So as a teenager I loved Dungeons and Dragons. Yep I was a straight up nerd, Magic The Gathering, D&D, Video Games, Books and Movies. My misspent youth really has given me a breadth of media experience that is largely unparalleled within my peer group. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I will always have a soft spot of table top games. Board Games, Card Games and Miniatures – anything that gets a group of individuals into a space to interact and chew the fat, whilst the online space can do much the same with the use of voice comms there is just something about being physically collocated with the person who has just screwed you over with a move and being able to see the delight in his eyes as he does it or the feeling of triumph when your party overcomes a challenging encounter by working as a team.
For me the quintessential example of this is Dungeons and Dragons – I cannot count the hours I have spent huddled around tables with dice and a group of stalwart and adventurous mates. The real benefit of these types of experiences for me is the tangential learning opportunities they offer. There are two really big ones that have influenced the way I see and interact with the world.
The first is social skills – As such a hyper nerd it should come as no surprise that socializing hasn’t always been one of my strong suits. However now as an adult I have a very socially focused job that requires me to be able to instantly communicate with just about everyone I meet and I really do think my time with D&D and the people I shared that time with have played a large part in my success. So the wonderful thing about social D&D as organised through a store – is that it has to be all inclusive, the store wants customers. This results in a very, very eclectic group of players; particularly a very wide span of ages. In my earliest memories of playing D&D I was 15 and spending 10 -12 hours a week talking with people as old as 45 in my party. I learned a lot from these guys and gals. They became a surrogate family in a lot of way and helped me overcome my fears of interacting with people whose experiences differed from my own. They helped me calm down and get over a lot of my anger issues and more eccentric public behaviors. They really did teach me what it was to be a friend. That sense of community is often talked about in Australian culture ass only really existing around team sports but it is alive and well in hobby shops the country over and it is allowing those less athletically inclined children to achieve the same social conditioning as our future NRL superstars.
The second key thing I took away from my time with D&D was a sense of curiosity. I started playing D&D in 3.5 Edition. The source books for this edition of the game were rife with references to real life concepts of philosophy, cosmology and history. This lead to me, in an effort to learn more about the game, researching a spate of disparate topics as a child that were miles ahead of or outside my high school curriculum. This really did liberalize and round out my experience with education as a young adult and has served me incredibly well all throughout my life to date. The habit has also stuck – these years have endowed me with an ability I think of as ‘inspiration sense’ this is when I get the feeling whilst engaged in some media or another that the fictitious concept that is being employed has been directly inspired by elements form the real world. Whenever my ‘Inspiration Sense’ tingles I am compelled to go read more about the real world influences.
Moving into adulthood I have volunteered my time at local hobby shops to run their D&D nights. In the process of doing this I have seen dozens of people go through a similar journey to the one I have enjoyed. So I am fairly certain that the game and the way it is played has this effect on the majority and not just ‘edge cases’. It has been an absolute privilege to see autistic spectrum people truly come out of their shells in a safe environment and learn how to make friends and interact with people in a far more normalized fashion than one would expect of a D&D ‘nerd’.
For a game that has since it’s inception been met with scrutiny, mistrust and fear Dungeons and Dragons has had an amazingly transformative effect on the lives of many many children that would otherwise have done far worse or far less with their lives than what they have – because of the friends they made and lessons they learned around the table. This is just a small look into my life and the way that D&D has helped me become the man I am.
Thank you D&D.