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View Full Version : "Why the Cool Kids Are Playing Dungeons & Dragons" - New York Times essay!



2D8HP
2019-04-08, 12:54 AM
From The New York Times today (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/06/opinion/sunday/dungeons-and-dragons.html):


"Why the Cool Kids Are Playing Dungeons & Dragons
Fighting the dragon queen Tiamat is a much more satisfying way to spend time with my friends than social media ever was.

By Annalee Newitz

Ms. Newitz is a science journalist and novelist.

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons right around the time I completely gave up on Facebook. It was a little less than a year ago, as the first stories broke about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. I was sick of the social media idea of friendship, defined as likes or shares or “X knows the same 50 people you know.” So when my friend Kate suggested we start a game of Dungeons & Dragons, I thought, “Yes, I’m going to get together with people face-to-face, without any hearting or retweeting, and we’re going to eat chips and fight those damn cultists who are trying to resurrect the evil, five-headed dragon queen Tiamat.”

Until then, I had played a little D&D as an adult, but I hadn’t joined a group that met regularly. But I am basically the target demographic for “Stranger Things.” Like the characters on that show, I played D&D in the 1980s with a group of geeky guys every day at lunch throughout the sixth grade, slaying vegepygmies in a crashed spaceship and meeting the great demon Lolth in her sticky transdimensional web.

Kate became our dungeon master, the narrator of our adventure, who sets the scene using maps, dice, flowery language and silly accents. We were joined by seven other friends around my dining room table, eager to take on the roles of fighting monk, rogue, sorcerer, warlock, paladin, bard and cleric. As soon as Kate told us to fill out our character sheets, I remembered the feeling of sheer awesomeness that had drawn me to the game when I was 11. I was about to become an Aarakocra cleric, a bird person with a divine connection to nature who could call down lightning, raise winds, grow plants from the barren earth and heal the dying with a touch.

But D&D isn’t only about inventing a more badass version of myself, with wings and magic powers instead of sneakers and a laptop. I was also drawn to the idea of building a social group whose baseline assumption was that we’d see one another regularly. There’s a sense of purpose to the gathering.

Using a few maps spread on the table, we chart our course, explaining to Kate and one another what we want to do next. And when Kate leaves us on a cliffhanger, there’s no “Hey, I’ll text you later and maybe we can meet up.” Of course we’ll meet up again. The point of the game isn’t to win; it’s to go adventuring together.

Wizards of the Coast, the parent company of Dungeons & Dragons, reported that 8.6 million people played the game in 2017, its biggest year of sales in two decades. That mark was eclipsed in 2018, when D&D sales reportedly grew 30 percent. All of those D&D consumers are snapping up the Fifth Edition, a new rule set released in 2014 that emphasizes a flexible approach to combat and decision-making. New players don’t need to learn as many arcane rules to get started, and sales of D&D starter kits skyrocketed.

Adding to the newfound popularity are thousands of D&D games broadcast on YouTube and the live-stream service Twitch. “Critical Role,” a popular livestream and podcast, features actors playing the game.

This surge of interest is no doubt also inspired by shows like “Stranger Things” and the D&D-esque world of “Game of Thrones.” We want to escape into fantasy worlds where we know who the bad guys are and our spells to banish evil actually work. In this way, D&D is similar to online games like World of Warcraft, where people take on imaginary identities, form a guild and shout at one another using headsets while fighting orcs.

What makes D & D different is that we can never forget about the human beings behind the avatars. When a member of my group makes a bad choice, I can’t look into his face and shout insults the way I would if we were playing online. He’s a person, and my friend, even if he also inexplicably decided to open an obviously booby-trapped trunk, get a faceful of poison and use up my last remaining healing spell.

Annalee Newitz (@Annaleen), a science journalist, is the founder of the science fiction website io9 and the author of a novel, “Autonomous.”"

King of Nowhere
2019-04-08, 02:31 AM
Yep, it's good that we are no longer shunned by regular society for our hobbies.

Lorsa
2019-04-08, 02:47 AM
I'm confused. Are cool kids now playing D&D or are you cool simply for playing D&D? As in, did I become a cool kid when I wasn't looking? Must have been when I bought those sunglasses... :smallcool:

Malphegor
2019-04-08, 03:55 AM
"the D&D-esque world of “Game of Thrones.”

