Local Dungeons and Dragons Player Turns to TikTok to Grow Community | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Local Dungeons and Dragons Player Turns to TikTok to Grow Community

A content creator shares videos about her experiences with a niche — and male-dominated — hobby

In 2020, Diana Fajer decided to post her very first TikTok. She was growing bored at home and had come up with several ideas for short videos that people online could relate to. She'd wait until all of her roommates were out of the house to post her informative videos online. Now, with over 160,000 followers, Fajer consistently creates videos about a particularly niche subject.

click to enlarge Local Dungeons and Dragons Player Turns to TikTok to Grow Community
Courtesy Diana Fajer/Diana of the Rose

To most people, Fajer is a normal 24-year-old living in Bend. She has a 9-5 job working remotely in medical sales and you can often find her out and about, grabbing drinks with friends. Fajer, however, devotes her free time to playing and discussing her favorite tabletop game, Dungeons and Dragons.

Fajer is a Dungeons and Dragons content creator. Her account hosts a variety of different videos, mostly revolving around the fantasy game that she enjoys playing. Her initial hope in creating videos was to help young women, like herself, learn how to play Dungeons and Dragons and build a community of online gamers, something that she didn't have growing up.

Fajer was born and raised in Portland. As we sat outside of Avid Cider, a taproom she frequents, she told me she was a quiet, reserved kid who struggled finding friends with common interests. Most of them were online β€” that is, once she was able to meet people online.

Growing up in a strict household, she was always intrigued by video games but didn't start playing until she was much older. As soon as she started showing interest in participating in the gaming world, her father shut her down. She wasn't allowed.

click to enlarge Local Dungeons and Dragons Player Turns to TikTok to Grow Community
Courtesy Diana Fajer/Diana of the Rose

It wasn't because her parents were super religious or against violent video games, like many parents are these days. "Girls don't play video games," her father sternly told her. He repeated this sentiment anytime she would bring up a desire to participate.

She would frequently walk over to her neighbor's house, who was an older boy who played Xbox. Fajer would make her way to the corner of his room and sit in silence as she watched him play adventure games; jumping on buildings, killing evil villagers and completing quests given to him by the medieval characters.

It wasn't until she was older that she decided to go against her father's wishes and finally enter the virtual world. She waited until she had enough money saved up and bought herself an Xbox. As she got more into video games, she got a gaming computer. She was introduced to D&D by people she met through online servers and from then on, was hooked.

What is D&D?

When people hear about Dungeons and Dragons, they typically remember their fathers talking about playing "back in the day" or see young boys playing it on shows like "Stranger Things," a TV show set in the '80s.

It's a fantasy tabletop game that lets players' imaginations run wild, involving an intense and complex world. People play characters who wander through an imaginary world, meeting people and doing quests.

"Instead of having a video programmed for you, it's someone sitting across from you at a table saying, 'This is what's in front of you, what do you want to do?' It's very open ended," Fajer said.

The person sitting across from the players, guiding them through the game, is called the Dungeon Master. As the official DM for every D&D game she plays, Fajer is the world builder, the narrator, all of the side characters and also the judge or referee. She even describes to players what each situation or room looks like, since there are very few visuals.

"I'll just be like, 'You entered a dungeon. Here's everything that's in it. There's a desk to one side, there's a skeleton named Manacles on the wall.' All of those explanations come from me." Fajer describes her role as a means of call and response. When a player wants to do something in the world, like put a curse on a different character, it's Fajer's job to either welcome or deny that action.

click to enlarge Local Dungeons and Dragons Player Turns to TikTok to Grow Community
Courtesy Diana Fajer/Diana of the Rose

Almost immediately after learning how to play D&D, she favored being a Dungeon Master over being a player. She enjoys occupying her free time with dreaming up new storylines, or creating new characters that can help players get more enjoyment and fulfillment out of the game. "The idea, [of D&D] at its heart, is group storytelling," said Peter Askew, a D&D player and the owner of the local game shop, Modern Games.

The game, according to Askew, has become more inclusive and accepting since he was a kid. Celebrities and YouTubers over the years have brought attention and a new community of players to the game, bringing a fresher and more diverse perspective.

In addition to carrying D&D-related accessories, Modern Games hosts biweekly D&D games on Sundays. While the D&D scene in Bend is not necessarily extensive, Askew said there's a growing community. People looking for more information about the game, or looking for players, can watch a game on a Sunday or join the Bend D&D Discord or Facebook channel.

A male-dominated space

Fajer plays the game with a group of like-minded men and women she met on the internet. Her videos, which are constantly growing in popularity, revolve around giving people tips on playing Dungeons and Dragons, how to be a Dungeon Master and funny anecdotes about what she's going through in her life as a "gamer girl."

