Joe Manganiello’s D&D Obsession (is a Good Thing)

Sofia Vergara talked about her husband’s D&D fandom on Late Night this week. Sounds like he has a pretty sweet game room!

… and Seth Myers admits he’s very out of touch with popular culture.

It’s not really a secret that Joe is a huge D&D fan. He is a current cast member on Force Grey – which you can watch live every Monday on Twitch – and is developing a script for a movie set in the Dragonlance universe.

He’s also busting stereotypes about who plays RPGs – the community is really diverse, and the game has become big business. In a recent interview he talked about his history and who he plays with:

Every summer was spent creatively cooking up adventures the way a modern-day showrunner or producer would. Which is what I do now. It was building characters and story arcs and auxiliary storylines. Little did I know I was flexing all the muscles that I ended up using in my chosen profession.

All the kids I played with growing up were athletes like me. Everyone who plays these games is an intellectual. But they came in all shapes and sizes, including my jock friends. I play regularly now with my trainer, who is the current world champion in CrossFit over 45 years old. He’s a monster. My friend Thomas Tull, CEO of Legendary Entertainment, he came over and played. He co-owns the Steelers. So they come in all shapes and sizes, I guess I’m trying to say.

The mainstream needs to understand that D&D players look like this…

And this…

And this…

And like you. RPG players are a diverse group, and they are everywhere – and being a part of that community is freaking awesome!

Role playing games – and D&D in particular – are becoming more mainstream by the day. The first season of Stranger Things opened with a game and Community devoted an episode to it; Vin Diesel promoted The Last Witch Hunter by playing a game with Matt Mercer. The Rock, Karl Urban, and Tim Duncan have all talked about playing publicly. It’s become one of the most popular games on Twitch, which was created for video games, thanks to the popularity of Critical Role.


What has been your experience when talking to people outside of the community about playing RPGs?

  • TheREALhamish

    I started playing D&D in the early 80’s. As I kid I was a somewhat introverted daydreamer, so the hobby resonated with me; letting me exercise my imagination and giving me a social outlet to connect with kids similar to myself. In my teen years, I was a full-fledged D&D (and proto-anime) nerd, and suffered for this, because calling these things a “social stigma” for that era is a gross understatement.

    As a socially awkward young nerd, I (and my friends) desperately sought validation for our hobbies. Inevitably there’d be that one “cool”(ish) kid that’d join the group, and for this rest of us this would in some mysterious way endow our hobby (and by extension, us) with more dignity.

    Now 30 years later, I look back and clearly see the insecurity and narcissism that drove my friends and I. Can’t blame us overmuch, because we were just kids, but we were definitely barking up the wrong tree. Then I see an article like this, basically spouting the same juvenile validation-seeking nonsense…

    Gaming is not an identity – it is a *hobby*. I don’t give a flying fornication if some muscular cool Hollywood guy plays the same games I do, because it doesn’t change my experience one damn bit, and I don’t invest my sense of self in my hobbies. You’re not impressing me with “look at this gaggle of cute girls – they play D&D too, you closet misogynist!” – you’re broadcasting the fact that you’re not cool in your own skin.

    • Ryan Fitch

      It does affect you though. The more socially accepted something is the more popular it gets. The more people doing an activity, the more money that flows through it’s development. We are getting things like dndbeyond and hundreds of hours of quality DND stream entertainment because enough people are becoming interested in the game.

      Cute girls and well known names undoubtedly help drive the population increase. It affects you indirectly at the very least.

    • OrksIsMadeFerRockin

      I agree with parts of your post. If you brought a girl in your room and there was “nerd stuff” in plain sight there was something you wouldn’t be getting so I kept my dnd stuff packed up neatly out of sight. It wasn’t so much narcissism or insecurity more practicality. Though I still feel awkward talking about that stuff in public so who knows. The last three campaigns I have run have been full of girls and first time players and it has been a blast. The growing popularity and cultural acceptance can only be a good thing. The more the merrier.

      • Jack Biddo

        I think its pretty common to feel this way especially the younger you are. I used to hide all of my nerd stuff and not talk about it but the older i get the less I care. I’m in my late 30s now and I paint models in the breakroom at my work.

        • Muninwing

          the first time i met my wife was during a Call of Cthulhu game.

          the second was playing in a D&D game with her (planescape, her bf was the DM, i left after one session because it was godawful).

          we regularly game together now. i’ve run games for a room full of female players. for a year, we had a game going that was all parents — we’d play, the kids would play with each other, we’d share the parenting.

          it’s so different than it was way back.

          when i was in middle school, it wasn’t unpopular, it was just strange. some “cool kids” joined one of our groups, and there were enough of us that it wasn’t a big deal. in highschool, though, after net losses (tech, catholic, and private schools) the same group was much smaller and it suddenly became an undesirable hobby. it was something that you just didn’t talk about because difference was invitation to friction.

          so much has changed. it’s become far more socially acceptable than it ever was. so it’s hard to see what it was like back then, since it’s just so different.

