Dungeons and Drag Queens - Promotie

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Development Plan Dungeons and Drag Queens

Dungeons and Drag Queens

Projectplan 2020

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“A Game-performance where queer and gamerculture unite.”


Project Content:

“Dungeons and Drag Queens”​ (DnDQ) is a fantasy role-playing web series where

six drag queens perform ​live “Dungeons and Dragons sessions”​ in the form of

a drag/theatre show.

DnDQ ​is a project that ​creates content​ for the queer gamers. It uses "Dungeons and Dragons" alongside

"Drag performances" to shed light on the common grounds where the Queer and Gamer cultures meet.

Examples of the ‘live show’ can be found here:

https://youtu.be/vI6s3ecu0H8​, ​https://youtu.be/YRT0yz38xzE​.

notable timestamps in Chapter 1: 2:38/ 5:30/ 24:11

After successfully running the show in physical theatres in Utrecht (​28th of November 2019, 8th of March

2020​), we feel it is time to raise the quality of our content to a professional level and to push it to the digital

environment. We aim to go beyond our physical show and reach a global audience through streams and

professionally produced episodes.

What we aim to achieve with our online presence is:

- To join D&D (live)stream culture,which is natively digital.

- To continue DnDQ ongoing storylines of the show through digital media.

- To be able to express ourselves in the online queer-gamer culture, for whom we provide the content.

- To allow more audience interactions through our home/studio sessions.

DnDQ ​wants to create a ​web series​ ​of live shows​ that caters specifically to the queer gamer audiences, ​with

the implied side-effect​ of raising awareness in the mainstream digital gaming-spaces on what this

intersection (queer/gamer) is.

We will achieve this through continuing our ​Live shows (10 episodes), ​intermediate ​Home Sessions (24

times)​, and ​Social content (Ongoing)​. We will elaborate on the methodology later on this proposal.

Through the DnDQ channels (Youtube/Instagram/Twitch), we tap into ​already existing infrastructures ​that

host queer gamer subcultures among others (reddit/facebook/insta), and provide the content to our audience.

Though, we are open and accessible to non queer gamers and non-gamer queers who will find an alternative

repurpose of the mainstream products, and can interact with the project.

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Dungeons and Dragons, the game (D&D) ​is a roleplaying game from the 1970s, where players create their

own characters and improvise their way through an epic adventure by making choices and solving scenarios.

Unlike regular D&D sessions, our players perform in drag.


The story line of DNDQ is written and then orchestrated by the Game Masters. The imaginary world where our

adventures are set is very deeply articulated. Here Players interact with current issues such as: identity,

nationalism, and persecution. In this imaginary world, the in-drag players provide a performance that combines

the D&D rule system with the practises of impro theatre. The result is a queer-themed "Party" that has to get

through an adventure of epic proportions.

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By combining Drag and D&D, we make ​a statement ​about the queer-gamer identity. While we believe that

there is some representation of the queer-gamer culture, we perceive that the content specifically tailored for

this subculture is heavily lacking.

At the world GDC (Game Developers Conference) multiple presentation were given on the importance of

authentic queer culture in games*. While queer-gamers spaces exist, there is often not a lot of authentic queer

experiences for them to consume within mainstream media. This underrepresentation of queer culture in

games (or other media forms), can make someone feel unrecognized and misunderstood.

Why Digital?

In its current ​physical theatre format​, ​DnDQ faces some problems that a ​digital approach would solve:

- Due to the preparation work for the liveshows, we can only provide an episode ​every 2 months.

This blocks us from developing the story at a pace that we find more appropriate for our

project.​ We want to use the digital space to ​consistently produce content that is live streamed

alongside the production of the live theatre shows. This would allow us to produce additional

content, keep the story going at the right rhythm and attract/interact people beyond the Dutch

audience.

- While our show is performed on a ​theatre stage​, our audience lives mainly in ​digital spaces​.

