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'Dungeons & Dragons' teaches life skills in a creative environment

The fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons has gone through many changes since its establishment in 1974, but the excitement of never knowing what the Dungeon Master is going to do next will never get old.

D&D has become one of the most widely successful games of all time. In March, D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast announced that 8.6 million Americans had played the game in the past 12 months, according to SYFY WIRE. Streaming has also contributed a big part to the game's growth, as 9 million people have watched others play D&D on Twitch, a streaming website. The game came out with its latest edition in 2014.

D&D is not just about trying to win — it’s the experience of the game that makes it fun to play, Michael Spradlin, a sophomore studying industrial and systems engineering, said.

“It’s about the story you make with your friends,” Spradlin said. “D&D gives you an opportunity to bond with the people around you and go through an experience with them.”

D&D has not only brought people together to go on epic adventures, but the game has also provided life skills players are applying to real-world situations.

“Playing D&D gives me the opportunity to practice being a human and practice my socialization skills,” Spradlin said. “To me, the risk of screwing something up is lower because it’s a safe environment where you’re just acting out characters.”

Spradlin said he is on the autism spectrum, which contains a range of developmental disorders that affect communication and behavior. Playing D&D helps Spradlin practice the social skills that are harder for him to develop.

With the experience D&D gave Jacob Trout, a sophomore studying creative writing, he is now an active member of his hall council.

“Running a D&D session was what kind of pushed me to get involved in my hall council,” Trout said. “Being a Dungeon Master sparked an interest in me to become more of leader.”

The Dungeon Master of D&D is the game organizer and the participant in charge of creating the details and challenges of a given adventure while maintaining a realistic continuity of events.

Julianne Rapacki, a sophomore studying pre-nursing, has also obtained life skills from playing the game and being a Dungeon Master for almost a year now.

“I’ve definitely learned how to cooperate with people and being patient while others are doing their own thing,” Rapacki said. “D&D has taught me that I have to go with the flow in certain situations and deal with the task at hand.”

The RPG gained even more popularity after its appearance in many pop culture shows including SpongeBob SquarePants, The Big Bang Theory and, most recently, Stranger Things.

With increasing stardom, D&D is becoming even more mainstream. More and more people of all generations are playing it, some even preferring it over video games.

Trout prefers to play D&D over video games because D&D is not set on a definite path.

“In D&D, you have complete control over every aspect of your character, and to an extent, the made-up world around you,” Trout said. “It makes fantasy worlds seems more realistic.”

Video games usually have a certain way their characters are supposed to look with few combinations of different outfits, hairstyles and weapons. In D&D, one’s character can look and act however the player wants, Rapacki said. 

“I’m not very good at video games in the first place, so I don’t play them very much,” Rapacki said. “It’s just great getting down with people for ... four hours and beating the crap out of a dragon.”

Spradlin doesn’t necessarily prefer D&D over video games but enjoys the former in a different way compared to the latter.

“When I play video games, it’s usually for an experience I’m trying to master myself, or it’s for something competitive,” Spradlin said. “But with D&D, it’s about working toward a common goal, so I still enjoy the game, just in a different way.”

There are many rules players must learn to play D&D, and, although it sounds intimidating to some, it is a game worth giving a shot to many others.

“It’s this really interesting and odd experience,” Rapacki said. “But I highly suggest anyone who has never tried it should, because it’s so much fun to play.”


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