A tale of dungeons and dragons

The teacher describes the benefits of the role-playing phenomenon

By Gabriel Drouin | Observer Contributor

Dungeons and Dragons, also known as D&D, has often been portrayed as satanic due to the monstrous art on the cover of its books, but is now becoming the savior for many, acting as a safe outlet for creativity, l self-expression and even therapy. Dice rollers young and old have been involved in the game for decades, since its inception in 1974.

It’s hard to believe that a game that in recent years has become so widely popular was once considered literal evil. Some even believed that by playing the game, you opened yourself up to demonic possession. Oddly enough, battling demons can be a common occurrence for heroes in a D&D game.

For many years, D&D was considered a game that only social outcasts could play. Stereotypes of geeks drinking Mountain Dew and slashing Cheetos while hiding in their parents’ basements were commonplace whenever D&D was mentioned. Of course, people of all kinds play D&D and always have, even superstars like Vin Diesel and Joe Manganiello.

D&D’s growing popularity has had more benefits than just a growing range of inclusions; it is also used to help people therapeutically. A quick Google search turns up countless articles about its effectiveness and how more and more therapists, like Michael Keady, are using D&D to help their patients.

Andrew P. David, a special education teacher in the Athol school system and a certified behavior technician who specializes in helping children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder), uses the skills he learned playing D&D to better connect with their students. Playing D&D fosters improvisation and quick thinking skills, useful skills for any educator. As D&D is a team-oriented game, it also helps develop a sense of trust and the ability to foster trust in others.

David pointed out that his own daughter has ASD and that playing D&D together has helped their relationship grow immensely. D&D’s collaborative storytelling gives them a rubric to use their imaginations together in a productive and engaging way, which can be challenging for anyone with ASD.

When asked about his thoughts on officially using D&D as a mental health aid, David said, “When we create a character, even if it’s a work of fiction, it always reveals a truth about ourselves, whether or not we mean… Everything you create and write is part of you. This not only reveals to the professional involved what the individual may need help with, but also allows them to express a part of themselves that they might otherwise keep locked away in an unhealthy way.

David’s interactions with D&D go beyond the personal and the professional, bordering on the religious as well. Although stating that he himself is not a religious man, his wife is devoutly Catholic and also plays D&D. After being asked if the topics of D&D and religion intersect in his life, David replied, “Not at all; it is a matter of understanding. In the past there have been a lot of misunderstandings, I think, but we (David and his wife) understand that it’s just a pretend game. Despite the negative connotations surrounding D&D’s past, recent scholarship and long-standing personal accounts have shown that role-playing offers a healthy outlet for anyone looking for a means of self-expression, an imaginative exercise, or a fun night out that allows friends and family to connect.

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