Why We Love Dungeons and Dragons

We love Dungeons and Dragons. Not to play - our kids gave up on trying to teach us after a few fraught hours. But we love it for our kids, and for so many reasons.

When kids get together to play D&D they talk to each other. They really talk to each other, without looking down at their screens while they do it. They work together to solve problems. They participate in each other’s victories, defeats, miscalculations and mistakes in a way that requires empathy, tact, humour and the kind of nuanced social interaction that we fear our kids will never learn. When the game breaks up for the day the kids know they will meet again, and again. This social certainty is a rare gift in an uncertain world.

Kids go home knowing that these connections are enduring and real. What parent hasn’t despaired at watching their kids trying to build their social selves on the false and flimsy pretences of social media, at seeing their kids measure their own self-worth against the ephemeral half-life of heart emojis?

We are not the only ones that feel this way. In a recent New York Times opinion piece called “Why the Cool Kids are Playing Dungeons and Dragons”, Annalee Newitz reports that 8.6 million people played D&D in 2017, the biggest sales year for D&D in the last two decades. Last year D&D sales were up another 30%, and rising.

“What makes D&D different is that we can never forget about the human beings behind the avatars,” writes Newitz, who gets together regularly to play D&D with a group of friends. “There’s a toxic distance created by online gaming and social networks that allows us to pretend we’re not socializing with friends. Our empathy gets switched off.”

When we started Mail Order Mystery we wanted to create an experience so engaging that kids would willingly put down their screens, at least for awhile. It’s a tough battle, but a battle worth fighting. When kids put down their screens they begin to make real connections.

When they sit down at a table with brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, grandparents or friends to solve problems and puzzle through clues, they are making memories. When they write heartfelt letters to Smaul the Troll, telling him how excited they are to be friends with a troll and that they really hope he gets his library card, they are showing how much they care. When they fill out their spy school aptitude questionnaires, listing all of the wonderful reasons they would be great spies, they are champions of their own best qualities, caretakers of their own best selves.

We love the heck out of all of this. We here at Mail Order Mystery would like to thank you and your kids for sharing these amazing moments with us. These moments may be fleeting, but we will take them over a whole line of heart emojis anytime.