Wow, I'd hate to be in a game George RR Martin ran. Decent stakes, but man does he have pet NPCs he kills in an instant, and his map makes no sense given the travel times involved.

(I guess it's true but it's weird to think of a fantasy thing being automatically D&D-esque, since D&D kinda has its own niche as the old pulpy fantasy novels but in game form, whilst a lot of fantasy nowadays is far removed from the Eric of Melbourne or whatever style stories)

Pronounceable
2019-04-08, 09:35 AM
All the cool kids were smoking too at some point. No one with half a brain should take the guidance of "the cool kids" and thus this writer did it wrong in the article.Read the actual article? Pff, nobody's got time for that.

Imbalance
2019-04-08, 09:45 AM
I sense bias. The kids are playing video games; the old kids play D&D. But, like, it's all cool, man.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-04-08, 12:08 PM
I'm confused. Are cool kids now playing D&D or are you cool simply for playing D&D? As in, did I become a cool kid when I wasn't looking? Must have been when I bought those sunglasses... :smallcool:

The second can't be true. Because I play D&D and I'm not cool by any stretch of the imagination. :smallfrown:

sleepy hedgehog
2019-04-08, 12:45 PM
The second can't be true. Because I play D&D and I'm not cool by any stretch of the imagination. :smallfrown:

Well then think about how much less cool you'd be if you didn't play D&D.

Willie the Duck
2019-04-08, 12:54 PM
Puff piece or not, if the takeaway is that D&D is being seen as more mainstream, that's probably not a bad thing.

Gravitron5000
2019-04-08, 02:38 PM
Wow, I'd hate to be in a game George RR Martin ran. Decent stakes, but man does he have pet NPCs he kills in an instant, and his map makes no sense given the travel times involved.

On the plus side, you can't really accuse him of running DMPCs.

I think he's closer to running a 40K campaign than D&D though.

Blood for the Blood God!
Skulls for the Skull Throne!

Knaight
2019-04-08, 02:47 PM
I'll admit that I don't have the strongest sense of what exactly is and isn't cool, but I'm willing to say that "science journalist and novelist" are questionable credentials at best here. This is standard NYT opinion pages drek.

King of Nowhere
2019-04-08, 06:07 PM
if we really want to explore that tangent, there are no "cool kids". there are just different kids.
I think I speak for you too when i say that if we were to hang up with the "cool kids", we'd be bored, because they don't share ur interests.

But I was taking it as a less literal meaning of "playing D&D no longer makes you a social outcast"

on the other hand, by the comparison with the social media, it seems that it's not us who went up, it's the rest of the world that went down. But seriously, I never figured out what non-gamers people find so interesting to talk about for whole evenings. Well, possibly science, but talking a whole evening about science is pretty much the opposite of the stereotyped "cool kid".
Well, I guess I just don't understand how normal people entertain themselves

Cliff Sedge
2019-04-08, 08:18 PM
All the cool kids were smoking too at some point. No one with half a brain should take the guidance of "the cool kids" and thus this writer did it wrong in the article.Read the actual article? Pff, nobody's got time for that.

"The cool kids are doing it" trope is likely irony/sarcasm.

Zhorn
2019-04-08, 10:10 PM
But I don't want to play D&D with the cool kids...
... I want to play with the people who would be there even when the hobby is considered 'uncool'.

Well, ok, I do want to cool kids to play also. I'm happy to welcome people to my games regardless of their cool status. I just prefer people who are there for genuine interest and enjoyment. To go in with the assumption that it's the 'cool kid's game' just strikes me as the wrong mindset for reasons I can't quite put into words.

Kitten Champion
2019-04-08, 11:02 PM
Everything I've heard - particularly about 5e's success in the market - suggests table-top gaming is on-trend, or at least more than it has been in several decades. I've seen a lot of adult-oriented entertainment focused more on creative self-expression and cooperative experiences - from guided DIY projects to more preformative experiences like Escape Rooms - and board-gaming especially has seen a spike in popularity in recent years. Table-top RPG gaming is in the cross-section of what a lot of people want from alternative entertainment sources now.

Basically, people outside the traditional gaming market are more open to the idea of what they can do with their free time, and D&D is highly visible and very accessible now to be that thing their money and time can go into.

comk59
2019-04-09, 10:11 AM
Puff piece or not, if the takeaway is that D&D is being seen as more mainstream, that's probably not a bad thing.

