OPINION: Role of Role-play

Austin Belet, Opinions Editor

Noted Dungeons and Dragons player Justin McElroy is quoted in the first episode of popular DnD podcast The Adventure Zone as saying “I think for a lot of people Dungeons & Dragons was the last bastion of nerd-dom; the nerdiest thing you could do.”

Role-playing games have generally been assigned to groups of people who have felt ostracized from society, seeking to build a society in their own corners (or basements) of the world where they could feel welcome. Many different walks of life were able to feel comfortable in this fantasy realm that was conjured by its players, and lately, there seems to be a resurgence.

Maybe the satanic panic suppressed those who play role-playing games (RPG’s) to the dark corners of comic book shops, which do still exist, but more and more people have left their low-key shops to build media empires on the back of this 45-year-old game.

Through podcasts like The Adventure Zone or Not Another DnD Podcast or shows like Stranger Things, people have found their way back into high fantasy and character creation. For those of us who are willing to listen in on a table-top play or even see the vague connections in shows, it has been a fascinating world of organic humor to be had. The question is, why do people play it?

My first introduction was while I was in training for one of my jobs; I was extremely apprehensive. I had no want or desire to be associated with that kind of business and was very opposed to even listening to a case for such fantasy. The friend of mine who wanted me to join kept trying to convince me how fun it was and kept explaining that you could do anything you want to do. The only limitation is what the Dungeon Master would not let you do.

Though cautious, I caved. And I loved it.

At this point, some of my favorite shows to listen to (because I largely don’t have time for TV anymore) are groups of friends collaborating to tell a story, usually taking very strange turns and building a unique brand of humor for each group you listen to.

That community and uniqueness built within each group is where I think the real magic of DnD, or any role-playing game, comes from. It is evident just within the podcasts themselves just listening to the kind of verbiage that gets developed over the course of building these campaigns, the kinds of jokes that persist through thirty plus episodes, and the kind of excitement that is almost palpable in every recording.

RPG’s build a world that allows people to let go of the things that trouble them in the real world, it empowers some people to live a life they dream of living, and it gives some people the confidence they need to realize those same fantasies.

Maybe I am looking too far into the whole role-playing thing, maybe some people just want to play a game or drink some beer with their friends and tell stories, but I think that role playing games help to build some people up in a way that we all too often forget.


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