we just be both in peace!?!) Perhaps as the hobby, and those who partake of it, have matured, these portrayals have softened a bit. Or perhaps positive representations in streaming media have made a significant change. Maybe it's both. This week, we thought we'd talk about how we've seen these depictions change, and how has they've affected our shared hobby and the preconceptions newcomers bring to it? - A
A: Calling gamers "Satan-worshiping murder cultists may" be a bit of an extreme from back in the height of the Satanic Panic. However, I've seen numerous depictions of the hobby play to a different extreme: as caricatures of nerdliness. You mean D&D players aren’t all greasy, mouth breathing, Dorito-fingered four-eyed dudes getting stoned in somebody’s basement? No. Only some of us. And it was Cheetos, not Doritos! Plenty of people who have entered the hobby are likely shocked that this isn’t the norm, and never really was. Luckily, this depiction has been slowly changing, not just through streamers online, but in mainstream media as well. Sessions of D&D appearing in Stranger Things, and the LARPing in Hawkeye are a big improvement over the portrayals of yesteryear - even if they get some of the finer points and details wrong. I, for one, am happy to notice the tiny mistakes when the overall picture is more pleasing than ever before.
How has this changed the perceptions of people entering the hobby? I think time will tell on that one, but overall, it seems to be a positive-trending improvement. If you bring up the topic of Dungeons and Dragons or another tabletop game, people seem to either have never heard of it or are instantly interested in playing. We’ve talked about finding shared media as a background and gateway before, and that will be more and more important as time goes on. People don’t seem to see this pastime as just a hobby for nerds anymore, it's for anyone and everyone. The average player is simply just that, any average person you may see on the street. Bugsy, how do you feel things have changed both in depiction and the perceptions that media brings?
reach ORANGE clearance! (And as for Cool Ranch flavor, fuhgetabboutit...) I think, for me, one of the most fascinating (and potentially frustrating) things is the sheer dominance one particular game has in popular culture: by which I mean, of course, Dungeons & Dragons. Like the way that "Coke" is a general term for soft drinks in part of the South and all vacuum cleaners are "Hoovers" in the UK, tabletop roleplaying games are often referred to as "D&D," regardless of what the actual game (or even genre) is. It's pretty easy to see why this is the case, Dungeons & Dragons remains the most-popular TTRPG of all time and has largely determined the very structure, standards, and terminology of the medium. If a work of media is going to pick one game to show, D&D is the one most audiences will recognize, or at least have heard of. (Interestingly, World of Darkness games still fill a similar cultural role for LARPs, despite being a tabletop series first and foremost.) I got my first D&D books (I forget whether this was before or after I had been given the West End Star Wars books) because my mother recognized the game from the movie E.T. D&D is both the wellspring from which all other games emerged and the beachhead for widespread recognition and representation.
Which puts those of us who primarily run other games in an complicated position. If a potential player knows anything about TTRPGs, D&D and its associated tropes are what comes to mind - and those may not even be accurate about that particular game! (Examples of play are generally visualized as combat or searching a room for traps, and, while these are both important and recognizable activities, they represent only a small percentage of even the most crunchy old-school dungeon crawl sessions.) Prospective players may be scared off if they're uninterested in sword-and-sorcery style fantasy, or at least burned out on it (which, despite my passion for the genre as a teenager, largely describes my own situation... but that's almost certainly a topic for a
therapy session future co-post). I'm sure many of us have lost count of how often we've described the games we run (or are planning to) as "like D&D, but [horror/sci-fi/mystery/crime/espionage/non-European/etc.]." And, again, the preconceptions aren't necessarily Dungeons & Dragons as played and enjoyed by people around the world, but what the popular conception of that one game is, which often leaves out the swashbuckling, intrigue, romance, and sheer range of storytelling RPGs can provide. Thankfully, most people nowadays don't all start as newbies... and one doesn't stay a newbie for long, especially if given the opportunity to experience the breadth of roleplaying with different groups, tones, and systems.
Ultimately, as long as we play games, we'll be trying to find new players. Sometimes, the popular media will attempt to portray the hobby, and different depictions will be accurate to different degrees - but they'll always be there to serve some aspect of another story. And even a perfect portrayal can only show one possibility of how one game might work out with one group of players. But whenever we play, and talk about what we play, and find new players, awareness of what we do grows. It's one reason we started this blog, and we hope you all take your own opportunities to share the things you love - along with why you love them. That's what we've all been doing since the very beginning, and what we'll keep doing as long as there are stories to tell and people like you to share them with.