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Advocacy 2001 Article Archive
Police Declare War on LARPers… or do they?
According to an Independent story, police
in the former Kazakhstan capital of Almaty have begun to crack down on
citizens who they feel lead “bohemian” lifestyles – “alternative artists,”
street musicians, gays and lesbians, anarchists, hippies, and punks, as
well as groups of “Tolkienisti,” or Tolkien fans who enjoy dressing up
and acting as characters from the author’s Lord of the Rings novels.
Since around 1988, when the Lord of the
Rings was first translated into Russian, the novel series has become a
major hit in the former Soviet Union. In recent years, Russian fans
of the series have begun to form their own live-action role-play groups,
where participants dress and act as characters from the stories, and even
enact mock battles.
According to sources at the Independent,
Kazakh police are accusing the hobbit fans of “being Satanists and conducting
dark rituals," and have been arresting and allegedly torturing them.
One anonymous fan made claims of less severe harassment, in which Tolkienesti
are stopped in the street and ordered to remove their costumes and surrender
their mock weaponry – and that some police threaten a three-day detention
for concealed weapons charges in an attempt to extort a sizeable bribe.
With these sorts of claims, one can only
wonder how the police would feel about more traditional roleplaying games,
with their oddly-shaped dice and ponderous books filled with arcane rules.
Do they consider traditional tabletop games to be part of the “bohemian”
lifestyle as well?
But a few of Kazakhstan’s Tolkien fans
claim that these stories are not true at all. On theonering.net,
a popular Lord of the Rings website, letters from two Russian citizens
deny that such arrests and punishments are even happening. One fan
named Arhi states: “My Kazakhstan friends are saying that they live in
Almaty and have never been harassed by the police, and that's the first
time they hear about it.” Another Russian fan claims that information
gathered from a popular Russian internet discussion board proves that the
story is false – while admitting at the same time that he would not “swear
on a bible that (his) information is correct.”
So, are Kazakh police really Hobbitophobes,
or is this all a misunderstanding? Which side of this story is pravda?
We may never know…
to read the Independent story.
The details are sketchy at present, but it
appears that a recent murder case in Brazil is stirring up controversy
for role-playing games and the people who play them. A woman was
found dead in Ouro Preto, the victim of a gruesome murder; she had been
stabbed numerous times, and her body was left in a graveyard with her arms
open and legs closed.
For reasons that are not presently clear,
investigators have begun to suspect that the culprits are involved in role-playing
games, and a psychologist is being consulted to produce evidence that RPGs
are dangerous. The head investigator of the crime has announced that
“if RPG is involved with this crime, it will be forbidden in Brazil.”
One early police theory was that the murderer
played Vampire, and two Brazilian politicians have run with that theory,
attempting to censor the books from store shelves and prevent new books
from being sold in an effort to prevent future disasters.
This is an unusual place for such a thing
to happen, as Brazil has always accepted RPGs as a part of their culture.
The craze for role-playing was so great at one point that citizens were
learning English so that they could better understand the gaming manuals,
and the Brazilian equivalent of the TV Guide or TV Times began to cover
gaming conventions and new releases.
Unfortunately, when you have politicians,
everything can be a potential danger to public safety – as long as banning
it from sight will help to secure their next re-election or pay raise.
Stay tuned for more on this story as it comes to light.
To keep up with the current developments
on this story, be sure to visit the CAR-PGa
Supplement Wins Psychiatry Award
The 2001 Mary Seeman Award for Outstanding
Achievement in the Area of Psychiatry and Humanities has been granted to
Unseen Masters, a supplement for the Call of Cthulhu RPG. The Mary
Seeman Award, presented by the University of Toronto, is given for outstanding
achievement for papers, programs or work that focus on Psychiatry and the
“(It is) an amazing work. It is prodigious,
highly creative and extremely original. It was the best of a number of
wonderful papers submitted this year," said Dr Ron Ruskin, Chairman of
the Award Committee. This award has made Unseen Masters the first
horror fiction or RPG book to ever receive this type of honor.