- We want to go beyond the possibilities of physical theatre to enhance audience immersion. Digital

distribution also gives us the freedom to ​post edit ​the show, allowing classic ​video-game

overlays, sound effects and descriptions​ to be edited in afterwards for a better immersion and

comprehension also for those who are not so familiar with D&D..

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Ideology

Not only we aim to produce content that is tailored around the queer-gamer culture, we also want to rise

awareness about this "intersectional identity", its culture and practices.

If we look at current queer expression (drag/gender-bending/queer performance) and gamer culture

(videogames/pop-culture/tabletop-roleplay) we see an overlap in the way in which ​identity​ and ​power fantasy

relate to each other. The “warrior” and the “drag queen” are two different avatars that stem from the same

desire of identity projection.

Queer identity can feel confusing, especially when living in a mostly non-queer society. Every ​intersection

with your queerness, whether this is gaming, sports, arts, makes this identity more layered and diffuse. In this

case we see intersectionality as ​different​ ​subcultures coming together in one identity.

We believe that subcultures are in itself a critique on mainstream culture and normality. By placing

ourselves at the crossroads between these two subcultures (queer/games), we are showing that we

are not simply “in between” queer and gamer culture.​ ​We are an evolution of both.

*​https://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/315784/LGBTQ_devs__players_speak_up_about_the_need_for_auth

entic_queer_culture_in_games.php


Relevance:

In this section, we will elaborate on the following points:

- Queer gamer communities have a somewhat healthy digital scene (facebook/reddit/insta), but lack

content​ specifically produced for them.

- Queer gamer communities are often seen as ‘in between’ subcultures, instead of being an ​evolution

of different subculture branches.

- The D&D live-streaming community is incredibly popular online, but ​lacks innovation​ in its

(digital)format.

Queer gamers during American queer pride marches. The picture on the right features a D20 dice, the icon of the D&D

game.


The queer-gamer community, mostly known as “gay” gamers have been asking for representation in the

community since 2006. As today we have gaming-oriented queer/gay/trans ​reddit groups​ and ​facebook

groups​ where queer people can find each other to play games or join in-game guilds. Combining all queer

gaming spaces adds up to around a total of ​1 million digital subscribers

“Queer gamers communities on the image board “Reddit”. Queer people can find other queer gamers to play their favorite

games together. R/Gaymers, 147 thousand subscribers”

The queer-gaming community has not yet been able to gather itself consistently in shared digital space. What

we think the community is missing is specific content that would help attract "gaymers" and create a shared

digital culture through shared practices of content production and consumption. There still is a pattern of

side-representation​ of queer content within the mainstream industry. This is done in a way to appeal the

queer community who still have to consume heteronormative content in games to access the little

representation they get. Queer gamers communities often do not have the means to produce content for

themselves, as “traditional high-budget game development” is still curated by​ heteronormative marketing

strategies ​that (subconsciously​) filter queer lifestyles ​out of their products, or relegate them to a secondary

role.

With ​DnDQ, ​we have the luxury of relatively low production costs while providing content such as live shows

and home sessions. This allows us to be independent, something that should not be taken for granted,

especially when working within a sphere that has not established itself yet.

Pictures of the Australian queer gaming conference, and popular drag queen Trixie Mattel, cosplaying as Princess Peach

from the Mario games.

Queer games and fantasy developers are facing some challenges in this day and age. Not that the existing

infrastructure is not welcoming our community but the production and consumption of content that visualizes

and affirms the unique perspective and culture of the subculture is at a very early stage.. Queer game

developers are constantly on an introspective quest to find out how these different cultures overlap and what

aligns their identity. Only through the consumption and production of content the queer-gamer community can

set itself free from both cultures and independently rise as the unique subculture it is.

Dungeons and Drag Queens ​takes Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition as the medium to express its queer

identity. Besides its rules for traveling and combat, the game gives us a blank canvas to come up with

scenarios and characters that we and our audience will relate to.

