Despite what Generation X-ers might think, there are more people playing D&D now than there have ever been. So therefore it's as close to mainstream as ever. (And jokes about it are most of that.)
I recently took the game up again after moving 2,500 miles just as a way of reconnecting with hobbies past and present. (And I figured my significant other could handle it after I watched her literally take over my game of Baldur's Gate II, knowing nothing about game mechanics, and stay up all night beating the expansion pack while I was sleeping.) The last time I'd touched it was nine years and an edition and a half ago. All I'd done was play the occasional PC game (and no, not MMO games, which I find slightly frightening). I'd sold all my books on eBay and dumped several years' worth of multiple magazines.
Despite not being familiar with many of the rule changes and such, it's still the same game I first saw in 1983. Sure, there's the same problems:
-It still attracts the type of people I was trying to escape in high school. I know that sounds contradictory, but there are people out there that are capable of basic social interaction that also happen to be gamers- you just have to search. This
highly entertaining documentary on YouTube is a good illustration of what I'm talking about.
-It's still marketed at teenagers, even though there are as many older players as there have ever been (because the game is now 30+ years old). Perhaps that's more a problem of the game system, but I don't have enough experience with other systems and companies to really know.
-It's still really expensive. Books are $30-35 now, not $15 or $20. And now that the core rules use miniatures, count on even more cash for those. My eyes bugged out even though I have considerably more spare cash now than I ever did when I was bagging groceries and slinging pizza in high school. Of course, now you can steal PDFs on the Internet to see how good something is before you plunk down the cash for it.
Because the game is still a social experience (unlike MMOs), the quality of your time spent is more or less depends on the quality of your gaming group. If you game with shut-in, speech-impedimented megalomaniacs who are taking out their anger at the world, chances are you'll be left feeling much more negatively about the game than if you find those (sometimes elusive) Regular, Well-Adjusted People. And if you have an inept, ill-prepared, or otherwise unfit Dungeon Master, you're pretty much screwed. So choose wisely.
Fortunately for me, it's all gone pretty well. I like the same things in my gaming that I like in film or fiction- character-driven, lighthearted epics with good continuity. I managed to hit on a good character idea and it's all been quite a good time.
A game that's both good and sophisticated is a truly rare thing, so I hope, Zombie, that you find some new players that can actually breathe through both nose and mouth. Too bad I no longer live in the area.