Journals – D&D&D (Dungeons & Dragons & Directors) Research Paper

Journal Entry 1 – Research Paper

Part of Unit 11 is to write a Research Paper that allows us to research something that is relevant to our future career. My eventual career aim is to ultimately become a Fiction Film/TV Director. I briefly considered researching different routes to work towards this role, but I already know a number of possibilities, and I prefer to do things with a bit of a twist. E.g. in my first College film, “Poker Hand“, I added in the twist of UNO cards for a comedic touch, and my advert for toast was Spy themed.

Pretty quickly a question has come to me which is something that I have genuinely been curious about. I have played Dungeons & Dragon (D&D) for several years now, and I have felt for some time that although D&D is widely regarded as a game just played by a bunch of nerds sitting around a table in someone’s dining room (or basement if you live in America), it actually teaches you lots of skills that are useful in the real world, like teamwork, problem solving, creativity, improvisation to name a few.

I am also a Dungeon Master (DM), that’s the person who creates the world that the players explore. As DM I also have to create the story, explain to the players what their characters are seeing, improvise and act out all the Non-Player-Characters (NPCs) who interact with the players’ characters. I have to ensure continuity of the story and the world. Since games are usually set in Fantasy type realms, easiest described as sort of medieval, I can’t let a player suddenly have their character pull out a mobile phone to use. Except that, actually, I can let them do that if I want, since I’m the one who created the world, so in one way I can do what I want. But my players will soon get unhappy with me if I am too inconsistent. Or if I suddenly have one of the monsters, that the players are fighting, have a weapon that it didn’t have at the start of the fight. So, consistency and continuity matter.

It has been occurring to me for some time that a lot of what I do as DM has echoes to me of what I see Fiction Film/TV Directors talking about doing when I watch behind the scenes videos. In which case, could the skills that I am developing as a DM be helpful to me as a Fiction Film/TV Director? We have been looking at Soft Skills such as Teamwork, Leadership etc in CCP so I know that generally all those kinds of skills are useful in our careers. But would my DM skills be of specific use to me as a Fiction Film/TV Director? I decided that I would like to know if my hunches are correct. Which is how I came up with the idea for this Research Paper.

Journal Entry 2 – Feedback from tutor for my Research Paper Idea

In Nick’s lesson I ran my idea for my Research paper past him. Nick liked my idea a lot, he said “That’s really good, I think that’s really strong, that is fantastic!” which was really encouraging.  We discussed the relationship of fantasy to mythology, which is really interesting, and the strong sense of narrative that both mythology and D&D create, so it shouldn’t really be surprising that many people who enjoy D&D go into the Creative/Film Industry. I explained that I want to go even deeper than the fantasy element, to look at skills that are transferable to all genres across Fiction Film making.

Nick warned me to ensure that I should keep the focus on D&D, saying that if I haven’t written “D&D” every three sentences or so then I’m off course. But, as I was already thinking, that I need to make sure that I keep coming back to relating being a DM to being a Fiction Film/TV Director as an anchor.

Nick also told me about some work that he had done for the T20 Summit in Saudi Arabia. From this work he said that he had learnt that technology is expanding dramatically for example Bangalore in India created around 1.5 million new IT jobs in the space of a year. He had found this out partly due to research involving looking at the end credits for special effects for the film 1917 and finding that most of the special effects were done in Bangalore by many, many, extremely talented special effects people. He explained that this points to the fact that we are getting to the stage where the crossover between gaming, in a very broad sense, and more traditional filmic narrative is beginning to get really blurred because the technology is becoming available for the immersive storytelling that comes from gaming, and thus even more so from D&D. He said that this overlap is the start of something that is really going to explode and so having Fiction Film/TV Directors who understand really immersive storytelling will become even more important in the future.

He repeated that he liked my idea, saying, “I think that’s brilliant, Gareth, I think that’s a great idea!”.

Journal Entry 3 – More tutor feedback about my Research Paper Idea

I emailed Attila to explain my Research Paper idea. I wrote:

Hi Atilla, 

As requested here the subject of my research paper:
After sharing my idea with Nick last Thursday, I decided to do my Research Paper on exploring the idea that being a Dungeon Master for Dungeons and Dragons can help with the creative process necessary for being a Fiction Film/TV Director (which is what I would ultimately like to become). I need to tidy the title up a bit but that is my basic idea. Since I am a Dungeon Master. I have been noticing similarities in the skills required. Some basic research showed me that Jon Favreau credits some of his directing ability to extensive Dungeons and Dragons playing, he’s not the only one I found but I’ll talk about that more in my research paper. 

Attila responded very positively, like Nick has done, saying “This is a brilliant idea

I am very pleased., I feel I will be researching something that both really interests me and that is relevant to my future career aspirations.

Journal Entry 4 – Research Paper Thoughts and Notes

I have started to organise my thoughts around my Research Paper. It needs to have a quite specific structure, different to how I usually write up work.

It needs to be a minimum of 500 words, and include the following elements:

  • Title (straightforward – “Will the skills that I develop by being a Dungeon Master (DM) for Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) be helpful to me as a Fiction Film/TV Director?”
  • Introduction (I need to make this interesting to hook the reader, and to include a clear “thesis statement” which is what I’m going to try to prove or disprove, i.e., that D&D DM skills can help you to be a good Fiction Film/TV Director)
  • Methods (this is what I plan on doing and how I will do my researching to find an answer)
  • Results (This is the important stuff I find out. I’ve already found out loads of stuff but some of it is more relevant than other bits, I need to just include the relevant bits)
  • Discussion/conclusion (Here I use what I’ve found out and I discuss it to help me decide if my thesis statement is correct or incorrect
  • References/bibliography (Places I looked for my research)

Journal Entry 5 – Research Paper Research and Method thoughts

I’ve been thinking some more about my Research Paper. I have worked out what my Thesis Statement will be, and I need to make sure it is consistent with my title and my conclusion – whichever way my conclusion goes, it needs to be agreeing or disagreeing with my Thesis Statement.

