A: Today I had that awkward moment where all my co-workers discovered that I play Dungeons and Dragons.
C: Oh boy. You had that moment. How’d it go?
A: So, to set the scene, it’s midmorning and a group of us, like ten or so, are having coffee in the staff room. One of my colleagues has brought in homemade biscuits and we’re all eating them, chatting together. It’s nice.
C: I hate this; the tension is killing me.
A: And one of my colleagues tells us about how her date went at the weekend. And she’s like, ‘it was terrible, he was such a child.’
C: Oh boy. Okay, I see where this is…okay, keep going.
A: She tells us about how he had all these World of Warcraft figurines and stuff, and that he told her about his roleplaying games. She was outraged; this guy was in his 30s and she couldn’t believe that he had all these childish hobbies. And I was sitting there trying to decide if I should say anything. Now I’ve told you before about how, as a teenager, I hid that I liked mainstream things because I was afraid of being judged by my friends. So, now that I’m no longer 14, I try to be vocal about the things I like, such as Ed Sheeran, because I feel bad for denying the vanilla passions of my youth.
C: You feel bad for Ed Sheeran. I think it’s very bold and kind of you to extend your feelings of empathy to him, but anyway, go ahead.
A: Look, trust me, if you give him a chance—
C: Are you quoting Ed Sheeran lyrics at me right now?
A: I may be crazy, don’t mind me—
C: Stop. Return to this car-crash of a coffee break and stop torturing me.
A: Well, anyway, I didn’t want to deny Pathfinder in the way that I’ve denied things in the past.
C: Sure. So in honour of Ed Sheeran, you stuck it to your colleague.
A: Basically yes. I told her, and everyone else there, that I’d spent my Sunday doing a roleplaying game with my friends. Not in an aggressive way, but just as a ‘hey, so you know, that thing you’re talking about, I also do it.’
C: How’d it go?
A: It was a little awkward. I killed the dating conversation. There was this clear generational divide of the under-30s being like, ‘well, I play board games’ or ‘I just got a new video game’, and everyone else kind of having nothing to say. And, to be fair to my colleague, she clarified that she was more against people incessantly talking about D&D than necessarily playing it.
C: Did you tell her about this blog?
A: Haha; no. I think it’s fair to say that, given how much we talk about D&D, neither of us would get a second date with her. But yeah, this wasn’t a conversation where I felt attacked by my workmates. It was just a moment when I realised how separate I keep D&D from other parts of my life, and I had to work out if I was okay with letting people know about it.
C: Sounds like it was a little dicey but that it turned out alright.
A: Yeah, I was maybe a little judged by my older colleagues, but that’s it. I was pretty confident before I told everyone that there wouldn’t be any spectacular fallout, my job was never going to be on the line or anything.
C: That’s something I think we should stress. I’m often frustrated by the way in which some people within the D&D or gaming community act like these groups are marginalised by the rest of society, and effectively compare it to actual bigotry and discrimination. Not only is it a gross overstatement, but that attitude feeds into this insular worldview where these groups are closed off and aggressive to newcomers, which is the opposite of how communities develop and grow. It can also lead to, like, actual bigotry.
A: Yeah, we experienced that at a board game café we went to once. It was four girls and you, and the girls got there first and the person who ran the café was very…they acted like we didn’t belong in their fun hobby-spot, and it was weird.
C: Right. So I want to be careful with regards to ‘coming out’ as a D&D player, as it doesn’t have any of the consequences that coming out in any other context has.
A: That’s true. I should emphasise that this was more of a funny-awkward moment for me, rather than palm-sweating terror at having a secret revealed. It was my choice, I felt in control, and I assume that I’m judged for my D&D in the same way as I’m judged about Ed Sheeran—people may question my taste—
C: As they perhaps should—
A: —but that’s about it. I’m okay with that judgement.
C: Right. Also I’d say that, since we run in pretty eccentric, geeky circles, we’re probably preaching to the choir when we talk about D&D most of the time. I don’t think we meet that many people who are like, ‘D&D is stupid and bad.’
A: It may be a bit of a generational thing. My parents don’t think that D&D is bad, but they don’t understand why I enjoy it so much.
C: True. I mean, I know folks in the generation above ours who have some definite misconceptions about the game. I remember I once mentioned it to a friend and they just immediately replied, ‘isn’t that the game the Columbine shooters played?’, and I guess that for a lot of people that’s just the association this game has. Which sucks. But hey, times are changing; Stranger Things came out on Netflix and all. People’s associations are moving and shaking.
A: I kind of want to call this piece ‘Rolling for Columbine’ now.
A: Okay, that’s fair.
C: I also think that—for a lot of people—contextualising D&D is about finding the familiarity: ‘Do you like Scrabble? Do you like escape rooms? Do you like murder mysteries?’ And I feel like most everyone likes at least one of those.
A: I like all of those.
C: Yeah, me too. But, even if they don’t like everything, there’s normally something you can find that they’re willing to go in for—the teamwork, the challenge, solving the clues—and you can push for that and get an understanding.
A: It can still be awkward to bring up sometimes—that first time when you drop it into conversation and watch the ripples as they process your ‘no, I do that as a serious hobby.’
C: To be honest, I’ve had the opposite experience at my work. A colleague and I were casually chatting, and they had some Harry Potter memorabilia on their desk and I was like, ‘oh, that’s cool’, and they said that they got it from an online company they saw advertised on a D&D show that they watched, and I took the not-huge leap of guesswork and asked if it was Critical Role and after that we chatted a lot about Pathfinder, which it turned out we both played. I feel like it was more them brazenly telling me about their hobby and then we bonded about it. So basically, I had a wonderful time at my workplace talking about D&D. Totally because they just owned it. So, good for them, man.
A: I’m so glad that we both got to experience these fun, sharing moments.