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

Arilyn

Explorer
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.
This is what I was thinking too. Will, trying to get back to the way things were, before the real monsters showed up...and girl friends.😮 At the end, Mike tells Will that be can find a new group, but Will rejects this. He'll play with his friends, but he's not going to look for a new D&D group in his new town. This fits Will's character. To me, this is exactly how Will would react.

I wonder what the effect of dealing with real monsters in your town, especially after losing people you know to these horrors, would have on playing D&D? Need it more for escapism? Not wanting it because it's too close to what you've gone through for real? Don't need game monsters cause dealt with real thing? No real effect at all, because D&D is just a game?
 

MarkB

Adventurer
I wonder what the effect of dealing with real monsters in your town, especially after losing people you know to these horrors, would have on playing D&D? Need it more for escapism? Not wanting it because it's too close to what you've gone through for real? Don't need game monsters cause dealt with real thing? No real effect at all, because D&D is just a game?
The same as when someone with real-world experience of any niche subject encounters it in a game or movie - they find themselves getting hyper-critical of the lack of verisimilitude with which DMs who haven't encountered real monsters portray them in game, and having (or failing) to restrain themselves from correcting the more obvious mistakes.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
This is what I was thinking too. Will, trying to get back to the way things were, before the real monsters showed up...and girl friends.😮 At the end, Mike tells Will that be can find a new group, but Will rejects this. He'll play with his friends, but he's not going to look for a new D&D group in his new town. This fits Will's character. To me, this is exactly how Will would react.

I wonder what the effect of dealing with real monsters in your town, especially after losing people you know to these horrors, would have on playing D&D? Need it more for escapism? Not wanting it because it's too close to what you've gone through for real? Don't need game monsters cause dealt with real thing? No real effect at all, because D&D is just a game?
They probably all have some serious PTSD and the last thing they want to do is relive those experiences in a game. It’s a reason I avoided modern combat rpgs for years. Just had no appeal whatsoever and would give me a cold empty feeling just thinking about it
 

werecorpse

Villager
My point is that D&D was largely portrayed in ST3 as something young kids do, that it’s expected that you will quit it when you hit age 16 & also that girls don’t participate in it. I consider that portrayal has a few negatives. The wizard suit is additionally a portrayal that reinforces negative stereotypes. Many of you may feel that it’s mostly an accurate portrayal. I don’t think it’s manifestly inaccurate but there are many ways you can portray a hobby. When it was portrayed positively in ST1 WOTC considered it enough of a positive to produce a Stranger Things D&D boxed set. I suspect they were right and it was a positive boost. My concern is they should be wary this doesn’t undo some of that good press. It’s done now but it wouldn’t hurt them to try and get some positive product placement in ST4. Maybe some sponsorship dollars to have Max playing D&D with Dustin, Mike and Lucas etc.

I thoroughly enjoy the series and agree it’s about the characters etc. The D&D portrayal is a tiny element of the series. But my only point is about the way in which D&D is portrayed in ST3 vs ST1. I accept that the creative decision of having Will begin to seperate from the rest during the season with his attachment to the hobby may have foreshadowed his eventual leaving & the talk he got from Mike about “what did you expect, we’ve grown up” was followed through with Will ditching his D&D gear to symbolise him maybe growing up, which also enabled Dustin to pass it on the Erica etc. All good stuff. Yay storyline, characters etc. So maybe the answer is, yes it was portrayed that way to serve a bigger creative purpose in the same way sometimes young skateboarders are portrayed as punk kids. My point is more that D&D doesn’t get heaps of exposure to the uninitiated and this might encourage 15/16 year olds to ditch rather than pick up the game.

I thought the ham radio scene wasn’t comparable, it didn’t portray that hobby as a kids thing one should ditch now that you are a bit older - though it was used to show some changes and the effects of girlfriends on the group. It showed that Mike and Elle were always ditching the group to go away and make out. This was commented on as being what they did all summer. The rest of the group stayed with Dustin, helped him assemble the radio antenna but eventually left when he was trying but failing to contact Suzy, leaving him still trying when it got dark. When he complained about being ditched by his friends to Steve he was sympathetic (he didn’t diminish the hobby) & when he brought it up with the group they apologised. But really, what more could they (apart from Mike & Elle) do apart from sit next to him while he failed to contact Suzy.
 

Dire Bare

Adventurer
Dude.

In the 80s, very few middle-school girls DID participate in D&D. And having 2 of the boys prioritize "girl problems" over D&D is very realistic. It isn't "Stranger Things" job to portray D&D, or anything, in a positive light, although I feel they have throughout all 3 seasons. You are taking this way out of proportion.

D&D isn't getting "bad press" from Stranger Things at all, including season 3. The Stranger Things/D&D boxed set came out to support this season, not seasons past.

You are looking for insult where none is offered, and playing into a D&D fan stereotype, the overly sensitive and easily outraged fan.

