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Moral panic and pop-culture for kids
December 8, 2009 5:50 PM   Subscribe

Everything in life is real. A 1985 60 Minutes segment on Dungeons & Dragons (part 2) vs Pokemon is a tool of Satan vs The Truth About Harry Potter

A Chick Tract on D&D. The Wikipedia page on Dungeons & Dragons controversies.

Parody site Landover Baptist on Pokemon.

That scene from Jesus Camp where a lady yells about Harry Potter.

A clip from Carlie Brooker's Newswipe on news and the psychology of killers that the 60 Minutes clip reminded me of.
posted by The Devil Tesla (110 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
True story. My friend's mother once claimed that if you burned a D&D book, you could hear the demon inside the book screaming in pain.

"OK, Mom, tell you what," my friend said. "I paid $20 of my lawnmower money for this here Dungeon Masters Guide. If you give me $20, you can burn this one, and then we can settle this stupid story once and for all."

She looked at us. "Nahh, she said, "It's not worth it."

My friend leaped to his feet.

"Not worth it? NOT WORTH IT? Mom, it's a battle for my IMMORTAL SOUL! My soul isn't worth $20 to you?!?!?"

She never bothered us again.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:58 PM on December 8, 2009 [163 favorites]


We're all going to hell! Oh wait. 1985?
WE'RE ALL IN HELL!
posted by Balisong at 5:58 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Eponysterical?

Anyway, yeah, this sort of thing has always happened and will continue to happen. Something kids and/or teenagers like gets really popular, and then the conservative media establishment will run some story about how its corrupting our youth to play on the fears of ignorant middle class parents. It happened with Elvis, the Beatles, Dungeons and Dragons and it probably happened with popular court jesters well before any of those.

"Forsooth!" would the editor of an olde Englishe paper say at the start of a terrible story about the most recent act of the young prince's new favorite court jester. "Did ye all knowe that the new jester is a tool of the dark lord Beezelbub? 'Tis true, it is! Why, yesterde' the young lads and lasses in the village down the stream were all a quiver at his tales of debauchery in foreign lands! `Tis an outrage that the young serfs enjoy anything, truthly! Humbuggery and such!"

Etcetera.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:58 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Two EIT in two days? I'm addicted to terrible, but even I think this is getting...

Okay, I can't say it. This is awesome. The main page needs more stuff like this, and all you haters can go watch your "good" videos with proper "editing" and "relevant" content.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:01 PM on December 8, 2009


Too much EIT will make your cerebral hemispheres criss-cross.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:02 PM on December 8, 2009


Yeah, there's no joy-hating vibe in Christianity at all.
(note: this may apply to moral systems more generally)
posted by litleozy at 6:06 PM on December 8, 2009


Honestly, I think these people freak out over anything in a kid's brain that's not 100% Fundie Christian. If kids got interested in studying hard in math and science and getting an engineering degree (something nearly everyone says is a good thing), the Fundies would probably complain that the kids were putting their faith in science and not God's law. And then the more radical fundies would start pointing out science's dark history (Not just your typical evolution rant, but also stuff like Nazi experiments on children), and that Newton was an idiot who thought you could turn lead into gold. Of course, you'd also get weird theology, like how science cannot exist as God could miracle it away at any time, and it's not science if it doesn't always work.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:11 PM on December 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


From the first DnD video:

"There are dwarves, knights and thieves..."

Um, the so called knight shown is Caramon Majere, a warrior who almost certainly could not even tell you what Est Sularus Oth Mithas means. As for their 'thief', while I suppose one could say Tanis 'stole' the Crown of Power from Ariakas, I would hardly think that makes him deserving of the title 'thief'.

In conclusion, 60 minutes clearly does not understand what they are talking about.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 6:16 PM on December 8, 2009 [27 favorites]


I think Metafilter needs to make the next Youth Trend/Moral Panic. I propose we make a teen sitcom about fluffy bunnies who are remarkably normal, save for their ability to move things with their minds.

Any theme of empowerment seems to especially freak out the religious establishment, so I think it has a good shot. The Fundies hate the show, the kids hear about it and watch, causing the Fundies to hate the show more and yell about how it corrupts the youth. Repeat ad infinitum.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:16 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fundies just hate it when anyone plays any OTHER game of the imagination.
posted by yeloson at 6:21 PM on December 8, 2009 [48 favorites]


Wow... I always wondered where those childhood lectures about the dangers and evils role playing and video games came from. Now I know.
posted by hellslinger at 6:22 PM on December 8, 2009


ok, roll 2d4 for awesome post
posted by not_on_display at 6:24 PM on December 8, 2009


If those aren't the eyebrows of Satan on the preacher in that second clip, then Satan doesn't have any eyebrows.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:26 PM on December 8, 2009


My mom must have watched one of those D&D segments, because she sat me down in the kitchen one afternoon and we had a (blessedly brief) conversation which included this exchange:

Mom (holding one of the character sheets she found in my room): You understand that you're not really a [glances at character sheet] dwarf named, uh [glances at character sheet], "Fargen Dragoncrusher"*...right?

Me (squirming with embarrassment for both of us): No, mom!

* I don't remember that character's actual name, but it was definitely a dwarf
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:26 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ya got Trouble, folks!
Right here in River City!
Trouble with a capital T!
And that rhymes with V!
And that stands for Vecna, Lord of the Rotted Tower.
posted by Iridic at 6:26 PM on December 8, 2009 [39 favorites]


It's nice to know that parents were crazy in the mid-80's, too.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:27 PM on December 8, 2009


Yeah, I remember when I thought Chick Tracts were funny.

