2014 marks the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, a game that is, simply put, a cultural phenomenon.
Whether people know it or not, they are playing Dungeons & Dragons. Any computer game played, any role-playing game played, any online profile filled-out, have their elements and DNA rooted in Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a game that has had far-lasting, powerful and yet subtle influence in our culture.
From its humble beginnings in a basement in Lake Geneva, WI, D&D was created by a group of game enthusiasts and game designers. The story of D&D and its creation spans four decades and is a complicated, heart-breaking story. Imagine “The Social Network”, the creation of Facebook, but no one gets rich. This is a cautionary tale of an empire built by friends and lost through betrayal, enmity, hubris, poor management and litigation.
Dungeons & Dragons is a game beloved by its fans, a game that brings family/friends together and creates communities, societies and sub-cultures. D&D teaches. There are countless stories of gamers who have delved deeper, studying history, language, science and math purely for the desire to be better players. Gamers have created lifelong friendships because of this game and come in all walks of life: firefighters, educators, computer programmers, entrepreneurs, and yes, even a few documentary filmmakers.
There have been several very good attempts at documenting Dungeons & Dragons, but have covered only the very basic information, “How to Play D&D” or “It was Gary’s invention – No, it was Dave’s invention” or worse, “Look at these weird people playing this nerdy game”. None cover how the game came to exist and what role it has played in modern culture.
Anthony Savini, James Sprattley and Andrew Pascal have set out to film the definitive documentary on Dungeons & Dragons. Film-makers first and gamers next, Anthony, Andrew and James are currently in the middle of production, having spent the better part of 2011-12 filming interviews with key figures in the early days of D&D, historians, game designers and other cultural experts. There are a lot more interviews to go, research to do and archival footage to find. They are looking to finish by 2014, the 40th anniversary of the release of the first box set of D&D. They will also soon be announcing their Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to finish the film. If you are headed to Gen Con 2012, they will be showing 10 minutes of footage from Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary. Anyone interested in the history of D&D, TSR, and the cultural impact of RPGs will not want to miss this event. There will also be a Q&A session with the film-makers with special guests James Lowder, George Strayton, David Ewalt and Tavis Allison. The event is free and takes place Friday afternoon, Aug. 17, from 4 to 5, in Westin: Capitol I. All are welcome!
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