Theater Thesis

I say the following all the time, but to my amazement a search fails to find it in any previous post on this blog, so here it is:

D&D is to video games as live theater is to movies.

In both pairs, the former is technologically simpler, and has the historical precedent. The latter is more technically demanding, and allows a mass-produced and mass-replicated experience, and in so doing creates a far more lucrative business model. But the former provides a live activity, and interaction between people in the performance space, and thus the potential for a more intimate, visceral, intense, one-of-a-kind experience.

In each case, professionals will work regularly in the latter activity for a livelihood; but generally engage in the former when given the opportunity for greater personal expression and reward. Great actors work in movies but take off to live Broadway when they get a chance. Likewise, in my experience, most professional video game developers work on the digital form during the day job, but in off-hours they play live D&D (or other RPGs) as the more fulfilling "true essence" of the form.


  1. Which is to say, it's a nice analogy.
    : )

  2. I thought your theater thesis was that theater people almost universally love the musical "Grease". ;)

    That being said, I think you're spot on with this new thesis. It makes all kinds of sense.

    1. Weirdly, I was just arguing with Isabelle the other day about the "Grease" thesis!

    2. "Grease Thesis" is almost a good name for a band. Some kinda nerdcore rockabilly thing... Los Straitjackets meets MC Frontalot.

  3. I wrote in 2005 :
    "The advent of television did not replace the public’s demand for motion pictures. Table top fantasy role-playing has not disappeared with the advent of the home computer and television video games; nor is extinction of role-playing games upon us. The enjoyment derived from pen-and-paper or traditional role-playing games (RPG) is different from that provided by interactive video games. There is no substitute for the collective, willing suspension of disbelief as a group of cooperative friends gather around a large table for a night of gaming."


    there is Convergent Evolution of thought
    " great minds think alike"
    ( I also have a BS master cum laude in mathematics)

  4. I would say that's true to a point. I might qualify that to say "certain genres of video games." Certainly traditional CRPGs, Action RPGs, and MMOs are included; FPS games have some RPG DNA as well, thanks to the guys at id Software. RTS, TBS, and 4X games also share some ancestry with RPGs, though they're more properly descendants or board games and wargaming. I think you'd be hard-pressed, however, to link Forza, Madden, Mario, or Tetris - or almost any classic arcade game, for that matter - to D&D.

    1. Makes sense.
      I'd say the precursors to games like Mario Bros, Tetris, or Forza are board and card games. Mille Bornes, Game of Life, Dungeon!, Go, Checkers, etc. etc. Games that are more mechanic than narrative.

  5. I think it was the comedian bill burr who said that

    "Fantasy football is like Dungeons and Dragons for jocks."

  6. Interesting idea, Delta - I like it!

  7. Coincidentally, an interview by the artist R. Crumb on the lopsided battle between mass media and live music: http://jonathanscottmiller.blogspot.com/2015/11/r-crumb-on-decline-of-popular-music.html