This op-ed may find a way to a zine and/or newspaper (as you can tell by reading it, it's sort of written in layman's terms compared to how D&D fans might describe the situation) but until then, you can read it here:
IS DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS DYING?
By Nick Kessler
When most people hear the term “Dungeons and Dragons,” they immediately picture something to do with either computers or the internet, or if they’re really intellectual, a card or board game. However, Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) has first and foremost in the minds of most gamers been a role-playing game (RPG), which entails books, wacky shaped dice, pencils and paper, and one of the things that seems to be dying profoundly in Western Civilization: imagination.
Yeah, that’s right. That means you’re not looking at a figure on a computer screen, you’re not tapping Magic Cards, and you’re not playing a game of Risk, Axis and Allies, or anything akin to these popular games that are mistaken as D&D far too often. In other words, D&D uses imagination as the springboard to everything else, over and over again. It could very well be the most engaging social game ever created.
What do I mean by “social?” Well, let’s take a look at video games. Many of these games, even if they are multiplayer (like so many are these days) exchange communication through abbreviated, inane texting—most loathsome indeed. You can’t have spontaneous action on a video game and have imagination, it’s just not possible.
In a society where we’re getting closer and closer through technology, we must remember that the technology is not the end of the means. Becoming a member of a physical, breathing D&D or other role-playing game group is easy due to game finding networks on the internet such as Meetup.com and RPGamefind.com. The Meetup model is familiar with millions of Americans. The chance of finding a group nearby, especially if you live in a city or suburb, has increased substantially because of this.
Is Dungeons & Dragons is dying? Perhaps not, and definitely not in the hearts of many gamers; in fact many role-playing “gamers” become downright irate and anti-social when D&D is mentioned in any kind of negative light whatsoever. Yet for some reason, the culture seems to practically be reaching destitute status. “The Lord of the Rings” movies put D&D on the map for at least 5 years, providing the outlook that medieval escapism was once again cool. “Lord of the Rings” games—card, board, and role-playing— were praised by many parents and Christian well-wishers due to the fact that there were tamer, more low-key games than others on the market. I thought this was great, and it introduced a lot of people to Dungeons & Dragons. Unfortunately, even such a sterling-silver effort as Peter Jackson’s movies eventually fell short (despite winning best picture of the year in March 2004), and trends continued to be exactly that. Online gaming has seen an explosion in all forms since; but mainly in the internet RPG sense. (There are now more than 11 million people who play online RPGs every day). What once was a hobby/pastime (D&D in the truest sense) is now an addictive internet substance.
You’ve probably been noticing that I’ve been bringing up the word imagination a lot. What a valuable asset! The fact that you can be sitting around a table with up to seven other players seeing their own version of what the DM (Dungeon Master) is describing in vivid detail—and, on top of that, responding in character to what lies before them is something that is yet to be surpassed. Nor are you dressing up in Halloween costumes and prancing around in the woods outside of town, something more relative to the Society of Creative Anachronism. Dungeons and Dragons, and the multitude of pen-and-paper RPGs that have followed it, is played on a table, usually in a kitchen of someone’s house or a college lounge, but without all the frills and material props that have helped it confuse other people on what it actually is: a game where you keep track of your character like an actor would in a play (albeit the play is unrehearsed and you’re throwing dice around, eating pizza, etc.) and rolling dice to attend to open-ended outcomes, particularly combat and skills tests. With acting, strategy, math-involved dice rolling—all this mental stimuli--you'd think it would be thriving in a culture that is getting so nerdy.
On top of all this, since childhood, I have talked to people who have said it was “A passing 80s fad” or “Pointless and self-destructive” when they haven’t even played it! Day-by-day when I try to do something like create an adventure to Dungeon Master--something that used to practically be a holy act back in the 80s and 90s, I’m now at best viewed as “studying”, and that’s by those that still approve of what I’m doing. I’ve generated a lot of frowning, shuffling and averted eyes from doing anything related to D&D in public places. It’s a divided issue—one which will probably never end. It’s usually between those that play the game who are trying their best to make amends both to the issue itself-- and their gaming lives—and those who think devices such as X-Box and computer games, not to mention ridiculously stupid blockbusters in the past decade such as “300” and “King Arthur” should be the dominant forces in their lives, and not some ephemeral game where they actually use their brains.