When you picture a group seated around a table playing Dungeons and Dragons, what kind of people do you see? If you’re like most people, you see a group of sweaty males sporting pocket protectors and poor social skills who live in their parents’ basement. I can tell you from my experience with role-playing games that this stereotype is exactly that; just a stereotype and one I’d like to an end to.
I played Cyberpunk with a group of people, yes people meaning not just guys. As a female I can tell you that we also enjoy RPGs. The members of my group all either had degrees or were in the process of completing them. The same was true of both groups that I played Dungeons and Dragons with. All of the people I played Vampire: the Masquerade and Vampire: the Requiem with had degrees and were gainfully employed. People in all of the groups I’ve played in have their own place, don’t suffer from any sort of over-perspiration disorder, and there wasn’t a single pocket protector to be found.
It may come as a surprise to some people that those of us who play roleplaying games are productive members of society. I have a friend who participated in live action roleplaying games (LARP) who serves our country in the US Navy. Wil Wheaton, an actor, blogger, and supporter of charitable causes is also an avid gamer. Vin Diesel, yes THE Vin Diesel aka the star of XXX, Fast and the Furious, Pitch Black, and Chronicles of Riddick to name a few, is also a gamer with D&D being one of his favorites and he is Groot. So if that’s the case why is there such a stigma around RPGs and the people who play them?
Because the media. Most people like to believe pretty much everything they see on TV, in the movies, or on the Internet. Tabletop and live action gamers have long been portrayed as socially awkward, quintessential nerds and so the stereotype was born and continues. There’s also the fact that people fear what they don’t understand. Certain outspoken ministers of various faiths condemn gaming as nothing more than polytheism, blasphemy, and devil-worship. Because of the fantasy aspect of it, there’s also a perception that adults who play are immature or should be considered weird or socially undesirable. As a result of these negative stereotypes, many people have the wrong idea about RPGs and the people who play them.
Having been involved in several different gaming groups, I can assure you that absolutely no polytheism was practiced, there was no blasphemy, and no pentagrams were painted on the floor with the blood of a freshly slaughtered goat. It was just a group of people sitting around a table with pencils, paper, a layout map of the current scene in the center of the table with minis to show where each player was, some snacks, drinks, and polyhedral dice. Having been raised Catholic I can also assure you that at no point did I feel that my faith was being insulted, tested, or compromised in any way. Seriously people, it’s just a game. As for being an adult and spending time pretending to be someone else, I will quote the Fourth Doctor, “There’s no point in being an adult if you can’t be childish sometimes.” Look, everyday life can be incredibly boring. Tabletop RPGs are a way to take a break from it which is perfectly healthy. People play RPGs for the same reason we take vacations: you get to escape the stress and worry for a while.
But what if I have kids who want to play tabletop RPGs?
Let them! As long as the game is age-appropriate there is absolutely nothing wrong with your child being into RPGs. They’re great for giving an outlet for their creativity. You create a character from the ground up using nothing but a piece of paper, a pencil, and some stats. You get to create a backstory and immerse yourself in a fantasy world for a while. Gaming also teaches the importance of fair play, and gets them away from phones, computers, and video games to interact with others. Gaming also helps instill empathy by teaching how to think and act as someone else. If you pretend to be someone else for a while, you’ll be amazed to find how much easier it is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. If they decide they want to run their own campaign, great! Running a game teaches leadership skills, judgement, and discretion. There are much worse ways they could be spending a Friday night.
But isn’t getting into RPGs is expensive?
Not really. The books can be found on Amazon pretty cheap or you could borrow from a friend. The dice aren’t all that costly and you can find them at any gaming store or hobby shop. It’s also a common tradition, at least among my circle of friends that your first Game Master (or GM) gets you your first set of dice to welcome you to the group and to gaming. Character sheets for most games are available online as a free download you can print out. Pencils are cheap. Minis can get pricey but you don’t really need them. The most important thing you need is imagination and that’s absolutely free. If your child does get really gung-ho into gaming at the very least you can be assured that if they’re spending their allowance on gaming stuff, they’re not spending it on anything bad like booze, cigarettes, or drugs.
RPGs are a perfectly acceptable way to spend one’s time. There are even families who get together every week for an RPG campaign as a fun way to bond. So enough with the stigma already! If you want to game, go grab some friends and some dice and have fun! Rest in peace, stereotype.