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What’s the nerdiest thing you can think of? For most people, tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons is on the top of the list. In the past few years, we have seen a change in perspective as people are becoming more open to nerdy hobbies. Celebrity influence has helped, but it’s been the shifting of society that’s really changed people’s outlook on the once taboo game.
For one thing, a nerd has become a lot harder to define. Previously, comic books were nerdy, but now comic book movies constantly top the charts. Video games are for nerds, but pretty much everyone plays at least smartphone games. And how many people like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings? People have become more tolerant to nerdy hobbies as they’ve become more commonplace. While that doesn’t mean everyone is willing to play, most people are willing to learn more, or at least accept it as a game (albeit a slightly odd one).
It also helps that the game has had some pretty big advocates over the years. It should come as no shock that fantasy writers like George R. R. Martin and Jim Butcher are fans of the game. Likewise, actors Will Wheaton and Felicia Day have openly loved the game and played it during conventions. Still, these celebrities fit a certain dorky image, so that might not surprise you. What usually is shocking is that Vin Diesel, well known for playing cool and tough characters, is a massive fan of the game. In fact, Diesel, Mike Myers, and Robin Williams all participated in Worldwide Dungeons and Dragons Game Day in 2006.
If you want to see the game being played, the webshow Critical Role follows several famous voice actors playing the game. The show is often credited for expanding interest in the game, drawing in a ton of new players. And that’s not the only D&D show, there’s also The Adventure Zone, Heroes and Halfwits, and Twits and Crits. And those are just the bigger shows, there are plenty of smaller shows you can find, including shows for tabletop games other than Dungeons & Dragons.
This has moved into media portrayals of the game and its players as well. Previous media went out of their way to show the gamers as unstable at best. The films Skullduggery and the Tom Hanks movie Mazes and Monsters both featured the protagonists going crazy from the game, ultimately murdering due to it. The almost hilariously absurd comic Darkest Dungeons went so far as to show the game as an introduction to the occult, and a scouting attempt for an evil cult, a sad reflection on some propaganda against the game. Now we have the show Stranger Things, where the game is a favorite pastime of the main characters but their game of Dungeons & Dragons has a lot of clever foreshadowing if you know the game.
The internet has done wonders for the tabletop gaming community, by connecting new and old players alike. Previously, finding games could be a struggle. If you couldn’t find anyone local to play with you had to go to a gaming store, buy you may not have had one nearby. Today, websites such as Roll20 allow anyone to find a game, and there are tons of websites to share content. Considering that tabletop gaming is still a niche hobby, being able to contact so many other players is a huge help.
So it’s safe to say that we’ve moved beyond tabletop games being a practically taboo subject. It may not be and may never be a mainstream thing, but time has allowed them to carve out a more accepted niche. And who knows? Maybe this article has drummed up a little more interest in the game. Roll for initiative, new players.