I’m main-lining Community right now, and I’m up to the episode “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.” Being a role-player – as in someone who plays role-playing games, such as Dungeons & Dragons, rather than some other possible meaning for that term – I have, as can be imagined, some thoughts about the it.
First off, I’m going to complain about messing up the mechanics. Now, I’m not doing so because I think they ruined the game or something – though it would have been nice to see an accurate depiction – rather there’s a specific problem with how the gameplay is presented that actually detracts from the narrative. In the actual game, the players roll the dice to see if their characters succeed, whereas in the episode, the Dungeonmaster (DM, for those of you not in the know . . . though I doubt that’s an issue) rolled all the dice. I find this a problem because (do I need to write out SPOILERS? Okay, fine . . . SPOILERS!) Neil’s success in the show’s climax is outside his control. Yes, his character succeeded and that foiled the episode’s villain, but the actual success was Abed’s. Abed rolled the die, not Neil. Since I believe this was supposed to be Neil’s victory rather than Abed’s – his victory was running a great game of D&D – the mechanics as presented detract from that victory.
I can get over that.
What I loved about the episode was how it illustrated the level a good game can get players invested in its story. Even Jeff, who began the game at an ironic distance, became immersed in the game by the end. Now, this might be explained away by his being invested in the reason for the game itself – (SPOILERS?) it’s strongly implied that Neil is suicidal and Jeff feels responsible for that – but the bottom line was his excitement at an in-game event.
At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Sure, I would have preferred the game in the episode to be a better depiction of an actual game, but I think it was a great advertisement for the game given how much the characters enjoyed it.
And I know that this series is absurdist, and that the characters are Nth degree paradigms rather than grounded characters, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to feel sympathy for Pearce again. He was a real, unmitigated fuck in this show. Perhaps I feel too much empathy for Neil’s character, but given that this was basically an intervention to stop a suicide, Pearce’s self-absorption to the point of risking that outcome makes him beyond the pale as a sympathetic character for me.
No matter how awesome Neil found the game.
You can find more information on Community here.
You can read about the “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” episode here.