Dungeons & Dragons has joined the ranks of the playthings enshrined at the National Toy Hall of Fame at the Strong Museum for Play in Rochester, N.Y.
Other inductees from the 2016 contenders included Fisher-Price Little People and the swing, which the museum notes can be found in antiquity through ancient European cave drawings, Cretan carvings and Greek vases. (The swing, not the Little People; they only go back to 1959, although more than 2 billion have been sold by Fisher-Price.)
D&D, first published in 1974 and now in its 5th Edition, is more than a tabletop roleplaying game — it has become a touchstone of popular culture, weathering the condemnation of the religious right and corporate mismanagement as well as a reputation for endless edition wars and human trolls to become something seen as a positive outlet for creativity and imaginative play for all.
“Dungeons & Dragons is not just a game – its legacy has been a part of our culture for generations,” said Shelly Mazzanoble, associate brand manager for Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro subsidiary that owns the D&D brand. “But perhaps its most important influence is with the positive impact it has made on children and adults in the form of enhanced social, math, analytical, reading, writing, and creative skills and friendships that have lasted for decades.”
Curator Nic Ricketts put the game in context of what followed it: “More than any other game, Dungeons & Dragons paved the way for older children and adults to experience imaginative play. It was groundbreaking. And it opened the door for other kinds of table games that borrow many of its unique mechanics. But most importantly, Dungeons & Dragons’ mechanics lent themselves to computer applications, and it had a direct impact on hugely successful electronic games like World of Warcraft.”
Mike Mearls, D&D’s current lead designer, said the game was an evolution of wargaming and pulp fantasy: “D&D has become a rite of passage for children of a creative temperament. It’s incredible to think that what started as the marriage of tabletop wargames and pulp fantasy novels has become the iconic storytelling pastime for multiple generations.”
John Frascotti, president of Hasbro Brands, had this to say in the company’s official reaction: “Dungeons & Dragons embodies Hasbro’s goal of creating the world’s best play and entertainment experiences and we are extremely proud to see D&D be inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame alongside many other brands in our portfolio like Twister, Candy Land, The Game of Life, Mr. Potato Head and the Easy-Bake Oven. D&D has enabled fans to create their own stories for more than 40 years and we look forward to continuing to inspire imaginations by providing amazing play experiences.”
Game designer Matt Sernett, who has previously worked on versions of D&D, describes the game’s lifetime appeal:
“Perhaps the greatest innovation of Dungeons & Dragons is that it provides a way to play pretend with rules. I think when older kids and adults discover the game, they tap into a style of play from early childhood that they’ve forgotten. The game unleashes the individual imagination of each player while, at the same time, it draws them together to tell a story. You can discover a lot about yourself and each other in a very short time and in a fun way. Friendships that last a lifetime frequently form while playing Dungeons & Dragons.”