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    Social Evolution and the RPG; My Greyhawk beginnings.
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    CF Admin

    Joined: Oct 14, 2003
    Posts: 586
    From: Rel Astra

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    Mon Apr 23, 2012 12:12 am  
    Social Evolution and the RPG; My Greyhawk beginnings.

    Please do not be offended or offensive, but objectional if you intend to reply.

    I myself, most likely will not. However, I believe this bit of history is something every gamer should be exposed to as it recalls a time when something new (roleplaying) and not well understood to the general populace was brought to the forefront by mainstream media and polotics. Much like...say, today's modern apocolyptic scenarios, avian flu, or perhaps aliens, etc...

    Edit: As an afterthought the term "Moral Panic" is the appropriate medium I was aiming for in the previous paragraph.

    At any rate, be considerate and well thought before commenting if you so choose to view and comment on this material that includes E. Gary Gygax interviews from 1985.

    I remember receiving a gift of $40 from my grand parents for my birthday in 1988. I was staying with a maternal uncle and aunt as my mother was critically ill at the time. When they took me to the mall to spend my money I bee-lined for the bookstore and could not stop looking at the Dungeon Master's Guide. My uncle kept trying to re-navigate me to a different section of the store, but I kept gravitating back to the D&D section. He let me buy it, I think more from the sympathy he held for me with my mother being ill, but I could tell there was hesitation. I later learned why (or rather have an educated assumption on why) he was resistant. How sad...

    Been gaming Greyhawk ever since! Wink

    Ironically, this fascination and fear that was spread from media and other outlets led to Hollywood profits in the movie Mazes and Monsters, starring Tom Hanks, among a myriad of other for profit projects. I wonder if he regrets the role or perhaps is impartial.
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    Black Hand of Oblivion

    Joined: Feb 16, 2003
    Posts: 3792
    From: So. Cal

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    Mon Apr 23, 2012 1:54 am  

    This is a great show for anyone who plays D&D to watch, especially those who didn't play D&D until after the 1980's. It mainly shows people on a witch hunt, with much of the information and opinions being baseless.

    I remember watching this episode of 60 minutes with my mother, who had seen us play D&D many times and knew my friends who played it with my brother and I very well. While she thought the deaths were tragic, which they surely are, she couldn't see how it could be the fault of a game. D&D was an easy scapegoat in her opinion, as parents are wont to blame anyone but themselves when something goes wrong with their children. Society did it to them. School did it too them. Their friends did it to them. A game did it to them. They couldn't possibly be responsible in any way themselves, nor could anyone else directly involved in the child's lives be responsible either. After all, the kids are all great and intelligent, and the parents are all great and intelligent. So intelligent that they didn't even know their kid played D&D in one case until after their kid had killed themselves and they found the D&D materials. Yeah, those sound like top notch parents who really have their finger on the pulse of their child's life.

    But, it is easier to blame a game instead of looking for an answer that makes more sense, but that can be seen a little bit closer to home, such as who their child was hanging out with, what was happening in their personal life, if they were being bullied at at school/elsewhere and made to feel worthless, or were being made to feel that way by their own parents or other relatives. Kids sometimes crack under the pressure that their family puts on them. But no, denial points them to a game as the cause of all their child's woes, because a game is much more damaging than any of those other things could possibly be.

    One statement in particular that I just have to tag is the one about about role playing being a method of behavior modification. Most of us played cops and robbers and cowboys and indians (or something similar) incessantly as kids, but we probably don't recall anyone then going out to rob and scalp people, or get hold of guns (which we could have) and go out and shoot places/people up. It takes a disturbed mind to begin with to do that. Disturbed minds are drawn to all manner of things, and they are not drawn to D&D more so than to anything else. Of course being drawn to D&D in the 1980's was basically labeling yourself a "nerd" anyways, not that that would get a kid ridiculed at school at all...

    I always thought role playing was THE vehicle for preparing actors for roles, not brainwashing actors into becoming heroes, thieves, serial killers, gangsters, aliens, victims of whatever treatment/crime, etc. in their real lives. Can you imagine the headlines we would see if that were even remotely true?

    Anthony Hopkins Acquitted of Multiple Cannibalistic Murder Charges

    Anthony Hopkins, star of the motion picture "The Silence of the Lambs", was acquitted Wednesday of thirteen counts of murder with special circumstances. The most telling evidence came to light when Hopkins himself took the stand, stating "They made me prepare over and over and over for the role of Hannibal Lector, and play the role for hours upon hours each day for the entirety of the many month long shooting schedule. I couldn't help but eventually succumb to the behavior modifying role playing I was doing, such that I then went out and killed and ate people. With fava beans. And a nice Chianti. After all, I'm not a barbarian." The families of the victims have filed civil suits against Hopkins, Orion pictures, director Anthony Demme, producers Grace Blake, Ron Bozman, Gary Goetzman, Edward Saxon, and Kenneth Utt, novelist Thomas Harris, and screenwriter Ted Talley, among others."

    One last bit. One thing that happened just after this interview, which didn't get nearly as much media attention, was that Gary Gygax got a letter from a mother regarding her child who played D&D and who had committed suicide. I think her child was even used as an example in the show. She saw the the piece and was not very happy that Gary caught the flak that he did, and that D&D was thrown under the buss. The reason why was that she saw D&D as a positive thing in her son's life, and, in her opinion, helped him keep going for as long as he did. I believe Gary asked 60 Minutes/Ed Bradley for a redaction of the remarks regarding D&D being blamed for this child's death, but I don't believe a response was given. I want to say that there is a video of Gary talking about this somewhere, but I am not sure if my idiot-savant memory is recalling this correctly or not. As to the other details above, I think I am remembering them fairly well. If anybody knows more, or can correct anything I posted, by all means do so.

