D&D General 2010: A Turning Point for D&D

Dungeons & Dragons is now so dominant in popular culture that actual play streams have become full-fledged cartoons, gamers have become the target of fast food chains with serious marketing muscle, and major studios squabbled over movie rights. But thanks to the lingering effects of the Satanic Panic in the 80s, D&D was treated warily at best and openly hostile at worst by the media just a decade ago. Three data points from 2010 show just how far we've come.

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

That Time CareerBuilder Said D&D Was Bad for Your Resume
CareerBuilder posted "outrageous and common mistakes" candidates make in job interviews according to a new survey. Among the unusual blunders hiring managers encountered, they reported that:
Candidate used Dungeons and Dragons as an example of teamwork.
This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive© on behalf of CareerBuilder.com among 2,720 hiring managers (employed full-time; not self-employed; non-government) ages 18 and over between November 5 and November 23, 2009. Of course, it's never appropriate to bring up an irrelevant example in an interview. However, the manager specifically citing D&D as a "blunder" because it's used as an example of teamwork. There's no disputing that there's an appropriate time and place to discuss D&D. But managers could do a lot worse than hire a role-player.

That Time Playing D&D Meant You Were "Undateable"
With the release of Undateable: 311 Things Men Do That Guarantee They Won't Be Dating or Having Sex, the authors compiled dating deal-breakers from hundreds of women, as a sort of "Don't" list for men who were interested in dating women. Chief among them was playing Dungeons & Dragons, listed as a "storm cloud" (one step above a red flag, and a step below "not getting any"):
189. PLAY DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Telling a girl you're a "Dungeon Master" might freak her out. Just a thought. INSIDE TIP: This also applies to online versions of the game, like World of Warcraft. Now you're just a digital dork.
If the authors didn't make it clear that gamers weren't worth dating, there was this exchange, from an interview with Elle magazine:
Anne Coyle: Can I add one more? Okay, I think I would have a nervous breakdown if someone took me to a Medieval Times festival.
Ellen Rakieten: “Hey Anne, do you wanna go on a Star Trek convention on our first date?”AC: I mean, I would be a wreck.
The press tour for the book included ABC's Good Morning America, The New York Post, and Oprah.com.

That Time the Boston Herald Blamed D&D for Murder
Amy Bishop, a professor of biology at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, opened fire at a faculty meeting, killing three of her colleagues. Boston Herald reporter Laurel J. Sweet described the attacks this way:
Accused campus killer Amy Bishop was a devotee of Dungeons & Dragons - just like Michael “Mucko” McDermott, the lone gunman behind the devastating workplace killings at Edgewater Technology in Wakefield in 2000.
According to Sweet, Bishop and her husband James Anderson met in a D&D club while biology students at Northeastern University in the early 1980s and were "heavily into the fantasy role-playing board game," according to the Boston Herald's anonymous source. “They even acted this crap out." Sweet tried to connect Bishop's motivation for murder to Dungeons & Dragons by using the McDermott case as a precedent.
The popular fantasy role-playing game has a long history of controversy, with objections raised to its demonic and violent elements. Some experts have cited the D&D backgrounds of people who were later involved in violent crimes, while others say it just a game.
The McDermott case had little connection to Dungeons & Dragons. Yes, McDermott did have D&D books in his possession. He also had computer equipment, a will, gun cases and ammunition, a passport, blasting caps, bomb-making literature and three gallons of liquid nitric acid. McDermott never blamed D&D for the killings.

Looking back, it's clear 2010 was the nadir of D&D's presence in popular culture. In fact, it seems more likely that the existing media establishment wasn't reacting well to the rising popularity of geeks who thought including game experience on a resume or as part of their dating profile was entirely normal. It would take a few years before the narrative would change, and for that we can only be grateful.
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

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But .... how can you have any street cred if you actually LIKE the thing you're a supposed fan of?

"So, uh, you like Doctor Who?"


"Me too! I really liked Matt Smith!"

"Oh ... I'm sorry. You like .... NU WHO? Hmmmph. Who just hasn't been the same since they went all 'pop' with Tom Baker."

Yeah, I liked Pertwee the most.

The difference between D&D in 2010 and now going into 2020 is pretty vast, and we find ourselves in a much better place. I'll also point out that in 2010, these were the products released:

25120 Player's Handbook Races: Dragonborn
25121 Underdark
25122 HS1 The Slaying Stone (Formerly The Reavers of Harkenwold, Part 1 of 3 Part Adventure)
25123 Martial Powers 2
25464 Divine Power Avenger Power Cards
25465 Divine Power Cleric Power Cards
18255 Divine Power Invoker Power Cards
18256 Divine Power Paladin Power Cards
18259 Divine Power Card Display (For retailers and not a Game Accessory)
25354 Three-Dragon Ante: Emperor's Gambit (Updated Card Game)
25151 DU6 Harrowing Halls (Dungeon Tiles)
25124 Player's Handbook 3
25519 Hammerfast (Dwarven Village Campaign Setting)
25126 The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea
25031 Dungeon Magazine Annual
25382 Dungeons & Dragons Player's Strategy Guide
25152 Dungeon Tiles: Desert of Athas
25383 Player's Handbood Races: Tieflings
25384 Monster Manual 3
19886 Dungteon Tiles Master Set: The Dungeon
19740 Vur Rukoth: An Ancient Ruins Adventure Site
25386 Demonicon
25125 HS2 Orcs of Stonefang Pass (Adventure)
25385 Tomb of Horrors (Adventure)
20779 Castle Ravenloft (Boardgame)
24469 Dungeons & Dragons Dice Set
21094 Psionic Power
24446 Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy RPG Boxed Set
24753 Rules Compendium
24752 Player's Essentials: Heroes of the Fallen Lands
21443 Dungeon Tiles Master Set: The City
24464 Dungeon Master's Kit
21442 Wrath of Ashardalon (Boardgame, released pushed to February 2011)
24465 Monster Vault
24751 Player's Essentials: Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms (do not confuse with Forgotten Realms)
24467 Dungeon Tiles Master Set: The Wilderness

I think I bought maybe three of these?


In the late '80s/early '90s the game were still mostly unknown here (Hungary, eastern block), with a few people actually having books. The first Hungarian RPG just came out around that time. But we were still seen as weirdos. By the end of the '90s while the nerd/geek status remained, there were enough people to hang out, have thriving online communities and well-stocked stores.
I kind of disappeared for a while from the scene, and mostly followed the events on forums, translating d20 stuff, etc. (by the way I never lied about my hobby, and somehow I still got married, maybe she had not read the relevant dating articles)
I'm teaching at an university and I ask student if they play (just for my curiosity). Very few did. But last year they actually invited me to play with them, and now it seems there are a growing number of them. So the hobby is going strong. I hope it will further strengthen by the release of 5e in Hungarian this year.

I think what the author is seeing is the last gasps of anti-D&D sentiment as it was in the process of going mainstream. TTRPGs had been gaining broader acceptance since the 90s, when new-wave and Storyteller games began to give it a more sophisticated (less teenage-boys & pseudo-violence), even a literary air. And the steady mainstreaming of nerd culture had also been ongoing since at least the 90s. We saw D&D cropping up on television early in the oughts, it was featured in nerd-culture-celebrating Big Bang Theory in 8 episodes from 2009 until it's final season, and on mainstream hit Community.

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