Still, in season 4, it would be cool to see the whole gang playing D&D together!
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
This is what I was thinking too. Will, trying to get back to the way things were, before the real monsters showed up...and girl friends.😮 At the end, Mike tells Will that be can find a new group, but Will rejects this. He'll play with his friends, but he's not going to look for a new D&D group in his new town. This fits Will's character. To me, this is exactly how Will would react.

I wonder what the effect of dealing with real monsters in your town, especially after losing people you know to these horrors, would have on playing D&D? Need it more for escapism? Not wanting it because it's too close to what you've gone through for real? Don't need game monsters cause dealt with real thing? No real effect at all, because D&D is just a game?
It depends upon the person. Different people react to things differently. Given the number of people from the military, who have seen real action, that I've played both D&D and also TTRPGs set in more modern settings with, I would say that there are plenty of people that would still enjoy--and may even find it therapeutic--to role play things that they have some real-world experience with. Others would not.

I think it would be less about whether someone who liked TTRPGs, and who thenexperienced real s**t, would still play TTRPGs and more about whether they would want to avoid certain scenarios.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
The same as when someone with real-world experience of any niche subject encounters it in a game or movie - they find themselves getting hyper-critical of the lack of verisimilitude with which DMs who haven't encountered real monsters portray them in game, and having (or failing) to restrain themselves from correcting the more obvious mistakes.
Yes, though such people can grow out of that, I did. I don't have any experience with the level or horror that, say, someone who has been in a war may have. But I remember getting critical and trying for verisimilitude when it came to wilderness travel and survival after a couple summers with the Student Conservation Association. Also, having some experience with firearms, I have to try hard not to roll my eyes at how certain players depict their character's use of them in games.

But as I aged, I realized it is just a game and that I should chill the hell out.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
It depends upon the person. Different people react to things differently. Given the number of people from the military, who have seen real action, that I've played both D&D and also TTRPGs set in more modern settings with, I would say that there are plenty of people that would still enjoy--and may even find it therapeutic--to role play things that they have some real-world experience with. Others would not.

I think it would be less about whether someone who liked TTRPGs, and who thenexperienced real s**t, would still play TTRPGs and more about whether they would want to avoid certain scenarios.
Everyone is different, I'll give you that. I've long held a saying (even if it's not related to RPGs): "For vets who have seen war, when they return home, they either become more of pacifist liberals, or the become right wingers infatuated with weapons. Centrists are lost in war." That's a bit hyperbolic, but only a bit. With RPGs, I'm not sure if I'd call it therapeutic though. You either avoid the modern combat ones, or you embrace it as much as you can. It's kinda hard to explain, but I'll try. This might be a bit lengthy.

RPGs are (or at least were when I was in) pretty popular in the military. We played them a lot. Of all genres, although D&D and Vampire were the most popular when I was in. So that's the baseline. Playing in a fantasy land, where you encounter things that you would never encounter in real life had a clear distinction of separation from reality. In a lot of ways, this is good, especially if real life sucks. It's escapism. We even played modern RPGs (I even designed one we played).

And then you go to a war zone. You see things up close and personal, like dead bullet riddled bodies laying in the ditch that have been there for days. Or bodies blown apart. Or seeing your good friend's head suffer an extreme fatal head trauma only a few feet away from you, or the mass graves, or the sounds of bullets whizzing by while you're trying to take cover behind anything you can, even if it's a piece of helicopter sheet metal you know won't stop anything but you do anyway.

That changes things. RPGs are descriptive and narrative. So when you go back to playing a modern combat rpg, and the GM has to describe the scenario? Yeah, it's not a good thing. For years just the thought of playing a modern combat rpg made me a bit ill. Fantasy rpgs were perfectly fine for some reason, but not modern ones. I play them now, because over the past 20 years there's been a lot of rationalization and coming to grips, and my PTSD was pretty minor.

So then why would a combat vet still play them then right after? Many reasons. For some, maybe it brings back feelings or flashbacks of trying to capture the rush of combat they had experienced in real life. For others, they still are in a "fight fight fight" mental state combined with fear and anger, and need a release. And for others still, they need to keep remembering. This last one is a lot of what I experienced. For years (and still going on), whenever I tell people that I still think about once a week of my experiences (above and beyond any trigger, or dreams that also happen), they look at me funny and say, "If it was so bad, why do you keep intentionally thinking about it?" And my answer is the same, "Because I lost friends. They didn't make it home. I did. I can't allow myself to forget them. Going through re-living the experience is a small price to pay to remember them compared to what they gave up."

Anyway, as it relates to ST, if a bunch of teenagers experienced what they experienced in season 1 and 2, where their fantasy D&D world became reality, it would make perfect sense for them to not want to play D&D. I suspect that isn't the case because the show never addressed that. Instead, I suspect it was the case based on what usually happens (at least in the 80s where it totally happened to my gaming group when our gaming went from every couple days in Jr. High to once a month or so in high school): As you get older, hormones take over and girls become a priority, and you become more mobile (as soon as someone gets a car, that opens a whole new world).

