Ian Hirschfeld's Headshot


I went to Disneyland and it is definitely a COVID super-spreader

Disneyland with COVID floating around it

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to spend a day at Disneyland with my best friend after we had been apart & quarantining for a majority of the pandemic. When we finally felt we were comfortable getting together and going out somewhere, we met up armed with masks on our faces and the vaccine coursing through our bodies. While these measures certainly made me feel safe enough to venture to such a public place as Disneyland, I was shocked at how COVID unsafe the magic kingdom was. Disneyland is, without a doubt, a COVID super spreader hotspot!

Limited capacity? Nope, the more the merrier!

Prior to June 15th, Disneyland California had limited capacity somewhere in the range of 15-35%. Since the state’s “reopening” that limit has been vaguely lifted. Apparently it hasn’t been lifted enough to allow fast pass purchases again, but it was enough that the park was more or less packed. I was shocked impressed concerned by how many people were actually allowed in the park at one time. If there was any limit on capacity, it certainly didn’t look or feel like it. Once we hit peak hours, lines for the popular rides were as long as two hours!

Social distancing, what even is it?

During the pandemic I found my personal space bubble expand to that CDC recommended 6ft. This never really felt like that was that large or that crazy of an adjustment, but at Disneyland I was reminded how unusual a six foot bubble really is. Waiting in line for rides is a theme park staple, but even while being in a reopened state, I was taken aback by the complete lack of social distancing. Lines were packed as if the pandemic was never a thing. People were right up against each waiting in the hot sun, and made no effort to give each other space even as people shuffled into enclosed spaces.

The rides themselves made no use of social distancing or limited capacity. I had anticipated maybe an every other seat policy, but alas that was not a thing. I had also naively assumed that rides would be regularly wiped down considering how many bodies were moving through them and all the ways different people would be touching handle bars and seat belts. However, I saw no effort by any employees to ever disinfect any part of any of the rides or attractions.

Masks be damned!

At the very least I was expecting a decent amount of people to be wearing masks while at the park. Surely even if people were fine with going out and being in crowds, the fact that only 50-60% of the U.S. population is vaccinated would mean most people would mask up. Not even a little bit. Observationally, I saw at best 5% of attendees were wearing masks. To Disney’s credit, this is the one precaution I saw all employees taking. So whether required or optional, every employee was wearing a mask.

Fun was still had :D

Despite there being way more people at the park than I expected, despite no social distancing or anyone wearing masks, despite actually hearing a couple of guys gloat about NOT getting vaccinated before coming to Disney, I still had fun. I still enjoyed my time with my best friend at Disney. We spent a majority of our time in the new Star Wars area and it truly was a magical space. And although there was a statistical certainty that COVID was present the day we went, we thankfully have shown no symptoms since coming home. I look forward to the time where I don’t even need to be concerned with anything in this post and going to Disneyland can be stress free (at least terms of COVID). Until then I will be keeping my visits to a minimum, if I even dare go back any time soon.

One year post Role Kickstarter

Holy guacamole, this past June marked the one year anniversary of the Role Kickstarter! Where has the time gone? It feels like we closed our Kickstarter just a few months ago. This also means that Role Early Access has now been live for the public for over six months! I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the past year since we successfully closed our Kickstarter, and take peek at what’s to come.

October 2020: Private Early Access

We launched our Private Early Access at the beginning of last October. We invited everyone who backed our Kickstarter to come and join us in the earliest days of the Role Platform. We learned so much in the two months during our private launch. We quickly saw where the platform needed work and immediately saw where people were finding value. It helped immensely that we had such a vocal early cohort of users willing to use a beta product.

December 2020: Public Early Access

As we entered December, we made a couple of big changes that would set us up for the first half of 2021. First, we opened up Early Access to the public to allow anyone to create a Role account. Second, we launched the first version of our Template Creator tools. How we enable people to create and share content on Role has always been one of our top priorities. With the launch of this feature we saw a huge spike in usage of Role as well as the games that Role supports dramatically expand!

January-February 2021: Video and UX Improvements

Our first few releases of this year saw a big improvement in the stability of our video and audio calls. We also made several UX improvements and released new features like collaborative sheets, text chat, and enhanced dice tray options.

March 2021: Native Safety Tools

Safety has been on our minds since Day 1. It was even one of our Kickstarter stretch goals! With the help of Safety Consultants Kienna Shaw and Lauren Bryant-Monk , curators of the TTRPG Safety Toolkit, we became the first tabletop RPG platform with native safety tools built in from the start! We built a safety tools agnostic system that lets GMs and players choose whichever method they would like for safety at their table. We are excited with how our initial approach to safety on Role came out and we will continue to invest in making Role a safe place to play.

April-June 2021: Continued improvements

The last few months we’ve continued to release improvements to existing features as well as release minor features to enhance play. Improvements such as opening up access to more people to experience Role, allowing Markdown in Text Chat, and bug fixes.

The Rest of 2021: Big changes coming!

Last week we posted a Kickstarter Backer Update and a blog post outlining some of things we’ve been working on behind the scenes and what they mean for the rest of this year and going into 2022. One of the more exciting developments, we’ve officially onboarded three new hires! Over the last year, Logan and myself have done our best to continually push the development of Role with just the two us full-time. We are now in the wonderful position of being able to bring on additional people to help us accelerate the growth of the Role Platform. We are so thrilled with the initial people joining us and know they will be adding a ton of expertise in games, design, and engineering. Not only did we onboard new people to the team, we still have openings for a couple more positions! We are looking for a Marketing & Growth Manager and a mid or senior level Frontend Software Engineer to join our team. Check out our job postings here!

