Stranger Things: Embracing a Stranger Culture
In 2016 we had a phenomenon of “nerd culture” and nostalgia hit us like a ton of bricks when Stranger Things was released on Netflix. It was an immediate hit among people of all ages, young people were drawn in by the story of kids tracking down the bad man and saving the day like in the old sci-fi movies that came out in the 80’s and 90’s, and the show also appealed to people who were the age of the stars in ’84, the year the show is set. The show focuses on a group of kids who are trying to rescue their friend from another dimension that was found by an evil scientist and defeat an evil monster from said dimension
While the show is an insanely good example of excellent writing and the Duffer Bros have killed it with their story. That is not going to be the focus of this short article. At the beginning and end of the first season of Stranger Things, we see the main characters playing Dungeons & Dragons, a game that was incredibly popular among the more nerdy groups of kids in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Since then, the game stayed pretty far away from popular culture, bar a few episodes of Community which also had an eclectic and somewhat nerdy point of view on the pen and paper tabletop game.
Now, with this new phenomenal show, Stranger Things, we have a group of “nerdy” kids playing a nerdy game at the beginning. However, through the course of the season, ideas, terminology, and even strategy from this nerdy game were incorporated into the very real and present danger that was plaguing Hawkins, Indiana (the inconspicuous town where the gate to the other dimension is created). New life was breathed into this game because of the series. And people across the country who aren’t “nerds” began to have a newfound interest in this “nerdy” game of Dungeons & Dragons.
At Lipscomb University in Nashville, I know of at least 5 groups of people who have begun to play Dungeons & Dragons drawing inspiration from the Demogorgon and other references to the game that are included in Stranger Things or Community. And in South Point, Ohio the hobby store is sold out of Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbooks.
While many still aren’t on board with the game or don’t see the appeal, there are a lot of people who used to see it as just a thing for nerds but have gained interest after it was seen in a new way and related to the dangers that the characters faced in Stranger Things. As the show continues and the references to D&D are present like they were in Stranger Things 2 (The Second Season of Stranger Things), I believe that the previously “nerdy and unpopular” game, Dungeons & Dragons will begin to lose it’s “nerdy” label and might eventually become a part of popular culture.
Sawyer C. Stephens