Yes, though such people can grow out of that, I did. I don't have any experience with the level or horror that, say, someone who has been in a war may have. But I remember getting critical and trying for verisimilitude when it came to wilderness travel and survival after a couple summers with the Student Conservation Association. Also, having some experience with firearms, I have to try hard not to roll my eyes at how certain players depict their character's use of them in games.

But as I aged, I realized it is just a game and that I should chill the hell out.
Most of my nitpicking of realism is against movies that utterly suck (I couldn't watch 10 minutes of San Andreas because I yelled at the screen "Helicopters can't do that! Not even close!") So yeah, I'm guilty lol. With games, I am a bit, but I understand with games you have to give up a lot of realism in order to make the game work and flow. Believe me, I've written RPGs that factor in all kinds of realism (ballistics, ammo types, weapons types, etc) and I ended up with pages and pages of charts and tables and it just slowed the game way up to be unplayable. So with games, I'm a lot more chill.
 

GameOgre

Explorer
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.
If the show skipped ahead a few years in highschool they prob started playing again off and on again and that carried over into college before dying again.
Then fast forward once more till they all have wives and kids of their own and suddenly...the game flares back up and continues from then on.

Mostly when you are young you don't realize how important rpg's can be. It's something fun that you are doing ...like almost everything else you do for fun. It's not till much later when you realize just how much fun it was and how much you missed it once it was gone.

That's my take anyway.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Also, back to the OP, I think it's important to know that ST isn't an ad for D&D. The show isn't there to put D&D into any positive light. It's only there to further the plot or to be used as background filler, that's it.
 

Warmaster Horus

Registered User
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:

View attachment 107494
Speak for yourself. There were plenty of cos-play quality Halloween costumes back then.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Speak for yourself. There were plenty of cos-play quality Halloween costumes back then.
Not in small town America owned and created by teenagers. IF there were plenty, then I'm sure there would some evidence of it, yes? Instead, what we do have, is evidence like the photo I showed earlier. You didn't order materials online. Didn't exist. If you were lucky enough to have a catalog, it was still 6-8 weeks for delivery. So not only in small town America don't you have access to the materials to begin with, but you also didn't have the shared community of being able to look things up and learn techniques. You also didn't have access to vacuum machines, and engineered materials and paints like you do today.

ST was me. I was the same age, at the same time period, in the same size town.

This is an image from LA Con in 1984, with what was considered the best costumes of that time. Far cry from the quality of cosplay you see today. Especially from what you'd expect from 12 year olds in a small town.

 

Count_Zero

Explorer
Not in small town America owned and created by teenagers. IF there were plenty, then I'm sure there would some evidence of it, yes? Instead, what we do have, is evidence like the photo I showed earlier. You didn't order materials online. Didn't exist. If you were lucky enough to have a catalog, it was still 6-8 weeks for delivery. So not only in small town America don't you have access to the materials to begin with, but you also didn't have the shared community of being able to look things up and learn techniques. You also didn't have access to vacuum machines, and engineered materials and paints like you do today.
Considering Spaced Invaders (which was 1990, but still applicable) had some similar high-quality Cosplay level halloween costumes (the lead kid's Alien/Xenomorph costume) and that movie was one I watched way too much as a kid, I'll allow it.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Considering Spaced Invaders (which was 1990, but still applicable) had some similar high-quality Cosplay level halloween costumes (the lead kid's Alien/Xenomorph costume) and that movie was one I watched way too much as a kid, I'll allow it.
You understand that was a movie, right? And movies have actual costume departments. A group of 12 year olds in small town America in 1984 aren’t going to have the resources to replicate movie costumes.

And you’ll allow what? You can’t change history, so I’m not sure what you’re allowing.
 

Count_Zero

Explorer
You understand that was a movie, right? And movies have actual costume departments. A group of 12 year olds in small town America in 1984 aren’t going to have the resources to replicate movie costumes.

And you’ll allow what? You can’t change history, so I’m not sure what you’re allowing.
Yes - I am aware that Spaced Invaders was a movie. I am also aware that works of fiction make references of works of fiction all the time - even when the work of fiction being referenced is anachronistic to the universe of the work making a reference.

And by saying "I'll allow that" I thought it was safely implicit to say that I was accepting of the anachronism and was otherwise willing to suspend my disbelief in that regard, without having to be that long winded.
 

Seramus

Explorer
It was not the most flattering portrayal of D&D. That would have been them happily playing until their 40s with no sign of stigmatism.
But it was a very accurate portrayal of D&D. This is exactly what happened in my own life, except someone’s mom burned our D&D books out of satanic panic instead of handing them down to a new generation.
 

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