        • marxlives

          I put all my nerd stuff on full display. Still do, then again my dad put me in sports (which was basically Jesus camp for nerds) and I learned some good lessons from both experiences. Sports taught me that you could be physically strong AND smart. Then I was in the Army, where people played DnD all the time to kill boredom. Guess what I am trying to say if you are lean, mean, and green ladies don’t really care about your nerd stuff.

          That said, let’s get real guys most people who played DnD then were stoners. That is why we laughed at the stereotype. Ya they were in the basement all right…smoking up pure imagination.

    • Muninwing

      yeah, as someone who also grew up playing D&D in the early 80s (i started at 6 years old), gaming was an identity.

      it was the thing — the experience, the shaping factors, the effort i expended — that defined how i thought, who i interacted with, and what i did with my time.

      at times, it was the only thing. at others, it was hardly important at all. it’s not much different from someone saying “i was a soccer jock in high school” because they played soccer, practiced, went to soccer camps, hung around with their teammates, etc.

      i’ve run games and played in them where it wasn’t just the stereotypical gaggle of awkward nerdy boys huddled around a basement table when they “could be doing something worthwhile with their time” (though i’ve had that experience too, and i’ve done worthwhile things with my time). i’ve had friends whose sole representation of social interaction had been in-game all the way into adulthood.

      are you telling me that they should feel ashamed of themselves because they choose to define themselves by their experiences?

      or because those experiences are outside the mainstream?

      we get it — you’re so cool you’re beyond this. so you get to be all judgey of others. except… acceptance and representation means that some other nerdy awkward kid doesn’t get bullied and instead grows up with the confidence to do more with his or her life. except they can’e because that’s not important to you.

      you admit that you grew up, that things changed for you. standing in a position of power, you now choose to condescend to those standing where you were, and are seeking to deny them that stepping stone you used to get where you are. and because you somehow feel insulted that the author reminded people that there’s still social stigma and there are till underrepresented female gamers, you chose do double down on this?

      sorry, that’s far lamer than someone who chooses to represent themselves as someone interested in their hobbies without shame. or, you know, “gamers.”

    • marxlives

      Well spoken, that is my fear too. This idea to validation what is basically an extracurricular activity as hey…cool people play too. Look that doesn’t matter. Do you have fun with it…check. That is what matters, letting nerd hobbies be an identity is like letting sports be an identity. Its an interest and not a source of character validation.



  • Bob Gould

    Please tell me he plays D&D with Vin Diesel.

    • Not that I’ve read – but it wouldn’t be surprising if they have.

  • Muninwing

    it’s become so much more mainstream than it was. you can thank WoW and Peter Jackson and J.K. Rowling for that.

    back when it emerged, it was a sedentary game when active pursuits were all that were considered acceptable. it was imagination-based when real and hands-on was considered acceptable. it involved rules and math and reading when anti-intellectualism was the norm. it meant pretending to be something else (and what does that say about what you think of yourself?).

    it was also something that wasn’t cool, in the 80s. you ever see how “nerds” are represented in movies from the 80s? that’s there for a reason. the widening of the gap between the rich and poor, coupled with the wall street “anything goes” approach massively increased materialism and the problems of the poor. what’s “cool” was often what was more expensive, because having more money meant showing more off — think of the villains in 80s movies and how many of them were the “rich kid” opposing some underdog who happened to be from a poorer family.

    D&D took one box to generate countless hours of play. it was cheap (though you could buy more to expand, you didn’t need to), took brainpower and dedication, and did not reward money or popularity. in fact, it was unpopular, and by that token it was a refuge for those who were unpopular.

    today it’s a joke. so are the people who still think it is somehow statnic. but as someone who remembers the “moral panic” that happened around those games, it wasn’t a joke at the time.

  • marxlives

    Its true, even with miniature wargames. Everyone starts off as a nerd in these games (which is a badge of pride and really is just anyone who is intelligent and creative). With kids you never really know how they are going to turn out, which is why the idea of privelage is a joke. I have meet plenty kids whose parents were doctors or business people who are now getting pregnant from their 5th baby daddy so they can have a source of income (child support) and tending bars with dropping out of college multiple times.

    That being said, our hobby does attract all types, and the guys who do look either like the DnD stereotype or like Misfits era punk rockers are actually pretty cool too. While breaking the stereotype is good, we should never forget that our hobby allows people who are on the fringes by either habit or choice the opportunity to hang out with nine to five working stiffs, soldiers, preps, and even cowboys without judgement or discrimination.

  • dave long island

    When VH1 does a bio on the rise and fall of Joe Manganiello, experts and people close to him will look back and knowingly point to his coming out as a D&D enthusiast, as being the beginning of his downfall… LOL