I read two articles today on Polygon that reaffirmed a question that’s been on my mind for most of the year. The first, was an article on how Dungeons & Dragons has found new life online through Youtube and Twitch streams and the success of 5th edition. The other was a feature piece on how the virtual tabletop gaming platform Fantasy Grounds now features D&D content, so that you can essentially do your D&D sessions online rather than in person (stereotypically in someones’ basement). With this information in mind I asked myself the question “is D&D trendy now?”
Now, this isn’t coming from someone who has played the game for years, I only started playing at the beginning of this year. Side note, I play two characters. I play a dwarf druid who’s not very good with people, and I play a half-elf sorcerer with pyromaniac and mud-eating tendencies. But that’s a story for another post. Anyway, I can’t help but notice that the game seems to be expanding to an audience that years ago I don’t think would have picked it up. Even amongst those whom I consider nerds and geeks, there were many who shied away from it in the past. I know I certainly did, as I thought it too geeky even more me. But part of me was always curious, which makes sense as I love RPGs. So when I was asked if I wanted to join a D&D session with some friends earlier this year, I decided that I was going to go for it. Now, I’m a part of a regular campaign with several of my friends who are also newbies to the game. But, the fact that there are so many new players makes me wonder what’s changed about the game to bring in so many more people.
Well, for starters the release of 5th edition last year has certainly made it a little more accessible (if you can call D&D that), for new players. I’m going once again state that I’m making an observation and you may disagree with me, but I’ve talked with some players who have played previous editions and have found that 5th edition brings some nice changes to the game that make it a little more streamlined. That’s not to say it’s easy, but sometimes added complexity isn’t depth.
But beyond the new online tools that might be available or changes to the game, the biggest influence is the impact of social media. Youtube and Twitch have brought D&D to the masses. While they may not play it themselves , they can now experience what a game might be like. This in turn can encourage others to start playing themselves, or even streaming their sessions themselves. In addition to Youtube and Twitch, popular D&D broadcasts such as Penny Arcade’s Acquisitions Inc and Game Trailers’ Tabletop Adventures have made the experience episodic, complete with hilarious intros.
So, does this mean Dungeon & Dragons is Trendy? No, not really. I mean you’re not about to see mainstream media discuss a D&D Tournament, nor are you going to see Dungeons & Dragon’s be a subject of conversation outside what can probably considered to be “nerd social circles”. But, we may get there some day. It’s possible to have the same dungeon crawling experience and share it in ways that are entertaining for everyone. Hopefully with less Mom’s basement.