“The Psychology of Dungeons and Dragons”

What inspired you to write this book?

I’d had a lot of fun writing a similar book about the psychology of video games that explored why they were designed how they are and why we behaved as we do when we play them. A lot of those same questions applied to D&D, which is another type of game I’ve played my whole life.

What characters in your own life helped bring this to life?

So many of the characters that I or my friends have played in various D&D games, especially over the last 15 years. The book is full of references to players and their characters who prompted the various questions I answer in the book. If there’s a topic addressed by the book, it most likely occured to me because of something I or one of my friends did at the table.

What is your favorite area of geek culture?

Gaming! I am part of the first generation that grew up alongside the video game industry and the TTRPG industry. I went to arcades as a kid and I went to the hobby shop and obsessed over every new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons module that they put on the shelf. Both types of games have been part of my identity for as long as I’ve had one.

When did you first get published? and is has this been different this time around?

My first book about the psychology of games, Getting Gamers: The Psychology of Video Games and Their Impact on the People Who Play Them, was published in 2015 and continues to have a really long tail in terms of sales. Honestly, this time around hasn’t been a whole lot different, except that I understand the process better and know what to expect in terms of the steps involved getting from writing a proposal to a book on the shelf. Maybe the marketing landscape is different than in 2015; not many people care about written blogs now with social media and video being so ascendent.

What was most challenging when crafting this narrative?

There’s not a ton of high-quality academic research that looks specifically at tabletop role-playing games. There’s some academic stuff around game design and game studies, but less around psychology specifically. So I had to gather what I could and make a few inferrential hops about studies and theories that were answering the questions I was interested in, but in other contexts. Much of the chapter about the differences between in-person and virtual tabletop games, for example, was drawn from recent research about the world of work and telework. But the same psychology applies, I think.

Are you clinical and if so, how do you see your book helping others?

I am not clinically trained, which is why I only have one part of one chapter that deals with the clinical applications of D&D. But I did extensive research for that part of the book and talked to some experts. It serves more as a primer and pointer to additional researches if desired.

What do you want readers to get from this book?

I want them to understand the psychology behind why D&D and other tabletop role-playing games are designed how they are and why we behave as we do when we play. At the end of each chapter is a bullet list of ways you can apply these things to your game, whether you’re a game master or a player. You may learn how to role-play your character in a more entertaining and meaningful way. You may learn how to think about characters’ alignments and morality. You may develop new ways of thinking about storytelling and choosing actions for your character. You may develop better strategies for dealing with the overwhelming number of decisions playing the game involves. It’s all really practical stuff that I haven’t seen addressed in other places.

If you could tell your 12 year old self one thing about geek culture in the future, what would you tell them?

Hang on to that copy of the AD&D Player’s Handbook and your Basic Set and take better care of them! Also that D&D is eventually go mainstream and bring a lot of new people into the hobby, which is fantastic! It’s not going to stay a niche hobby forever and your interest and passion will someday be shared by more people.

Any advice for new and aspiring authors?

Build a platform/audience, especially if you aim to be a nonfiction writer. Create short form content for a blog, YouTube, social media, a newsletter, etc. Not only will this help you explore topics, create discipline around writing, and build a professional network upon which you can draw for expert input, agents and publishers want to see that you hae a built-in audience. In a lot of ways they’re less interested in you and more interested in your platform.

Can you share with us your most favorite part of this book?

I love the stories I use to illustrate theories and research within the book. I always tried to keep things relatable and grounded by drawing upon my own decades of experience playing the game, so you’ll see stories about the characters I played or the ones I ran through my adventures when I was the game master. You’ll also hear stories about the history and evolution of Dungeons & Dragons as a game and as a product, drawn from primary sources and other people who were there to see it.

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