Dungeons & Dragons goes over the hill

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The Green Dragon, painted by a Dungeons & Dragons fan

This month, a popular game turns 40 years old. Happy Birthday, Dungeons & Dragons!

It’s hard to imagine how a board game has influenced movies, books and video games, yet, this game has crossed the threshold of dark basements and invaded pop culture today.

For those unfamiliar with Dungeons & Dragons, before it was a video game, it was a board game. To play, a group of people get together and role-play as they go on an adventure. As players roll the dice, the “Dungeon Master” leads the players through the tasks. What happens next is up to the players. This simple game has spawned a franchise of books and video games.  To keep generations of players interested, new rules and new boards with different adventures and alternate realities have been created throughout the years. However, D&D has stayed true to its original intent of taking players on a make-believe adventure.

David Ewalt is senior editor for Forbes and a self-described geek. His book, “Of Dice and Men,” looks at the history of D&D and how it has attracted 30 million players worldwide.

Even though this game is often associated with the stereotype of an awkward, stay-at-home geek, Ewalt says that D&D gave these nerds exactly what they needed – friends and adventures.

“A lot of people who grew up playing the game got really interested in telling stories, so they went on to become novelists, to become filmmakers,” said Ewalt. “John Favreau says that the reason why he became a director, why he became interested in telling stories, was because he played D&D a lot as a kid.”

Ewalt credits D&D with reviving fantasy in the United States. And it’s these geeks with big imaginations that have put “geekdom” into the spotlight, making it cool.

The perfect example of how geeks are the new cool kids – here’s a clip from “The Big Bang Theory”:

So what would you get D&D for its 40th birthday?

Ewalt knows exactly what he would gift his childhood companion: “A new life. The game kind of went fallow for awhile in the 90s. There has always been people who have played it, but I think what you would buy Dungeons & Dragons for its 40th birthday is a revival of people playing it. It’s people going to each other’s friends’ houses and people going to community centers and the schools, and just playing the game and enjoying the fantasy.”

-By Pai En Yu, contributing producer and writer for KCRW