By: Laura LaPalomento and Jonathan Sutton
GLOUCESTER COUNTY – Over the years, many video, computer, and board games have helped those from all types of backgrounds immerse themselves in a completely different universe. Whether a busy financial advisor, a teacher, a worn out stay at home mom or an awkward teenager, all possess the same desire – to escape to a different world for a bit. Some games that come to mind are World of Warcraft, Pokémon, Magic, and one of the oldest and most significant: Dungeons and Dragons.
The D&D property has been around since 1974, and has since developed into a worldwide phenomenon that likely sparked similar properties like the ones mentioned. The Dungeons and Dragons Club at Bankbridge South began in March 2018 after two students – Jonathan and Phoenix – thought of the idea of creating the club because it is a socially immersive game.
Phoenix, a new transfer, admitted he struggled making friends at the school and felt that none of his hobbies matched up with his peers. Phoenix was passionate and committed and brought in his Dungeons and Dragons books daily and shared stories about the game in homeroom. He instantly hooked everyone. Jonathan spoke with the other classrooms and created a signup sheet for interested students. After explaining the game, 22 students signed up to play. Mrs. Monti and Ms. Hinch, teachers at the school, offered their full support.
Integration of the game into classroom activities happened quickly. Students were assigned homework for Dungeons and Dragons – they were required to read an instructional manual and create a character complete with a name and backstory. Each student brought forth an insightful and introspective character and openly confessed that their character wanted help with some of the social behaviors they felt they personally struggled with – public speaking, communication, anxiety, self-worth, depression, and loneliness.
The club began with two groups, alternating weeks to have equivalent playtime, and at the end of the 2018 school year, 20 of the students remained and were passionate about the game. Many confessed they dreaded summer because they would miss playing – some students signed up for the summer program to continue developing their friendships.
In September, all 20 of the students asked if Jonathan and Phoenix would still be doing Dungeons and Dragons. They continued to invite other students to join the game and actively sought out new players to become their friends.
One student, C.J., has joined an official Dungeons and Dragons League at his local comic book store in Woodbury, and has made friends with his Game Master and the other college students who play weekly. The students have learned to overcome personal adversity through the villains presented in the game. They face social challenges weekly and it has increased their quality of communication. Students, who previously did not know each other, or were hostile to one another, have become friends, spend time together outside of school, and chat through text messages or other phone apps.
Together these students have faced the mysteries of the world, the plots of the villains, and the intellectual puzzles that need to be solved to progress through the game. They’ve leapt into a river to save a drowning friend, stepped forward in front of a charging Minotaur to protect a fallen companion, and formed a cooperative assembly line to put out a fire in a small village.
According to Jonathan, “Everyday I am faced with dozens of potential questions about the mysteries of the world, the plots of the villains, and the intellectual puzzles that need to be solved to progress through the game.
I have watched students leap into a river to save a drowning friend, step forward in front of a charging Minotaur to protect a fallen companion, and form a cooperative assembly line to put out a fire in a small village.
I’ve watched them argue over the best way to solve a problem and come to a group decision democratically and respect the vote of the party.
I have admired their dedication as they spend hours reading manuals and handbooks to better learn their character’s class and how to play.
I’ve cheered on the quiet one who speaks up in the face of danger and adversity and saves the day.
I have shared dozen of hours of invaluable time with them, and grown to love the laughter of a room of teenagers mocking my poor voice acting skills as I attempt to role-play as an elderly woman.
I’ve watched them become friends.”