Dan Harmon is best known for creating series like Rick and Morty and Community, but one of his biggest passions is Dungeons & Dragons; so much so that he created an entire series dedicated to playing it with his friends.
HarmonQuest, which began on NBC’s streaming service, Seeso, before moving to VRV for its second season, follows Harmon and his friend, Spencer Crittenden, as they play Dungeons & Dragons with different celebrities. Each episode includes a contained game — meaning that it’s not serialized — and the focus is more on the debauchery that can occur when playing Dungeons & Dragons than the actual game itself.
There’s been a rise in attention toward Dungeons & Dragons in recent years. Shows like Community and Stranger Things have catapulted Dungeons & Dragons into being cool, but Harmon told Polygon at New York Comic Con that it’s the rapid success of celebratory conventions and the current state of video games that helped bring tabletop games into the realm of even being considered cool.
Harmon believes that because video games became sophisticated faster, while tabletop remained stagnant in their design, people wrote off the genre completely. It’s only now, when games have become so entirely different, Harmon says, that people are beginning to understand why tabletop gaming has always been so enamoring.
“The more important thing is, whereas video games between the late ‘80s to now were becoming so sophisticated, people kept assuming if tabletop gaming was capable of having that level of sophistication, than it would have that, and therefore it was obsolete,” Harmon. “We’ve now hit a tipping point with games like Skyrim where you can truly experience that level of sophistication electronically and that’s when you really realize how completely different the appeal is for tabletop gaming. It started to feel like if you were tabletop gaming, that you were doing something old and pointless.
“Now it feels like you’re riding a bike instead of driving a car and it’s a totally different thing.”
That’s not to ignore one of the biggest factors in the resurgence of games like Dungeons & Dragons: nostalgia. Shows like Stranger Things have bought into the grand appeal of what Dungeons & Dragons represented for a generation. It’s the type of nostalgia, Harmon jokes, that only those who weren’t around during the period they’re infatuated with.
“I hung out with [Stranger Things creators] the Duffer brothers for a night, found out how young they were and was like, ‘What’s going on here?’ And they were like, ‘I don’t know, I’m just kind of fascinated with that era.’ Yeah, because you weren’t there,” Harmon said. “In the ‘90s, we got really interested in the ‘60s. I think some of these younger folks are more interested in the ‘80s.”
It’s all worked out for Harmon, however, whose show has found an audience for those who want to get in on the trend.
HarmonQuest season two is available to stream on VRV.