The “Studies in Crap” department at the Village Voice has a great post about Patricia Pulling’s 1989 moral panic book on the dangers of Dungeons and Dragons, ” The Devil’s Web.” Our favorite line from the commentary: “Note that there’s only three steps between enjoying Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and literal graverobbing. Seriously, if graverobbing becomes a “behavior pattern” the problem is probably your parenting.” Check it out (HERE)
As followers of this blog may know, Tor.com has been excerpting chapters from the forthcoming book BAD FOR YOU (releasing January 7th) as part of Banned Book Week. Now that the “celebration” is over, today’s offering at Tor features a section on gaming and is a bit more downbeat than previous ones. This excerpt focuses on how a pair of tragic events led to a moral panic about the Satanic power of Dungeons and Dragons. Since the original panic was over 30 years ago, we’ve decided to post some Youtube clips on just how silly the situation got back then. First off, does Dungeons and Dragons encourage human sacrifice?
If the process of just how D & D ensnares souls is as blurry to you as that video, it is all laid out in graphic black and white by Jack Chick in his Christian comic:
Hard to believe how scared people used to be about D & D. At least those crazy days are behind us. No one has mentioned how the game could “literally destroyed peoples’ lives.” Actually, that’s a direct quote from Pat Robertson, host of the 700 Club, which claims “approximately one million viewers” daily. A quote from this summer!
So stay away! Far away! Dungeons and Dragons is definitely BAD FOR YOU.
But if you find these warnings unconvincing and even laughable, it’s a pretty good bet you won’t be laughing alone given that comedians Stephen Colbert, Mike Meyers, Matt Groening, Rainn Wilson, Patton Oswalt, Robin Williams, David Cross and Weird Al Yanjovic are all either past or current players of D and D.
And because every claim can use a little evidence, here ours: Stephen Colbert did gave a tribute to D & D co-creator Gary Gygax at the end of The Colbert Report the day after Gygax passed away, March 5th, 2008. “Gary you will be missed,” Colbert said, then asked, “How much…?” Before he answered, he rolled a d20.
“20! May all your prismatic sprays bypass your targets’ Reflex saving throws.”
Proof that Colbert knows his game.
In the Tor.com excerpt on Friday, “Game Over,” readers learned that once upon a time Scientific American warned kids against playing chess, calling it “a mere amusement of a very inferior character which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements.” Being a “mere” science mag, the editors were limited in what they could do about it, recommending kids in the 1800s partake in “out-door exercises” instead of “mental gladiatorship”. But for such a cerebral game, chess can stir some deep emotions from those in power – leading to outright bans over the years. Here’s a partial list of all the governments and organizations who have outlawed chess since Scientific American‘s lament:
Is there something about scientists and chess that just don’t mix? Russians in Antarctica had to stick with checkers following the murder of a Soviet scientist at a research station there. His colleague split him open with an ax after losing a game of chess (of course the cold, isolated environment of Antarctica could have contributed to the crime – or vodka).
During China’s Cultural Revolution, chess was considered as bad as capitalism. Ten years later, the Chinese were sending players to international chess competitions!
The World Chess Federation (best known as FIDE, from its French acronym for the Federation Internationale des Echecs) decided to do some banning of their own – barring South African and Rhodesia from certain FIDE events because of the apartheid practices of their governments (in 1977 South Africa gets a full ban from FIDE for 15 more years).
Chess – actually, games in general – have been looked on with suspicion by Islam for centuries. Games can lead to gambling, which is prohibited by Islam; and like many religions, amusements like chess are considered to be time-wasters (time better spent praying). After the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Islamic clergy who take control outlaw chess from public places. But chess-lovers continue, going underground during the near decade-long ban. These days, the country’s chess federation has one of the most professional coaching centers in the Middle East and kids there recently won three world titles in the under-10 and under-12 chess categories.
A confrontation between chess players and cops lead to American River College’s ban on the game in their campus library and cafeteria. Campus police are called into action after “disruptive behavior” is reported. When the game-gang at the California college refused to stop, authorities confiscated their board and their pieces.
Taliban edicts proclaim chess off-limits in Afghanistan; imprisonment or beatings can result from playing the game.
Chess was but one of many non-academic clubs banned from Salt Lake City high schools. The game wasn’t the problem – an across-the-board ban was enacted to prevent teens from organizing a separate club for gay students.
Rowdy chess spectators cause the game to be banned at the Minneapolis Public Library.
For similar reasons, the game was banned from malls in Chicago’s Hyde Park.
Game-bangers cause a chess ban in Emercon Playground, New York City; seven adult chess players receive summonses from police later that year.
Games of chance (chess, dice, backgammon, etc.) are still prohibited from entering the country of Saudi Arabia – so don’t pack a chess set if you plan to travel there!