Art & Arcana Talks About Why They Love D&D

The following is a video transcript

Todd Kenreck: Art & Arcana is the definitive book on the art of D&D. So I talked to the creators about why they love this game so much.

Kyle Newman: I think people are looking for connection right now. And there's so much talk about the digital era and the isolation and how we're not really connected. And I think Dungeons & Dragons speaks to that in some way. It's an analog game, although we're seeing it played digitally, but even then, it's bringing people together globally. And for the first time it's being played digitally, but in its native format, which is socially, with people collaborating and telling a story. I think that's why it's exploding right now.

Jon Peterson: Back in the 1970s and 80s, there was a learning curve to do D&D. You had to understand things like experience points and levels and hit points, and know what monsters were like, and I think what's happened is, in part, that brats like me who grew up on those kinds of games, learning those principles from computer games, they no longer hit a speed bump when they try to play D&D. That's all stuff that you just understand if you grew up in American culture in this time. But what people have discovered is that, if you go back to these original tabletop tools, you could have a very different experience than you can with a computer game that uses these principles, because you get to have the game be your own way. I love computer games, I play all the big franchises of computer games, but those stories have to cast a wide net. They're there for a lot of people to get engaged with. But when you sit down with your friends to play D&D, only the people sitting around your table have to love that story. It's their story. They all make it together.

Sam Witwer: The biggest barrier for entry when it comes to playing D&D is simply, what is it? I mean, you could say, "Well, you make a character and there's a guy, and he's the dungeon master, and then your character, you tell him what to do ..." It's a very muddled explanation. I've tried to describe to people what role playing games are, and it's very hard to describe. But once you do it, or once you've seen it done, you go, "Oh, I know what that is. Yeah, that's like playing cops and robbers."

Sam Witwer: It's very simple. The concept, it just sinks in immediately. So, the fact that we have these streaming platforms and people can go, "Oh, what's Dungeons & Dragons?", type a few things up on the computer and then watch a game? That's a huge ... it's eliminating a barrier to entry. People can learn about what the game is instantaneously these days, in a way that they couldn't, even a few years back. So, I think it's simply: the game was always great, it's just that now people know that this is an option available to them in terms of entertainment and storytelling.

Michael Witwer: One thing is, nothing has ever changed. It's still 'let's pretend', right? It's still fundamentally a game where you sit down with your friends and you go through a group storytelling exercise with them, where you are all experiencing something together that's very unique, right? I think, and I've talked about this before, this notion that ... how many traditional friendships have this concept where you share these shared imaginary experiences with, where you go storm dungeons, and you survive terrible things, or maybe you don't survive terrible things. But you have this shared experience together, and you carry that with you, and that carries over into your interpersonal relationship outside of the game. Again, I think it's a remarkable opportunity that is really pretty hard to recreate in any other context. Sitting around a table with your friends, playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Kyle Newman: It's 'have fun'. You don't have to read the book. It's not daunting. You don't have to know everything. You can learn it as you go, as much as you need to, to make it fulfilling for you. You might just need to read the four pages on a Rogue, or the four pages on a Wizard. But you don't have to be overwhelmed by the idea of this giant manuscript in your face. I think, just come in with an idea of what you'd like to do, what you think would be fun to explore, and just go have fun.

Sam Witwer: I wanna be creative. I wanna be creative with other people. I wanna tell stories with my friends, and it doesn't matter that me and my friends are the only audience for that story. We're being creative, and we're relating to each other and having a hell of a lot of fun. And that is the essence of what I do for a living in terms of entertainment, in terms of storytelling. These are things that I love deeply, and I feel like it is more valid to do this and not get paid for it, than rather wait for the phone to ring and have someone hire me to tell a story. No, I would rather just sit around with my friends and tell a cool story that we talk about years later, that's our own little private cinema of the mind.

Todd Kenreck: Thank you everyone for being on the show. I'm Todd Kenreck, thank you for watching.


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