You find yourself watching a YouTube video… you've lost track of time. Has it been minutes? Hours? Weeks of your life? And you find yourself wondering, have you been watching Dungeons and Dragons… or has Dungeons and Dragons been watching you?
For a game that first saw success in the seventies, Dungeons and Dragons doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Over the last six years it has been featured in storylines across popular culture from the Netflix series Stranger Things to the comedic TV show Community, and even more interestingly, in the last two years has started to widen its net of possibilities beyond a group of friends around a table.
Recently, to launch their latest setting 'Tomb of Annihilation' D&D owners Wizards of the Coast hosted the Stream of Annihilation in Washington live on Twitch, where D&D fans could tune in to see their favourite live streamers from around the world play through the new material. It was a masterpiece in hype building, and as an avid D&D player I was rapt to see streams like Critical Role, High Rollers and Australia's very own Dragon Friends (featuring a host of popular Aussie comedians) come together to create something unforgettable.
True to the Internet age Dungeons and Dragons and a wealth of new indie board games have taken on whole new possibilities by moving playthroughs, reviews, and a wealth of extra content online. The overwhelming interest in this content has moved a traditionally private game into the realm of performativity and the public sphere.
Geek culture has become too enticing to shove in a locker, and when you can join the community with a click, what's to stop everyone from joining in one grand collective paroxysm of geek? So, with D&D and board games seeing a digital cultural revival and gaining new online identities, they certainly aren't going anywhere. But why should they? As voice actor in Critical Role Liam O'Brien puts it: "It's the human experience built on a skeleton of dice".
This piece was first published in the 2017 edition of Antithesis, Revive.
Image by Scott Swigart, used with permission.