In terms of product, the next six months are going to see some big changes and improvements across all of our current features as well as some new ones. We’ll be updating our Templates/Sheets systems, Maps, Cards, and more! We continue to speak to our community of early access players, who have been pivotal in helping us validate what works and what doesn’t. Their continued feedback has helped shape what Role is today and where we are going tomorrow. I’m thrilled at the team we are building and know the Role Platform is about to level up in a huge way. I can’t wait to share more as our progress continues!

If you are interested in trying out Role, you can create a free account by visiting playrole.com!

TTRPG history was made with Team Liquid hosting a D&D one-shot for PrideFest

DND Steampunk Twitch Screenshot

Something really cool happened on Friday: Team Liquid, one of the premier esports organizations, hosted a massive PrideFest stream that was a Dungeons & Dragons one-shot. That’s right, the org with teams for every major esports game and dozens of championships, empowered Game Master Gabe Hicks to take over their stream for a roleplaying session. This is amazing in multiple ways and I believe a historic moment for tabletop roleplaying games!

First off, having this stream being run under the banner of PrideFest meant it was explicitly in support of the LGBTQIA+ community. The panel of players were diverse across ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation. The chat was loving it and enjoyed the cast members that had full on costumes and makeup. It was quite the sight to see! It felt like an important stream for these types of games and this community of people.

Secondly, it’s key to note that Team Liquid is not small. As of this post, they have 16 professional teams, 709K Twitter followers, and 83K Twitch followers. This means that anything they promote, and have running on their stream, is going to have an audience. This one-shot was hovering between 15-16K live viewers for the entire session! These are streaming numbers that only a handful of the most popular actual play streams get.

What’s more is that based on the chat, there were many people being newly exposed to TTRPGs and D&D. If there is one thing D&D has been doing a phenomenal job of, it’s getting their brand out to the general public and expanding their audience beyond what has traditionally been a hardcore player base. It was really cool to see many people in chat expressing their interest in D&D and even more people saying they have never played but love watching actual play streams. There were several people saying things along the lines of “I don’t know what I stumbled upon, but I am here for it!”.

At Role, we often talk about how we believe that the behaviors that lead people to become invested in sports teams and their players are very similar to how audiences get invested into long running roleplaying campaigns. If you look at a campaign of Critical Role, their viewers are invested in more than just the story, they are in love with the cast & characters. They know each character’s name, background, and stats. They are invested in seeing them play through an adventure full of action & emotion over the course of months, or even years! Experiencing an audience of traditional esports fans enjoy this one-shot stream felt like validation of this idea and was very exciting to see!

I’m hoping we get more of this Esports x Actual Play crossovers. I believe it has potential to be a large growth vector for tabletop roleplaying games. For now, I’m just so thrilled to have seen this stream happen and all the newly exposed people take to roleplaying so openly. Let this be continued fuel for the growth the TTRPG industry!

If you’d like to watch the one-shot it’s on the Team Liquid Twitch here.

New Year, New Site!

Well 2020 was a wild year! Not just because of the pandemic and the political crisis the U.S. is in, but also because of the personal and life changes I went through. Since I’ve staked my career in software and the tech industry, I very much link my personal website with my identity. So every now and then when I reflect on my life and acknowledge the areas I’ve grown and changed, I inevitably take a look at my personal site to gut check whether it still represents me. As I was hanging out at home during my holiday break, I felt it was time to make an update. As of the beginning of this new year, I have launched latest iteration of ianhirschfeld.com that you see here.

The last couple of versions of my site have been loosely tied to the branding of an agency I used to run. The agency’s branding was minimal, black & white, and used sans-serif font with sharp edges. Now that I’m no longer working at that agency, I wanted to reintroduce some color back into my personal brand. I’ve also grown to appreciate more organic shapes and rounded edges instead of sharp ones.

Color Palette Exploration

Since I have many social media accounts, I tend to use the same profile photo across all of them. To stay consistent I wanted to showcase my profile photo on this site as well. With that in mind, I decided to try and pull colors from my photo to see if they could work as the site’s color palette. I was happy to discover they did! I was able to pull a red, blue, and tan color that are the site’s primary colors. Red is my favorite color and I enjoy that it can represent love, warmth, and passion. The blue, repenting stability and serenity, is a great way to have contrast against the red and still allow for some vibrancy. The tan, which I pulled from my skin tone gave me a neutral color that serves as the background of this site. My color palette is a literal representation of me.

With colors figured out I set my sights on fonts. I was scoping out some other side projects of mine and couldn’t stop referring to cinepocalypse.com. I found the fonts on that site some time ago and really enjoy them. They read cleanly, are sans-serif, and have some roundedness. For headings I’m using Rift Soft, which offer a bold, all caps look with no hard edges. For body copy I’ve got Freight Sans Pro. Together, they give great readability and have heavy contrast between headings and body copy. They may end up being the fonts I use for all my side-projects.

Lastly, I wanted one design element that I created or used in a way that felt unique to me and my site. Thinking back on how to make my site feel a little more organic, I went looking for shape inspiration. I came across Blob Maker which instantly became something I wanted to use. After some experimenting with shapes I generated, I was enjoying how red, blue, and tan blobs sat on top of each other. I realized that one final piece they were missing was some motion. Adding just a little bit of movement and morphing animations to the blobs gave me a really nice effect that I feel gives the site some life without being too distracting.

A Stroll Through Past Sites

This is the sixth iteration of my website, below are my previous four. Unfortunately, the first version of my portfolio site has been lost. However, I do have a business card that I based off the design of the site! Enjoy :)

V5 (2017-2020)

Version 5

V4 (2014-2017)

Version 4

V3 (2014-2014)

Version 3

V2 (2010-2014)

Version 2

V1 (2008-2010)

Version 1

© 2021, Ian Hirschfeld