So, my Thesis Statement is “I believe that being a Dungeon Master (DM) for Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is helping develop specific skills that will be helpful to me as a Fiction Film/TV Director”

I need a way to briefly explain what Dungeons and Dragons is for people who don’t know, in an entertaining way. I have an idea how to do this, based on a practise essay that I wrote for my English Language GCSE about hobbies. I wrote a little bit about D&D in a humorous way, and I was pleased with it. I think I can adapt that idea. I think it meets the idea of a hook to make the reader read more, since a little bit of comedy that makes you smile often makes you read more. 

I will try to find out if any Directors play, or used to play D&D. I have heard that Jon Favreau plays or played D&D so I can start with him. I find audio-visual information the easiest to absorb, so I will use YouTube a lot. To start with I’m also going to research people in the creative industry generally who play or have played D&D, like actors for example.

Journal Entry 6 – Matthew Mercer's Magnificence!!

For my Research Paper, I decided that another obvious place to me to start to look is at Matthew Mercer – professional voice actor and amazing DM for Critical Role which is a bunch of professional voice actors who stream their D&D games, and are incredibly popular, they have 1.13 million subscribers on YouTube and the video of their first campaign (3 hours long) has had over 15 million views in the nearly 6 years that it has been out. It’s big! I did an Audio-visual Podcast in Year 1, about how fans are starting to be able to more directly influence the Film Industry, which included reference to how the 8 members of Critical Role did a kick starter aiming to raise $750,000 in 45 days to enable them to animate one 20-minute episode of one of their D&D campaigns. They were blown away to find that they had broken their $750,000 target in just 45 MINUTES never mind days, surpassed $1 MILLION in just one hour, and they ended up with $11,385,449 in total, enabling not just one 20-minute episode but they now have a deal with Amazon Prime for 24 episodes, each 40 minutes long. D&D really is popular.

Journal Entry 7 – Research Paper Survey

For my Research Paper, I will also be making use of my existing knowledge and experience of both playing D&D and DMing in regard to the skills that I know that I have had to develop, and the knowledge of friends who play and/or DM.

I have created a survey (Primary Research) and asked many friends to kindly complete it. I know that by asking my friends I may well get a skewed result in terms of age distribution. But since you really need to have knowledge of D&D to even start to answer the questions, and I don’t have contacts with any adults who play D&D, I feel that this is just how it has to be, and I will need to bear this in mind when I look at the results.

I’ve put a link to my survey results here. Many of the questions were Qualitative ones since I wanted to get non-numeric answers, I wanted their thoughts on the subject, However I did also include a few Quantitative (numerical) questions. 

I’m going to use my survey results, research and practical experience of D&D to creative a list of skills that I think that I have developed from playing D&D. Then I will make a second list of skills that are specific to DMing, since although both sets of skills overlap, there are additional skills that being a DM both requires and develops, for example, organisational skills of keeping track of the whole world that you develop and run. You can use pre-existing worlds and campaigns from D&D books when you start, indeed I did, but most DMs end up wanting to create their own worlds. And even if you use a pre-created world, you still have to keep track to ensure consistency and continuity throughout the game.

I must remember to keep referring specifically to being a DM, rather than just general playing D&D. However, it is helpful to consider both aspects for my research.

Journal Entry 8 – Research Paper, Film/Creative Industry D&D players

Joe Manganiello, an actor/director runs an “A-List Dungeons and Dragons Group” in Beverly Hills, Hollywood. This includes people such as Vince Vaughn (actor/producer/screenwriter) and “Game of Thrones” co-creator D.B Weiss amongst others. Some recurring guests are the other co-creator of “Game of Thrones” David Benioff and “Guardians of the Galaxy” director James Gunn, and many more. Joe Manganiello is the DM, and he even has a professional role as a consultant for D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast.

He has kitted his basement out as a D&D Dungeon, it’s amazing! I would so love to see it in real life! He calls it the Gary Gygax Memorial Dungeon. Gary Gygax is the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson.

Journal Entry 9 – Research Paper, even more famous Film/Creative Industry D&D players

I found out, when I first started thinking about this idea for my Research Paper, that not only does Jon Favreau love D&D, he also has said that he credits his D&D playing with developing his world building, creative and improvisation skills. Which is great! I have now also found many other people involved in the Film/TV Creative Industry who are big fans of D&D. Stephen Colbert is a big fan. I found a video of him playing a game for charity with Matthew Mercer. Also the Russo Brothers (Joe and Anthony) who directed Avengers: Infinity and Endgame are keen. I found two great quotes from them which I will use. Joe said “…a really good exercise for your imagination, that’s why we love it” and Anthony added “Yeah and who could resist unconventionally sided dice?”. I have several other quotes from people but my favourite, which I plan on using as my last line in my Research Paper is another from Joe Russo – “If you want to make movies, go play D&D” which I think will be a great ending, confirming my Thesis Statement as correct in a humorous and entertaining way.