The Critter Phenomenon:
The Critical Role of a Fandom’s Culture in Creating Supportive Virtual Communities and Positive Social Change
Welcome! This site is home to the sociological research being undertaken by Hettie Rowan of Australia’s Griffith University as part of an honours dissertation to show that one particular fandom is breaking new ground to show that pop culture can have a profoundly positive impact on establishing safe spaces for mental health discussion and create new forms of crowdfunding for charity.
The focus of this research is on the Twitch streamed show, Critical Role, and its followers, who are known as Critters. The Critter community is a unique fandom which has a strong ethic of mutual support and charitable giving-back, which has led to the creation of an online safe space for Critters who experience mental health issues and successful crowdfunding of several charities, including 826LA and Worldbuilders.
Having established a core community standard of care, the cast of Critical Role created a fandom community which predominantly engages in positive and supportive community behaviors. This ethos has remained as the community has expanded its membership with the growing popularity of the show, and though it has experienced the usual “trolls” and gatekeepers found in gaming communities, the Critter community remains largely one of compassion and support to its members. Though the fan’s community spaces include Reddit, Twitter, Amino and Facebook, the Critter-based mental health support group on Facebook was established as a specific safe space for Critters to seek support from one another regarding mental health issues such as depression and forms of anxiety. This is not the only example of support or giving-back that Critters demonstrate, as they also engage in an annual gift-giving events of Critmas (when gifts, including donations to charities in their name, are opened by the cast) and the Secret Santa or Crittermas event where Critters sign up to send gifts to one another. These unusual fandom practices are what I refer to as “The Critter Phenomenon”.
The research will be conducted as an online questionnaire and a set of chat-based interviews on Facebook. Along with the two administrators of the Critical Role Fans’ Mental Health Discussion group I will be interviewing eight Critters about how this support group, the online community and their following of Critical Role has helped them with mental health issues including, but not limited to, anxiety and depression. Some topics that will be looked at are: social interaction online, the interactive environment the cast has established online, the humanitarian/philanthropic ethos established within the community, and any factors of escapism experienced by watching episodes of Critical Role.
For more information on this research project, you are invited to visit The Study section of this website. For more about Critical Role, you can see The Show section, or visit the official Critical Role website.
Site updated as of 10 May 2018.
Artwork ©Mikandii. Used with permission.