Trauma and Demogorgons: Analyzing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) in Stranger Things
Toben Racicot, GI resident and English PhD student, will give a talk in the collaboration space during our Halloween party. Come out to hear Toben talk about how the motif of D&D in Stranger Things informs how role-playing games are an unconventional tool for empowering and preparing players for future trauma.
Dungeons & Dragons is more than a motif in Stranger Things. It acts as a therapeutic tool to forestall trauma. Much like Freud’s analysis of the “Fort-Da” game his grandson played, Dungeon & Dragons is not simply a game, but a practice that establishes mental armatures in anticipation of future trauma. This paper combines game theory concepts like uncertainty, objectives, role-play, and failure with Freud’s theories about trauma, repetition compulsion, and the “Fort-Da” to analyze Dungeon & Dragons’ importance in Stranger Things. This analysis shows that games, specifically Dungeons & Dragons, are an effective tool to anticipate trauma; they provide a safe place to become a hero, and empower players to develop psychic protections in anticipation of future traumatic moments.
This paper focuses on the trauma of a person missing or leaving, as this is the inciting incident of season one and relevant trauma in most characters’ lives, being children of divorced, dead, or emotionally absent parents. Incorporating psychoanalytic theories from Sigmund Freud, Deborah Britzman, E. Ann Kaplan, Cathy Caruth, and Ruth Lays, shows how the game works for the Stranger Things cast as they encounter trauma events through the first season and also how these principles can be applied in readers’ lives. Therefore, this paper functions as both psychoanalysis of Dungeons & Dragons in Stranger Things and displaying its potential for real world applications. The understanding brought to light by Dungeons & Dragons’ role in Stranger Things allows readers to better grasp the need for imagination, role-play, and collaboration as part of trauma foresight.
Toben Racicot is the creator of Crown & Anchor, a sci-fi pirate adventure comic with his wife, Alaire. As a freelance letterer he’s worked on projects like Menagerie, Rumble Kings, Primal Instinct, and Littlelight Asylum. He currently works on Thorn Squadron, 33, and others. Toben’s pursuing a PhD in Role-Playing Game Studies at the University of Waterloo. When not at his desk he's farming for Tal Rasha's Armor in Diablo 2, Dungeon Mastering campaigns, and reading comic books.
All are welcome to this free event.
175 Columbia Street West
Waterloo, ON N2L5Z5