Then I moved to the South and I found out THEY'RE REAL!!!!11!
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:30 PM on December 8, 2009 [5 favorites]


If, as Vin Diesel imagined, a game of D&D were played by a table of popular artists and actors and writers, and if said game was a regular tv series, raise your hand if you would murder hours of your life watching it.
posted by rahnefan at 6:33 PM on December 8, 2009 [25 favorites]


I seemed to remember something like this from when I first started playing D&D. Eventually I found what I was looking for: Cruel Doubt. I also remember there being another round of sensationalistic D&D stories at the time of this TV movie (probably on NBC as cross-promotion stuff). Thankfully my parents are rational people, I knew others who had to hide their playing from their parents, especially after that wave of coverage (this was in the Bible Belt, to make things worse).
posted by wildcrdj at 6:36 PM on December 8, 2009


I stopped playing D&D around 1982 because girls and beer became more interesting, but I picked it back up in 1985 when I heard it would strengthen my relationship with Satan.

No luck, though. But it did spark a lifelong propensity to play all RPGs and MMOs as elven rogues.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 6:40 PM on December 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Fundies just hate it when anyone plays any OTHER game of the imagination.

Hey, you shouldn't call them "fundies" -- they hate that. I'm not sure if it's the "fun" or the "undies," but something about that word really irks a lot of home-educated liberty-loathing fanatically irrational religious extremists.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:41 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's really easy to forget how bent out of shape people got over playing make believe with dice.
posted by nola at 6:44 PM on December 8, 2009


Yeah, I remember when I thought Chick Tracts were funny.

Well, at least the name will always be funny. Knowing they're real only adds to that particular bit of hilarity.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:44 PM on December 8, 2009


In 1985 if you set fire to Kevin Cronin's hair you could hear the demon inside screaming in pain.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:45 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Here’s another good ‘80s moral panic video that I was just watching. It’s Frank Zappa debating some crazy Reagan-era conservative about the supposed imminent threats posed by a Prince song about incest and Van Halen’s “hot for teacher.” They talk about some preacher who used to enlist troubled youth to testify at congressional hearings about how rock music ruined their lives. This kind of thing really puts Bloom County in context.
posted by Kirklander at 6:58 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


p.s. good to see Tanis Half-Elven in that 60 Minutes piece.
posted by Kirklander at 6:59 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember that episode of 60 Minutes. Between that and Mazes and Monsters (starring Tom Hanks in a role he'd probably like to forget, my group of D&D players were under a shitload of scrutiny from our collective parents. It didn't help that we used to wander in the woods in what I now realize was a very early form of LARPing.

No, my first kiss wasn't from anyone in my hometown. Why do you ask?
posted by Ghidorah at 6:59 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


It’s Frank Zappa...

Oh my god, he looks like a perfect mix of respectable and crazy rock musician. What a great beard.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 7:03 PM on December 8, 2009


He sounds like a crazy person on Crossfire, but that's Crossfire.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 7:04 PM on December 8, 2009


It’s Frank Zappa debating some crazy Reagan-era conservative

You mean the Prince of Darkness? al-Shaitan? ha-Satan? Do not diminish him based upon his supposed death (which many believe was simply a ruse until us mortals believe his is the same sort of superstition one would find in bedtime stories, at which time he will stalk this world once again).
posted by geoff. at 7:07 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Novak is in there, but the really crazy one is John Lofton.
posted by Kirklander at 7:08 PM on December 8, 2009


Maybe it's just how 60 Minutes edited the interview, but Gygax and his publicist do come off as being real jerks. Yes, it might be sort of unscientific to declare that D+D causes suicide, but you could at least say that you're sort of bummed out that these kids offed themselves.

That said: Cool Papa Bell, I really wish I had come up with that retort for my mother back when I was 9.
posted by HeroZero at 7:09 PM on December 8, 2009


The stuff about Dr. Radecki at the end of part 2 of the D&D video is terrific. Also, yeah, Gygax comes off as a little insensitive. I guess people thought about PR less then.
posted by Kirklander at 7:19 PM on December 8, 2009


I'm betting the insensitivity is a combination of editing and repeatedly being accused of creating a game that causes kids to murder people and kill themselves.
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:24 PM on December 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Christmas, 1982, my mother got me the Basic and Expert D&D box sets (the first red and blue). That night, we went to a party at one of her best friend's place. Of course, I took my books along (even rolled up my first character (a halfling)). My mom's friend flipped out a little and tried to convince my mother to take the books away from me and destroy them.

My mom thought it was hilarious. She assured the woman that I wasn't going to kill myself, anyone else, become a Satanist, or go off the deep end… at least not due to the game :)

Mom would even joke with me later… when I would go play with friends, she would tell me to make sure not to start worshipping the devil while I was out.

All told, both of my parents were pretty damn cool.
posted by vertigo25 at 7:29 PM on December 8, 2009 [18 favorites]


D&D has a click track?

Oh ...
posted by krinklyfig at 7:30 PM on December 8, 2009


Maybe it's just how 60 Minutes edited the interview, but Gygax and his publicist do come off as being real jerks. Yes, it might be sort of unscientific to declare that D+D causes suicide, but you could at least say that you're sort of bummed out that these kids offed themselves.

Eh ... there is no winning in playing the game they set up. I don't see any reason to play into the idea that they bear any responsibility for it.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:32 PM on December 8, 2009


Mom (holding one of the character sheets she found in my room): You understand that you're not really a [glances at character sheet] dwarf named, uh [glances at character sheet], "Fargen Dragoncrusher"*...right?

You're saying I'm just a tubby short kid with a body hair problem? Waaaaah!

Do I still get to keep the axe?
posted by qvantamon at 7:37 PM on December 8, 2009


I think Metafilter needs to make the next Youth Trend/Moral Panic. I propose we make a teen sitcom about fluffy bunnies who are remarkably normal, save for their ability to move things with their minds.

I'm American, so I may be getting this wrong, but didn't Britain's ITV make this and call it The Tomorrow People.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:40 PM on December 8, 2009


i kept that Chick tract in my red box for years and years. good times.
posted by radiosilents at 7:47 PM on December 8, 2009


I guess people thought about PR less then.

