Opinion: Dungeons & Dragons isn’t just for basement dwellers anymore

Millions of people play the tabletop game and you should, too.


Peyton Downing, Columnist

As a longstanding fan of tabletop games, I’ve noticed that there’s a pervasive stereotype about them — the notion that only weird anti-social men play them. The chief example? Dungeons & Dragons.

The game is ostensibly the most famous tabletop game — it’s been featured in TV shows, movies, podcasts, and a host of other media. The most recent example is from Netflix’s Stranger Things, in which it has a minor role as a plot device.

For the uninitiated, Dungeons & Dragons is a tabletop, role-playing game. Basically a fancy term for “you make characters and play through scenarios as them with your friends.” There are dice and sheets, but it can be as math-intensive as you and your friends so desire. 

Individual game sessions can go on anywhere from 30 minutes to over 12 hours, though the usual session is much shorter. The campaigns — or overarching plot — can last as long as you want them to (even up to years).

However, a lot of media appearances don’t quite do the game justice. It’s always seen as a niche or nerdy thing to take a part of in these cases.

That is a premise I severely disagree with.

In my time playing Dungeons & Dragons, I’ve met a host of wonderful people from all different walks of life, from athletes to theater kids. And that’s fairly representative of the people who play. 

It isn’t just a game for nerds with nothing better to do — it’s just another way to have fun with friends.

More than 8 million people in America played Dungeons & Dragons in the year 2017, according to Syfy Wire. Hasbro, the company that owns the Dungeons & Dragons license, has bragged about the surge of growth in the company coming from new players. While Hasbro isn’t releasing exact sales figures, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to know that more than 10 million people are playing D&D in the year 2020. 

The game itself has also become a viewing experience. Also according to Syfy Wire, more than 9 million people watched Dungeons & Dragons streams on Twitch in 2017. The biggest stream of all is also one of the best viewing experiences out there.

And it’s not just the numbers; mainstream figures have been involved for years, too. Critical Role is a Dungeons & Dragons game played by a group of professional voice actors led by Matthew Mercer. It recently ended its Kickstarter campaign to produce an animated series, which raised over $11 million. Critical Role has had certain celebrity guests such as Vin Diesel, Felicia Day, and Stephen Colbert, among others, join its ranks for several episodes. 

There’s also a massive amount of content out there being put together by all sorts of people. If you’re unsure of whether you want to play, just fire up a podcast and see if it’s something you’re interested in trying out.

It isn’t just a game for nerds with nothing better to do — it’s just another way to have fun with friends. It’s no different from playing board games or watching movies together. 

And in the end, if you still think that Dungeons & Dragons is just some nerdy game, even with all these people playing it, then I have to ask — what’s the harm in being a nerd?

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.