To read the full press release, click
Leader Goes Multi-Class
In a Rolling Stone interview from June 7th,
Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo revealed his D&D class preferences: “I
gravitated toward the, uh… elven, or half-elven, something with high
dexterity… a fighter-thief, maybe? Hey, it's tough to commit.”
The great folks at EconoCon have invited me
to be a Guest of Honor at next year's convention, on April 27th, 2002 -
so if you happen to be in the New Hampshire area around that time, stop
on by! The other Guests of Honor include Jolly Blackburn and Steve
Kenson, with more to be announced. For more information, visit their
site at http://oz.plymouth.edu/~gaming/conVI.html
Chick Publications has struck again with "Should
A Christian Play Dungeons & Dragons?", an article on their website
written by William Schnoebelen. Schnoebelen is an alleged "witch
high priest" turned born-again Christian who has made claims in the past
that he was contacted by members of TSR in the late 1970s to "reality check"
the spells in the game (a claim that Gygax
himself says is untrue).
I'm tempted to do my usual fine-comb treatment
of the full article and point out each and every misquote, error, and untruth,
but there's really very little here that we haven't seen already, short
of a few personal attacks towards Michael Stackpole, and several instances
where the term "ad hominem" is used improperly. So my time and energy
would be wasted, especailly since most of my preaching, like his, is done
to the choir.
I will make one exception, however.
There is one claim that Schnoebelen makes that we should pay very close
attention to - and bear it in mind whenever his veracity is in question:
For those unfamiliar with the fiction
of H.P. Lovecraft, Mr. Schnoebelen has just admitted that he believes in
a giant, squid-headed monster that lives under the ocean and that there's
a book hidden somewhere in Massachussetts that can wake that monster up.
"Contrary to the ramblings of D&D defenders
like Michael Stackpole, the Necronomicon and the Cthulhu mythos are quite
It sounds to me like Mr. Schnoebelen shouldn't
even go NEAR any gaming materials... or for that matter, act as an authority
on what is real and what is fantasy. To answer his titular question:
should play D&D if they really want to; they just
shouldn't invite him.
Millians Recognized at 2001 Origins Awards
David Millians was presented with a Merit
of Service Award for his ten years of service as the head of GAMA’s Games
and Education Committee. The award was presented at the Origins Award
ceremony, held in Columbus Ohio on July 7th.
David is a Georgia educator who uses RPGs,
LARPs, and CCGs in his classroom to teach a variety of lessons and stimulate
his students creativity.
You can check out my interview with David
from 1995 by clicking here.
of Columbine Victim File $5 Billion Lawsuit
The wife and two stepdaughters of teacher
Dave Sanders, who was murdered during the Columbine massacre, the have
filed a five billion dollar lawsuit against 25 media companies. Most
of those companies, like Nintendo and Sega, manufacture video games.
John DeCamp, the Sanders' lawyer, claims
he finds himself in a "strange position here." On one hand, he is
"100 percent on the side of the First Amendment."
On the other hand, well... five billion
dollars buys a whole lot of golf clubs...
What does this have to do with advocacy
for role-playing games? Imagine for a moment that Harris and Klebold
had actually played them (as the media tried to claim on numerous
occasions); companies such as White Wolf and Wizards of the Coast would
have easily been dragged into this suit. And many smaller, independent
companies could have gotten pulled in as well, regardless of whether or
not their games were involved. Most of them would not have survived.
Of course, the suit is practically evidence
against itself - if the "$20-billion-a-year video game industry" is really
responsible for putting millions of games into the hands of minors that
will eventually cause them to go on insane shooting binges, then wouldn't
there be a lot more school shootings than we have now?
Or am I just thinking way too far out of
the knee-jerk-simple-solution box?
