“You walk into the Blind Wizard Tavern, the scent of bacon fills your nostrils. At the bar you see an elven barmaid, who nods at you as she fills up another patrons glass. There is a table of three dwarves telling stories, and a man with his hood up in the corner, who clearly isn’t touching his drink.”
“Does the man have any weapons on him?”
“9 plus 7, so 16!”
“You notice he has a sword across his lap, as well as a dagger in his boot. He notices you looking at him, and reaches down. Roll Initiative”
Dungeons & Dragons. A tabletop role play game from 1974, created by Gary Gygax, is coming back, and with it, all tabletop games in general.
Over the past few years, more and more people have started playing D&D. But why?
Nerd culture has become more prevalent over the past few years, with the biggest movies in theaters being from Star Wars or Marvel Comics, as well as more people knowing what Comic Con and cosplay are.
D&D was bound to come back with it. Stranger Things, one of the biggest streamable shows right now stars children who love playing Dungeons & Dragons, and when they fight monsters, they explain it in terms of D&D, like Demagorgon, Mind Flayer, True Sight, and that realm that is the upside down.
Some other reasons behind the return of popularity in Dungeons & Dragons specifically, has to do with the show Critical Role on YouTube. Website Geek and Sundry has created a weekly show of voice actors playing D&D live on Switch, and currently has 140 episodes, one of the most popular being the guest appearance of Vin Diesel, who is secretly such a nerd, that his film The Last Witch Hunter is based on his own character that he has played for years.
Geek and Sundry doesn’t just help with D&D though, but with all tabletop games in general. Host Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: TNG) has his own YouTube show called TableTop, wherein he gathers some celebrity friends of his and teaches you how to play different games, either board, card, or roleplay. The show is so popular, a term in the industry is called the “TableTop Effect,” because after being featured on the show, sales are almost guaranteed to skyrocket.
The reason shows like TableTop can exist is because there is a new wave of indie game developers. With the invention of Kickstarter, gamers with cool ideas don’t need to go to Hasbro (Monopoly, Life) or Mattel (Pictionary). They are able to create prototypes and go straight to consumers and start selling the games. This allows so many new and creative games to come out, to reach more than just family game nights, and get more people into tabletop games. The amount raised last year for tabletop games on Kickstarter exceeded the amount for video games, $52.1 million to $45.3 million.
There are many theories as to why tabletop games are becoming so popular lately, one of which blames MMOs. Massive Multiplayer Online games (Destiny, Overwatch) allow you to play games with your friends, without either of you leaving your house, which is great. However, it means that friends aren’t getting that same social aspect that gaming with each other used to satisfy. So instead, they spend some time around a table, and roll a d20, flip some cards, or even make your bears fight some babies.
Entrepeneurs all over are noticing this trend, and are opening up bars and cafes specifically for playing games with friends. These make for great post-work wind downs, first date locations, or even a good place to make friends if you are new in town.
If there isn’t a game cafe near you, there might being a gaming convention. Gen Con, a four-day tabletop game conference being held in Indianapolis this August, took 15 years to grow to 30,000 attendees from 20,000. In the last three years, it has grown to 49,000 from 30,000. If you need helping finding your nearby gaming con (or any fan convention), check out this cool website!
I’m not making all of this up either. Market research group NPD, which claims to measure around 70% of the UK toy trade, has recorded a 20% rise during the past year in the sales of tabletop games. In the last year, board game sales in the U.S. grew by 28 percent, per NPD Group. The adult game category also is a hot segment, growing 183 percent in the last year, according to NPD Group. Sales at hobby stores in the United States rose 15 to 20 percent in each of the last three years, according to ICv2, a trade publication that tracks the business.