Dungeons & Dragons: How fantasy can build human skills

(Photo courtesy of Lily Arama)

By Lori Fusak

Dungeons & Dragons is not a typical board game. Rather, it is an adventure filled with fantasy role-playing. Pick a character, roll the dice and dive into a world of fantasy where no one is too old to use their imagination.

While Dungeons & Dragons involves everyday skills, it is also builds community. One group in Chandler dedicates four to five hours every Tuesday evening to fantasy role-playing. This group of people all share a common bond which is their passion for Dungeons & Dragons.

Michael Hill, one of the team members, said that this fantasy game builds community. He said, “The people I play with on a weekly basis is made up of his in laws and their friends from work. Since I started, we are now all friends and it’s solely because of Dungeons & Dragons.”

The Dungeons & Dragon’s main website describes the game as a fantasy fiction game filled with a mix of adventure, strategy dice-rolling and story-telling. This explanation gives a taste of what this game is all about, but there is much more.

Teamwork is a major component to Dungeons & Dragons. Without it, the game can fall apart. Similar to the work field, players can be expected to work in a team, be cooperative and build relationships with those they interact with.

The Dungeons & Dragons website presents a timeline, starting in 1967 and going through 2014, the explains how the game has become the game it is today. That is over 40 years of teamwork, passion and imagination.

According to the article Dungeons & Dragons Strike Back published by The Boston Globe, “an estimated 20 million people have played the game and spent at least $1 billion on its products since D&D’s early days.” The article reported the number of people playing has fluctuated over the past 40 years, but, as of 2014, the numbers are booming.

James Arama, the Dungeon Master who leads the game, described his group as a community where you create friendships and memories based on fantastical adventures you go on without ever leaving your room.

Benjamin Deem, another player, considers Dungeons & Dragons not only a game but a community. He said, in real life, it’s a way for people to socialize and build friendships. It’s also a way for people who might have different interests, outside of a shared interest of Dungeons & Dragons, to step outside their normal social circles and forge friendships.

He said that in the game, there are many different races and classes of characters with differing belief systems and traditions who must work together to accomplish a shared goal. It’s also a great way to escape from the stresses of life and have fun for a few hours a week.

Not only does Dungeons & Dragons build community, but also can build human skills for everyday life.

Laura Reed, another player said that this game definitely encourages people to use deductive reasoning skills that you can use outside of the game. In other words, this game also involves using logic even though it is a game full of fantasy.

Megan Arama, James Arama’s wife, said that as a mom she has noticed that this game builds a child’s skills.

“As an adult, I don’t really see these skills being built in myself, but what I do see is my perspective of diverse opinions widening. I am learning what drives others in a more overt way that can help me understand other people in real life better,” she said.

This game involves being open-minded. The Dungeon Master can throw out curveballs toward anyone, and it is important that the player reacts and responds in a creative way.

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About 350 people responded to our survey asking players of the fantasy game to share what it means to them. This graphic was inspired by the responses. (Graphic by Lori Fusak/PIN Bureau)

For example, imagine a character is walking down a dirt road enjoying the beautiful scenery of the forest when, all of a sudden, the character is told by the Dungeon Master that he stepped in sticky mud and can no longer move. The character would need to think fast and tell the Dungeon Master what he needs to do in order to get out of the sticky mud. Depending on the character, one may have a special power to help them survive.

This game has really helped team member Lily Arama grow in patience and has improved working in groups for her school projects at Arizona State University.  She learned that sometimes achieving an objective takes time, and there can be various roadblocks to achieving that objective that have to be dealt with patiently while being sensitive to others around you.

Going back to the sticky mud scenario, if Lily Arama was stuck in the mud and did not have a special power to free her, she would need to be patient and wait till her next turn to ask the Dungeon Master about her options for escaping. Scenarios like these are helping Lily Arama apply skills from Dungeons & Dragons to the classrooms at ASU.

“Cooperation is incredible when people are actually willing to do so! It’s also widened my perception of people in general,” Lily Arama said.

She also said she is less quick to judge because, depending on the day, you can see different sides of people. This game has really taught her how to get to know people and accept them for their faults and their talents, realizing that you have your own issues.

Dungeons & Dragons shows that life lessons can be learned, even through a game a fantasy. It might be a stretch depending on the scenario, but it is possible to find reality within fantasy.