The First Encounter
We knew very little of what to expect before going to a Dungeons and Dragons meeting. We assumed the game would be complicated and nerdy, but we were sure that it would be fun. Otherwise more than 50,000 people would not gather every year for a convention. Most of what we did know about the game came from references in pop culture like this one from the Big Bang Theory.
Similar to this video, we assumed that the game players would be mostly boys. We also thought the players would all be very intelligent and slightly awkward. But we tried our best to keep an open mind, because we knew that our knowledge on the subject came from a place of subjectivity.
On March fourteenth, we began the five and half hour journey to learning what this dice rolling storytelling magic game is all about. We parked in front of an unfamiliar house in a middle class, predominantly white neighborhood. We were a little early so we drove around the block slightly nervous and interested to see what we would find later that morning. I pushed lightly on a white wooden door that opened to reveal a group of five people standing sparsely around the room. Freddie, a seventeen year old with prominent glasses and blonde hair greeted us, followed by a hug from Oskar. We went through quick introductions with the rest. Then were lead through the kitchen, and down to a partially finished basement. A ceiling above us was low, and the steps were steep. We proceeded carefully to find a room with a TV, piano and large cheap looking folding table with six chairs around it.There was another room with no recessed lighting had a concrete floor and had the washing machine and dryer. It was clear the main use of the basement came from playing Dungeons and Dragons. The game did not start until 20 minutes later because they felt as if we needed to know the jist of how the game worked. We were eager to try playing, but after asking they immediately shot us down because “it’s too complicated”.
After one session we found another group to study at Hamline university through a friend’s coworker. He was more than willing to let us sit in on his sessions that met every Sunday 3–8 in the Anderson conference room on campus. He said he and his classmates had done this exact same ethnography project in high school so he was used to people observing his D&D group.
As we entered the Hamline University’s newest Anderson building we walked up the grand spiral staircase located in the middle of the building. We had to wait a while until we found where the group was meeting. The room was just a normal conference room with a large table with about sixteen chairs and a TV flesh to the wall overhead. It just happened that this time Austin our cultural broker and leader of the group had left all of the character sheets at home. He left with a few others for his house in eagan. In that time we went through his other materials and talked to other players.