Makes A Much-Needed Gaming Statement
As you may recall from an earlier report in
1999, Newsweek misquoted a statement made by Mark Potok of the Southern
Poverty Law Center, making it appear as if he was connecting D&D
with racism. (see Newsweek
Slams D&D Again and Newsweek
Misquotes Potok on the Advocacy 1999 page
for more information)
More recently, the SPLC posted an interview
with Mattias Gardell, a professor of religious history at the University
of Stockholm's Center for Research in International Migration and Ethnic
Relations, as well as an "expert on right-wing extremism." In the
interview, Gardell focuses on what he perceives as a growing racist theme
among neo-Pagans, and made a mention about the possible influences that
bring people to Paganism:
"At the same time, this generation
was made up of people who had been brought up on [the fantasy novels of
J.R.R.] Tolkien, who played [the popular fantasy game] "Dungeons and Dragons,"
and watched sci-fi epics. They also listened to all this new music — industrial
music, Gothic music, black and death and thrash metal."
This statement didn't sit very well with many
of us, and seemed again to be attaching gaming with racism. That's
something that we certainly don't need. We've already got our hands
full with Satanism, witchcraft, murder, and suicide. Disproving those
to hardheaded members of the media and religious communities has been enough
of a trial, without adding a possible KKK connection to the list.
After some heated conversation between
Potok and Spencer Lease, an agreement was reached - and Mark made this
statement for our benefit, to clear up any misunderstandings regarding
the SPLC's stance on role-playing:
"The Southern Poverty Law [Center]
sees absolutely no link between role-playing games and intolerance or racial
hatred. What's more, those involved in such games have from time to time
been attacked as somehow promoting unhealthy or even "Satanic" doctrines
-- a suggestion that the Center finds ridiculous. In our view, role-playing
games are unrelated to politics and certainly to hate."
We thank you, Mark. You many not realize
how much it means to us, and the cause.
Link To Gaming in California Stabbing
Two Marines in California have been arrested
for attempted murder after attacking a woman on a recreation trail.
Jason Blad (21) and Jessie Carson (19) allegedly accosted the woman as
she walked alone on the trail, stabbed her several times, slashed her throat,
then wondered aloud why she wasn't dead. The victim survived the
brutal attack, and is undergoing reconstructive surgery on her face and
Local police have begun to investigate
the possibility that Blad and Carson were involved in some sort of role-playing
game that they had taken too far. No definite link has yet been found,
but with a recently-imposed gag order in place, the real story won't see
the light of day for some time.
This is unfortunate. It leaves the
story on a very damaging note, that an RPG could be linked to the crime.
A local paper, the Montgomery County Herald, has already printed one story
(Stabbing May Be Linked
To Role Play) that centers on the gaming angle.
In that story, reporters Andy Rose and
Virginia Hennessey point out that not all gamers are violent, and that
the games themselves are "generally viewed as benign fantasies."
But these facts are terribly outweighed by the obligatory references to
alleged "gamers gone wrong." Rose and Hennessey mention the following
as examples of cases in which gamers were linked to criminal behavior:
Deputy Public Defender Art Kaufmann, who is
defending Carson, was quoted as saying he has not "found anything even
remotely resembling a motive." Likewise, Richard Weese, who is defending
Blad, said that he had no information linking his client to role-playing.
Rod Ferrell's vampire clan (who did not play
An unnamed man charged with child endangerment
for cutting himself and "having young people drink his blood". (His
fellow gamers turned him in, proving that, as with any group, the law-abiding
citizens are the majority).
The stabbing death of gamer Kris Olinger,
whose parents believe was committed by gamers who went "over the edge"
(despite the police investigation, which is focused on robbery and carjacking
- another example of games as suspects because the victim was a
Let's recap: we have two marines who attempted
to kill a woman. The police have no evidence that either were acting
out a role-playing game, but they are still pursuing that angle.
Three examples of links between gaming and crime are given, none of which
hold any water at all. Neither of the defense lawyers can connect
the motive to gaming (or anything, for that matter). Yet the
feels perfectly confident with running a story on the case with the title
"Stabbing May Be Linked To Role Play."
Or at least reporter Andy Rose thinks so.
After the story was made public, Mr. Rose became flooded with e-mails regarding
his comments about gaming. He wrote this
reply to the responses, and defended his original story. He didn't
attack games, he said. It was made very clear that the vast majority
of gamers are harmless and there is no violence, he said. It was
pointed out that there have been no more than a few isolated cases of gamers
committing crimes, he said.
