It’s a small thing, in the grand scheme of… well, of things. But I can’t help but find it encouraging that over the course of approximately my lifetime, tabletop role-playing games have gone from a hyper-niche hobby for the nerdy sons of suburban families – and the target of a genuine moral panic over “demonology” – to a recognized form of play for anybody at all, across any and all walks of life, that genuinely helps people grow and develop as human beings… and is gaining recognition for being able to do so.
First, just for a sense of how crazy the early response was to this imagination game, here’s a convenient NYT retrospective, with focus on the “Satanic panic”:
But mostly what’s inspired me is an article from, of all things, a little local-news rag out in Seattle (which I’ve never really been to). Their blog has articles about local politics, fluff pieces what their writers had for breakfast, an extensive roundups of upcoming events and the Seattle music scene. The last thing I expected was a piece about how teachers at a girls’ middle school had turned Dungeons and Dragons from a tentative club to a whole series of interconnected activities and even a class, but here we are:
This gives me a spark of hope for the future. The article points to the good that can be done with TTRPGs. And while the field has dramatically expanded from what it was in the 1970s (just wait until these kids get their hands on some GMless storytelling games!), it feels like there’s lots of space for it to grow in ways that we can barely imagine right now.
Just off the top of my head: if D&D as-is can be used as the backbone for a class, what happens when smart, creative people start purposefully trying to design an RPG so that it both feeds on and supports a more comprehensive learning experience? There’s a lot of potential for fields such as history, at the very least. I just hope that I get to see some of that potential realized during the course of approximately my lifetime.