Updated: Mar 18
I grew up playing card games and board games like Monopoly, Yahtzee, Clue and Life. What was supposed to be “Wholesome family gaming,” had us gathered around the table trying to dominate, destroy and mostly win. Then arcade and home video games appeared, ushering in a new gaming era. I was all in! I went gleefully from pinball to Space Invaders to Defender. Zork and then Might & Magic took me through college. That whole time I was competing against myself and occasionally “AAA” ( the anonymous top gamer) in the arcades.
My first pen and paper table top gaming experience came in the early 90s after college when I first tried table top role playing games (TTRPGs) like Dungeons and Dragons (D&D or DnD), Vampire and Werewolf. I was hooked.
What is playing DnD like?
Playing D&D is about people coming together to have fun. There is no losing or being embarrassed by displaying a poor board game strategy. Hanging out with a group of people on shared missions is much more fun than video gaming because you explore, interact and create worlds together, all while depending on each other to survive. I still play video games (at the time of this editing I am passing level 8 in “Far Cry 6”) and plan on playing for a looong time. But TTRPGs are better than video games and will always be at the center of my gaming life.
Why are TTRPGs good for kids?
TTRPGs are terrific games for both adults and kids. TTRPGs are social; they are cooperative rather than competitive, and they foster imagination, collaboration and exploration. D&D is a group storytelling game, with no real winning or losing. D&D gaming with a group is entirely immersive and engaging. Even if you play virtually, you are still in the game with others. You can never forget about the real people behind the characters they control in-game. If a member of your group makes a bad choice, they are still part of the adventuring team. You don’t shout insults, the way some people might if they were playing a video game online anonymously, behind the mask of a screen name, trying to annihilate someone or something. This "rage gaming" is too common among video gamers. (Check out my post "How to Raise a Video Gamer")
Are there benefits to playing?
TTRPGs can increase a person’s self-confidence, self-esteem and social and emotional growth, skills which are not always taught in schools. Playing D&D can also help with the measured academic skills like reading, writing and mathematics. I have never asked or required writing from my players, but many players write out lengthy backstories on their characters. My own 13-year-old son shocked me last summer by writing a one-page adventure on his own. (It might have been the first time he’s written anything not assigned by a teacher!) At Adventuring Portal, our D&D gaming focuses around teamwork, bravery, compassion, generosity, negotiation, improvisation, gamer etiquette, strategy, critical thinking, problem solving, cartography and probability.
In D&D, children have the opportunity to take on the persona of an adult. They get to try out some adult responsibilities in a safe environment. They learn to deal with characters strengths and weaknesses, make adult choices and decisions, learn from mistakes, and imagine the great adventures in their futures.
D&D claims it is “the world’s greatest roleplaying game.” I agree. It has both a long history of play, and continues to evolve to meet the needs of today’s players. Dungeons and Dragons is a long-format game where you can grow your character, have exciting adventures and bond with your group during shared experiences.
Paul Lazrow (he / him)
Founder and Storyteller
Enya, Wood Elf Druid (player art)