A couple of years ago we were above it. We admired nerd culture from our superior positions atop the popular culture wheel. Like parents sitting on the park bench at the playground. ‘Oh no,’ we’d say, ‘you go on, it’s not appropriate for us to play.’
Cut to yesterday where I sat down with my buddy and we plotted out her new Dungeons and Dragons character with such a heavy weight you would think we were deciding the future of our organs. Questions such as ‘am I better off having the ability to summon stars out of the sky or to cast flames from my fingertips?’ were treated with complete un-ironic seriousness.
Before my foray into D&D I would’ve happily called myself a nerd but would’ve shied away from taking on the title with the full vigour of a true disciple that so many other incredibly smart, socially awkward, loyal, cashed-up consumers do. But acceptance into the D & D universe means something serious. It’s the pop culture equivalent of deciding to be married. It’s a commitment. It means that hours will be given up rolling dice, building stories, and pretending to be a dwarf/elf/dragon. And not just over one session. Not every so often like a game of Monopoly. No, the proper D&D experience requires regular meetings of your group to improve your characters and keep them travelling together, sometimes for years.
I blame, mostly, the D&D episode of Community. I challenge anyone not to watch that episode and to not feel an inkling towards wanting to play. (Also, if you haven’t seen the first three seasons of Community yet, what are you doing? I know I’m like the fifth person to say this to you, but you really would enjoy it.)
I also blame the skinny pale-faced young man who asked my nerd friend and I whether we wanted to learn how to play Magic: The Gathering at the last Brisbane SupaNova. We went home with a deck of cards each and a whole new world to play in. With the enthusiastic purchase of way more cards than we sensibly needed, it seemed we were teetering on the edge of a beautiful cultural cliff. D&D awaited at the bottom of the fall.
It’s hard to describe what makes D&D so fantastic without making muggles roll their eyes. Maybe it’s the perfect combination of math and creativity that lies at the heart of the game’s mechanics. Maybe it’s the ability to create private art that feels down-right theatrical. Maybe it’s the appeal to our inner-child to play with imaginary friends (but with dice and formula so it feels grown-up).
Whatever it is, I’m proud to be a ring-bearing, card-carrying, orc-slaying, old-fashioned nerd. I shall tell you the tales of our groups adventures as we travel forth.