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Main > Advocacy > Advocacy 2002 Archive

Advocacy 2002 Article Archive

June, 2002:

Landlord to Game Store: You're Not Wanted Here!

A game store owner in Texas was recently told by his potential landlord that he was not wanted as a tenant, solely based on the fact that his store would carry Dungeons & Dragons and similar games.

Garrett Henke of Round Table Games, was negotiating his lease when it was revealed what he would be selling in the store he was about to rent - and he was swiftly told "We just don't want to have anything to do with the occult."

This is not the only problem Henke has had with renting in San Antonio.  At his current location, his realtor told the landlord he sold computer games, rather than RPGs, to avoid any more trouble.

It's not often that these types of stories make their way to me, but it only makes me wonder how many times this sort of thing happens without anyone hearing about it.  A lot closer to home, a game store near my office was urged out of a shopping strip because it attracted too many loitering children - kids who were much better off playing in the street, as we all know.  Whether this was a legitimate concern or just an excuse to rid themselves of "one of those stores" will always be a mystery.

Now that Round Table Games has a new home, I'm calling all Escapist readers into action.  Here's our chance to help Garrett out, and give that landlord the obscene gesture of our choosing.  If you're in the San Antonio area, stop by Round Table games at 8812 Lockway.  Buy something.  Buy several things.  And tell him The Escapist sent you.

If you're not in the San Antonio area, Round Table is selling much of their product online, through auction sites such as eBay, Yahoo, and others.  I'll be posting information on how to check out Round Table's wares.  I'll be bidding on some of their stuff, and I hope you will, too.

New Developments In "Open And Shut" Stephanie Crowe Case

The Stephanie Crowe murder case has had new developments since the last time I checked on it a while ago; developments that have practically ruled out the original murder suspects, as well as the involvement D&D.

Stephanie was originally believed to have been murdered by her brother and two of his friends.  Prosecutors at the trial portrayed it as "an open-and-shut case against three boys warped by an unhealthy passion for dark role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons."

It turns out that they may have opened and shut the case too quickly, however.  A DNA test conducted in January of 1999 revealed some of Stephanie's blood on a sweatshirt owned by Richard Tuite, a transient from the area with a history of stalking and threatening young women.

The most recent developments involve the arrest of Tuite based on some "new blood evidence" that has recently been revealed.

It's an all-too-familiar story, where the mere presence of an RPG creates a suspect to a horrible crime.  Thankfully, it appears that we may see some real resolution to this particular case. 

For a timeline of the case, click here.

Click the following links to see the original stories from the Escapist archives:
Trial Begins In 'Dungeons & Dragons' Killing
DNA Report Rocks Teen Slaying Case

May, 2002:

Old News About Infocom

Okay, it's old news... very old news, in fact, from 1987 - but it just caught my eye and I think it needs everyone's attention.

Back in 1987, computer role-playing games were called text adventures, and didn't have all the nifty 3D graphics and beautiful environments we have today.  That's right, sonny... we typed all of our commands in, and most of the time the computer didn't know what we were trying to say, and you would get stuck in one spot for weeks just because you couldn't figure out what to do next, and we liked it!

The biggest seller of text adventure games was Infocom, maker of such historic titles as the Zork series, Planetfall, Wishbringer, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, and Leather Goddesses of Phobos. One of these games was called Enchanter, and Infocom thought they would try to promote this game by advertising on the back cover of Boy's Life magazine, which has Boy Scouts as its target audience.

This act brought out the self-righteous in force, as Infocom began to receive letters telling them how evil they were and how their games were bringing more evil into the world.  One letter, from a letter carrier, told them that he would refuse to deliver any copies of Boy's Life that ran the advertisement - which, I might add, is a federal offense.  I can only hope that this carrier lost his job over the issue.

This is just another example of what ignorance and fear can accomplish.  For more on this story, take a jump back in time and have a peek at the Winter/Spring 1987 issue of The Status Line.  Look for the article titled "Religious fringe has own ideas about Infocom."

"Sci-Fi Tax" Proposed

After watching "Trekkies," the Roger Nygard documentary on the culture of Star Trek fanatics, Michael Williams got an idea: impose a tax on science fiction toys, games, videos, books, and comics, and use the money to help fund NASA.