Yes, I think that's what I was getting at.

Also: Turmoil in the Toybox
posted by HeroZero at 8:00 PM on December 8, 2009


Yeah, there's no joy-hating vibe in Christianity at all.

Fundies just hate it when anyone plays any OTHER game of the imagination.

No offense, but I think both of these are drastic misunderstandings of what's behind this.

The Chick Tract comments are probably close, though. I'm pretty sure the hysteria, at least as I experienced it as a pre-teen in the 80s, was at its core a direct consequence of truly believing that devils and demons are both (a) absolutely real and (b) constantly working to insinuate themselves into the lives of people and ruin them. This isn't like an overwrought fear of human passions and emotions that bans dancing and laughter and display of ankles (well, other than the fact that it's also overwrought). This is based on a personalized cosmological narrative that is more or less C.S Lewis' Screwtape Letters carried to paranoid levels. Everything might be a deception or a trap. Heck, a good chunk of Christianity considers it a possibility (if not a foregone conclusion) that some of the other Christian denominations are a satanic plot. In comparison, it's not a big surprise some spook over forms of entertainment that feature certain kinds of darkness at the center, that they worry these things which acquaints people with mythological manifestations of darkness might be acquainting participants with real powers of darkness. Of course they do. It's a natural consequence of believing at least some of these things are not in fact just myths.

And then you throw in a little bit of the natural gift of parental paranoia, and even people who might have been mildly concerned barely-believers are actually talking about book burning, because now we're talking about the well-being of your children. Why not play it safe?

Of course, I didn't. I secretly kept my D&D book even after the other kids burnt theirs, and worried for a while maybe I was exposing myself to darkness and damnation, at least until a few years later when I decided that life was probably a bigger adventure than D&D anyway.

Well, that and I found nethack.
posted by weston at 8:06 PM on December 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Heh. Of my teenage RPG group, the only one who still plays to this day and age (and inherited my collection of books and magazines) was and still is a practicing Jehovah's Witness.
posted by qvantamon at 8:09 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Statistically speaking, my D&D group in high school was made up of some people who went on to live deeply odd lives.
posted by Kirklander at 8:36 PM on December 8, 2009


Who would have taken seriously a 60 minutes piece on the danger of books?
posted by nola at 8:43 PM on December 8, 2009


Back in the 1980s, I also heard the rumor that if you burned your DND stuff, you would hear the demon scream. Anyway flash forward to 2007 and I realized that I was never actually going to play basic DND again (3.5 year, maybe 1st edition ADND, but seriously no chance for basic, I moved to Adnd like a month after I got the 5 original boxed sets, clearly I'm not going back). So after a few days of haggling with folks over email from a Craigslist ad I posted to try to dump the things, I said screw it I'm going to see if this demon thing is real. I made a huge production out of it involving candles, chalk pentagram containment, standby bible and holy water. I figured why take a chance here. So I throw the boxes on the fire and what happens, well I'll tell you. Frankly a box of paper burns pretty much like you'd expect it to, in fact it doesn't burn particularly well and there is quite a bit of nasty smoke from the ink. I suspect who ever heard the demon screams probably inhaled a bit too much of the smoke and would probably hear the same voices sniffing paint thinner. I think the subject of inquiry may require more study. I strongly urge you to burn any dust gathering dnd tomes that you haven't cracked in 10+ years and report your results in this thread. Also as a control experiment I recommend burning a copy of one of those unused college textbooks you never got around to selling back at the end of the semester. It will be equally painful when you consider the financial costs of what is going up in smoke. Through controlled experimentation we should be able to establish if all books are possessed, if any books in the sample population showed signs of demonic activity and or if there is anything distinctive about DND related text. Please be sure to indicate the specific texts burned as this is for science.
posted by humanfont at 8:58 PM on December 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


The frightening part for these sheeple is that the shysters have their story down so well, one can't tell if its an act for money or real 'zeal'.

These guys go on to talk about d&d and pokemon like they were *real*. In a real way they cannot separate reality from fiction. This is clearest with Harry Potter, the fear of indoctrination to 'witchcraft', (as an aside mebbe they dont like the idea of competing magic). as if it were something *real*.

its just makes me sad to see ppl go all foaming mouth over fiction.
posted by MrLint at 9:02 PM on December 8, 2009


Back when I was playing with the red and blue boxed sets, (good times, but they had nothing on Gamma World), my best friend's parents got into the whole 'D&D is evil' thing and started making noise like they'd prevent him from being anywhere near it.

So my mother told them that she wouldn't let me play Monopoly because it promoted unrestrained and amoral capitalist greed.

Somehow this worked: they realized how silly they were being, and both he and I still own lots of RPG books, many years later.

There are parts of my childhood I wouldn't trade for anything. :)
posted by mordax at 9:05 PM on December 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


Through controlled experimentation we should be able to establish if all books are possessed, if any books in the sample population showed signs of demonic activity and or if there is anything distinctive about DND related text. Please be sure to indicate the specific texts burned as this is for science.

Listen you fuckin' nerd, satan don't work that way. You can't use ur fancy scientific method on demons, they're way to smart for that.

Try praying to Jesus; ask him to remove evil spirits from your books VHS tapes and assorted hoola hoops and or roller skates. When Amerca gets on her knees and begs God to forgive us for chewing gum and Archie comics then and only then will literally less than ten people who have played D&D at one time or another and who have killed themselves or someone else, finaly be saved from demons.
posted by nola at 9:12 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mazes and Monsters: Tom Hanks Freaks Out
posted by jonp72 at 9:12 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


My mom, a UMC clergywoman who serves as chaplain to several hospitals and homeless shelters, was left a Chick Track a couple months ago. It was the 'Moon God' one about the dangers of Islam. Someone had left it on her windshield with the note "I forgive you for your harsch [sic] look."

