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How Dungeons & Dragons and Fantasy Prepare You for Law and Life

How Dungeons & Dragons and Fantasy Prepare You for Law and Life

Ethan Gilsdorf, author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, in conversation with Jonathan Zittrain

March 11, 2014 at 6PM

How is a lawyer like a wizard? How does a courtroom resemble an epic battle? How is a casebook like the Dungeon Master's Guide? If you played Dungeons & Dragons in another age, or today, then you know this enormously influential role-playing gaming, which shaped the video gaming industry and geek culture, can be perfect training ground for law and life. This low-tech, pencil-and-paper-and-dice game teaches us how to solve problems, be a heroic leader, and achieve a common goal in a collaborative group environment. But the skills, rulebooks and "laws" required to play D&D  --- whether understanding complex "to hit" charts or inventing the backstory of an evil Witch King -- can especially apply to law students. What Dungeon Master or lawyer doesn't need to parley with a foe? In this informal talk and conversation, critic and journalist Ethan Gilsdorf, author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, discusses how D&D's inherent storytelling skills can champion a role for creative play space in both your work and leisure life. We'll also discuss the push and pull of laws and rules vs. imagination in a game like D&D, a book series like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, or any fantasy world, and the role of the dungeon master/author/world-builder in the consistent (or inconsistent) application of these rules and standards, and how this all might apply to the imaginary world of law, too.

Jonathan Zittrain will join Ethan Gilsdorf for a conversation about how D&D can be a perfect training ground for law and life. 

About Ethan

Ethan Gilsdorf is a journalist, memoirist, critic, poet, teacher and 17th level geek.

He wrote the award-winning travel memoir investigation Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms.

Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Gilsdorf writes regularly for the New York Times, Boston Globe,,,, Washington Post and He has published hundreds of articles, essays, op-eds and reviews on the arts, pop culture, gaming, geek culture and travel in dozens of other magazines, newspapers, websites and guidebooks worldwide. He has also published dozens of poems in literary magazines and anthologies. [More...]

About Jonathan

Jonathan Zittrain is Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.  His research interests include battles for control of digital property and content, cryptography, electronic privacy, the roles of intermediaries within Internet architecture, human computing, and the useful and unobtrusive deployment of technology in education. [More...]


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Past Event
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
6:00 PM - 7:00 PM