Just like many other D&D related projects, ​Dungeons and Drag Queens ​comes forth from ​Critical Role​, one of

the first successful D&D streamers. ​Critical Role​ is an online Twitch stream where 8 known voice actors of the

gaming/fantasy industry play Dungeons and Dragons. The phenomenon has now spread worldwide and their

loyal fans, named “critters” are incredibly active in the Netherlands.


Left: Critical Role is the most prominent D&D (live)stream. Aside from popularizing the game online, they do not break or

evolve the format of a game, which is in its essence cooperative storytelling.

D&D streaming occurs mostly on ​Twitch ​(livestream platform) and ​Youtube. ​A game master and a cast of

players organize a live stream session and play Dungeons and Dragons for ​3 to 4 hours.

There are a few noticeable allures to this medium:

- It is​ slow entertainment, ​which allows viewers to engage in a trance-like immersion over the span of

a few hours at a time.

- It is ​continuous and immersive​, creating an unfolding reality to be consumed over the years. As

time passes, the adventuring party and the narrative plot develops, resulting in viewers bonding and

relating viewers to bond intensely with the medium.

Since the birth of the first D&D livestream show “Critical Role”, the D&D scene has produced

countless other D&D livestreams and podcasts. Unfortunately, the format often stops at a group

playing the game around a table.

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Even though ​DnDQ​ positions itself as D&D streaming content, it has a different approach. Aside from being a

queer, costume experience that caters within the mainstream gamer demographic, DnDQ attempts to break

the 1970’s board game ​away from the ‘table’. ​We are on a continuous journey to see how we can mold the

game of Dungeons and Dragons, and how ​multiple disciplines (theatre, song, drag) can live within D&D

sessions.

DnDQ attracts young people within the age category 16-32 years of age. We experienced this during our

previous performances at EKKO in Utrecht. Our audience contains a healthy mix of cis-straight and queer

individuals. During the show on 23rd of November 40% of our audience was not familiar with the mechanics of

Dungeons and Dragons. ​This means that Dungeons and Drag Queens attracts a non-gamer audience

and manages to realistically stay within gamer and queer circles.


Planned approach:

After successfully running the show in physical theatres we decided to push ​Dungeons and Drag Queens​ to the

digital environment. This will be achieved through​ web-episodes​ that are already being produced from the

recordings of the live shows. They will be uploaded on our Youtube and Twitch channels around which we aim to

create a space for our demographic, through the use of different platforms and natively digital ways to interact

with the public, while focussing on the creation of content.

Projectplan

In DnDQ, we divide our content into ​3 types of produced content. Liveshows, Home Sessions, and scripted

interventions/Social Content. ​Between every Live Show we will have 2 or 3 smaller “home sessions” to

progress the story.

All our formats are created to create a continuous​ pacing of content ​for our viewers, as shown in the timeline

above. By interchanging ​live sessions, home sessions, and social content, ​we provide an immersive

experience where people can almost constantly come along in our world.

With a project that goes from physical to a digital space, the question will arise of ​what types of interaction

we will have with our audience.

In D&D livestreaming culture, the audience often has no influence on the story. The audience is a passive

spectator purely ​focussed on immersing​ themselves.

However we want to follow a more interactive approach and grant our Patreons decisional power over the

home sessions​ streams. Patreons will be allowed a set of different things to have an impact on the story,

such as creating non-playable characters, riddles and other aspects of the story. While we want to leave a

good amount of freedom, the main points of the story line will be kept as they are.

1. Dungeons and Drag Queens Web Series-

Live Shows​ (Youtube)

Description: ​Dungeons and Drag Queens - The Live Show is the ​main event​ of the DnDQ project. The game

master sets up the situation of a story, and the players improvise the outcomes with the help of D&D rules.

The live shows include​ ​drag performances, costume changes, professional lighting​ ​and, of course,

audience participation.

An example of a DnDQ liveshow can currently be found on the Dungeons and Drag Queens NL

youtube channel or in the link below.

Function: ​The function of live shows is to ​create the spine of the DnDQ storyline​. We intend to produce​ 10


live episodes​ which tell a story about persecution, identity and nationalism. These shows have spectacular

elements, live performances and an epic narration that guides everybody through the story.