Strange people, those Chick Track people.
posted by Hollow at 9:26 PM on December 8, 2009


Statistically speaking, my D&D group in high school was made up of some people who went on to live deeply odd lives.

Mine comprised six people: two wound up at the National Theatre School of Canada; one went on to become a professional stand-up comedian; one blitzed through school at lightning speed, became a lawyer and later professor of law before he turned 25; and one became a novelist. I became a MetaFilter gadfly. Goddamn but they were an interesting bunch of sixteen-year-olds to hang out with.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:32 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Pokemon world is a world of the demonic, of the Satanic! But while you might not take it quite seriously, I assure you that demons take it seriously!"

Wow! That sermon is GOLD. I take it quite seriously!
posted by ignignokt at 9:41 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


None of these things are real. Except the Chick tracts, which are seriously the most frightening.

I think I might have to go whimper for a while. I really shouldn't have looked at the full list of tracts; it's made me profoundly sad. I wonder what it is like to be so entirely unable to accept differences, be they of belief or race or leisure activities. Woah.
posted by nat at 9:50 PM on December 8, 2009


I remember paging through a book by Bob Larson in 8th grade. He went on at length about the evils of D&D and Slayer.

A year later, I was listening to Slayer constantly and playing D&D every weekend and thinking about it obsessively.
posted by ignignokt at 9:55 PM on December 8, 2009


We also need to put this in the context of the 80's widespread belief that there were huge satanist cults operating at all times. People were totally convinced that there was a huge epidemic of satanic ritual abuse going on.

These things brought about the Judas Priest trials, the West Memphis Three arrests, and the misdiagnosis of thousands of people with serious mental illnesses as survivors of abuse.

Haven't read this book, but it looks pretty interesting.
posted by lumpenprole at 10:00 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Heh. Of my teenage RPG group, the only one who still plays to this day and age (and inherited my collection of books and magazines) was and still is a practicing Jehovah's Witness.

Gary Gygax himself apparently identified as a Jehovah's Witness.

...

I'm really glad sometimes that my parents raised me with as little interference as they did. I don't have my D&D Basic or Expert sets anymore, but that's because of my own lack of organization, not any kind of religiously hyperbolic paranoia. And I have three shelves worth of RPG books, and RPGs are still one of my major hobbies.
posted by jiawen at 11:43 PM on December 8, 2009


Has anyone else here read the MST3K Parody of Dark Dungeons?
posted by Pseudology at 12:10 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you burn a Chick tract, you can hear an angel screaming "thank you."
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:01 AM on December 9, 2009 [20 favorites]


I wonder what it is like to be so entirely unable to accept differences, be they of belief or race or leisure activities.

Like this?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:26 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love that D&D gets more love than Harry Potter. Only on the blue.
That said, Mazes and Monsters is a much better film than I expected it to be when I watched it with my college gaming group.
posted by Muttoneer at 2:31 AM on December 9, 2009


I love that D&D gets more love than Harry Potter. Only on the blue.

I think that's a generational thing — not so many tweens and soccer Moms here.
posted by vhsiv at 3:43 AM on December 9, 2009


Maybe it's just how 60 Minutes edited the interview, but Gygax and his publicist do come off as being real jerks. Yes, it might be sort of unscientific to declare that D+D causes suicide, but you could at least say that you're sort of bummed out that these kids offed themselves.

Marilyn Manson tried something like this after he was partially blamed for Columbine, cancelling at least some of his Colorado tour dates if I remember right. Didn't seem to do much for improving his image in the eyes of these people. I played D&D first edition for a number of years in the 80s and used to hear this crap all the time. Not from my parents, mind you, who weren't the least bit religious but concerned that D&D was eating into my study time (which was pretty accurate), but I did hear this crap from others and saw it on television (my second encounter with Tom Hanks was through Monsters & Mazes - the first being Bosom Buddies, of course).

I didn't get it at the time, but looking back, I think the hysteria was born from the fact that kids do things that adults do not. This causes adults to feel a kind of otherness about their own children. It's a mixed feeling, really, seeing your children create their own individuality, taking part in things that have nothing to do with you. It can cause separation anxiety. And from that, rationalizations can appear in some people that this Thing All the Kids Are Doing is stealing their kids from them, and is therefore evil in some way. From there, you just have to come up with reasons why it's evil.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:54 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Watched a great documentary about the history of board games last night. Interesting to see that from medieval times that dice were seen by the church as a whole as tools of the devil for their randomness and potential for use in gambling. (However none-random games were approved and were avidly played in church/monasteries etc)

Hilariously this eventually led to Victorian boardgames for children having spinners and not 'evil' dice
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:22 AM on December 9, 2009


while we're dropping anecdotes about our D&D groups... my first DM, and this was at a well-known British public school, turned out to also be a teenage coke dealer. He wasn't expelled, he just didn't come back at the beginning of a new term--this is usually a sign that someone has ratted out a bunch of other drug-users in exchange for not being handed over to the police--and went on to be a low-level playboy, dating Jade Jagger for a bit, before discovering that the real authorities were less forgiving than school authorities, and being handed a five-year sentence for dealing. I lost touch with what he was doing after that, apart from a one-paragraph news story in a newspaper about a decade ago, with the headline "Naked Man On Hotel Roof 'High On Crack'".

So demons, yeah, but I don't think D&D had much to do with them.
posted by Hogshead at 4:24 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


About 1983 there was a sudden unexpected spiritual revival in my family, of the Pentecostal variety, in the Belt of the Bible Buckler. If the church doors were open, we were there. Never slowed my D&D playing. Mom actually learned to play D&D so I could practice being a DM. My Mom frigging rules.

