Tabletop Games like Dungeons and Dragons are Good for the Mind and Good for the Soul

Since their inception, Dungeons and Dragons and various other tabletop games have gotten a bad rep. The earliest criticism even called it devil worship. Others would say it is a waste of time. However, there are some studies and news about how those who’ve mocked it may have missed the true benefits.

Personal storytime. I am a geek, and not even subtly. I play video games, trading card games, and regularly play different tabletop games. In fact, I don’t only play them, I run the games. In a position usually called Dungeon Master or Game Master. With my style of running games, I prefer Storyteller.

When I was in the Navy I would publically run games. Sometimes several on the same day because I had so many people wanting to play. Even running games on the ship during Morale Welfare events. This created friendships that crossed ships and brought together a lot of people who would never have met.

We had the people who mocked us. Screaming ‘Nerds!’, as they were on their way to get drunk or workout. Generally, we would laugh at them and continue playing. That however made me tell my story louder. Not letting anyone ignore the fun we were having while they mocked us.

Every now and then we would have one of those people who made fun of us with their friends start listening. They would stand by the booths we were using as I gave out narrative and people brought their characters to life. Inevitably that person would approach me and ask, “When is your next game and can I join?”

We never would judge them on their previous behavior. Most of us had dealt with it almost our whole lives. We’d  loan them out dice, help them make characters and if they wanted their own supplies take them to get them. (Being in Japan it was hard to find English books sometimes).

Something I learned after I left the Navy was that some of the ‘geeks and nerds’ who played with me felt at home when I ran those games. That everywhere else they went they felt ostracized. They were the strange one on their ship, sometimes they felt like outcasts. Some used their time gaming with me to escape any of the stress or even trauma they received on their ship. I know like hell I did.

Sometimes we would even have a group of people find out they are on the same ship. They were just in a division that never saw each other. A ship of 300 to 5000, you might not know everyone. So now they had a friend. Someone when they went out to sea they could talk too or go on liberty with.

Flash forward to after the Navy. This is before I had a mental breakdown and started getting treatment. I was running a game at a mall. It is in a public place we couldn’t expel people from the game. If you wanted to play, you were allowed too. This mom decided that we were her daycare center for her non verbal autistic son. (For the record the store owner/clerk was the child’s uncle so he was really the babysitter he just hung out with us.)

He technically had a character. His character, like him never spoke, but he would move the character around on the haphazard maps I made for him or he would point at his abilities. We would help him figure out the dice he needed at first. He is a smart kid and picked up on it fast. 

After a few months, he did something that silenced the whole room. We were all talking. People were trying to figure out how to handle a boss. Everyone stopped when we heard this little mousy voice say, “Dice please.”

This kid spoke his first real words ever at our table. Possibly because of us playing this game together. We never judged him, we never made him feel excluded. His mute fighter had some of the most interesting fights. He opened up and asked us for the dice. The group did everything to keep calm. To make a big deal of it, but we all smiled throughout the rest of the game.

It took a few more weeks of him gaming before he started talking more regularly. I don’t even live in that state anymore, but his mom said he hasn’t shut up since. He still plays and has even tried to run a game or two. Made many new friends.

I have had games where players had a hard time speaking English. So we made them characters who couldn’t speak common (English in DnD). Someone else who could translate would be the other person who spoke the language. If no one did we would use the help of Google and make it a golem that translated for them.

These are all my personal stories. I could go into more detail, but they are not just my stories. The facts are this. Tabletop games have a proven track record of helping kids with math, language skills, and social skills. All while nurturing their imagination.

Not to mention for adults it can allow them to deal with things that they as a person do not. I had a Marine ‘cry in character’, because as a person he didn’t know how. He had lost someone in his family and the idea of a man crying was foreign to him. In the game, he started to lose it. So I presented a reason for his character to do so.

The long and short of this is; social games like Dungeons and Dragons (DnD), have changed and even saved lives. I could write another article with stories on just that. So don’t mock someone playing it, but most importantly give it a try yourself.

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