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Portrayal of D&D in Stranger Things 3 -some spoilers

werecorpse

Villager
I have just finished watching Stranger things 3, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and reading the recent article about increasing sales of D&D and found myself being slightly concerned about the portrayal of D&D in the latest season - if such things matter to the industry, which the article suggested they do.

In season 1 of Stranger Things D&D seemed to me to be portrayed as this fun kinda nerdy game the smart kids played in the basement but which helped them understand things like the upside down, helped them consider themselves and their friends as a party who looked after each other so they went into danger to help a lost friend. So pretty much positive.
In Season 2 it wasn’t mentioned much, it was more in the background.
In Season 3 it seemed to me to be portrayed as the thing that shows the one kid who still wants to play (Will) is out of touch with his friends, who have girlfriends & have very much moved on. He dresses up in a wizards cape and hat to try and get his friends to play and they have to explain to him that of course now that they have girlfriends they are not going to keep playing much D&D. In the end as he is moving house he throws away his D&D stuff.

To me the portrayal reinforced a lot of the bad old tropes that exist about the game and game culture. Only for kids who are out of touch with “normal kid stuff”, dorky hat and cape dress up to play, something that is not for girls (this is the one that bothers me the most) and once girls arrive it’s something you ditch. (There was a slight possibly positive in that it was suggested that the nerd hating annoying younger sister Erica was actually a bit nerdy so might like D&D, but I’m not sure how that would play as it still leans into D&D is for kiddies trope).

I don’t know if I’m right but if I was in WOTC marketing department I would be reaching out to the makers of Stranger Things (The Duffer Brothers) and asking them to in season 4 have some of the boys and girls playing the game together and have it again be portrayed in the positive light from season 1 - fun entertainment, encouraging left field thought, teaching teamwork, still enjoyed by older kids etc. & most importantly for all this that girls can play & enjoy.

Maybe I’m overthinking it.
 

LordEntrails

Explorer
Eh.

The portrayal of D&D as something you stop playing when girls showed up was true to the time period. And the gifting of the D&D books to the younger sister at the end was a positive.

Personally I wouldn't worry about it. I think most people are smart enough to realize that much of ST is a period piece. Just like all the smoking is so frequent on the series. It's true to the times, and D&D has a positive spin on it IMO when thought about. But of course, one could worry about the protrayla not being all peaches and cream, but I think that would put off more people than a truer portrayal like this one would.
 

Tony Vargas

Villager
To me the portrayal reinforced a lot of the bad old tropes that exist about the game and game culture
It's a period piece, I guess it comes with the big hair. There was some overt sexism, too - more than I honestly remember seeing in the 80s, but then, CA vs IL - though I suppose it was more obviously telegraphed as wrong.
 

GreyLord

Adventurer
So is that how the fad died?

I thought it just sort of died out like most fads do...people get excited and then eventually lose interest.

I think the surprising thing that some are finding out these days are that FAR MORE girls played than previously thought. They just didn't play it in the same manner that boys did (more in their own groups at home instead of broadcasting it far and wide publically in schools, conventions, and other places). When one doesn't feel welcome in some areas, they tend not to GO to those areas...especially when playing TT games.

It's that recognition that is sparking more realization of the numbers of girls that actually play and trying to make them more comfortable in areas where previously (gamestores, conventions, and other such things) the atmosphere could have been perceived as hostile to girls and as a boys only club.

It's an attitude that I feel is slowly changing (there is STILL a STRONG sentiment of this out there) which is making people of ALL genders and sexes (boys, girls, and others as well) feel more welcome in what were formerly locations where the feeling was that only the BOYS were welcome.
 
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Xaelvaen

Explorer
Maybe I’m overthinking it.
If you are, you aren't alone. My wife and I had this exact same conversation after we finished the most recent series. I know several people stopped playing after highschool and just found other things, but even if I could only play once a month during college, I never stopped - my wife's the same way. We weren't sure if the show was implying it was a 'kids' game, or if they were merely referencing the classic stereotype that people stopped playing, and picked it up again much later.