Years later in an ultra-fundy phase I burned it all, no joke. I'm talking original DM guides, MM, FF, etc. :( Not that I'd have time to play now anyway.
posted by rahnefan at 4:41 AM on December 9, 2009


When you burn a quantum mechanics text the cat inside may or may not scream, but you won't know for sure until you listen.
posted by TedW at 5:08 AM on December 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Midnight Rambler: "From the first DnD video:

"There are dwarves, knights and thieves..."

Um, the so called knight shown is Caramon Majere, a warrior who almost certainly could not even tell you what Est Sularus Oth Mithas means. As for their 'thief', while I suppose one could say Tanis 'stole' the Crown of Power from Ariakas, I would hardly think that makes him deserving of the title 'thief'.

In conclusion, 60 minutes clearly does not understand what they are talking about.
"

Ok, my thoughts upon reading this in chronological order: posted by PontifexPrimus at 5:28 AM on December 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Years later in an ultra-fundy phase I burned it all, no joke. I'm talking original DM guides, MM, FF, etc.

Oh man, I loved Fiend Folio for the art alone. I wish I still had my copy.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:37 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Back in the 80's, when people were panicking about D&D, my Dad finished war college and was shipped back to the Pentagon. He promptly put all the war college schooling to excellent use, designing the most complicated, creepy, exciting dungeons I have ever played. And he was a seriously hard-ass DM, too. If you made your character figure out some puzzle you didn't have the intelligence stats to do, he didn't let you get away with it. Ah, the 80's.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:20 AM on December 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


The other night my partner and I were eating dinner at Hibachi Grill. Delicious. We were seated next to a really nice family and after a little chatting it turned out that the father of the group was also a pastor. What a coincidence! However, he was in a very different faith stream than myself, one that bends distinctly toward the right. The two of us were sitting next to each other so we busily hashed out all the fascinating differences between what I thought was real and what he thought was real. (This kind of banter, I've found, usually leads to discomfort amongst right-wing vs. left-wing parishioners, however pastors are steeped in it and I was pretty sure nothing I could say would offend him.) FWIW he was Church of God and I'm UCC. He drank sprite and I drank sake. Anyway, eventually the topic roved over into the D&D, Harry Potter realm. He pointed out that, well, if you believe demons are real and can cause real damage in the real world, you shouldn't play games about them. And I pointed out that Nazis burned books and jeez, aren't we above that kind of thing now? Which them prompted me to ask a question that has been driving me absolutely nuts for the last year or so. I said, "If Harry Potter and D&D are so dangerous - what about Twilight? That's got a young woman falling in love with demonic creatures - the book sets up vampires - creatures who roam the Earth eternal a la Cain after having forsaken God - vampires as appropriate objects of teen lust." Chopsticks paused. Uncomfortable silence. "Well," he said, "Well ya see with that, uh, well my wife there she really loves Twilight." His wife smiled real big and nodded. So, sadly, I've been preempted from fomenting right-wing book-burning rage about Twilight by pastor's wives and their recreational reading choices.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:12 AM on December 9, 2009 [15 favorites]


Everything in life is real.

That's a really important concept, actually. It seems to have been an underpinning foundation of Christian thought since at least the middle ages. For example, it's one of the assumptions needed to make sense of St. Anselm's ontological argument, which supposedly logically proved the existence of God. (God is perfection - having all the positive qualities we can conceive. If he didn't exist, we could conceive of something with all his qualities but which actually did exist, and that entity would be more perfect than God. Thus, the perfect entity - God - must actually exist.)

Indeed I have a friend who has, over the years, drifted farther and farther into Fox News Christianity. This friend is, predictably, irked when I exclaim "God Damn!" or say something like, "God knows where we're going to find another X." But the part of her objection I find especially interesting is that she thinks I must necessarily believe in God in order to use those words. She does not accept the idea that I could use the concept of God in a cultural construct without actually believing in him. If I really didn't believe in him, apparently, I literally could not form the words in my mind. And if I can speak of him, I must therefore believe in him. It's very strange.

Okay, I realize this has nothing to do with D&D or Pokemon. But I was intrigued.
posted by Naberius at 7:14 AM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I just started a monthly D&D game which means that on the weekends I'm playing I'm not out partying with my other set of friends, getting up to much, much more dangerous activities. I guess Satan is looking out for me.
posted by codacorolla at 7:16 AM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, and to restore my D&D bona fides, I was the only member of my first, quite long-running campaign group, that didn't attend Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church and/or attend either his high school or college. They did indeed have to go through some interesting mental hoops to justify themselves. But they were okay people. (I figured if I was going to grow up in that town, I was going to have to figure out how to get along with fundies.)
posted by Naberius at 7:20 AM on December 9, 2009


Also, once a year every year I get to play dungeons and dragons with this guy, which is bonus cherries on the awesomeslots.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:34 AM on December 9, 2009


The DM of our D&D game at school was a practising Catholic, regularly attending church (Pretty much an outlier in the UK)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:42 AM on December 9, 2009


... a direct consequence of truly believing that devils and demons are both (a) absolutely real and (b) constantly working to insinuate themselves into the lives of people and ruin them.

Yeah, my best friend in elementary school took this route with his family (so we played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Robotech instead... woo.)

The amusing part is that it basically indicates a terrible lack of faith rather than the opposite. If God is all knowing, all powerful, and has protected the faithful from armies, plagues, human sacrifice and sorcerers, I'm pretty sure God can a) determine whether you're playing a game to be a dwarf vs. devil worshipping and b) protect you against whatever demons roam the world.

The fear of demons is pretty much proportional to their doubt in the covenant they proclaim: that faith and prayer are rewarded with the protection and salvation of the soul. The fear of demons is the window dressing- the fear that God will forsake them is really at the heart of it.

You can cut out all the "influences" you want, but if you don't have trust in your God, you've failed the foundation of your religion.

Most fundies are unable to fathom a wisdom or love greater than themselves, sadly.
posted by yeloson at 9:26 AM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's just how 60 Minutes edited the interview, but Gygax and his publicist do come off as being real jerks. Yes, it might be sort of unscientific to declare that D+D causes suicide, but you could at least say that you're sort of bummed out that these kids offed themselves.

