The D and D Resurgence: Why is Dungeons and Dragons more popular than ever?

A step out of the video game lane this week to talk about another sort of game. Dungeons & Dragons is a game that I have only gotten into more recently. Looking at the sales figures of the source material it seems I’m not the only one. In 2020 Wizards of the Coast (The game’s Publishers) announced that 2019 was the companies 6th year of growth in a row. One of the source books (Volo’s Guide To Monsters) managed to get into the New York Times best sellers list in November 2016. This week I’ll be looking into what factors have helped this rise in popularity.

For those who are unaware, Dungeons & Dragons is a table top game created by Dave Arneson & Gary Gygax back in 1970. The game was created as a medieval battle table top game under the name Chainmail. Later revisions added that players controlled individual characters instead of armies as well as the story telling aspect, races, classes etc. It was Gygax’s 2-year-old that decided on the name “Dungeons & Dragons”. When her father pitched her a selection of potential names she replied “Oh Daddy, I like Dungeons & Dragons best!”. Through the years the game has gone through several rule revision with the current 5th Edition rules being the most current, being released in 2014. The game consists of 1 player who is the Dungeon or Game Master (DM or GM) who is the narrator and referee of the game. The rest of the players are Playable Characters (PC’s) who play characters within the game. The DM builds the scene for the PC’s, the PC’s will then choose the course of the game and the DM will build the story in response to the other players actions.

The 5th Edition Rules

Speaking of the 5th Edition of the rules, they are probably one of the reasons for the soring popularity of the game. The previous 4th Edition was not well received with current players. The 4th Edition was essentially a rebuild of D&D from the ground up to cut a lot of the chaff that had accumulated in the previous editions, to Wizards of the Coast (who had bought publishing rights to the game in 1997) nothing in the game was sacred and all aspects were up fro review. In doing this they lost a lot of what long time players loved about the game which fractured the D&D community. A lot of players didn’t move across to the 4th Edition, instead remaining with edition 3.5 having invested in the game already being only released 5 years earlier. Others moved to other fantasy table top games such as Pathfinder or moved back to previous edition of the game.

The 5th Edition was developed in order to bring back to the fold a lot of the players they lost by returning some of the elements from previous editions that were cut but keep the simplicity of the 4th edition for new players to not feel too lost. This was done by modulating each section of the game. Where 4e focused a lot on the rules of combat and glanced over a lot of the other aspects, 5e had specific ruling and guidelines for all aspects of the game allowing the game to be better tailored to each game session or campaign. This means a lot more work for DM’s but PC’s still get a streamlined experience that is new player friendly.

The Internet

We live in an age where information is but a click or a finger press away. This has done wonders for the D&D community. People can gather, discuss the game and share their own homebrewed campaigns or characters. Also because of the ever increasing popularity of YouTube & Twitch it’s easier than ever to sample the game by watching other play. In fact in 2017 over 9million users watched a D&D stream. This allows people easy access to the game if they are interested in checking out before they jump in. Sites such as Roll20 or Owlbear Rodeo allow players to play with others all over the world meaning people are no longer limited to playing with people in their local area or with friends/family.

geek culture

Geek is in. Video games, Manga/Anime, Comic books, all the shit that kids were beaten up for when we were kids is now what all the cool kids like. This includes Dungeons & Dragons. This can be seen in the number of celebrities that openly discussed playing D&D. This list includes Drew Barrymore, Dame Judi Dench, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Chester Bennington, Steven Spielberg, Robin Williams, Marilyn Manson, George R.R. Martin, Elon Musk are but to name a few. This increases the exposure of the game to further demographics. In inclusion in modern culture too helps the reach of the game such as it’s inclusion in the Nexflix show Stranger Things as well as other TV shows like Futurama, The Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons & even My Little Pony. Wizards of the Coast has actually capitalised on this and has beginner sets based off of the characters used by the characters in Stranger Things as well as a Rick & Morty themed set.

These are but a few of the main reasons in my opinions. If you have any others feel free to leave a comment and discuss them.

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Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (PC, PS3, Wii, XBOX 360)

Christmas and New Year have come and gone and with it I received a wealth of new games in which to play and share my opinion on. This week isn’t one of them but it was a game that I did get the opportunity to play over the festive period. A game that has a bigger following than Charlie Sheen and OK magazine. The most recent game in a series that started off a bit bland but after a change of scenery popularity rose immediately, only to then become horribly clique and predictable. Ladies and Gentleman. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.

The Call of Duty series started as most series around war do with re-enacting the 2nd World War in the most unrealistic and stomach turningly patriotic way. For 3 instalments the series found medium success never really rising above it’s peers, such as Medal of Honour and Battlefield. It was only when the series switched to Modern Warfare in which as the name suggests is about warfare in modern times did the series find that edge that first person shooters were missing. It was the first to really add a story to the first person shooter and bring it to the masses. There was the Half-Life series but that always seemed a bit too snobbish to be mingling with the console playing plebs, but I digress. Previous FPS’s had stories but they just hung around with nothing better to do. Call of Duty 4 actually integrated the story into the game in such a way that it neither outshone or was outshone by the gameplay. This included a scene that I still hold to my heart, the nuke scene, where funny enough a nuclear explosion is detonated in the vicinity of fleeing Rangers to which you quantum leap into the perspective of a lone Ranger slowing dying in the fallout, alone and unloved thousands of miles away from home. Although it adds nothing to the story as an artistic feature it is pretty amazing. After trying to bring what worked in Modern Warfare back to the past with World of War, Modern Warfare found a sequel. Modern Warfare 2 which took the intense raspberry with white chocolate swirls and real fruity bits flavour of the original and made it bland vanilla. Not that there’s anything wrong with vanilla but it is one of the blander ice cream flavours out there. Then came Black Ops which had a story so out of whack I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers were sectioned for it.

