G4's partnership with Dungeons & Dragons shows how the network hopes to expand its scope and how gaming culture has evolved over the last decade. Earlier this month, the returning gaming channel G4 announced that it was partnering with Wizards of the Coast to broadcast D&D Live 2021, an annual event that serves as a showcase for Dungeons & Dragons' annual campaign storyline. In addition to broadcasting the two-day digital event, G4 also announced that it would air a 4-part D&D show in the fall as part of its on-air programming.
To get a sense of what G4's partnership with Dungeons & Dragons looked like and what it meant for the returning channel, ComicBook.com spoke with Brian Terwilliger, VP of Programming & Creative Strategy for G4. When we asked about how the collaboration between Wizards of the Coast (the maker of Dungeons & Dragons) and G4 came about, Terwilliger excitedly launched into an explanation about how D&D and Magic: The Gathering had always been a part of G4 culture. "Well, the witty answer would be a vision came to us in our dreams, and then there was a cleric and a rogue knocking at our door, and that upon discovering some hidden treasure and relics...Sorry, I'm just getting ready to play D&D," Terwilliger said. "The honest answer is we're nerds. This was just obvious for us. When you think of G4 and as a member of the original crew, there was a weekly group who would play D&D after filming an episode of Attack of the Show, and there were others who were playing Magic: The Gathering, or we'd be playing some other kind of tabletop game."
The partnership with Wizards of the Coast was an obvious choice for G4, especially as the company has already lined up partnerships with other companies, such as WWE. "It's in the DNA of what G4 is," Terwilliger said. "There's no question that Dungeons & Dragons touches and has influenced so much of not only geek culture, but now pop culture, and certainly cosplay and gamer culture. It's absolutely synonymous with G4's ethos of wanting to be the clubhouse for all gamers."
While G4's first iteration strove to be a network for gamers, Terwilliger noted that what a "gamer" means has evolved over the past 7 years. While tabletop gaming wasn't really seen as a form of viewing entertainment back in the early 2000s, accessibility and online content has really evolved in a transformative way for gaming. "This is very much a form of entertainment," Terwilliger said of Dungeons & Dragons and tabletop gaming content. "You're not just watching people play a game, you're there for the story. You're there for the improv. You're there for the chemistry amongst the players. And that's what's so magical about D&D and what I'm so excited about with not only the partnership for D&D Live, but also the forthcoming series on G4 is putting together our cast of characters and our special guests and finding the right chemistry together to bring forth an entertaining story."
G4's role at D&D Live, an event that has taken place in some format since 2017, will be to "help elevate and amplify" according to Terwilliger. Terwilliger noted that the Wizards of the Coast team already did a fantastic job of presenting the games and announcements of D&D Live to a passionate fanbase. He added that G4 brings "accessibility" to D&D Live by presenting the excitement of the event to a wider audience and spread the word about how easy it is to dive into Dungeons & Dragons.
"D&D Live is a pivotal point on the [Wizards of the Coast] calendar," Terwilliger said. "And it's extremely important to not only the brand, but the millions of fans. The event answers questions about the narratives to come, and teases surprises, and lays the groundwork for this fantastic IP. What G4 does is it removes barriers, it open doors and invites those who might not understand what a D20 is. They might not understand how simple it is to create a character. They might not understand that there is no rules. While there are rules and rule books to D&D, there is no structure to getting to participate in this magnificent exploration of one's own creativity."
"So through our ability to make the broadcasts more accessible and combine that with the excellent casting that can't reveal just yet, it's really going to emphasize G4's core competencies of comedy and entertainment," Terwilliger continued. "And with us focusing there and D&D bringing their juice for the hardcore fanbase, you now have a mixture that is wildly entertaining and also super serves the tabletop community. We're going to make the tent bigger, at the end of the day. We're going to invite more folks in."
Terwilliger mentioned that he hoped G4 would become a "regular home" for Dungeons & Dragons and stated that the partnership between G4 and the brand isn't just a one-off. Terwilliger noted that he had produced D&D shows in the past for the WWE gaming channel UpUpDownDown, and that he knows how to make tabletop shows work. "Bringing that experience with the amazing cast that G4 has assembled, plus the power of Wizards of the Coast, it only starts at D&D Live," Terwilliger said. "The future is bright. And I would be totally content if this partnership lasted forever."
When asked if the partnership between G4 and Dungeons & Dragons would lead to more tabletop content, Terwilliger seemed optimistic. "God I hope so," Terwilliger said when asked if G4 would consider covering events like the Pokemon World Championships or Warhammer Live. "All of this is a part of our culture. G4 is always about, and will always start with games, but this culture that everyone in and around games also participates in these other activities. And it doesn't stop here. There's anime, there's cosplay. There are so many very special components of what makes a G4 fan a G4 fan."
D&D Live will air on July 16th-17th on the Dungeons & Dragons Twitch channel and on G4's streaming networks.