i couldn’t tell you which video i watched first, or how i stumbled upon it on YouTube. And with roughly 1,500 videos on their channel as of this post, i certainly can’t boast of having viewed them all. A substantial sum, to be sure, but it would be a Herculean task to catch up, especially with the prodigious amount of content they create and share.
With their three-year anniversary approaching on May 4, 2017, the folks behind Nerdarchy show no signs of slowing down or running out of nerdy stuff to talk about. Recently hitting 30,000 subscribers, they are more dedicated than ever to growing their brand and fostering their own unique contribution to nerd culture.
Nerdarchists Dave and Ted took time from their lives to chat with me about the earliest days of Nerdarchy, how far they’ve come and how far they hope to still go. The same charm, humor and excitement for nerd culture on display in their videos was evident in our conversation, along with the camaraderie between them that lends their content a dynamic set apart from a sea of single-person YouTube personalities.
Unabashed geeks, Dave’s chat location was packed with gaming rulebooks (lots of 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons stuff if i recognize the book spines correctly) as well as a magnificent wood-carved Spanish knight display. In Ted’s chat window, the familiar Domo-kun figure seen in many of their videos loomed over his shoulder.
“The original impetus was not to start a roleplaying game channel,” Dave revealed. His brother Ryan was moving back to their hometown in South Jersey from New Mexico, where he’d been pursuing a career as an artist. The brothers wanted to create content for the internet together, and after some back-and-forth settled on tabeltop RPGs. For Dave, it was a matter of finding something close to his heart, and if you watch any of their videos, it’s clear how passionate he and the rest of the team are about their hobby.
“You have no idea how many iterations of ‘nerd’ and ‘geek’ we went through before we could find a domain name that was available,” explained Dave. “The cool thing about that was we realized (Nerdarchy) is actually a word in the urban dictionary, and it was available. So we went with that and started doing it.”
Dave, who had experience with internet marketing, knew going in that the key to success in their endeavor meant putting a team together. “You can’t Lone Ranger it – that stuff only works in the movies.” Reaching out to Ted, they set to work making videos. And they haven’t stopped since.
Early Nerdarchy videos touched on broad topics, including one of my favorites where Dave discussed releasing his inner geek. At that time, their gaming group was playing a lot of Mutants & Masterminds as well as 4E D&D and Pathfinder, and several videos discuss those games as well the cult classic Paranoia and others. More generally, Nerdarchy videos touched on topics applicable to any sort of tabletop RPG. They also expanded beyond games to include a trip to their neighborhood comic book store to talk comics, demonstrations of yo yo tricks, movie reviews and interviews with game designers.
“Then we discovered 5th edition (Dungeons & Dragons) was coming out, and we’re like well, if we’re doing this website maybe we should talk about this,” Dave recalled. “As soon as we started talking about 5th edition D&D, we exploded. It just so happened that we really like the system, so that was a benefit.”
With an eye towards building Nerdarchy into a viable business, Dave, Ted, Ryan and fourth principal member Nate are constantly seeking improvement. Part of their growth included their video format evolving from a single person speaking to the audience to the conversational atmosphere seen in their content now. There’s a practical side to creating lots of videos as a group, too.
“As our stuff grew, we realized the more videos we wound up doing, the more ad revenue we’d wind up getting,” Ted pointed out. “And the more potential there is to find something that people are going to hit on.”
Expansion meant one video each day, Monday through Friday. Then two videos a day. Then an additional weekend video. And live gameplay sessions. And gameplay sessions with fans…
“Let’s just do more videos,” Ted said of their approach. “It was really a more business and financial decision.”
“I can’t even believe we have this much to say,” Dave chimed in.
As a testament to Nerdarchy’s dedication, creativity and affection for their hobbies and nerd culture, they maintain an enormous database of topics and ideas for videos. Inspiration comes from myriad sources, including viewer comments both good and bad, pop culture and the ever-growing nature of the tabletop gaming hobby itself.
Audience interaction is certainly an important part of the formula. Some of their favorite videos to create come through the GM 911 playlist, where they answer questions from fans about the challenges faced at their own gaming tables. Opportunities for them to be creative also rank among their favorites, with series like MageForge, Terrible Terrains and D&D-izing characters from pop culture, literature or history.
These come with a caveat, however – viewership. Nerdarchy is not shy about letting their audience know they’re growing a business, and that means casting a wide net when creating content. This isn’t to say they’re unscrupulous or compromising any principles, far from it. The challenge is knowing when to share the content they create.
“We really do have to be strategic about how we put content out,” said Dave. “The hardcore fans really like the more creative stuff, but the community as a whole wants to see character builds, what we think is broken or what’s overpowered. Using ‘most,’ ‘best’ or numbers almost guarantees we’re going to get higher views.”
Their efforts have paid off, too. “We can officially employ someone to be a poor person this year – just one person.,” said Dave. The first couple of years saw very little profit, with even that going right back into the business in terms of improving equipment, maintaining their website and so forth. With continued growth, Nerdarchy continues to set goals for themselves and treading carefully to ensure they can reach them.
The addition of staff writers for their website, under the direction of website manager Ty Johnston, is one area Nerdarchy would like to focus on. Currently, the stable of writers creates content on a volunteer basis. As a staff writer myself, the possibility of compensation is certainly appealing. On the other hand, i’m satisfied to contribute my part to help Nerdarchy grow. So if they can funnel those funds into continued growth, i’ll happily share my weekly column until the business takes off if it helps. Just don’t forget about me when you’re shoulder to shoulder with Nerdist and Geek + Sundry!
Because Nerdarchy has become such a big part of their lives, time is a precious commodity for the folks in front of the camera. Families, full-time jobs and other interests can sometimes take a hit from the work they put into the business, but the support of friends and loved ones keeps them motivated to keep going forward.
On the other side of the coin, they’ve had a lot more opportunities to engage with their favorite hobby through Nerdarchy. One of the fringe benefits, as Dave explained, is more chances to play games, which is justified because it’s a business. “The best way to ensure you always have a full gaming table is to have a mildly successful YouTube channel,” Dave joked.
What both Dave and Ted agree is one of their greatest achievements is that Nerdarchy has begun to operate on its own to some extent, at least the website aspect. With a steady flow of articles, the site is becoming somewhat autonomous, expanding in scope and depth without requiring their direct daily participation. As evidence, Dave cites the recent announcement of a free 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons adventure in the works from several staff writers in honor of Geek + Sundry’s International Tabletop Day celebration on April 29.
Looking ahead, Nerdarchy aims to continue growing their subscriber base on YouTube as well as expanding the website. Additional goals include possibilities such as hosting a convention and publishing custom content and creating more Nerdarchy products, as well as reaching the point where Nerdarchy can be full-time employment. Fun events like a Nerdyque and Nerdcation are on the idea board as well, the latter consisting of an all-inclusive weeklong vacation with the Nerdarchy crew filled with themed events and tabletop games.
The most rewarding part of Nerdarchy, though, is an easy question for Dave to answer.
“The people,” he said. “The friendships we make, the contacts we’re making, that makes it all worthwhile – that’s the best part.”
“Hands down,” agreed Ted.