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Dungeons and Dragons is Popular Now: How Did We Get Here?

It’s 2019 and the world feels upside-down. Weather patterns are becoming more extreme, Marvel films rake in billions at the box office, a reality TV star is president and Dungeons and Dragons is popular.

While we won’t address the political side of world affairs, we are certainly curious as to how we got here as a culture. How is D&D cool now?

Dungeons and Dragons is Popular: How?

Dungeons and Dragons is Popular

Nerds!

For anyone who grew up in the ’70s, 80s, 90s, or even the early 2000s, D&D has long been synonymous with “social reject”. The image of a typical D&D player in popular consciousness was that of a pizza-faced dork in his mom’s basement. This dork would invariably be in all-black robes, there would be candles nearby, and he’d speak with a comical lisp.

Firstly, shame on you if you’re putting people down for their physical appearance. Secondly, there’s little truth to the image of D&D players as outcasts. D&D is, at its core, a social gaming experience. Those who engage in pen-and-paper adventures will be the first to tell you this.

Shifting Attitudes

This begs the question: what happened? Anyone who doesn’t live under a rock will tell you that being a nerd is cool now. People with vast collections of miniatures aren’t dorks, anymore, they’re the cool kids. If you’ve got a treasure trove of comics, you’ve got some serious clout. How did this happen?

Well, it turns out, being really smart means, you get to run the world. Yesterday’s nerds are today’s CEOs. Or, at the very least, yesterday’s nerds are today’s middle management. Anti-intellectualism is really cool when you’re 15 and your hormones tell you “big words bad,” but it sucks when you’re stuck in a dead-end job.

Nerd Chic

Today’s “nerd” can be anybody. A sporty high schooler who also loves playing as her elven alter-ego? Big old nerd. A trendy businesswoman with a passion for splitting goblin skulls? She’s a nerd. A mild-mannered barista with a penchant for seducing monsters in his weekly D&D campaigns? Yeah, that guy’s a nerd.

This inclusivity also coincides with the widespread death of “nerd culture” gatekeeping. Self-professed lovers of all things fantasy and comic book long took steps to wear their isolation as a badge of honor, keeping “outsiders” from “their” spaces. Now, companies like Wizards of the Coast (who publishes D&D) go out of their way to make “outsiders” feel welcome.

Escape is for Everyone

Getting together with your buddies, cracking open some sodas and throwing some dice is a good old time. Who doesn’t like the idea of being a super-powered fantasy badass from time-to-time? After all, humans love stories. What better stories are there than the ones you make with your buddies?

Dungeons and Dragons is for everyone. I, for one, am so happy that the world at large has been introduced to this wonderful hobby. There’s room at the table for everyone: people of every color, creed, gender identity and sexuality. We can all get together and bask in the glow of a tale well-told, and a dungeon well-plundered.

Let’s roll some dice.

Cameron Norris

Cameron Norris

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