The Influence of Tabletop RPGs in Pop Culture
There’s a Lot More Than the Movie That Just Came Out
Elvis Could’ve Played It
With almost half a century since its creation, DnD’s influence in the world is clear, since it’s becoming more ubiquitous as time goes by, certainly with no signs of stopping. Let’s not forget that things like make-believe activities or board games are as old as human civilization (see Go or basically every child). Wizards of the Coast managed to tie these basic (and fun!) activities in the 1970s into a game that has impacted a plethora of aspects of our culture. It has changed over the decades, evolving alongside the necessities of its players. Influencing and being influenced by pop culture.
A Rulebook for Every Taste
“Fun”, capital F, has as many different faces as… Well, think of barely countable things. Grains of sand. Galaxies. Fast and Furious movies. With these somehow fitting into your mind, it’s easy to picture how the activity of tailoring a game experience to our desired rules and settings may be as old as the game itself. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to change things to make them feel better – basically, think about how no one, ever, plays Uno how it’s meant to. Monopoly barely passes this check.
The narrative is meant to be unique to each session: generally, the players are a good part of what makes the game fun, after all. As the scenery is made by and for people, and overall people get influenced by their environment, it’s no surprise that a DnD campaign can be reflected by cultural trends. This even satisfies our desires to further participate and expand on captivating stories and can be seen on either rehashing of popular themes (vampires, zombies, monsters) or specific to a certain franchise, such as Star Wars 5e. In reality, practically any story could be indeed adapted into a campaign. Yes, even Fast and Furious.
Be it due to the fact that DnD has been evolving alongside its player base over the past decades, WotC (and Hasbro) are working towards expanding its popularity or just that, slowly and steadily, general audiences have discovered that geeks actually do some pretty cool things, make no mistake: DnD is evidently here to stay.
The latest movie is one of the many adaptations that have spawned over several different media. Channels and shows like Critical Role have surged in popularity recently, especially during the pandemic. Meanwhile, I recommend having a peek at WotC’s infographic about the popularity of the game. More people consuming DnD related content results in more unrelated content incorporating its references, which ends up bringing the spotlight to DnD once again, and you have a virtuous cycle.
… And Beyond!
The number of total TTRPG players could easily form one of the 30 most populous countries in the world. I’m gonna put my Old Man Hat™ on and say that this kind of activity is a good counterbalance to the increasing presence of screens in our day-to-day lives – even online sessions! – as, paradoxically, there’s something very human and inherently fulfilling about pretending you’re a talking half-elephant with some friends. Considering that about a third of the players are from Gen Z and younger (according to Gamerant), we can only presume that there will be plenty more stories to tell.
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