When COVID-19 forced sweeping isolation and stalled social gatherings, Dungeons and Dragons players were quick to move their games online. But while advances in digital tabletop gaming, including Roll20 and DnDBeyond, made key components of the game screen-friendly, the transition was anything but seamless. Long-running campaigns were paused, reformatted, or abandoned entirely. Many players struggled with their newfound isolation and the rapidly changing landscape of the game they loved. For some, the game table came to exist as a painful reminder of all the treasured social spaces that COVID-19 had taken away.
Empty Chairs at Empty Tables is a project which leverages the physical game pieces of Dungeons and Dragons to visualize the emotional toll of COVID-19 in social spaces. Informed by interviews with D&D players, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables is an exploration of the connection between players and game pieces, a monument to the social spaces lost to COVID-19, and an invitation for players and non-players alike to begin building a language for understanding the impact of the pandemic on the spaces where we gather.