I Roll, Therefore I Am: A Philosophical Analysis of Identity, Escapism, and Community in Dungeons and Dragons




Noé, August

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Every day, millions of people spend hours playing, plotting, and pondering Dungeons and Dragons and other tabletop role-playing games (TTRPGs). In the past, however, D&D has been viewed as a lesser pastime, and escapism, in general, is often looked down on as a less-than-preferable way of engaging with media. This paper argues that escapism, particularly into the simulated, fantastical realm of Dungeons and Dragons, can be an effective form of catharsis. Additionally, the immersive and communal narrative form that D&D employs, provides the perfect setting for self-reflection and identity exploration. From creating a character to learning how to navigate social interactions within the party to the ethical decisions that players are required to make while playing, D&D offers players the chance to figuratively walk a couple of miles and fight a few dragons in someone else’s shoes. How do the choices that players make in-game (and out of game, during character creation) both affect and reflect their identity?