Dungeons, Dragons, and Life Lessons

Hi! My name is Jacqueline and I’m a gamer. I have earned a master’s degree in anthropology, and have experience in field research and ethnography. I served as active duty US Air Force for almost a decade, and I am pursuing an MBA with an emphasis in leadership.

Saint Michael Slaying the Dragon
Martin Schongauer
c. 1480/1490


I have always been curious about the connections between gaming and life skills. Do games that require group interactions and theater-of-the-mind increase our abilities to be successful as individuals and team members, not only in game, but in the everyday world? My primary goal is not only to engage in these games, but also to use my skill set as an anthropologist and leader to record gaming sessions and observe emerging life lessons. And what better to play than the classic tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons? Not only will I engage as a Player, but I will also engage as a Dungeon Master (DM). As a Player, I will explore an unknown world with a new group of teammates. And, as a DM, my role is to guide a group of players on their campaign in a world with consequences they create as we advance through stories only I know.

Last semester, I was exposed to an life changing book titled “Building the Bridge as You Walk on It: A Guide for Leading Change” by Robert E. Quinn. I devoured the eight concepts laid out throughout the book (Reflective Action, Authentic Engagement, Appreciative Inquiry, Grounded Vision, Adaptive Confidence, Detached Interdependence, Responsible Freedom, and Tough Love) and allowed myself the time and space to wrestle with their meanings. However, these concepts were not new to me. They were always there, floating under the surface of my cultural zeitgeist, and I had always known them. I recognized them as my values.

My father is, and raised me to be, a transformational leader, and my time spent as a young airman and aged sergeant consistently modeled these values. Although I swam in them every day, I didn’t have the language to process and hold on to the values I loved. And so when I left the military and was away from my family, I lost my way. I swam upstream against a different cultural tide until I was too tired to fight; I let the current take me. I could only model the behaviors I knew in my mind and heart to be right but I had lost my tribe. I wandered alone for almost another decade without a path forward, and honestly without hope, before I found my values again. My greatest hope now is to find and build a new tribe.

I am starting again, anew, and hopeful of what the next decade will bring… So let’s pick up those dice and roll initiative!

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