When I interview people, one topic that often comes up is what interests are “too geeky” even for the self-identified geeks. Usually, it’s some form of role-playing gameâ€”massively multiplayer RPGs for some people, pen-and-paper/tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons for some of those who are comfortable with MMOs, and live action role-playing for most of those who will admit to having played D&D. As one of my interviewees said, “I have to be wary about what I admit to people I play.â€ I’ve often wondered what it will take to make the role-players feel like it’s okay to admit to what they do, or for other gamers and geeks (and heck, non-geeks too) to feel comfortable role-playing.
I see some signs that make me wonder whether this change is underway. The New York Times Magazine has a slideshow up of people with their online avatars, though I suppose it’s as easy to read it as “see, these are people too” as it is to read it as “weirdos are fascinating.” Also, a couple weeks ago, I noticed that the Newbury Comics CD/comics/kitsch store in Harvard Square was selling Dungeons & Dragons t-shirts. And I’m not just talking logo shirts here, though they had thoseâ€”they had a shirt with the art from the cover of the Dragonlance rulebook, which features a half-elven man with a sword and some demon thingie behind him. I’m not sure, however, if these are being sold/worn mostly as a retro/ironic thing or if the pervasiveness of games like World of Warcraft is finally making D&D seem more socially acceptable.
(And yes, I know enough about Dragonlance to tell you where the art came from and that one of the guys pictured in it is half-elven, but apparently not enough to tell you what the demon thingie is actually supposed to be called. I’m doing my best here, though.)