Dungeons and Dragons Is Exploding In Popularity And Here's Why
Don’t be surprised if officemates and family members go orc-slaying
Dungeons and Dragons has always been “that game.” For geeks and fans of tabletop gaming, it’s “that game we play, but don’t need to mention in front of other people.” For everyone else, it’s “that dorky dice game right?” For some moms and titas, it’s “that game you should never play because it will teach you witchcraft.”
The times, however, are a-changing and the stigma around the iconic roleplaying game is disappearing. Suddenly it is okay to say you play Dungeons and Dragons on Saturdays (though some who grew up with the stigma are still finding the courage to do so). Board game cafes and living rooms all across the metro are now host to epic imaginary adventures. In the past year alone, the Dungeons and Dragons Philippines Facebook group almost doubled in size. This begs the question, just what happened to explode the popularity of this once-taboo hobby?
The Geek Shall Inherit The Earth
To begin, let’s set the stage for the new millennium. However much geeks were a minority in previous generations, it could be said that 90s kids had a lot of geeks. From Pokémon fans to comic book nerds, children who grew up alongside the rapid evolution of global media found themselves easily becoming super-fans of their own choice of niche interests. Now those kids are all grown up and they own the world. A lot of today’s media content is produced by these veteran geeks and is targeted towards other, slightly younger, geeks. The proof is in the programming: superhero movies, Pokémon Go and the rise of the video game industry are all part of the world we live in. Simply put, the world has become geeky.
The Magic of The Wizards of The Coast
Next, enter the producers: Wizards of the Coast. WotC has always been one of the largest and most successful games publishers of the last 20+ years, due mostly to their two tent pole games, Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. In previous decades however, no matter how these games were marketed, Wizards found it difficult to draw in players outside of their typical hobbyist demographic. To address this, in the last few years, Wizards has seemed to change track with their marketing. Both games are now presented as friendly to new players. Instead of focusing on archaic rules, Wizards now highlights the social aspect of the games, putting a premium on storytelling and community. For Dungeons and Dragons in particular, the manuals of the latest 5th Edition of the rules read like fantastic storybooks complete with imagination-fueling artwork. There is also the DnD Adventurer’s League, which is a seasonal storyline that Wizards releases in chapters for a global community to play through the same story together.
The Critical Role of Media
The last piece of the puzzle is probably how you heard about this rebirth of Dungeons and Dragons in the first place. Dungeons and Dragons now gets unabashed media exposure. Sure, it’s not quite at the same level that Star Trek has had in the past decade, but more and more “DnD” is something that can be referenced by shows without it confusing the audience. Shows like Community and Big Bang Theory each featured a DnD-themed episode. The nostalgia of classic DnD is even evoked in the recent Netflix hit, Stranger Things. Entirely DnD-premised shows are also popping up such as Acquisitions Incorporated Animated (based off the long-running annual PAX Convention DnD game hosted by Chris Perkins), Dan Harmon’s HarmonQuest (DnD played by comedians!) and the extremely popular Critical Role (DnD played by professional voice actors!). Even Vin Diesel, a long-time fan of Dungeons and Dragons, promoted his movie The Last Witch Hunter by playing DnD on camera.
The total of all this is that Dungeons and Dragons is not only acceptable now, it’s making a sweet resurgence. Even though we have smartphones to stay in touch with each other 24/7, people still want to meet up and play in the same table. Despite the multitude of video games readily available, people are still willing to flex their imaginations and roll the dice. The stigma is gone because finally the mainstream is realizing the Dungeons and Dragons is an incredibly immersive, social activity that anyone can get into. And the community holds no grudges—non-geeks and beginners are welcomed with open arms, just so that more people can have fun.
So what are you waiting for? Go find yourself a table and play “that game” that everyone else is suddenly addicted to.