Williams, a 28-year-old Alabama congressional candidate, believes that by "taxing the science fiction, you're actually taxing the interest group of space. They're the ones who want to go into space and have space expanded and they're the ones who will actually feel good about spending the money on space." 

Williams compares his plan to gasoline taxes, which are used to build and improve the roads.  His plan is to impose a 1 percent sales tax on science fiction merchandise, and space-related books. 

This, of course, will include our copies of the Star Wars RPG, Traveller, Tribe 8, Fading Suns, and any other RPG or RPG supplement  that Williams deems to be "sci-fi."

The problem here is that the profit margin on such products is terribly small, and most companies won't be willing to take the cut, instead passing the damage on to the writers, game designers, and artists behind these games, as well as many other sci-fi related products.  It has the potential to hurt the genre at its creative core.  And if the market goes in the other direction, by raising prices to offset the tax, they run the risk of decreasing their sales numbers.  (Just think of the last time you heard someone complain because the latest hardcover RPG was priced at 35 dollars!)

On top of this, the sci-fi "industry" does not generate nearly enough money to make a 1% tax a substantial and worthwhile contribution.  If it passes, it stands to be damaging to science fiction, and utterly useless to NASA.

April, 2002:

EverQuest Blamed In Suicide

The mother of a 21-year old EverQuest addict who killed himself last Thanksgiving morning is filing a lawsuit against Sony Entertainment on the grounds that the addictive nature of the game weakened her son to the point of suicide.

Elizabeth Woolley of Osceola, Wisconsin says that her son, Shawn, was so addicted to EverQuest that he surrendered everything - his home, family, and job - to play the game.

Shawn had more than his share of personal problems - in fact, if you've been reading this site for a while, you can practically recite them along with me.  He was diagnosed with "depression and schizoid personality disorder, symptoms of which include a lack of desire for social relationships, little or no sex drive and a limited range of emotions in social settings."  He was also an epileptic, and according to his mother, his last eight seizures were due to computer use.

Woolley's lawyer is the "colorful" attorney Jack Thompson, who is most famous for the 1990 debacle over rap group 2 Live Crew.  Thompson attempted to get the members of the infamous rap group thrown into jail because their album As Nasty As They Wanna Be contained numerous instances of words that he just didn't like.

Elizabeth Woolley wants a label on games like EverQuest, to warn people of the potential dangers of playing them for extended periods of time.  This has two problems with it:

  • Woolley herself had no need of such a label, as she was fully aware of her son's mental and physical problems, and knew that his game playing was getting out of hand.

  • Neither Woolley nor her son were likely to heed such a label if it did exist previously, since they both seemed to have ignored the epilepsy warning that came with EverQuest - the same warning that is voluntarily printed in the manual for practically every video game on the market.



    One of the claims being made by Woolley and Thompson is that Sony has deliberately made EverQuest addictive - a claim similar to that made about tobacco companies - and that they know that their games make people come back for more.

    It's a strange criticism, when you think about it.  Of course Sony has made the game deliberately engrossing; if they didn't, no one would want to play for more than an hour or so, reviews and word of mouth would pan the game, and before too long no one would be playing.  That's a poor business strategy.

    It is in the company's best interests to make a game that holds the player's attention.  Faulting Sony for making a game that's just too good for it's own good is downplaying Shawn's  real problem.  Elizabeth Woolley would do much better to start a group to help people with emotional addictions, rather than trying to slap a label that no one will read on a game that a lot of people enjoy.  Unfortunately, in her grief, she may never see it that way.

    So why all this ado about a video game, when this site usually focuses on tabletop RPGs?  Well, it seems like history is repeating itself here, with a distraught mother who has recently lost a child teaming up with a professional who believes that most entertainment is evil.  Last time, it was Patricia Pulling and Thomas Radecki, and they did quite a bit to convince many people that role-playing was dangerous and evil.  Our next contestants, if they make it past the EverQuest round, may not stop there, and could attempt to carry on where Pat & Tom left off, if they are so inclined.