In the rush to find something to blame, I wonder how many bothered to see whether role-playing was a curse or a blessing to these kids. I can't be the only person who knew someone who took their own life only after losing all means of coping -- and one of those was D&D. Not to throw a downer into the Chick Tract festivities.

My parents were broadly religious and broached the topic but didn't get very far with me. Plus, D&D contribued to excellent grades. Ok, the extra vocab wasn't all that useful in English class, but the pyramid I designed for social studies was basically Tomb of Horrors meets Deserts of Desolation. I'm not sure for what assignment I convinced the teacher to let me hand in the functioning crossbow I built, but I know I got marks for that, too.

Voices from burning books? I'd have thought that's the kind of claim that gets you thrown into cult deprogramming...
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:29 AM on December 9, 2009


for rahnefan . go to 0:45.
posted by ServSci at 9:49 AM on December 9, 2009


The amusing part is that it basically indicates a terrible lack of faith rather than the opposite.

Precisely! I've long made this argument about fundamentalism in general, that it's actually completely faithless. All my former fundie acquaintances took it upon themselves to try and convert me, and invariably, invariably, their first line of attack would be an appeal to the fear of chaos. Almost always the initial argument would be something like, "well if there's no God, then maybe Hitler was RIGHT!" Followed by an unspoken, but quite obvious 'A HA!" as if there was nothing else to say. QED.

In other words, God was necessary to determine what was right and what was wrong. The underlying assumptions being that anything God says is good is necessarily good, and vice versa, and that the reason for that is that God is the biggest power in the universe and so what he says goes. There really is no meaningful concept of an intrinsic good or evil in their world, just power. And the wonderful thing for them is that the guy with the biggest power is on their side. That's not faith; it's just blind certainty, insisting on a given situation because the alternatives are too horrible to contemplate.

On the other hand, and I wish I'd been articulate enough to make this argument as a teenager, I believe some things would be wrong even if God told you to do them. I believe in ethical truths that aren't simply arbitrary choices backed up by power. That seems to me to have a lot more of faith about it than anything I've seen in fundamentalist Christianity.
posted by Naberius at 10:03 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I feel sad that I'll probably never get my kids into D&D. First off, nothings as cool if you dad introduces you to it vs discovering it yourself. My kid have to find their own D&D thing.

Second, I know I can't do it because I'll be all "your character wouldn't do that" and "hey, no table talk! stay in character" and "You didn't read the 33-page campaign setting background precis I put together with maps and hydrological data?"

It's too bad really.
posted by GuyZero at 10:34 AM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you burn a Chick tract, you can hear an angel screaming "thank you."

If your Chick Tract burns, get thee to an STD clinic. A course of antibiotics'll clear that right up.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:34 AM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I feel sad that I'll probably never get my kids into D&D. First off, nothings as cool if you dad introduces you to it vs discovering it yourself. My kid have to find their own D&D thing.

Dude. Just leave them somewhere where they'll find them, half-covered. Then when they ask you about it, say they're too young for it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:41 AM on December 9, 2009 [10 favorites]


Of course, Satanism is a scary, scary thing and the idea that the Dark Lord could devour the souls of our innocent children just because they listen to the wrong music is an unsettling prospect, to say the least. But, back in my day, it was easy to tell which rock-n-roll music was most likely to lure children down The Left-Handed Path. RUSH and Motley Crue, for instance, used Pentagrams on their album covers. Ozzy and Black Sabbath used overt satanic imagery frequently, and Twisted Sister and Poison had scary names and guys wearing makeup, etc. Listen to any of that stuff near a set of polyhedral dice and for sure, the next thing you know you're in a candle-lit basement making blood sacrifices to Baal.

But what about the kids today? What contemporary musicians are bringing the little children into an eternity of doom in the Lake of Fire? Well, according to Dial-The-Truth-Ministries, the band to be on the lookout for is none other than so-called "Christian Rock Band" P.O.D., who cite "admitted friend of the Devil" Bob Marley as an influence.
posted by Cookiebastard at 11:04 AM on December 9, 2009


Okay, here's the part I really genuinely don't get.

In most D&D games, if demons enter into it at all, aren't you, like, fighting them? I mean, it's not like the game encourages you to be all, "yaaay, demons," is it? And so how is that not a good thing? Why don't Christian parents want their kids to aspire to slay demons and dragons and the forces of darkness .... ?
posted by webmutant at 11:13 AM on December 9, 2009


The characters use magic and magic comes from demons. QED.
posted by GuyZero at 11:19 AM on December 9, 2009


There was a D&D thread a while back where someone told the story of a religious friend who asked the poster about it, and on hearing that there were demons and devils and other abominations – and that you fight and kill them – thought it was pretty cool…
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:35 AM on December 9, 2009


One sunny Saturday afternoon, sometime around 16 years old, I was at the deck table with my friends, pretending to be a vampire. I'd started playing pretty late in life, by geek standards, but I made up for it with unbridled enthusiasm and the application of a fairly-bridled weekly income. I had shelves and stacks of the stuff strewn about my room, much to the dismay of my right-leaning mother -- well, not so much "right-leaning" as "hard to starboard, aye aye". She'd graduated from conservative potboiler fiction like Sidney Sheldon and Tom Clancy to the advanced reality-based paranoia of FNN / CNBC most of the day and Rush Limbaugh's bestsellers at night. Needless to say, my intimate working knowledge of secret undead societies that, to this very day, have shaped the whole of human history did not amuse her overmuch.

So anyway, there I was, enthusiastically describing the sound of canines tearing flesh, when my mother appeared at the door. "I need to talk to you," she said. In recollection, I can hear the urgency in her voice; at the time, it was just another grievance to stack on the pile.

