Even at nine years old, it was clear that games had power. They also had, well, a certain reputation. Only a couple years before I’d stare down that dragon, Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax would write about the sensationalist press and extremist groups who seemingly loved to attack early gaming. The only reason these groups got traction, thought Gygax, was because games involving dice weren’t exactly as common as games involving some variety of ball. In an absence of generous collegiate scholarships involving games with dice, the population-at-large was left in something of a vacuum of actual knowledge.
“It’s no great wonder many people are ignorant when it comes to facts about RPGs.” Wrote Gygax. “…Role-playing games are only about fifteen years old, and a few people also seem to like to misrepresent them vociferously.”
In the now-cult-classic adaptation of Rona Jaffe’s Mazes & Monsters, a doughy-faced Tom Hanks rolls the many-sided die, and winds up suffering a complete psychotic break. He wholly becomes his character Pardieu, the cleric. This after the dutiful parents very sternly telling him, “no more games!” Running wild across the back-alleys and through the subway access tunnels of New York City, he stabs muggers who he perceives to be vicious monsters. He prepares to leap from the top of the World Trade Center. Only the “maze controller” can stop him.
“Oddly enough,” wrote Gygax, “we don’t seem to have progressed far beyond the Salem witch-hunt stage. “Thar’s demons in them-thar games!” cry the fanatical opponents of RPGs generally and those dealing with fantasy and magic in particular.”
Gygax says that we ultimately can’t change the minds of “witch-burners and book-banners,” but reminds gamers that most sane human beings aren’t fanatical. Games are just new, and so he asks players to, “use logic, common sense, and a fine personal example to combat the wrongs which they constantly wreak upon the whole community of RPG enthusiasts.”
Facing down my buddy’s mom, I wasn’t quite ready to whip out any snappy eloquence. No surprise there, it’s something we’re still working on.
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