success, with 2 million YouTube subscribers and an additional 1.3 million followers on Twitch. Critical Role’s first season, called “Vox Machina,” ran for 115 episodes over the course of two-and-a-half years, demolishing the meager expectations of the eight-player cast. Those episodes, often four hours in length, were produced by the digital media brand Geek & Sundry, but in 2018 — when Mercer reconvened the Critical Role crew for a second season — they did so as a fully independent LLC, called Critical Role Productions. With that, his leisurely nights around the table officially transformed into a for-profit endeavor.

The pivot paid off in spades. A 2021 data leak out of Twitch confirmed that Critical Role is one of the richest channels on the platform, generating a mammoth $9.6 million in revenue between 2019 and 2021. The show has quickly become a fixture of the geek-media ecosystem and is blessed by a litany of third-party investments. There are now Critical Role novelizations, comic books, and most notably, an animated Amazon Prime television adaptation.


Mercer has his own theories about why Critical Role struck oil. He believes the troupe came together at the right time, during the dawn of the livestreaming revolution, when the world was still adjusting to what was possible with this brand-new hyperspeed broadcasting medium. It also helped that they all, including Mercer, were voice actors of some renown before signing up for the campaign. (Ashley Johnson, who has appeared in all three seasons of the show, is best known for playing Ellie in the acclaimed The Last of Us video games, and Travis Willingham, who serves as CEO of Critical Role Productions, has stepped into the booth to portray everyone from Sandman to Thor for Marvel.) The stars each had a robust presence on social media, which they dutifully funneled toward their newly formed Dungeons & Dragons series. One of the great revelations of the 2020s is that anything — even a weekly tabletop group — can become a full-time job if enough people are paying attention.


  1. Jim says:

    There is a tabletop game named Dungeons & Dragons? Does it have a gambling component?

  2. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    “Does it have a gambling component?”

    That usually depends on how many fifths everyone has been knocking back that night.

  3. Jim says:

    I see, now: Dungeons & Dragons is a tabletop game. I had heard the name but assumed that it was some sort of online multiplayer PC video game. Oh, boy…

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