I will, at the moment, assume the positive from the show - that they were merely portraying a common occurrence of the time. We usually keep Netflix canceled during the rest of the year, then renew our subscription for Stranger Things - so definitely want to believe the best from these guys haha.
 

ccs

39th lv DM
I will, at the moment, assume the positive from the show - that they were merely portraying a common occurrence of the time.
Of the time? Pfft.
80's, 90's, 2k+, pre-80's, 100 years from now, whatever... This is normal life. This is how it goes. You start finding other interests (or responsibilities) & some things get shelved/discarded/scaled back to make room for the new.
I guarantee you that right now there are teens drifting away from D&D as they discover girls/boys, cars, drugs, sports or whatever else. Maybe they'll play less. Maybe never again. Maybe in 25+ years some of them will be making "Hi, returning player" posts....
 

jasper

Explorer
Oh my stars and garters people putting d&d (and other hobbies) aside because they have started dating. HOW LAST MONTH. On of my semi regulars has started dating. Dating night is same as the normal Friday game.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
To me, it rang very true. It represented the very real issue that many/most people go through at that time in their lives when their friends start dating and want to spend more time with their romantic partners and less with their group of friends. Also, that is a time of life when you start having other interests and start making friends from a larger pool than the kids in your neighborhood. If you are kid that doesn't have romantic partner yet or who is still strongly invested in the hobbies that your friends are becoming less interested in, it can be difficult.

The only thing that didn't strike me as true was the wizard costume. While cosplay, LARPing, SCA, etc. were certainly starting to take off by the mid to late 80s, I didn't know anyone who dressed up to play DnD. Not saying nobody did, but I feel confident in stating that it was rare. Having Will dress up to DM seemed to be an anachronistic nod to modern assumptions.
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
To me, it rang very true. It represented the very real issue that many/most people go through at that time in their lives when their friends start dating and want to spend more time with their romantic partners and less with their group of friends. Also, that is a time of life when you start having other interests and start making friends from a larger pool than the kids in your neighborhood. If you are kid that doesn't have romantic partner yet or who is still strongly invested in the hobbies that your friends are becoming less interested in, it can be difficult.

The only thing that didn't strike me as true was the wizard costume. While cosplay, LARPing, SCA, etc. were certainly starting to take off by the mid to late 80s, I didn't know anyone who dressed up to play DnD. Not saying nobody did, but I feel confident in stating that it was rare. Having Will dress up to DM seemed to be an anachronistic nod to modern assumptions.
Yeah, this: similarly, Dustin was left holding the ham radio geek bag while his friends blew him off, which had been a big deal for all four the first season. Will and Dustin even blow off each other's hobby passions this time around for their own.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Yeah, the behavior was exactly the same as my experiences as a teen in the 80s. However, no one I knew wore a costume either. That was the only thing that seemed off.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The only thing that didn't strike me as true was the wizard costume. While cosplay, LARPing, SCA, etc. were certainly starting to take off by the mid to late 80s, I didn't know anyone who dressed up to play DnD. Not saying nobody did, but I feel confident in stating that it was rare. Having Will dress up to DM seemed to be an anachronistic nod to modern assumptions.
It is perhaps as much a nod to him being... a tad desperate. Look at the past two seasons, what that kid went through. Consider how much of life (and growing up) he's missed just dealing with all that crud and the repercussions. He, very desperately, wants things to be *NORMAL*. Which, to him, is still hanging out in the game room with his friends playing games. They aren't interested. So, what does he do? Try to up production values! Careful battlemaps, costumes, all the bells and whistles he can, to get their attention and company.

What's not true about that?

Remember - the show is about the characters first, not about all the things it references first.
 

Parmandur

Adventurer
It is perhaps as much a nod to him being... a tad desperate. Look at the past two seasons, what that kid went through. Consider how much of life (and growing up) he's missed just dealing with all that crud and the repercussions. He, very desperately, wants things to be *NORMAL*. Which, to him, is still hanging out in the game room with his friends playing games. They aren't interested. So, what does he do? Try to up production values! Careful battlemaps, costumes, all the bells and whistles he can, to get their attention and company.