Production: ​The live shows of DnDQ are always produced in cooperation with a venue. Episodes 1 and 2, at

EKKO (Utrecht). For episode 3, we will segway towards Theater de Kikker.

Platforms: ​The chosen platform to release our content is ​youtube​.​ ​The episodes are 2 hours long and can be

viewed partially or whenever the viewer wants to continue the story.

Frequency: ​Every 2,5 months./ Uploaded online in parts.

2. Dungeons and Drag Queens Web Series -

Home​ ​Sessions/Studio Sessions ​(Youtube)

The Home Session are the primary​ point of interaction​ with the audience.

People can add non playable characters, or entire small storylines to the world in which Dungeons and

Drag Queens plays.

Description: ​The DnDQ home sessions are in between​ ​the liveshows. ​The sessions are also longer ​and

focus more on slow entertainment. This allows the audience to immerse into the story at a slower pace.

Nonetheless, the cast will still be in drag and a small physical audience will be allowed. We want to​ rent and

create a stable studio​ where we can be doing these sessions.

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Function: ​The function of the home sessions is to let the cast ​explore their characters ​with more depth.

Inner party dynamics and more complex details of the world and the storyline are explored in these sessions.

It will also create a ​more frequent pacing​ for uploading content, as our audience will want to follow our story

more frequently than 2,5 months in between sessions.

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Production: ​For this production, we need to rent a ​separate studio space​, where we can build our stable

film set. It will be filmed by “A Small Production Company”, a small film production team that we have worked

with.

Platforms: ​ Youtube.

Frequency: ​Every 2 weeks.

3. Dungeons and Drag Queens Web Series -

Scripted​ Side Content/​Social​ Content (Instagram)


Description: ​In the side content, players write ​small scripted conversations​, ​diary entries and new

special locations in the world ​to be shared on instagram. In this way the audience can develop an

understanding of how our players relate to each other on a dynamic social level. We are also working on

creating new forms of interaction that uses platform’s affordances to create a more direct interaction between

players and audience.

Function: ​To illustrate relationships between the drag personas.

Production: ​Written scripts by all of our members, Small animated text boxes and small sprite animations.

Platforms: ​Facebook, Instagram.

Frequency: ​Two times per week.

Personal motivation:

As a designer, I am interested in looking at fantasies on different scales: individual, community wide and even

society sized. ​Fantasies are the projected visualisations of ideology, values and struggles​ we experience

in our everyday life. This is why fantasies are always current and political. ​Dungeons and Drag Queens​ is a

fantasy of counter-culture and attraction to the otherness and to the “beyond-normal”. This is why DnDQ is in line

with my design practise.

Three years ago, I graduated as a designer from the Sandberg Institute (Master Rietveld) in Design.

In my practise, I am always looking for ways to merge pop-fantasy and current (youth) issues. Depression,

identity and desire as political voices are a big inspiration for my work.

As a drag queen, I also work from the perspective that drag is the art of ​change and the perishable​. It shows us

that with a stroke of a brush, an identity and an appearance can change tremendously. Drag proves us that

identity is not the rock-solid object many think it is, but is rather variable and fluid. Thanks to my experience as a

drag queen, I have developed my own metacritic.

Dungeons and Drag Queens ​consists of approx. 15 members. This project is in size a logical continuation of my

earlier work and it feels challenging, yet manageable to produce.


After having executed many projects as a single autonomous designer, I am now able to lead a bigger

production. Our group consists of filmmakers, philosophers, elementary school teachers, dancers and musicians,

so I am working with more disciplines than ever.

Dungeons and Drag Queens also addresses my personal intersectionality perfectly. As a designer, I have

always explored unique parts of my identity through my work. Before this project I could not express the multiple

parts of my being. With Dungeons and Drag Queens, I have found a project that encompasses a large part of my

identity and interests.