You'd think that, but there are definitely some people who view it as otherwise. I mean, they're the same kind of people who unironically use the word "nornies", so they can be mostly ignored. But still.

Willie the Duck
2019-04-09, 10:35 AM
You'd think that, but there are definitely some people who view it as otherwise. I mean, they're the same kind of people who unironically use the word "nornies", so they can be mostly ignored. But still.

I'm assuming you mean "normies." Regardless, I'm not sure I understand the point you are trying to make. That there are people who don't consider TTRPGs or those who play them normal? Probably not. We are talking about trends, not absolutes.

Rhedyn
2019-04-09, 12:42 PM
As people are less able to afford "eating out" as a form of entertainment, the much cheaper RPG/boardgame scene explodes with people doing that instead (seriously any nerdy physical game aside from wargames or TCGs cost less than a round of drinks and last a lot longer than half an hour).

legomaster00156
2019-04-09, 03:32 PM
"the D&D-esque world of “Game of Thrones.”

Wow, I'd hate to be in a game George RR Martin ran. Decent stakes, but man does he have pet NPCs he kills in an instant, and his map makes no sense given the travel times involved.

(I guess it's true but it's weird to think of a fantasy thing being automatically D&D-esque, since D&D kinda has its own niche as the old pulpy fantasy novels but in game form, whilst a lot of fantasy nowadays is far removed from the Eric of Melbourne or whatever style stories)
"Now that Ramsey Snow- I mean, Bolton has been defeated, let's turn our attention to King Tommen."
"Oh, no, Tommen's dead."
"What?"
"Oh, yeah. Margaery, too. Cersei is on the throne, now."

Perch
2019-04-09, 08:13 PM
I blame "Stranger things" morea then GOT.

After that show came along a bunch of cool, beautiful and trendy people showed up in our group interested in playing D&D.

Critical rolls also helped with the younger kids.

Knaight
2019-04-09, 09:45 PM
I'm assuming you mean "normies." Regardless, I'm not sure I understand the point you are trying to make. That there are people who don't consider TTRPGs or those who play them normal? Probably not. We are talking about trends, not absolutes.

That's not what's being said at all. It's that some people are actively hostile to the idea that TTRPGs may become more mainstream, and said actively hostile group largely consist of people who tend to sneer the term "normies" at people.

Lord Raziere
2019-04-09, 10:31 PM
on the other hand, by the comparison with the social media, it seems that it's not us who went up, it's the rest of the world that went down. But seriously, I never figured out what non-gamers people find so interesting to talk about for whole evenings. Well, possibly science, but talking a whole evening about science is pretty much the opposite of the stereotyped "cool kid".
Well, I guess I just don't understand how normal people entertain themselves

It is a sad day indeed when roleplayers are now being held up as examples of sociable people. I mean, its still good we're not being shunned but there is uh...something I can't quite put my finger on

and yeah, I don't get how "normal" people entertain themselves either. but then again I'm diagnosed autistic/aspergic, so I don't get a lot of things about society that I'm trying to figure out and learn to fit in, even as an adult.

Mordaedil
2019-04-10, 01:34 AM
D&D has always held the potential for mass appeal, the problem is that it was packaged in a lot of obscurity and layered in myths and bad stereotypes.

I reckon shows like Critical Role kinda revealed to people how accessible it actually is and imo that is a good thing. Far too often these days I see gamer types go about gatekeeping, as if there's some kind of badge of honor to hold a hobby to themselves. It made them feel smart or something for "figuring it out", buying all of the rulebooks or knowing them inside out.

But fact is, D&D was always a social hobby and each and every one of us were introduced to the hobby somehow, even if it was just word of mouth or playing video games where the rules feature and then buying the books and figuring it out from there. More people to play with means more experiences we can share with and the hobby can evolve to some degree.

King of Nowhere
2019-04-10, 02:51 AM
It is a sad day indeed when roleplayers are now being held up as examples of sociable people.
Now, I wouldn't be so drastic. Roleplaying is actually a very social activity. You have to spend time with a group of people regularly and you have to take decisions and get along. Heck, just yesterday I saw a conference where an entrepreneur told my students how it is important that they can fit in a working group once they go out of school, and roleplaying can actually be an excellent training for that - you have to learn to juggle the different expectations of every member of the party.

