Stanford Professor: Dungeons and Dragons Perpetuates Systems of White, Male Privilege

Dungeons & Dragons player holding dice
AP/Ted S. Warren

A professor of education at Stanford University argues in a recent academic journal article that the tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons perpetuates white privilege.

Standford University Professor Antero Garcia argues in an academic journal article that the popular game Dungeons and Dragons perpetuates systems of privilege.

Focusing on how the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons is built on a system of play that has grown and shifted over the course of 40 years, this study emphasizes the central role that systems play in mediating the experiences of participants. By focusing on depictions of gender, race, and power in Dungeons & Dragons — as a singular cultural practice — this study highlights how researchers must attend to cultural production both around and within systems.

Garcia argues that Dungeons and Dragons encourages a distrust of the “other.” It’s a weird focus for a Stanford scholar, especially since Garcia concedes that race in Dungeons & Dragons is not much like race in the real world. In the game, the characters are divided by their species. Some characters are elves, some are dwarves, and some are halfings, according to Garcia.

Professor Garcia doesn’t stop there. He bemoans the fact that Dungeons & Dragons began as a “white man’s” hobby. He argues that wargaming communities are “male-dominated,” even though this wasn’t the intention of the game’s designer, who initially tested the tabletop game out on his daughter.

Garcia’s 16-page article focuses on the representation of women in the game. According to Garica’s research, by 2014, more than half of the game’s depicted characters are female.

According to the article, Garcia’s ultimate wish is to see Dungeons & Dragons move beyond its problematic past into a more diverse and inclusive future.


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