What's not true about that?

Remember - the show is about the characters first, not about all the things it references first.
Also, it was *hilarious*, and I'm sure some folks were already mixing in costumes in 1985.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Also, it was *hilarious*, and I'm sure some folks were already mixing in costumes in 1985.
Yes, it was. I liked the Neverending Story bit even more, but it was funny.

So, true story...

Long before I met my wife, she played D&D. It was a time with many missionary types going door-to-door to try to entice people to come to their religious congregations.

My wife's group was playing one day, when missionary types rang the doorbell. The group wasn't playing in costume, but... well, they owned cloaks. And an athame. Throw on the cloak, pick up the athame, and the family cat and answer the door....

I think this sort of thing drove the impressions of gaming in character more than anythign else, because I expect this was hardly the only such story - dressing up not to play, but to freak out or cheese off some one else.
 

MarkB

Adventurer
The only thing that didn't strike me as true was the wizard costume. While cosplay, LARPing, SCA, etc. were certainly starting to take off by the mid to late 80s, I didn't know anyone who dressed up to play DnD. Not saying nobody did, but I feel confident in stating that it was rare. Having Will dress up to DM seemed to be an anachronistic nod to modern assumptions.
To me, it just seemed like part of Will's all-in effort to draw his friends back into the game. There didn't appear to be any suggestion that he dressed up like that whenever they played.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
It is perhaps as much a nod to him being... a tad desperate. Look at the past two seasons, what that kid went through. Consider how much of life (and growing up) he's missed just dealing with all that crud and the repercussions. He, very desperately, wants things to be *NORMAL*. Which, to him, is still hanging out in the game room with his friends playing games. They aren't interested. So, what does he do? Try to up production values! Careful battlemaps, costumes, all the bells and whistles he can, to get their attention and company.

What's not true about that?

Remember - the show is about the characters first, not about all the things it references first.
To me, it just seemed like part of Will's all-in effort to draw his friends back into the game. There didn't appear to be any suggestion that he dressed up like that whenever they played.
I don't think it's the desire on Will's part that's in question. Rather, this was 1985. You couldn't exactly just order a wizard costume and special effects soundtrack via Amazon then. It is small town america. Even if they had a craft store with the proper materials, it would take a long time to get them made. kinda like how last season the Ghost Busters costumes were way out of period, and way more detailed than anything you saw in 1985.

Remember, in 1985 these were typical costumes:

ben-cooper-halloween-costumes.jpg
 

Xaelvaen

Explorer
Of the time? Pfft.
80's, 90's, 2k+, pre-80's, 100 years from now, whatever... This is normal life. This is how it goes. You start finding other interests (or responsibilities) & some things get shelved/discarded/scaled back to make room for the new.
I guarantee you that right now there are teens drifting away from D&D as they discover girls/boys, cars, drugs, sports or whatever else. Maybe they'll play less. Maybe never again. Maybe in 25+ years some of them will be making "Hi, returning player" posts....
Touche - I'm sure it is still just as common globally. In truth, even having started playing in the 80s, I never experienced this, or had friends experience this - been with my same group since 99 (Good grief, 20 years this November). There've been plenty of times I could play once a month, or times when I could only play with one or two of my group - wasn't even the game that made us fight for it so hard, to be honest - it was the company during the game.

Could also be that we're 3 sets of married couples playing the game together. Funny how life works out... from time to time.
 
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pogre

Adventurer
We got around it in high school in the 1980s with our schedule. Fridays were for football and basketball games. Saturdays were for dating and girlfriends. Sundays were the boys' D&D session. Our girlfriends just considered it our "boys' time." Sadly, we never considered including the girls in our gaming sessions. It was not until college that we played with more women. We never completely set aside TTRPGs though.
 

pogre

Adventurer
One other thing, when I was watching episode two when Joyce (Winona Ryder) goes to visit the science teacher Mr. Clarke he is shown sitting painting a miniature with magnifier lenses on. Which is exactly what I was doing while watching. I just sat back, pushed up my magnifier lenses, and laughed at that. There is a key difference though - I'm a history teacher! ;)
 

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