Yesterday, while walking home from my weekly D&D game I was listening to a D&D podcast and the hosts used a phrase that I liked. The called D&D (and really, all role-playing games) a “triathlon for the mind”. These games are not just board games, the require use of both sides of the brain. You need to be logical, do a lot of math, and problem solve, and you also need to be creative, improvise, and communicate clearly. Dungeons & Dragons is practice for the real world because it involves practice in a created world, it is the opposite of our education system that tends to compartmentalize subjects.
D&D is perfect for artists of all types. It is an opportunity to work out your brain in a way that is rarely found outside of real life. It is a sandbox to play in with low real-world stakes. If you are an actor it is a chance to improvise, if you are an author you get to see how other people behave and think, if you are a visual artist you can gain an endless supply of inspiration for your paintings or drawings. It is an opportunity to peel back the masks of reality and see what is underneath, it is a chance to practice our craft in a new world and take those lessons into the real world. (There are even mental health professionals who are using role-playing games in their practice, and role-playing is one of the most common bedroom activities to bring in a little variety… considering I’m interested in becoming a therapist and sexual variety is important to me and my non-monogamous partner this really appeals to me)
Needless to say, I’m loving D&D but I’m not sure that I’m taking advantage of the opportunity. Part of it is the character I created, as a former soldier turned monk the character is a very close mirror to my life experience (soldier turned peace advocate). Due to the similarity between my character and myself I find myself falling into comfortable routines… a bit introverted and indifferent to decisions, but that may be beneficial. I am still learning the mechanics of the game and the personalities of the other players and their characters.
When we move on to a new game I plan on breaking out of my shell a little bit. I still find myself drawn to the well-established archetypes that aren’t particularly creative. But again, maybe that’s okay. This is a new experience for me and it seems like it is good to move slowly. You gotta crawl before you walk and walk before you run. Hopefully, as the months go on I will get more creative and create more nuanced and complicated characters, and as that happens I hope my creative writing and other artistic pursuits will benefit.