How Dungeons & Dragons Has Managed To Become More Popular Than Ever In This Age

The progenitor of online RPG is still one of the best hits today.


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“The online gaming community owes a lot of its geekdom to D&D not only in regard to the fact that it laid the groundwork for modern RPG warfare as we know it, but also holding the position as the best table-top RPG in Twenty Nineteen. Twenty Nineteen! That’s like, 45 years since its inception! My God, is D&D timeless!” 

The fact that such flattery comes from Muhaiminul Islam, a promoter of the game, may take away a lot of the force from the statements. Lest our dear readers have such thoughts, consider the following statistic on D&D‘s popularity:

  • In 2004, D&D stood as the undisputed leader in the role-playing genre, with approximately 20 million people having already played the game at the moment, accounting for more than US$1 billion in merchandise sales.   

While the above line diagram indicates a relatively steady decline (till a resurgence in the last 5 years) after the benchmark or 2004, the numbers are still high enough - more than satisfactory, in fact, compared to other games. Indeed, such fluctuations are to be expected, the leading reason being the introduction of new editions at intervals. These phases (the 4th edition in 2008 and the fifth and last in 2014) noticeably cause a spike in popularity. In 2019, the game ranks at the very top of table-top RPG.

SO WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN 2004?

June of 2003 saw the release of version 3.5 of D&D, which was a massive milestone for the game (version 3 had it too), adding the function of d20 system. This has become a staple of D&D. The twenty sided dice system adds a whole new dimension to the game and, as the numbers don't lie, have been a huge commercial success. 

"Oh... my... world. This new feature - when it came - it was the death of me. This is just like gambling, man. And this is coming from a non-gambler! But man, you keep thinking the dice will roll in your favor and it just - it just hooks you, man..." rails on an enthusiast.

Even though the aftermath of the 3.5th edition saw D&D at its pinnacle in terms of popularity, three things should be considered. First, the d20 system was a huge milestone, and the surge in popularity was to be expected. Second, the huge spike in popularity did not dwindle dramatically: the numbers have kept steady, and noticeably much higher than pre-3.5th edition. Third, D&D continues to be a leader in the RPG realm. In fact, the last 5 years since the 5th edition have been especially fruitful.

POST FIFTH EDITION

The second half of 2014 saw both the release of the latest edition and the game's 40 year anniversary, both of which coincided on the same day. 

  • "Less rule-governed leading to more room for creativity" 
  • More spontaneous
  • Simply beloved

The above are the most widely used adjective phrases to describe the game. Beloved indeed is the game, as even 5 years after the last edition, the craze is still going strong. Women are particularly ecstatic with some of the new developments which include desexualization of female characters. No longer are they clad in bikini armor. Read that again. Bikini... armor? The two surely don't go together. There is more flexibility in sexual orientation as well, as players can choose an assortment of personality types including a woman trapped inside a man's body and a bearded lady dwarf who has identity issues. Female participation is markedly higher, with Wizards of the Coast claiming that about 38% of players are female. For anyone who plays online RPG, or any game in general, will be amazed at this statistic.

BIG NAMES, SMALL NAMES

This new inclusive nature of the game has helped it become mainstream as well, drawing in big name celebrities like Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Matt Damon. Such famous endorsements speak volumes about the reach of D&D, but the opposite scenario also holds true. From obscurity to online sensations: game playing podcasts such as "Critical Role" and "The Adventure Zone" are a great source of income and online "cred" by doing nothing but goofing off and indulging in one's passion!

A BRIEFING ABOUT THE GAME

"Even though the game contains, like, a 320-page rule book, it's not actually difficult per se." We agree with this D&D geek who actually remembers the number of pages of the rule book. God knows how many hours he has spent struggling to remember it. "No, I don't think even a beginner would have any problem with the game after a week. The mechanism is pretty simple."

The difficulty level of the game is moderate. It is not uber simple, nor does its difficulty put off beginners. As creator Gary Gygax says, "We have intentionally created a middle ground in terms of game difficulty. I would actually advise beginners of RPG to start with D&D and branch off into specialist games if they so wish."

The fact of the matter is that only three things are essential for the game: pen and paper; the rule book; a set of dice. Of course, you can buy a variety of goodies which will help give a boost to your dungeon journey - miscellaneous the likes of supplementary guide books and a starter's guide. 

A ROCKY PAST

Although the entirety of the franchise has experienced commercial success and popularity, there have been a few controversies here and there. For instance, nudity was a feature in the first rendition of the game, with displays of full breasts. Moreover, the game was criticized for promoting black magic, and copyright issues also existed.

A NEGATIVE INFLUENCE?

However, allegations of people being negatively influenced by the game are unfounded. Of course, addiction to gaming is common, and D&D is addittive. The game, however, is a good if not great mental exercise, promoting cognition and brainstorming. Such problem solving exercises are necessary, especially when they happen in a game where people do not feel compelled to learn. Have a blast, and a brain workout at the same time. What better thing is there?

A MODERN APPROACH TO MODERN PROBLEMS

Gone are the days when you would have to arrange meetings to bring friends over to "D&D and chill." Now you can just use skype. Don't have dice or lose one or two? Don't bother rushing to the store. Just make use of free to use dice apps. You need not showcase your shameful drawing skills either. Just sketch it on your computer. You can even "buy" players for play: itinerant knights will cost $10-20 to lead your campaign.

WHAT MORE HAS CHANGED TO MAKE D&D MORE POPULAR TODAY?

Imagine X, Y, and Z are playing a game, shouting at key moments and letting out huge bursts of laughter. You'd wager that the three individuals are children or teens or, at the most, NEETs, right? If your answer is a "No, they can be normal adults too," then congratulations, you are aware of the gaming community nowadays. More and more people are acknowledging their *guilty pleasure* of playing video games. In the past, it was a shameful subject, and gaming was only allocated to geeks - basically abnormals. We now have even The Rock *coming out of the closet* and admitting his D&D fandom.

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