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Neurodiversity and nerd culture

  • July 20 2023
  • Courtland Goldengate

Let's talk about us, the tribe of nerd creators. The dreamers of high fantasy realms, dystopian futures, and alternative histories. We're the authors, musicians, artists, and game designers who often find solace in the fantastic, the imaginary. Why? Well, sometimes, the 'real world' just doesn't seem built to handle our special brand of brilliance. We're a diverse bunch, our brains crackling with a secret fire that doesn't always fit neatly into labeled boxes. ADHD, autism, dyslexia - our neurodiversity is as varied as our creations. Even if you're neurotypical, just being part of a community so embracing of neurodiversity sets you apart from the mainstream.

Being different is fucking awesome. But sometimes, it makes managing our epic tabletop RPG campaigns and creations a bit of a struggle. However, in the prophetic words of Treebeard, or Galadriel if you're more of a movie fan, 'the world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air.' I sense a second TTRPG Renaissance on the horizon, springing from a source you might least expect, or even perceive to be actively hostile. But before we dive into that, let's first address some very real challenges that hit close to home for our community.

The struggle of neurodiverse creators in a neurotypical world

There's an incredible sense of freedom and empowerment that comes with being a creator in the TTRPG universe. You're in control of whole worlds, intricate storylines, and fascinating characters. It's a realm where we can really shine; where our special spark of brilliance brightens the life of others.

But it also brings challenges. For many of us, the very same traits that make us uniquely creative can also make it difficult to stay organized, focused, or consistent. Anyone who's ever grappled with ADHD, for instance, knows that keeping track of timelines, deadlines, scheduling the next game night, or juggling different character arcs can feel like trying to hold water in your hands. It's there one moment, and then... well, you're suddenly wondering how best to model the economic system of a dwarven kingdom. Intriguing? Absolutely. Helpful when you're trying to actually finish the thing? Not so much.

Neurodivergent individuals often experience these "hyperfocus" and "zoning out" periods. It's part of what allows us to dream up intricate worlds and characters in the first place. But when you're a game master trying to manage a campaign, it can be a real struggle.

Unleashing creativity: the inevitable homebrew renaissance

This struggle isn't new, and it certainly isn't exclusive to nerd culture. Throughout history, creators of all stripes have faced similar challenges - and yet, some of the most magnificent works that have stood the test of time were created by people who are just wired differently.

Here's what I believe: there would be so much more magnificent works of creation if the world was more accommodating to misfits like us. But life, designed by the neurotypical, gets in the way for most of us. And so incredible works get started, but never see the light of day.

There are 10s of millions of us. What if we doubled the rate of projects we actually completed? What if we 10Xed it? Therein would lie content that greatly surpassed anything "official". Cult classics for all types of audiences, if you will. Just as YouTube and later TikTok created a new type of creator by lowering the barrier to create and share video content, AI tools will do the same for homebrew content creators. That awesome shit you've been day dreaming about? Imagine if you had exactly the help and support you needed to get your project over the finish line?

An executive assistant for creators who think differently

Other than in nerd culture, do you know what other community has a high concentration of neurodivergent and atypical people? Executives. They often struggle with the sort of work their underlings are responsible for, but where they do not struggle is in idea generation. The difference between them and us? They've got an executive assistant, and sometimes a whole team of people, making sure what they start actually gets finished.

That's what I'm building, and other people will do the same. Software, powered by AI, that will enable a new type of creator. It will unleash the imagination of people who have been held back by time management, organization, money, follow through, attention, reading speed, color-blindness, confidence, motivation... you name it. It won't replace traditional creators in the same way YouTube didn't replace Hollywood. But it will create a new type of creator as the administrative aspects of TTRPGs are handed off to AI assistants that handle the "simple" tasks that kill off otherwise amazing projects.

Less mega corps, more indie creators

So, why AI? Because AI is perfect for this sort of thing. It doesn't judge, doesn't get tired, and it can take care of those little mundane tasks that tend to trip us up. But more than that, AI has the ability to learn and adapt. It can recognize patterns and make suggestions based on what it knows about you and your project. It's like having a sidekick who's always there, always ready, always focused, even when you might not be.

And, unlike an executive assistant or team, it's accessible. AI doesn't have to be a luxury only available to the high-powered executive. It's for the indie game designer, the comic book artist, the creative writer, and yes, TTRPG game masters and creative players.

From helping you stay on track with your project timeline, to offering suggestions for character development or world-building, to simply reminding you of your next gaming session, AI is poised to change the way we create. And, it can do it in a way that's respectful of our unique ways of thinking, working, and creating.

We're on a mission to empower a new wave of TTRPG players, GMs, and world builders. Signup below to join the beta!

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