One of Fajer's followers and friends she met through TikTok, Shayne Colli (they/them), noted some of the aspects of Fajer's online persona that set her apart from typical D&D content creators.

"She brings femininity to the table in a way that is very rarely seen," Colli said. "I feel like sometimes in D&D spaces or male spaces, when you enter as a woman, you, in some way, concede a portion of your femininity to fit in, and I feel like she did not do that at all."

Askew at Modern Games sees the D&D community as something that's broadened over the last decade, but could still use some work. "Twenty-three years ago, D&D was almost exclusively a boy's club," he said. Hosting game nights at his shop, Askew still notices a gender divide in the gaming world. He's often impressed if 10% of the players are female, because that's still a big jump from when he was a kid.

click to enlarge Local Dungeons and Dragons Player Turns to TikTok to Grow Community
Courtesy Diana Fajer/Diana of the Rose

He's hopeful that the game will continue to draw in more diverse crowds over time. "You get much more dynamic storytelling when you don't just have a bunch of guys sitting around a table." He noted that most of the women he does see playing D&D locally are often there accompanying their D&D playing boyfriend or husband.

According to Fajer, there are many benefits to creating game-related content on the internet. She meets people she'd never run into in real life and has been told she's helping people in the gaming world. However, the gaming industry is one that is predominantly male, and TikTok gaming creators are no different. While Fajer is arguably one of the most popular female D&D creators on TikTok, her position sometimes comes with unfavorable circumstances.

Initially, Fajer attempted to gear her content toward women with similar interests. However, that's been a lot harder than she thought, since most of her followers are male. "If you look at my analytics, it's like 60% male, but it used to be like 80%," she said. A lot of her online interactions, she said, are also with men.

Fajer, referred to by several of her male followers as "Dungeon Mommy," is frequently forced to deal with unpleasant comments, she said, with men often commenting on her looks or send messages declaring their love for her. Fajer admitted that the excessive comments and messages can get creepy at times, but knowing that it comes with the territory, she doesn't let it bother her too much.

Because of her growing popularity, Fajer has had to change a lot of things in her life to maintain her privacy. She once received a message, letting her know the sender had found her address. After this incident, she decided to conceal her last name, creating a fake one to display on all of her social media accounts.

In her videos, she has to stay vigilant to not show anything that may identify her or give out her location, concealing her company logo and never filming near a window. She had to tell her parents about her TikTok, which she never had any plans of doing, to ensure that they were made aware of any odd callers or scammers that may attempt to reach out.

Real life vs Online

Aside from the oddities that come with being a TikToker, Fajer still finds joy in talking about and playing her favorite table-top game. She told the Source Weekly that Dungeons and Dragons is half of her personality, a side that very few people actually see in real life. It's not a secret, she said; she just doesn't think it's relevant to people. "It's not like you follow your friends or family on it [TikTok]," she said.

Fajer described being a TikToker as living two separate lives; one on the internet and another in real life. "As soon as I step out of my apartment, it's like, 'oh shit. . . I'm in the real world.'" She feels more comfortable talking about the subject of gaming with people she knows are open to the conversation, and she's certain that the people who follow her are.

"It's just easier," said Fajer. "I don't feel like I'm bothering anyone. When I'm sitting down for dinner with friends, it's a little harder to interject myself into the conversation." She said she feels like the things that interest her don't interest anyone in her "real life."

Fajer has made many meaningful connections through TikTok. Many of her "genuine" followers have been around since she started making videos back in 2020. She feels almost obligated to not only be a person who women in the gaming world can turn to, but someone who people feel connected with.

Colli, the fellow gamer, first saw Fajer in a D&D TikTok video that came across her page. They followed Fajer and started messaging her. Before long, the two became friends, playing virtual games together and talking about their mutual love for D&D. Colli believes Fajer's genuine connection and openness with her audience is a medium for her to communicate about her interests β€” a safe space.

Colli admitted that before moving to Austin, Texas, a city they said has a large gaming community, they, too, would turn online to talk about their hobbies and day-to-day life. When you're only talking about a whole aspect of your personality online, Colli said, it can make life feel divided.

Fajer's camaraderie and love for her TikTok audience is something that makes up a lot of her personality. Her online presence has always allowed her an outlet to talk about her hobbies and interact with others who have similar interests. Her TikTok has not only given her the ability to continue that, but it has also given that opportunity to other young women.

In addition to continuing TikTok, Fajer hopes to eventually bring more of a D&D presence to Bend. She hopes to see more interest in D&D game nights and potentially create and expand the community, providing information, resources and tips to prospective players.

About The Author

Julianna LaFollette

Julianna is currently pursuing her Masters in Journalism at NYU. She loves writing local stories about interesting people and events. When she’s not reporting, you can find her cooking, participating in outdoor activities or attempting to keep up with her 90 pound dog, Finn.
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