Slate Slams Dungeons & Dragons

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

I can't wait for Ed Park to get a hold of this one. Anyway, Slate does its usual contrarian number, this time applying it to D&D. The writer, Erik Sofge, basically argues that Gary Gygax was an overpraised hack who invented a game that revolved around killing imaginary creatures.

I'm just gonna say that I dismiss any article on fantasy, science fiction, comic books etc. that uses the word "nerd," or any cliches of "geek culture."" Sofge, of course, opens up with a few of those including eating too many nachos, and not having a sex-life. Again, this may just have to deal with being black, but that just wasn't my D&D experience. Beyond that it's just lazy and cliche. But I digress.

Here we have a case in which contrarianism becomes an ideology, and thus displays all of ideology's attendant problems--like ignoring contravening evidence. Sofge argues that D&D was amoral, but never mentions the alignment system which Gygax puts in place. Furthermore, D&D's rules were always supposed to be guidelines; following them in a rote, strict manner violates the whole idea of role-playing. Sofge attacks D&D because it birthed into World Of Warcraft, which Sofge sees as a game strictly built on hack and slash. Except WoW isn't just built on hack and slash and requires actual real-world social skills to build guilds and conduct raids--take it from someone who was an officer in a guild. In a way WoW breaks that fourth wall between the player and the matrix. Furthermore WoW has specific "role-playing" servers where players are encouraged to stay in character and interact with the relatively deep lore of their world. Even if we bought Sofge's argument about WoW, it'd be like someone saying that it's Biggie's fault that most hip-hop today sucks.

Sofge finishes up by dissing D&D because it's been surpassed by other gaming systems which were subsequently invented, which is a little like, as one commenter put it, dissing the Wright brothers for not inventing the jet engine. Sometimes writers have nothing to say. That's hard to believe in this world of constant up to the moment analysis. But sometimes, even when you have a notion, it's best to chill for a sec and let it marinate before spouting off.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2008/03/slate-slams-dungeons-and-dragons/5390/