Dungeons & Dragons could be considered one of the cultural pillars of the Global Community of Nerds. Among the dice-chucking, pencil-gnawing and swashbuckling kind it has rightfully acquired the status of Nerd Cultural Heritage.
You might love it or you might hate it, but you definitely have heard of it or played it. At least if you are into this kind of thing. If not it might have taken Netflix and Stranger Things to pique your interest.
But once you have seen Will Byers and his friends have a go at adventuring you definitely understand the basic concept. And maybe some of the fascination.
Dungeons & Dragons, like most pen & paper roleplaying games, is a game about sitting down at your kitchen table and having some open-ended fun. You could play for a night or you could keep a campaign going for many years.
The longest running campaign has been going on for about four decades.
Over its more than five decades spanning history the game itself has seen many iterations, offshoots and pleny of related products. From lowly branded mugs and ragged wizarding attire to webcomics and video games. That’s a lot of cultural and commercial history right there.
And what is going on with this ridiculous title and the claim that the author, given the opportunity, would see expertly wielding magical swords be listed as an employable business skill? Well, I’m glad you asked!
Here are ten arguments why I would hire anyone willing to exchange their Robes of the Archmagi for a business outfit and switch from slaying dragons to absolutely killing the next company presentation or press conderence.
This is the definite list of why D&D players can up your organization’s communication game:
1. They think on their feet
If your gamemaster – the person running the game – is worth any of their salt and you have not cheated by peeking into the campaign book a game of D&D consists of nothing but surprises.
Half the fun of being a game master lies in plunging the players into impossible dilemmas and half the fun of being a player is finding a way of weaseling your way out. D&D players are hard to flummox and quick to find creative solutions. Improved problem solving skills are just one example of the many real life benefits of playing D&D.
2. They vibe socially
I know, the cliché of the antisocial nerd still is out there, continuing to do harm. Contrary to this belief however playing a pen & paper game is an inherently social experience. Just because you are not a member of the rugby team (and by the way, there is no rule that nerds couldn’t) doesn’t mean you are not a teamplayer. On the contrary.
There are two types of adventuring parties, those that coordinate and cooperate and those that don’t survive very long. True, once in a while you encounter players on an ego-trip but with experience players learn to either integrate or circumvent them. Another check for social intelligence passed.
3. They’re brainy
Although you might always find some old greybeard who tells you that today’s games are not crunchy enough, that there should be more complex calculations or hardly intelligible charts, most people will agree that even today pen & paper roleplaying games are accessible but not easy games.
To be able to properly play a game of D&D you would have to buy and at least partially understand three heavy hardcover books (if you don’t go digital). One of these books basically becomes your game bible and arbitrator.
Though most modern games are to some extent streamlined the rules of a typical pen & paper game will get players thinking . If not they ironically might get eaten by a mindflayer.
4. They have a vast vocabulary…
You’d be surprised but those heavy tomes are full of words. Learning to play a pen & paper game usually requires a lot of reading. On top of learning what skills to take once their character reaches level five, players also get a nice boost to their active vocabulary.
Combine that with all the language exposure a player receives by hanging out with a bunch of other chatty ladies and gentlemen and you will find that your typical half orc barbarian knows more of dem words than the average newspaper-reader.
5. … and know how to use it
Remember that first point about coming up with clever solutions to unexpected challenges? A lot of these challenges and solutions involve sprawling conversations with NPCs (non-player characters, characters who are part of the story and controlled by the game master) and the players.
Why draw your sword if you could easily talk your way around a problem. Why try climbing the rope to secretly board the galley when you could persuade the men standing guard that you are representing the port authority and urgently need to check their rum-supplies for the dreaded rum-drinking booze beetle?
6. They are co-creative
An unfolding tabletop game narrative is not a solitary act of creation by the game master. Nor is the character definition of the various adventurers a task completely in the hands of the individual players. Every player is involved in spinning the tale and defining the characters. This makes pen & paper players experts in co-creation.
Where others have to take expensive courses in co-creation D&D players already bring this mindset to the table. Drop a pen & paper player in a collaborative workshop setting and she or he will feel right at home.
