When my 16-year-old son asked to go to his friend’s house to play Dungeons and Dragons (D&D for short), I admit I was a little shocked. As a child of the 80s, D&D was linked with negative images of witchcraft and satanic practices. “He wanted to play what?!”
Of course, my son laughed when I expressed my concerns to him. He said his friends found my recollections of D&D hilarious.
For my generation, Dungeon and Dragons was definitely not cool. It was considered very anti-social and something that nerds did in their basements to escape the real world. Dare I say it? A little like the moral panic that surrounds the online gaming habits of teenagers today.
The following month, after my 14-year-old son asked about D&D I knew something was up. Suddenly, Dungeons and Dragons had become cool and it seemed everyone wanted to play it. Was D&D undergoing a popular culture resurgence and how did this happen? How could I leverage this popularity in my library?
Tabletop Gaming Revival
Tabletop games refers to those that can be played on a flat surface or tables such as board, dice and card games. In recent years tabletop games have experienced a revival of popularity amongst the younger generation in a move back towards physical rather than online social interaction. In the wake of a global pandemic, the increase in face-to-face gaming has become more popular than ever before in a bid to combat social isolation.
Dungeons and Dragons is one of the most popular tabletop games and is a collaborative role-playing fantasy game which involves players creating unique characters and rolling dice to determine outcomes based on players’ choices.
References to Dungeon’s and Dragons have been slowly creeping into the popular culture of today’s youth. Hit Netflix series Stranger Things shows the main child characters playing the game, with D&D also appearing in other popular TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory and Rick and Morty.
A D&D resurgence is hardly surprising considering the current generation of teenagers have been raised on fantasy stories, movies and video games such as Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and Skyrim.
Not only that, celebrities such as Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Vin Diesel and comedian Stephen Colbert are avid D&D fans and game players.
The internet has also helped fuel the renewed popularity of Dungeons and Dragons with a strong online presence contributing to a participatory culture amongst players. The advent of livestreaming platforms such as YouTube and Twitch means players can broadcast games around the world. Players can also listen to podcasts and jump on social media to discuss anything and everything D&D.
With all factors considered, it is hardly surprising that teenagers have embraced Dungeons and Dragons like they have.
Opportunities for the school library
Increased student interest in tabletop gaming provides the perfect opportunity for schools and libraries to harness the potential for connected learning. Role-playing games, such as Dungeons and Dragons, help develop many skills in students including literacy, social, creative and problem-solving skills.
Starting a tabletop or Dungeons and Dragons gaming club not only offers educational and emotional benefits to students, it may also provide a way of getting students and reluctant readers into the Library. Once in the door, strategically placed displays of related fantasy novels might just encourage them to pick up a book on the way out too!
It seems the adage “everything old is new again” rings true with Dungeons & Dragons. So, did I let my sons go play D&D? Of course – it gets them out of the house and offline playing video games! Sound familiar?