It does not take a wizard with a +5 intelligence modifier to see that this chart looks quite different to our first one. Rather than a steady rise over the years, Dungeons & Dragons search interest peaked in April 2020 as people looked for ways to get them through the pandemic.
This soon dropped off and, aside from a brief bump as a Dungeons & Dragons Magic: The Gathering expansion set was released, search interest continued to fall until this year with a sharp jump in February.
Why does the search and social data differ so much? It could be that they point to two types of interest.
A lot of search interest will be driven by people looking for information on the game and how to play, which is clear from the biggest search terms being “dnd” and “d&d”. There’s little reason for a seasoned player to be typing those terms into Google. This means a rise in search interest may indicate a rise in new or returning players.
Over on social, posts are much more about people’s games, characters, and campaigns. In other words, they’re active players. Therefore, a rise in social media interest may correlate with more players, or at least more games being played.
All this seems to point to a large increase in prospective players during the pandemic who have now turned into seasoned social media posters. While new player interest (search) may have dropped off, the February jump suggests that things could be about to turn. Let’s take a look at why.
Actual play: The critical role of Critical Role
When we looked into this jump in search interest, it was clear what the cause was. On January 28, The Legend of Vox Machina premiered on Amazon Prime Video, with this series based on a long-running game of Dungeons & Dragons featured in a show called Critical Role.
Critical Role is a piece of ‘actual play’ media, which allows people to follow along with a game, whether it’s in the form of a podcast, livestream, or some other format. In this case, they had professional voice actors play the game to ratchet up the entertainment factor. Put simply, you watch or listen to people playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons.