tablesaw: A twenty-sided die glows with the power of the Great Old Ones. (Cthulhu Icosahedron)
I've been avoiding Community because, well, what [personal profile] mswyrr said. But I also know a lot of people who really enjoy it, and I kept seeing fun vids focusing on Troy and Abed. So today, after running through my queue of Daily Show and Colbert Report, when Hulu suggested that my next show be the most recent episode of Community, my first thought was no.

When I saw the title was "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons," my second thought was maybe.

When I realized the teaser image was one of the characters in Drow Blackface, I was in morbid curiosity mode.

And then . . . it was good?

I still don't know how I feel about the Drow Blackface issue. It was clearly called out and the defense was noted as hypocritical, but it was superfluous, which I always wonder about. I leave it to someone more experienced to read.

And the show seems to have moved away from privileged white guy being the star to focusing on the ensemble? Maybe? If anyone wants to campaign for or against, I'm all ears.

But what struck me the most was that instead of a parade of geek references, the episode actually plumbed the depth of the social aspect of games. And I think the fact that most of the characters weren't gamers, it made it easier to cut through the cruft of references. Instead of owlbears and beholders, there was a fundamental breakdown of the social contract and conflict over the role of the DM. There's powergaming through metagaming. There's a conflict over role-playing versus roll-playing. There are hooks and callbacks. There's a struggle over the purpose of the game. And it generally seems to give anyone watching a sense of why they might be interested in playing a game like this.

Although the game they were playing was actually in the show was (loosely interpreted) first- or second-edition AD&D, it seemed to be tracing the steps of Forge theory.

The writing staff seems to be mostly ignorant of gaming, which might be the point. Telling a funny story with a role-playing game is different than telling a funny story about a role-playing game.

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