Most Saturday nights, eighth grader Holden Fraser and his friends meet in his basement in Greenwich, Connecticut, to embark on an adventure. They prepare their characters, which include elves, wizards, dwarfs, and rogues. But instead of picking up video game controllers, Holden rolls seven colorful, multiple-sided dice to play the game Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D for short.
The adventure role-playing game was first published in 1974. Since then, tabletop games, which include D&D and all board games—from classics like Clue to modern ones like Settlers of Catan—have soared in popularity. D&D has also been featured in popular media, such as the Netflix show Stranger Things. That’s how Holden learned about the game two years ago.
D&D is just one of many tabletop games that people have been playing for thousands of years. Senet, one of the oldest known board games, was played in Egypt more than 5,000 years ago! Classic games like Monopoly debuted in the 1930s. But in the past 20 years tabletop games have exploded in popularity, with newer titles like Ticket to Ride selling millions of copies since it first went on sale in 2004.
Holden loves that tabletop games like D&D are social, but don’t require using any technology. “The story doesn’t move forward without the players,” Holden says. “It’s great to see all my friends get really into the world I’ve created.”