It would be easy for me to argue that getting into the board gaming hobby has been one of most positive life changes my life has seen in the last few years. This is especially true of Dungeons and Dragons. Now hang in there for a short sob-story background before we get into the good stuff. This is my personal story with Dungeons and Dragons, but I think a lot of people will be able to relate, not just with D&D but also with board games in general.
Flashback to two years ago, at this point I was finishing up college, but the majority of my peers had graduated and were entering the workforce. As an introvert, I am not always the best at keeping up with my friends who have graduated, so the only person I was talking to consistently was my husband…and my cats. Not the most healthy situation, as the cats did not have much to say back. In an effort to combat this crippling loneliness
and lack of motivation to do anything, I began going to the local gaming store.
Until this point, I was really only playing Zombicide, and my husband had begun to play Yu-Gi-Oh. He wanted to try his hand in tournaments, so I would tag along and try to play (spoiler alert: I sucked). I was not enjoying the game at all, not just because I sucked, but also the community playing was very toxic especially to a female gamer. There was a high amount of rage quitting and trash talking, and add that to already being terrible, it was not helping my mood in the slightest. I began to sit out of playing Yu-Gi-Oh and chat with the other gamers around the store. One group who I had become especially fond of was starting a campaign for Dungeons and Dragons. Naturally as I sat there and watched their session zero, they invited me to join their campaign.
I immediately froze and with a spike of anxiety I explained I had never played, and had no idea how to build a character. They were relentless, and insisted on helping me create
my first ever character. A sorcerer that was average (and therefor actually terrible) at everything. Once my character was built, I quickly realized I had no idea how to actually play. This was actually not something that became clear to me for several more sessions..Instead I rolled dice when I was told to, and tried my best to not get myself or my party killed. Despite not having any clue what was going on mechanically, I was completely immersed in the story we were creating. I interacted with people in a way I had not done in a very long time, and suddenly had something to talk to other people about. It was an instant connection, doing something I enjoyed in an environment with people who were equally engaged in what I wanted to talk about. Even before my peers graduated and moved on, I had not had this kind of social connection because besides teaching I had little in common with my peers. The next couple weeks I began to look forward to those Tuesday night games. Slowly my husband switched to the dark side, after listening to me talk about our party’s adventures for a few weeks. We were both hooked and ended up playing in 2-4 games a week.
That event happened about two years ago. Since that time we have had a lot of changes
to our original party, with people moving, disagreements happening, and lives getting busy. As people have left our party others have joined to fill in those spaces. I have even had the chance to connect with people in Adventure’s League that I now consider to be my friends, even if we are only able to spend time together at conventions. It is amazing to see how many people are able to connect over D&D. There is such a great variety of people who play, and each time I play in a new party, I come out with new memories with a different group of people.
It is impossible for me to reflect on my experience playing Dungeons and Dragons without thinking about my friends. I now have an entire of party of close friends. Currently I am in a consistent party with 4 other people.. These guys have spent 12 hours every Saturday with the last year adventuring with me. It is the people in this party who I celebrate birthdays with, share big news with, travel to conventions with, and I consult with problems. I went from essentially having a total lack of social interaction, to happily sitting down at convention tables with strangers discussing character backstories and new books. This was a major change for my social anxiety, and also helped me push into the larger board game community in a larger part. Now I reflect on what are the best things Dungeons and Dragons has done for me.First, it provided me with people to talk to, and gave me something to talk about. Those adventures do not remain just a game, they become memories. How our characters interact with the world created, become stories that will be told time and time again. Second it gave me consistency and diversity. When fighting my depression, I need a schedule. Something to follow and rely on, but I also need to break up the monotony of daily tasks. D&D gave me something to look forward to, and gave me something unexpected throughout the week. It also got me out of my head. Role playing games are inherently social. There is no solo playing. It made me focus on other people. Now I won’t say that D&D magically cured my depression, but it did make it easier to bear with. Every adventure allowed me to put on a different personality for a little while, and along the way laugh with friends. It also encouraged me further into the boardgaming community which has now become a major part of my life.