Especially when tasked with complex collective design or team challenges you will find these kitchen-table paladins to be highly effective. They are empathic co-creators striving to achieve the best results by empowering every person at the table.
7. They are (mostly) open minded
While there are some dark corners in this subculture as well (a topic for another day), pen & paper players tend to be highly tolerant and open minded. Maybe it is a remnant of the fading stigma connected with being a nerd, maybe it is the creative nature of the activity or maybe it is a sign of a curiosity so strong it led them to explore not only this world but worlds of boundless imagination as well.
I consider open-mindedness to be a key qualification for professional roles in communication. While it is absolutely valid to have a strong point of view it is of imperative importance to have the capacity to change perspective and see an issue from the other side.
In the best of cases this is fuelled by empathy and the desire to find a common ground but even when it is only employed for tactical advantage every sucessful communicator needs to have this gift. And D&D players do have it.
8. They’ll make you laugh
Although the setting and atmosphere of each adventure is decided by the adventuring party it is a safe bet to assume that even while the party is traversing the darkest forest soon laughter will erupt around the table.
Partly this is due to the random nature of role playing games. Just imagine the elven ranger falling out of a tree while taking aim at a deer. Or the party being turned into mice for the rest of the adventure because that wood witch really was not messing around.
Fantastic adventures have great potential to quickly become ridiculous while at the same time still keeping to an overall high level of quality in storytelling. Gamers are able to mentally switch between both modes, tend to enjoy a hearty laugh and will often possess well honed skills of deadpan delivery.
9. They are extraordinary…
As much as a communication professional has to be able to project an image of stability and reliability the knack to catch people off guard can also be a huge advantage. Too often do we find that our audiences – and our competitors – have become familiar with the same old PR messages. While the former definitely could use a little waking up for success to continue, we should also aim to dazzle the latter.
Recruiting people off the beaten track provides your organization with a chance to seriously shake things up. Wouldn’t it be great to have access to adept wordsmiths whose creative input you could not possibly predict by looking at the best-of presentations from last year’s industry conference?
10. … and just great people
Take a look at any gathering of gaming nerds (Gen Con being one of the most well known) and you will find an abundance of creative expression, friendly debate and valuable advice freely given.
Gaming people are master storytellers who at the same time view themselves as being part of a diverse audience, always exchanging ideas. This results in pen & paper players being at the very top of groups of people most pleasant to hang out with.
If I were asked whether I wanted to spend my first evening in a city completely unknown to me in a bar or in a FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store, it’s a thing), I would without hesitation choose the latter. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the former. It’s just that I expext conversations be a whole lot wittier at the latter. Next time you see a lady or gent with Elminster’s Tome of Magic try chatting them up about it. My bet is that you will be very surprised.
And that’s it
Ten reasons why you should consider spell-slinging and treasure hunting key qualifications when interviewing candidates for an open position in your communications department.
Ten reasons for you, as a recruiter or candidate, to somehow include the words dragon, dungeon or wizard into your next interview without being on drugs and consecutively accompanied to the door by security staff.
Sure, a few times this might backfire. But let’s be honest here: Couldn’t this also be the case when screening for a „highly motivated, self driven strong communicator with lots of teamwork experience and a passion for excellence“?
Dare to be different
In any case I hope that this article has made an impact on all parties involved: On recruiters and executives who might now be more willing to look for unusual talents and on my fellow gamers who might now consider adding a bit of their nerdy side to their CV.
When I finally swapped the usual suspect of CV hobbies “reading” to “boardgames” I felt slightly empowered because I knew that whoever would decide to hire me in the future would make a conscious decision to hire a nerd. They would be cool with that. And I even more.
Be warned though, that the time might not yet have come for all mainstream corporations to see things this way. Therefore I yet would advise you to assess your target organization and your situation carefully.
You could also opt to take your adventuring experiences as inspiration for showcasing your transferable skills in a more neutral fashion. But time and technology are on your side. With all the technological trends happening right now there will soon be plenty of demand for creative storytellers right up to the very top.
More power to you, fellow witches and wizards. More power to you!