Expertise involved:

Creative Producer/ Project Leader/ Performer

Derk Over/ Sandberg Instituut, Master in Design

As project leader, Derk Over arranges all contact between the subgroups. In this relationship he is the creative

vision of the project and arranges part of the implementation. He is the main reference for outside contact. Derk

Over is also one of the game masters in Dungeons and Drag Queens.

Co-Producer/ Audio Design/ Composer/ Schrijver/ Performer

Merlijn Jara Terpstra/

Merlijn Jara Terpstra is an ethicist (MA) and queer theorist from Utrecht University and co-performer together

with Derk Over. Together they are the game masters of the show. Merlin builds the world and philosophical

context of the setting, in which Dungeons and Drag Queens takes place and guides the personal stories of the

players.

Producer/ Media Strategist/ Theatertechniek

Giulio Valentini

Giulio is a producer who is currently working on his research master on New Media and Digital Culture in

Amsterdam. He arranges the marketing strategy and does the target group analysis. He also has a background

in theater technique and is involved in the use and preparation of the venues.

Producer/ Guidance

Manjit Krishna Kaur

Manjit Krishna Kaur is a producer known from the IDFA Film Festival Amsterdam and setting up multiple

storytelling / queer platforms in Amsterdam. She has an advisory role and guides Dungeons and Drag Queens.

Theatermaker/

Alexandra Elroy

Alexandra Elroy is a theater maker and director in Utrecht. Alexandra works with various theater groups in

Utrecht, directs performances and runs her own freelance company, focused on writing and drama coaching.

Performers​/

Tiva Pam/ Film Director, Alain Chaney, Kevin de Wit, John Togba, Iris de Grauw, Matthew Pijnacker, Lars

van Reen, Billy Cain

The performers / drag queens are the heart of the show. There are 4 performers on stage per episode. From the

group of 8, 4 players are placed in the episode to interpret the episode through improvisational theater. Within

the group of players we have a diverse collection of queer identities and genders. This breaks the stigma that

drags are supposed to be gay men.

A Small Production Company/ Video Productie

A small Production Company arranges the registration of the theater show, which can be seen in the appendix.


Since its inception (February 2019), Dungeons and Drag Queens has found several collaborative partners. A

summary and description of the current cooperation partners follows.

EKKO

Ekko is the host venue where the 1st and 2nd shows have taken place. For the What You See Festival we

worked together with nightclub EKKO for the show on November 23. It was a new experience for EKKO to

facilitate a long-term live performance. EKKO is mainly based on the design of a nightclub, so it was an exciting

experience to put on a theater related show there.

Subcultures

Subcultures is a Games Store, located in the Oudegracht in Utrecht. Subcultures has committed to the vibrancy

of the (analogic) gamer scene in Utrecht for years. Game Shop Subcultures organizes many gaming nights and

is an official Dungeons and Dragons Retailer. Subcultures sponsors Dungeons and Dragons through the use of

their media platforms and the donation of decor attributes and theater techniques.

ACU

ACU is a Queer / Punk cafe in the Voorstraat. ACU organizes hyper political evenings that focus on the

emancipation of invisible groups in the Netherlands and is a strong supporter of counter-culture movements.

ACU facilitates our community days, where Dungeons and Drag Queens carefree explains the Dungeons and

Dragons game to new players. For this, ​DnDQ​ is present in drag. We try to develop a deep connection with our

target group via the ACU. In this way we strengthen the queer and gamer culture as a signature for the city of

Utrecht.

What You See Festival

The What You See Festival is a theater festival that takes place annually in Utrecht. In November 2019 we have

great pleasure for the What You See Festival we are allowed to perform. WYSF dared to develop a development

relationship with ​DnDQ​ in order to give shape to our experimental presentation. To date, WYSF is still a partner

that connects us to the cultural landscape of Utrecht through advice.

The Artist Guild (Dragon’s Egg Festival)

The Artist Guild develops an annual Dungeons and Dragons Festival called Dragon's Egg. This year, the show

has been invited to conduct a workshop and explain to the community what it means to do performative

Dungeons and Dragons. This allows us to establish direct links with the non-queer gamer culture.

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