Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary is a feature length film in the style of Food Inc. and Inside Job. It’s a comprehensive look at a game that made roleplaying a household word, started an industry, and influences modern day culture to this day.
The history of Dungeons & Dragons stretches back to its humble beginnings when in 1974, a part time cobbler from Wisconsin and a college student from Minnesota got together to create a war game. Their goal was to sell 1000 copies, ten times what the usual war game sold. It was an ambitious goal. A company was started, TSR. The result of their effort was nothing short of historical. By 1985, TSR had revolutionized the gaming industry and was selling upwards of 100,000 copies a month in 22 countries. By the end of that decade, D&D had become a cultural phenomenon. TSR estimated 90 million people were playing D&D worldwide by 1990.
Like Andy Warhol’s Factory in hip downtown of NYC, TSR was a hotbed of creativity, attracting some of the best commercial artists from around the world to a little town in Wisconsin. It was the Factory for the geek crowd and considered by those who worked there one of the best times of their lives.
However, nothing this big is realized without hardship. The story of D&D spans four decades; it is complicated and heart-breaking. Imagine “The Social Network,” the creation of Facebook, but no one ends up living the American dream. This is a cautionary tale of an empire built by friends and lost through betrayal, hubris and litigation. By the end of the 1980’s, most of the people who built this empire had been forced out, with little acknowledgment of being part of the legacy. Through interviews with people who lived this story and exhaustive research, Dungeons and Dragons: A Documentary will not so much untangle the Rashomon-like story of TSR as it will give it perspective.
The history of Dungeons and Dragons is only half the story here. Dungeons & Dragons changed the world. From its early years, Dungeons and Dragons became a training ground for careers in the realms of imagination and has influenced generations of computer programmers, designers, writers, actors and many others. Its affect on society can be seen in everything from computer games to modern teaching theories and is being researched for the treatment of public health issues as big as Post-Traumatic Stress-Disorder (PTSD). Through interviews with public personalities, psychologists and sociologists, Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary will explore how this game has touched the lives of everyone, even if they have never played the game.
In the end, Dungeons & Dragons is, in the words of Gary Gygax himself, “just a game.” But it’s arguably one of the most influential games in history.