Then finally we get to Modern Warfare 3. What seems to be the finale of the Modern Warfare series (I assume this because it’s the only one of the 3 that didn’t end on a cliff-hanger). You’ll be happy to know that the series continues it’s downhill slope from the peak of Modern Warfare. It’s the same game we’ve seen before but with new faces and a slight graphical upgrade. The same old missions are there, the stealth mission, the infiltration mission, the gunship mission, the ambush mission etc. The only real gameplay difference I noticed was that some guns have 2 sights on them. Fuck me, how long do you think it took Infinity Ward to come up with that stroke of genius? Imagine the development meeting when coming up with that beauty of an idea. “Ok, We need a USP (That’s Unique Selling Point for those who have no grasp of product development) for Modern Warfare 3, Go”, “I can never decide between using the Dot of the ACOG sight. Could we have both on the same gun”, “Fuck it, that’ll have to do. Lunch Time”. You really earned your pay that day guys didn’t you?

Now when people think of the Modern Warfare series, people tend to think of controversy and pushing the moral boundaries. Man dying slowly and painfully in nuclear fallout in the first is defiantly a moving scene, although the game could have done without it, its inclusion defiantly elevated the game to a higher plain. In Modern Warfare 2 there was the shoot up of civilians in the Russian airport that got every anti-games activists knickers in such a twist that some of them are still trying to remove the knots to this day. This had the greatest in game effect out of the 3 scenes because never before in any modern game were we asked to take a gun and mow down innocent civilians. The strange thing about it was (for me anyway) was that I had no moral guilt in doing it. It didn’t have the same effect as the scene in Heavy Rain where you have to cut off the end of your finger or throwing the Companion Cube into an Aperture Science Emergency Intelligence Incinerator. I think it’s due to a lack of empathy towards the gunned down civilians of Russia, to us they are just pixels which we have been told to kill. Unlike my previous 2 examples where we have spent the game playing through the perspective of the character in question or we have had empathy towards the Companion Cube drilled into us through GLaDOS’s messages, telling us that the cube loves us and that we love it. Returning to the matter at hand we have the 3rd scene where we see a child explode in front of us. Although in truth the child basically disappears as soon as the explosion appears. This scene unlike the other two probably worsened my opinion of the game (not due to the killing of children, that’s a completely different kettle of fish). The main reason for this is it’s irrelevance to the game, if it were removed from the game it would not hamper my gameplay experience in the slightest. Sure I could play it in media sensitive mode “aka Pussy mode”, but the niggling thought would still be in the back of my mind that that scene is still there and is only there as a shock awe tactic and to try and generate media attention to which it ended up doing very little of both.

I’ve neglected to mention anything to do with the actual gameplay throughout this review mainly because if you’ve played any of the Call of Duty games past Modern Warfare you know what the gameplay is going to be like. Infinity Ward like to stick to what they know and by the looks of it Infinity Ward have been glued, stapled, riveted and welded to the Modern Warfare formula. The single player is horribly short and can easily be completed in an afternoon. The multi-player is exactly the same as Modern Warfare 2 but with a few extra gameplay modifications and game types, which is the same as Modern Warfare but with a few extra gameplay modifications and game types. It seems Infinity Ward can release an update for their multi-player and charge £40+ for it because it has a singleplayer campaign hanging off it like a tumorous lobe. Infinity Ward may not be great game developers but they are master business men. What does interest me though is the Special-Op missions. I must have spent a good couple of days or so with my brother trying to 3 star a lot of them. Like a series of puzzles that need solving, once you start you won’t be satisfied until you get all of them.

To be honest Modern Warfare 3 was never going to go down favourably with me anyway. I’ve always seen the Modern Warfare series as the very pinnacle of what I despise about the gaming industry. Soulless corporations having the ability to release any kind of mind numbing bile and have it lapped up by the unthinking masses. I like to have faith that people will buy a game because it’s good rather than because it’s adverts are plastered everywhere. Modern Warfare is one of those games where you cannot escape the adverts for it. It was plastered all over television, all over the internet, hell it was plastered all over the buildings in the city centre. This is why I usually try to rely on user reviews on how good a game is before I buy it. Professional reviewers I find are too eager to hand out good reviews to games that really don’t deserve it. I don’t really like the use of scores, even though in a perfect world they can give us a direct comparison between one game and another, but it’s just that, “In a perfect world”. All scores are based on personal opinion, for example I would give a game with a better story a better score than that which had better gameplay. Not only that, the sheer amount of criteria that has to be taken into consideration to give a fair score is massive. Then to top it all off scores will change with the passing of times. As the years pass opinions change and as they change scores would change.

Now my final thought.  The Modern Warfare series reshaped the first person shooter genre giving it that artistic flare previous FPS’s were missing. Although the first game struck gold in the end this proved to be a  disadvantage to the development team. Both games that followed seemed to try too hard in trying to prove their worth over the original and both fall flat of their faces. Although this has never been a bother to Infinity Ward since each game has made enough money to pay the Dalai Lama to run through the streets of Kent, bollock naked, singing “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”. Lets just hope that this is the end of the Modern Warfare era, because if I hear that Modern Warfare 4 is in production which includes Captain Price and Soap have full uncensored gay sex I will not be happy. Even less so knowing Soap died in the 3rd game.