    I will be moving this to the Back Alley, as I see the potential for some heated discussion here (which in this case I will allow to a certain degree, but be respectful of your fellow posters), but I encourage people to watch and comment on the piece, particularly if they have never seen it.
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    Last edited by Cebrion on Sun Apr 29, 2012 3:20 am; edited 4 times in total

    Joined: Jul 26, 2010
    Posts: 2562
    From: LG Dyvers

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    Tue Apr 24, 2012 3:13 pm  

    I began playing D&D in 1981 at 12 years old and had to suffer through all that nonsense. I always resented idiots trying to tell me that role-playing games were going to cause me to commit suicide or begin worshipping the devil.

    First, I'd like to address the video. I'll mention that Cebrion's Hannibal Lector analogy was perfect. It demonstrates how unscientific it is to claim that role-playing, on its face, constitutes behavior modification. They noted on the show that about 5,000 children in the USA commited suicide that year. Later, they claim that there were a total of 28 D&D related suicides in the last 5 years. So, the conclusion is that if 28 suicides out of a total of about 25,000 can be related in some way to D&D, the game is obviously detrimental to young, developing minds. rolleyes EGG was right on when he said it wasn't a scientific study. I also remember the parents who were being interviewed about their son who commited suicide saying that he was a very well-adjusted boy. Later, the sister tearfully described how he had threatened to kill her. Right, sounds like a well-adjusted boy with no psychological problems to me. rolleyes

    As an aside, I had never heard of Dieter Sturm, Public Relations head for TSR. Now where have I heard his surname before... Cool

    In my own experience, my friends and I were athletes, boy scouts, choir members, and church members. We were all, all of those things. Some of us got good grades and some of us didn't. Some of us were popular with the girls and some weren't. None of us feared being lured into satan worship by D&D. However, we noted that many (most) of the other kids at school who played D&D were extreme nerds. Some were fine fellows, just a little socially awkward. Others were so weird they obviously had other problems that D&D wasn't helping. I had to tell one goofball that I would break his legs next time he bothered a female friend of mine after she showed me a letter he wrote threatening to hurt himself if she wouldn't go out with him. rolleyes

    Over time I realized that nerds were so attracted to D&D because it offered them exactly what they were missing in real life: meaningful social interaction with their peers. My friends and I spent as much time or more laughing, joking, chatting, arguing about various scholastic theories, etc. during a D&D gaming session as we did actually playing the game. Gaming, of any kind, across a table from friends is far superior to online gaming for its social benefits. Kids that aren't involved in sports, choir, church groups, or other clubs could still be an accepted part of a group of their peers by role-playing. If a few mal-adjusted kids were led over the waterfall by such involvement, it isn't the fault of the game. Some other catalyst would have replaced it as the straw that broke the camel's back sooner or later, anyway. It is sad, but proper detective research should make that clear. Unfortunately, not only do families not want to admit fault, but law enforcement agencies close to those families don't want to dig too deep out of concern for the family. They figure it is better to save them more anguish by not fully investigating. After all, D&D was a large corporation. Who cares if they suffer a bit to save a family more suffering. Understandable, but unfortunate.

    Master Greytalker

    Joined: Apr 13, 2006
    Posts: 654
    From: Frinton on Sea England

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    Thu Apr 26, 2012 4:20 am  

    I had to force myself to sit through the whole article such were the levels of dishonesty, stupidity and downright attention seeking on display. Ceb hits the nail on the head with the parents who had never heard of D&D despite the fact that it, allegedly played a large part in his life. Why did the younger daughter not mention the game when she was "threatened" by the boy? Was that one saved up for the TV? I may not fully understand the workings of minecraft and other online game that my younger son plays but I know of them and he feels comfortable to share when asked and sometimes when not. So much easier to look for blame externally in such sad cases and, while we waste time on such misguided projects we miss the opportunity to look at why kids really kill themselves in such high numbers.

    Scarier still the bandwagon jumping psychologist spouting science with no evidential foundation, but who provides a veneer of intelligence to such spurious nonsense and encourages those without the ability to think for themselves to attach their colours to a flag of easy convenience (couldn't be after some funding for your organisation could you now, feller?).

    I have to say that this stuff largely passed us by in Britain despite a particularly bovine media. We were aware it was going on, which in the age before the internet reinforces how played up it was in the US, but we were not affected by it. There was no witchunt and the worse you could be was a nerd or "Nobby no-mates" despite the social aspect of play; strange now that playing computer games is a common pursuit of football players, the very antithesis of nerds in the public perception.

    There is a striking similarity in my mind with the 80's activities of the PMRC and the ridiculous Tipper Gore who was publicly humiliated by being out argued by Dee Snider when the issue of censorship and music came to the courts. Imagine the PMRC's shock when someone as "clean" as John Denver also became their enemy.

    Maybe we have to go through such trials in order to reach the position where it's actually okay to play a simple game but it doesn't remove the scary prospect of who may be next to be identified as a threat to the morals of society as decreed by a select ill-educated few.
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