I think roleplaying got shunned because it involves lot of gaming, and gaming is considered an asocial activity. So ignorant people who never knew better decided that roleplaying was not cool. It does not help that gamers themselves tend to not be the most sociable of people.
Which led to the paradox that rolplaying games became one of the most social activities while being practiced by some of the most antisocial people.
As an added bonus, roleplaying let gamers be more social. turned out many of them didn't bond with others only because they lacked other like-minded individuals.


D&D has always held the potential for mass appeal, the problem is that it was packaged in a lot of obscurity and layered in myths and bad stereotypes.


Also this sums it up.

5crownik007
2019-04-10, 07:50 PM
That's not what's being said at all. It's that some people are actively hostile to the idea that TTRPGs may become more mainstream, and said actively hostile group largely consist of people who tend to sneer the term "normies" at people.
Citation needed.



and yeah, I don't get how "normal" people entertain themselves either. but then again I'm diagnosed autistic/aspergic, so I don't get a lot of things about society that I'm trying to figure out and learn to fit in, even as an adult.

Normal people talk about recent events in the real world, other people who they know, and their own life. Note that these aren't the only things that people talk about, but are common topics. Generally they perform activities within their social group. I. E, watch movies, play vidya, sport, whatever.

Florian
2019-04-11, 04:58 AM
The interesting part is the last paragraph of the article. Playing a TTRPG at a live table is a very social affair and a direct interaction between human beings. It´s very much removed from the toxic swamp that anonymous digital media has devolved into and can therefore really be called a place for the "cool kids".

Waddacku
2019-04-11, 06:39 AM
Citation needed.
Long, heated arguments on the topic are pretty much a daily occurrence on /tg/. The propriety of linking that here is questionable, though.

Mordaedil
2019-04-12, 02:40 AM
There's also places on twitter, youtube and others where similar sentiments are popping up. Also a bunch of disgusting memes popping up. I'd link them, but frankly I think it's better not to.

comk59
2019-04-12, 12:04 PM
Citation needed.


Took me a bit, but I found the image I was looking for. This image is shared both unironically and pretty frequently on the aforementioned /tg.

https://i.redd.it/wtot0v69rld01.jpg
(I think I did this right, I'm awful at figuring out how to share images properly on this site)

King of Nowhere
2019-04-12, 03:09 PM
Took me a bit, but I found the image I was looking for. This image is shared both unironically and pretty frequently on the aforementioned /tg.

https://i.redd.it/wtot0v69rld01.jpg
(I think I did this right, I'm awful at figuring out how to share images properly on this site)

well, there is some truth to it. as a niche hobby becomes mainstream, they generally remove a lot of complexity because the main public does not like to put too much effort.
too bad it's laced in sexism, prejudices, generalization and general dickishness.
I wonder who would try to use that image to persuade anyone of anything - except maybe of being a prejudiced bigot

2D8HP
2019-04-12, 03:42 PM
...I wonder who would try to use that image to persuade anyone of anything...


People afraid of cooties?

It's also more than 40 years too late, as while I don't remember any girls, I do remember grown women who had played Dungeons & Dragons before I had back in 1979 (I actually learned some of the aspects of D&D first from the friend of my Dad's girlfriend way back when).

OH!

BY CROM IF ONLY WE HAD KNOWN!!!

WE COULD HAVE PREVENTED...

...the opportunity for us to play even more D&D than would otherwise be possible which would have made it more precious?

As for the "dude-bro" thing, the most serious about the rules guy in my early '80's gaming circle was also the most athletic among us.

Mendicant
2019-04-12, 04:49 PM
That D&D is clearly having a cultural mainstreaming moment is basically tautologically true if there's an article about it in the NYT. It's been trending that way for years, anyway.

Before Stranger Things, D&D was on Big Bang Theory and Community and That 70's Show (with a cameo by Alice Cooper) and Freaks and Geeks. If it was still associated with "geeks" is was also benefitting from the cultural mainstreaming of "geek culture" writ large. (Which was itself inevitable--"geek" as a distinct outsider identity was always overstated and heavily associated with the hothouse world of a school.) Once you have multiple generations of adults with disposable incomes and military service records and PTO positions and the Host's chair of the Tonight Show, it's just nit gonna be the weird thing it was when those same people were in middle school and the rules were being made by 12-year-olds.