Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Book Review: Of Dice and Men

The additional part of the book's title is "The Story of Dungeons and Dragons and the People Who Play It".  This should give a better idea of what the work is about.  I had to very clearly enunciate the "d" in "dice" when asking my local book store if they had a copy on the day of its release for fear they would think I was looking for Steinbeck's work and send me off to the classic literature section.

I did procure my copy without issue (it was located in the role playing games section in with all the rulebooks and manuals) and read it with ease.  Owing much to a Malcolm Gladwell or Michael Lewis style of reporting, its author also writes for Forbes magazine as his "day job".  David Ewalt (the author) is about my age and so many of his cultural references hit home and his exposure to Dungeons and Dragons mimics mine in large part (though I've never returned to its gameplay outside of videogame versions after I turned 17 or so).

I am admittedly a geek by nature though not by intellect so I enjoyed this book but didn't love it.  Those not familiar with or with an interest in Dungeons and Dragons would likely put the book down out of lack of interest and insider jokes about half way through.  For those who do have an interest in the subject the book provides a humorous look at the development of the game, the wranglings between its creators and owners and its place within the history of games.  D&D's influence on culture, movies, literature, TV, the internet, etc. is wide and deep and this book gives the reader an idea of the reasons behind this.

Alternating with the history of the game, Ewalt covers his own experiences with the game covering his discussions with various founders and developers as well as his own role playing campaigns and brief foray into LARPing.

In all I came away from the book more knowledgeable about the game, its history, its influence and am more aware of its place within the world of "games" (I didn't know about Kriegsspiel and how it influenced D&D and Steve Jobs until I read this book) across the globe.  The book was worth it to me and was entertaining to me as a geek.  How much it might really resonate with people outside the geek community I'm just not sure.

1 comment:

RC Miller said...

Great review. After you mentioned this book a few weeks ago I eagerly sought it out. Your synopsis here is dead-on. I did especially enjoy the "Satanic Panic" chapter. Felt to me the most relevant to contemporary culture.