In the mid to late 1970’s and 80’s, tabletop role-playing games (RPG’s) came to life with the publication of Dungeons and Dragons in 1974. With it, built much upon the ideas fantasy writing and fiction, most notably J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The more famous co-creator Gary Gygax pioneered the direction of thousands of fantasy works and created a universe – a multiverse even – that millions could enjoy called Dungeons and Dragons, or nicknamed D&D. But it came with big repercussions. The media and audience met its creation with criticizing accusations, claiming the game was associated with the devil and had very bad influences on it’s mostly middle to high school audience at the time.
While the game did implement demons, devils, monsters, dungeons, and other fantasy creatures, with modern day D&D, it has been recognized as a major pop culture influence that is a safe and awesome outlet and has been resolved as having the opposite effect of claims from decades ago. In fact, D&D and tabletop RPG’s can not only build powerful friendships and fun Friday nights, but can teach leadership and teamwork along with problem solving, calculation, and social skills! These RPG’s usually include one person dubbed the ‘Game Master’ (GM, or DM, for ‘Dungeon Master’), and they work to lead players into the fantasy worlds they create, which strongly builds literary and creative skills. The GM creates a quest to complete and determines the outcome of the actions of the players, based on the dice they roll and the choices their characters make.
That is the most attractive feature of D&D – you can do anything you want with whomever you want. “The game allowed me to escape my fears and navigate a fantasy world as someone else — someone with power and agency.” says Ethan Gilsdorf in his article from his TED talk on how D&D helped him become a better person. Players can play anything; wizards casting magical fireballs, fighters charging their powerful attacks, to sneaky rogues picking locks. These opportunities serve as harbingers to blend with your team and build important skills as you disable traps, solve riddles, save the princess, or hang around. It often serves as an escape from the perils of real world ‘monsters’ that is fun and engaging, creating an interpersonal dynamic between the players that can’t be found with your other friends. Ethan continues to say “[Roleplaying games] train the mind to solve problems, make unexpected connections, and discover alternative paths through the darkness.” And RPG’s do train the mind; they do make you a truly better person.
Since D&D however, other games have sprouted with the same effect, such as Warhammer, Monster of the Week, Pathfinder, and Starfinder. I would highly recommend anyone try out a tabletop RPG with their friends or family, it’ll build your personal skills and possibly become a
major outlet for you as a gamer, as a writer, or just as a person. It could grow you in character and create an empathy for others as you work with them to solve puzzles and defeat dragons. The fun around the table is immeasurable and holds many benefits for the players of D&D games alike.
Works Cited- Ethan, Jan 9th 2018, How playing Dungeons & Dragons has helped me be more connected, creative and compassionate, https://ideas.ted.com/how-playing-dungeons-dragons-has-helped-me-be-more-connected-creative-and-compassionate/, Oct 2nd 2019