Gravity Falls is a Disney Channel cartoon created by Alex Hirsch that run for two seasons. The show is about the Pines twins Mabel and Dipper. They are taken to a mountain town called Gravity Falls for the summer by their parents and get to live with their Great Uncle Stan. (dubbed as Grunkle Stan by the twins) Stan has a tiny museum and gift shop called Mystery Shack, but after Dipper finds a mysterious journal from a mysterious writer, the twins notice that there are actual mysteries and oddities in the town.
Gravity Falls references a lot of geek culture during its running time, but one of the most memorable and clear references for games is during the episode Dungeons, Dungeons & more Dungeons. The episode revolves around Dipper wanting to play his favorite math and logic game, but Stan or Mabel isn’t interested due to its complex nature. Finally, he finds another like-minded geek to play with, but due to a multiuniversal mishap, the game comes to life and Dipper and his friend get caught by the evil wizard who wants to eat their brains to become more powerful. Therefore, Stan and Mabel, the non-brainiacs of the family, must save them by playing the game.
The references to Dungeons & Dragons, the classic roleplaying board game, are very clear. From the maps being self-made and drawn on square by square paper, the miniatures, the math, not to even mention the name of the game in the episode.
What the Gravity Falls episode clearly is doing is harking back from your own experiences either trying to play with your friends or trying to get your friends to play with you. Dungeons & Dragons is one of those games where it is very hard to rope in enough players to play the game, especially if you don’t have people who have played before. All of it seems more complex than it is, and that is what the Gravity Falls episode says as well: yes, there is math and a lot of rules, but yes, you also get to use your own imagination and have a lot of fun.
How the Dungeons, Dungeons & more Dungeons works as a game is a bit of a mystery itself when looking at the episode. There seems to be only one bad guy and a merry band of misfits from the game that come alive for the episode. It is not made in a sensical way, as you can tell by the 38-faced die which sounds intense for those of us used to rolling a D20. It is possible, but so complex it’s funny.
I found that the episode does a great job in poking fun at the game, the players and how it is played. But what it also so wonderfully does is explaining why exactly D&D is such a fun game to play with friends. It makes a great note of enjoying both the logical gameplay but also the imaginative roleplay aspects of it. Considering that this is a cartoon aimed for kids and pre-teens predominantly, it is also a great way of making new players be interested in what the actual D&D is like.
Episode: Gravity Falls season 2, episode
Directed by Stephen Sandoval
Written by Matt Chapman, Josh Weinstein, Alex Hirsch
Storyboards: Emmy Cicierega, Alonso Ramirez Ramos, Vaughn Tada
Gravity Falls created by Alex Hirsch
Production company Disney Television Animation
Pictures screenshot from streaming service by author.
Animation c) Disney Television Animation.