26 February 2012

Seduction of the Innocent

At the bottom of this post is an editorial written by publisher Jake Jaquet that appeared in Dragon Magazine, issue #58 from February 1982. It concerns a contemporaneous incident of a college student who was shot by campus police while playing a live-action game called assassin. which still alive and well today. I never played the game, but I would have been ALL OVER IT when I was 18 had I known about it. Let me crowdsource the explanation of the game (wikipedia):

Players try to eliminate each other from the game using mock weapons in an effort to become the last surviving player.

Modern technology has kept up with this game. There is now a mobile app to help you track your targets. Jeez, I would play this now. Can I use Google hangouts for it?

Of course, the problem with live action games played in the open amongst civilians is that not everyone is in on the joke. If you make a faux M-16, prowl around campus late at night, fail to drop your gun when campus Five Oh tells you and instead TURN TOWARD THE OFFICER WITH YOUR GUN POINTED AT HIM, hilarity will ensue. And by hilarity, I mean real gun fire.

What does this have to do with D&D? That's exactly the question Jaquet asks. He quotes some stupid person in public education who wants to tar role playing games with the same imperiling brush. D&D had, by this time, a dangerous reputation (like Marilyn Manson or Elvis Presley).

Here's the truth: parents are terrified by their kids and everyone else's. Kids that show brains and creativity are particularly loathsome because they don't respond well to indoctrination. Worse, it is very hard for aged dimwits to outthink energetic young minds. D&D improves a young adult's vocabulary and offers a sandbox to explore other modes of behavior thus expanding their imagination. The game also creates small societies that have their own frames of reference hidden from the powers that be.

That's a pretty bad thing if your in authority.

Even if some troubled kid with mental problems didn't shoot himself, D&D was never going to be popular with mainstream, boring adults.

Luckily, D&D is perceived much more dismissively today. Like Marilyn Manson and Elvis, the threat has passed. All role playing games have been pigeonholed and are now "safe." D&D is so safe now that parents drop their kids at hobby shops to play for a couple of hours. That's right, D&D is changed from a seducer of the innocent to nanny in 30 years.

So, I present this editorial from a time when Dungeons and Dragons (tm) was as dangerous to America as Al Qada. Enjoy.

Postscript: The worried adult in the editorial is named "Greenwood," but not the more famous TSR writer Ed Greenwood. Still, I was momentarily confused, then bemused and finally amused.