When Podcasts Teach Life Lessons: Learning to Focus with "The Adventure Zone"

I don't know from "Dungeons and Dragons". I've never played, I wouldn't even know where to begin. I play video games and the odd game of Trivial Pursuit, but role playing games have never been in my repertoire. Nevertheless, I decided to give "The Adventure Zone", a McElroy-produced "Dungeons and Dragons"-esque podcast, with the comedy that I've come to expect from a McElroy podcast, but with the storytelling, magic and mysticism of a D&D game, a chance.

Art by Carey Pietsch, @careydraws

Art by Carey Pietsch, @careydraws

TAZ stars the three McElroy brothers and their father, Clint; Griffin is the Dungeon Master and about 1,000 other characters, Justin plays as Taako the wizard, Travis is Magnus the fighter and Clint is Merle the cleric. Each episode has the traveling, adventuring trio going through elaborate tales concocted by Griffin as they magick, fight, bluff, fumble, and blast through rivals and opponents. It's storytelling at its finest. It's complex, thrilling, shocking and engaging. But most of all, it demands your attention.

The main reason why I've come to love the show so much is that it forces me to concentrate and focus on only one thing: the podcast. I am practically incapable of doing only one thing at a time. I actually can't remember the last time I ate a meal alone without looking at my iPad, phone or computer. I don't even acknowledge the food that's going into my mouth for the amount of distraction I impose on myself (which is pretty crazy, since food is 90% of all that I think about). I am consistently cheating myself out of fully immersive experiences. 

I started listening to "The Adventure Zone" mostly because it was a McElroy show and I wasn't getting enough of their content amongst their other 13 podcasts. I breezed through the first block of TAZ episodes but if you asked me what had happened in them, I wouldn't be able to tell you. Not that the story wasn't fascinating, well-told or well played through. But it's a massive world that I, sadly, wasn't fully paying attention to. 

My attention is constantly divided, but that doesn't work with TAZ. If you're not listening with all of your concentration, you will get lost. I'm not an auditory learner. Following a story with 10s of characters, terms I barely understand and dice rolls to boot, and not being able to see what's going on, is a struggle. Normally, this would completely deter me. Oftentimes, if something doesn't come easily to me, I figure it's not worth doing (turns out... not the best way to live!). However, I became determined that I would expand my learning capacity and listen carefully.

Yes, every so often, I would have to go back 10 or 20 minutes, sometimes even all the way back to the beginning of the episode, because I could feel my mind drifting. I do have to impress upon you all, once more, that this was not because I was bored. Far from it. This podcast is truly masterful in its execution and has become even more so as the storylines have gone on. The content is so different from what I usually consume and with every episode, I found that I was grasping more concepts and honing in just that much more than I had in the previous episodes. I was focusing. And I was loving every minute of it.

It doesn't matter if you don't know a perception check from an initiative check, whether you can tell your D8s from your D20s, all that matters is the adventure. "The Adventure Zone" is hilarious and completely ingenious and well-worth giving it your full attention.