"Right now?" In my mind, that last syllable continues to inflect endlessly upward.

"Right now." She was firm, and slightly drunk as was becoming customary. I sighed as loudly as possible. My friends had the good grace to examine the tablecloth intently as I threw my chair back and stomped out to meet my breathless mother. "What is it, I'm busy?"

She swallowed. "I don't want you doing this anymore," she said. "It's dangerous."

"What are you talking about?" I stammered, trying to ignore the fact that I had just reveled in bloody murder. "It's a game, I'm just hanging out with my friends."

"It's dangerous," she repeated. "I think... I think it's satanic."

I blinked. Her words hung in the air as we stared at each other.

"Mom," I finally managed, "we're Hindu. We don't believe in Satan."

She looked uncomfortable. "I know... but still."

I remember that story every time this subject comes up, as an object lesson in which is more likely to obliterate a mind: roleplaying games, or right-wing propaganda.
posted by Errant at 12:16 PM on December 9, 2009 [50 favorites]


yeah but in all fairness i've gotten pretty obliterated playing D&D.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:22 PM on December 9, 2009


"Mom," I finally managed, "we're Hindu. We don't believe in Satan."

Holy Shit. Best. Story. Ever.
posted by GuyZero at 12:22 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Mom," I finally managed, "we're Hindu. We don't believe in Satan."

Awesome. Beats my story by a country mile.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:28 PM on December 9, 2009


for rahnefan . go to 0:45.

wow. I'm an idiot. Sorry. There should have been a link to this youtube clip in there for that to make any sense...

wow. embarassing.

Anyway... hopefully, Dr. Johnny Fever & Alice Cooper makes up for me being a numbnuts.
posted by ServSci at 12:29 PM on December 9, 2009


I got some decent tips about DMing from my youth pastor back in the day. He also introduced me to heavy metal.

You ever meet somebody who's just the person you need to meet at the moment?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:38 PM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


My life was changed and I profited greatly because of the moral panic over D&D.

I was around 14 or so and the father of a friend of mine played AD&D. I'd bought the D&D boxed sets (red, blue, and aqua) when I was younger, but hadn't done much with them for a while.

The wife of my friend's dad started in on the D&D is satanic routine, and eventually managed to nag him into agreeing to get rid of his books, dice, miniatures, etc. Since I was known to be a hethen and lost anyway, I suppose she didn't object when he gave the whole lot to me.

First edition DMG, Player's Handbook, Monster Manual, Fiend Folio, a huge collection of dice, a handful of miniatures, and:

Deities and Demigods. Not first printing, but with both Nehwon and Cthulu mythos included. You can envy me if you'd like. I still have it, but it unfortunately was in pretty bad shape when I first got it, and at 14 I didn't realize it was rare so it got in steadily worse shape.

In any event, I got a crapload of AD&D stuff, which served me in good stead as I progressed through my teen years. So in a sense I look back on the days of moral panic over D&D with a certain gratitude. It would have cost me far more than I could have afforded to have bought that stuff myself.
posted by sotonohito at 12:53 PM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


So in a sense I look back on the days of moral panic over D&D with a certain gratitude.

Reminds me a little of Marilyn Manson's explanation that he got into music at a young age because the other teens at his school would pay him to buy KISS albums and such for them, because they feared getting recognized at the store and that it would get back to their religious parents. The young Brian Warner had no such issues and turned a profit on the deal.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:06 PM on December 9, 2009


"God knows where we're going to find another X."

"'Indeed,' said God."
posted by weston at 1:13 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I DON'T WANT TO BE ELFSTAR ANYMORE! I WANNA BE DEBBIE!"
posted by The Whelk at 2:26 PM on December 9, 2009


The whole thing is slightly laughable. I mean if people really have that much problem telling fantasy from reality surely they should ban performances of Hamlet least people get the urge to kill their fathers?


I still, however, remain wary of anyone willing/able to play Planescape: Torment as an evil character.
posted by Erberus at 2:32 PM on December 9, 2009


*cracks nuckles* Erberus, you have a problem with selling someone into slavery? The book told me to do it. Are you arguing with the book?
posted by The Whelk at 2:47 PM on December 9, 2009


As teen D&D player in the 80s, I always found it odd that all these people, these grown-up, "serious" people, seemed to believe in magic.
posted by moonbiter at 3:33 PM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


The whole thing is slightly laughable. I mean if people really have that much problem telling fantasy from reality surely they should ban FoxNews.

FTFY
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:33 PM on December 9, 2009


As teen D&D player in the 80s, I always found it odd that all these people, these grown-up, "serious" people, seemed to believe in magic.

I had that going on in the 90's. My school apparently got the memo late and after leaving my copy of Call of Cthulhu in the library copier (I usually made my own character sheets in MSEDIT, but was unhappy with my efforts for CoC and decided to just copy the sheet out of the book), I was summoned to the office. I was immensely pleased because I'd worried about the book all day after noticing I no longer had it, and was excited to get it back.

I arrived at the administrative area and was shown right into the principal's office; the lack of anything going on at any given time probably contributed to some of the shenanigans that went on. I was asked to sit down, and the guidance counselor came in and stood next to the principal behind his desk after closing the door.

"[Guilty]," the principal began, "we found a book with your name on it in the library copier."

"Yeah, thanks!" I said, oblivious to his tone. "I wasn't sure where I left it."

"We're worried about you having this book. Is it... Satanic?"

God help me, I laughed, right there, in his face. "Satanic? It's not real. It's fantasy. It's make-believe."

They exchanged a look and handed me back my book, and I was free to go.