Mr. Rose doesn't have the best memory of
his work, however. By itself, the title of this story turns gaming
into a bigger suspect than Blad or Carson. His definition of "very
clear" is a brief half-sentence that is followed by a contrasting phrase
in the second half. At no point does he refer to his weak examples
as "isolated cases;" in fact, those two words do not appear in his article
at all. If anything, his examples are used to counteract his statement
that games are harmless.
In a direct response to Martin Kliehm (who,
coincidentally, first brought this story to my attention - thanks Martin!),
Mr. Rose states that no matter what group the suspects belonged to, the
Herald would have made it part of the story - be they pro basketball players,
Catholics, or chess masters. With all due respect, I seriously doubt
it in any of these cases. Our nation is far too enamoured with pro
sports to allow anyone to attach any sort of blame on them (just
look at the frequency of sports riots and the lack of investigation into
the prevention of them). Likewise, a newspaper that dared to attach
crime to the Catholic church would soon discover the true meaning
of "a flood of hate mail." And if a chess champ killed someone...
well, I just can't picture that headline - "Stabbing May Be Linked To Chess?"
Nope, I can't see that happening.
To be fair, he does admit to understanding
"some of the ultra-sensitivity," but it's not clear whether he realizes
how much damage this type of reporting can do. I sent him this
email, which I thought was rather friendly, and got this
response. In it, he explains that he wrote about games because
of the parents of Kris Olinger and their quest to link the death of their
son to gaming. I'm not exactly sure how to take that - is he trying
to help them make this link by writing such an inappropriate story?
Does this mean that there's just as much evidence in that case as
there is in this one?
A second Herald story, reported a week
later by M. Cristina Medina (Trail
Stabbing Story Hits Home) focuses on the younger suspect, Jesse Carson.
This piece makes only a brief mention of D&D and roleplaying - and
closes the subject with the police statement that no link had yet been
In the end, we have another case for the
files (one that likely doesn't involve gaming at all), and another article
that the anti-gamers will use in their arsenal against us.
Here is the contact information for the
Called As Expert Witness
According to sources in the CAR-PGa,
D&D co-creator Gary Gygax has been standing as an expert witness in
a trial in Sacramento, California. While the details are slim that
the present, we do know that the case involves a prison inmate that had
his gaming materials confiscated by authorities. Gary has promised
us more information as soon as he is able to divulge it.
Special thanks to Dr.
Alexander F. Simkin for making this story known.
Live Nude Gamers!
Well, maybe not nude. I hope.
Andrew Koenig, who is best known for his role as "Boner" on the 80's sitcom
Pains, has written and directed a "live sitcom" about "three geeks
caught up in the world of a sword and sorcery role playing game and the
people who must deal with them." The sitcom is staged at the Acme
Comedy Theater in Hollywood, California, and runs on Friday nights at midnight
from March 16th through May 18th. For more information, visit their
website at: http://people.we.mediaone.net/monkeygolucky/index.html.
And if you do get to go, drop me a line
and let me know how it is!
for the Vision Impaired
books are now available in braille and on cassette, for the benefit of
the blind and vision impaired. Twenty-six GURPS books are currently
available on cassette, and ten of those are also available in braille.
These include such classic titles as Magic, Cyberpunk, Martial
Arts and Supers, and of course the Basic Set. The
books and cassettes are being made available at cost by Nancy Feldman.
For a complete listing of which books are available, go to www.sjgames.com/gurps/braille.html.
You can also reach Nancy Feldman at:
909 S. Peoria St. Apt. 20
Aurora, CO 80012
Banned By Saudis
Saudi Arabia's highest religious authority
has issued an edict banning Pokemon, claiming that it promotes Zionism
and gambling and can possess the minds of children.
When asked how they felt about the edict,
thousands of Saudi children said "Yeah, so what? We're hooked on
now. Pokemon is, like, sooo last year!"
For the full story, click