I always think about people who talk about how wars never end for the people who fought them. I wonder what some people must've gone through, or not gone through, that the Satanic Panic didn't end with the Reagan administration.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:54 PM on December 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


The whole thing is slightly laughable. I mean if people really have that much problem telling fantasy from reality surely they should ban performances of Hamlet least people get the urge to kill their fathers?
Among the most dangerous resorts for pleasure is the theater. Instead of being a school of morality and virtue, as is so often claimed, it is the very hotbed of immorality. Vicious habits and sinful propensities are strengthened and confirmed by these entertainments. Low songs, lewd gestures, expressions and attitudes, deprave the imagination and debase the morals. Every youth who habitually attends such exhibitions will be corrupted in principle. There is no influence in our land more powerful to poison the imagination, to destroy religious impressions, and to blunt the relish for the tranquil pleasures and sober realities of life than theatrical amusements. The love for these scenes increases with every indulgence, as the desire for intoxicating drink strengthens with its use. The only safe course is to shun the theater, the circus, and every other questionable place of amusement. —Ellen G. White
posted by designbot at 5:43 PM on December 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


That is awesome Pope Guilty. And it's so much cooler to be caught with Call Of Cthulhu than D&D. If that had happened to me, I'd have had no choice but to go into one of my hour-long spiels about the man and his life. Would learn him good, and would teach him a lesson.
posted by JHarris at 8:12 PM on December 9, 2009


Went through this with another board game.
Sister of my buddy went on and on about how evil this thing was and how it was trapping souls and so forth so I asked “D&D?” No, she said “Ouija boards.”
Ouija? The Parker Brothers game? They make Monopoly and Clue and stuff.
“No… the….it’s….I’m sure Parker Brothers wouldn’t…”
Sure they do – it’s right on the box here.
So weeks later she confronted me with her new found knowledge that talking boards or whatnot had been known for centuries. Apparently Parker Brothers had been duped into thinking it was harmless.
People have known about the ideomotor effect for a long time too. It’s subconscious. In fact Gung Fu practitioners knew about it long before William James and the psychologists. Preemptively evoking isometric suppression in an opponents muscles is one of the…
“No, the devil moves the plan-chet-tuh.”
No, it’s reflex. And you don’t need to be a martial arts master to use it. Ever seen a mom open their own mouth and make faces while feeding a baby? It’s that simple. Back in the day some martial artists would demonstrate 'supernatural' speed, but it’s pretty much just this. It’s also related to Chi. Which is why Zen training is so valuable in the martial arts for eradicating chaotic ideomotor conditioning and the ego so-
“Only I control myself.”
Like I’m saying, ego and the… Ah screw it, is your brother home? I want to play some D&D.

We didn’t get along well.

No one ever really gave me grief about D&D. Not that I noticed anyway beyond the usual parrot chatter.
And wow, people seem to love to parrot. I think because I heard about it first on t.v. I was able to ignore it. 'Yeah. D&D. The devil huh. wow. yeah, that sucks. I'll watch out for that. Can I have more tater tots?'

“In most D&D games, if demons enter into it at all, aren't you, like, fighting them?”

Always noticed the people who wanted to play chaotic evil characters tended to be goofy and wound up talking mostly about sex instead of actually doing anything chaotic or evil.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:53 PM on December 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Smedleyman: "Always noticed the people who wanted to play chaotic evil characters tended to be goofy and wound up talking mostly about sex instead of actually doing anything chaotic or evil."

Heh. That was pretty much my D&D experience. I don't remember a lot of campaigning. I remember heading directly to Ye Olde Taverne to reconnoiter the lusty wenches. I can't remember which attribute you roll against for a saving throw versus pregnancy, though it came up often. Yeah... we certainly weren't rules lawyers.

We spent a lot more time creating characters and creating monsters and drawing maps than actually playing at all. It was much more about the creative aspects of role playing and world building than it was about any actual escapism. That's the beauty of the game. They gave you a basic structure, and you could do whatever you wanted with it.
posted by team lowkey at 11:58 PM on December 9, 2009


Same here team lowkey. I pretty much gave up on maps and such though. We’d always screw with whoever was the DM. Just head off and leave. Mean dragon in the north menacing the kingdom you say? Lots of treasure? The king wants some people? Huh. I wonder what’s going on down south. Well, see ya. *rides south for leagues and leagues and leagues*
Big gorillas raiding towns down south? Mind flayers? Huh, let’s get the hell out of here. *hop ship – sail east for leagues and leagues and leagues * etc.
So all the stuff had to happen organically. And yeah, it became all about creativity and sparking interest. Got to where we didn’t need dice, or at worst sparingly and became almost pure team storytelling.
I fell in with some guys who role played in the military. Brought some of them home on leave and we just sort of fell into it now and then. Peppered with our actual experiences and what was going on at the time we apparently convinced some folks on the lake we were bloodthirsty mercenaries (what with the D&D M.O. – kill them, search the body, take their stuff, ransack the room, etc).

I’ll never forget having an argument about bullet trauma and ranging during a lull. (Long silence until - *Ptweee! * Short period of quiet, then: Kev: See, Smed – that’s the type 56, the sights go out to 800, never gonna hit us from there. And *Ptewwww! * it’s chambered for Soviet 7.62 like the Type 81, *Ptingggg! * but the Norinco QBZ is chambered for the 5.8x42mm Dan Buqiang Putong *Ptfff!* and it’s got a steel core so it penetrates and doesn’t spawl *bting! * so there’s nooo way that mutant… (Passerby) WTF is he talking about!? Smed: ‘Aw, his character’s dying and he wants a ruling.’ (Passerby): !!??!?!? Smed:*shrug * Beats playing cards. Kev: So do I keep my leg or what? *CRACK! * Smed: Whup. No time now.)
posted by Smedleyman at 11:29 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love that pastor in the second says: "They are so into this make-believe world that they can't distinguish between fantasy and real."
posted by yeti at 12:56 PM on December 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


It is interesting that our childhood fantasy simulations get ever more realistic while those opposing imaginative play grow more detached from reality.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:26 PM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


More robust cosmology.
posted by The Whelk at 2:43 PM on December 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


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