    At the very least, the outcome of this trial, if it makes it that far, could set a precedent for future cases that involve games of any kind, even RPGs.  A positive decision could be very beneficial for us.  Let's keep our fingers crossed.

    Special thanks to the long list of readers who brought this story to my attention.

    No Guns?  You're Free To Go...

    Eidos software, creators of the Final Fantasy series of video games*, have been exempted from a five billion dollar lawsuit filed by survivors of the Columbine victims.  Their reprieve came when it was noted that the Final Fantasy games do not prominently feature guns in them.

    Had Harris and Klebold been carrying stuffed chocobo dolls with them during the shooting spree, however, things would be very different for Edios, I'm sure.

    While one shouldn't complain about a brief glimpse of logic and intelligence in a situation that is otherwise free of both, this should stand as a perfect example of how just plain dumb this lawsuit is.  According to this line of thinking, if the Columbine Killers had left their guns at home, blocked all of the school exits shut and burned the building to the ground, this lawsuit would instead target Stephen King and the producers of the Carrie movies.

    It also sets a bad precedent where a murder weapon can be seen as a connection to any form of entertainment that features the same weapon.  Remember how many comments were made about D&D immediately after the Columbine attack (click here and here in case you missed them).  It could have easily been dragged into this mess if there had been the slightest connection between the killers and RPGs.

    Correction: (09/24/02) Two mistakes were pointed out to me in this story - first, I spelled Eidos incorrectly (which I corrected above), and second, Eidos did not create Final Fantasy VII - rather, they published a version of it for the PC.

    A Different Kind Of Game Defense

    Michael "Mucko" McDermott claims that an Archangel sent him backwards in time to kill Adolf Hitler and six of his generals.  But Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Thomas O'Reilly says that McDermott's passion for Dungeons & Dragons and experience in role-playing has aided him in creating a convincing backstory of insanity.

    McDermott, who shot and killed seven of his coworkers on December 26th, 2000, took the witness stand to plead his case.  He was born without a soul, he claimed, and could only obtain one by accepting a mission from St. Michael the Archangel.

    O'Reilly focused on McDermott's gaming background during cross-examination, and suggested that his experience with the game had honed his storytelling skills well enough to create the Hitler story.

    And really, who can argue with that?  It's a fact that role-playing develops a person's ability to create stories and characters out of the blue.  But is this really the case here?  And if not, will this set a precedent where any gamer on the witness stand will find themselves accused of perjury just because they're so darn good at it?

    On the plus side, this particular article doesn't stoop to dragging out the bad reputation that D&D has acquired over the years, despite the fact that the murderer in this instance is a former gamer.  The article even gives a fairly accurate description of D&D: "a fantasy game in which a ''gamemaster'' creates an elaborate set of circumstances and characters and a problem for them to solve."

    Even so, expect some of the anti-gamers to use McDermott as another example of a gamer gone wrong, ignoring all of his mental problems and childhood trauma.  It's just their style.

    For more on this story, click here.

    "Cult Cop" Hosts Occult Seminar

    Virginia Beach "Cult Cop," Detective Don Rimer (who you may remember from the Jon Bush case back in 1996 - click here if you don't) held a seminar for police and youth workers on February 22nd entitled "Ritual Crime and the Occult: The New Youth Sub-Culture."  In it, Rimer told his audience that if they had not yet encountered youth occult behavior then they will, and soon.

    It's not hard to see the process here: Rimer tells police and youth workers to start looking for signs of "occult behavior."  The police and youth workers begin looking, and finding things that fit every possible definition of "occult behavior," from Pokemon to Crowley books.  "Whadayaknow, he's right!", they exclaim.

    Granted, there were certain to be some intelligent, critical thinking individuals in the audience who didn't fall for it.  But consider the comment by Jimmy Pentecost and Paul Bloomfield, two youth ministers who attended the seminar: both mention that they have noticed an increase in kids who are interested in Dungeons & Dragons and bands with "disturbing lyrics" such as Marilyn Manson.

    Never mind that most kids like music with "disturbing lyrics," and that recent waves of "neo-angst metal" and "controversy rap" have started to become popular.  Never mind the fact that Dungeons & Dragons has recently released a new edition that has exploded in popularity.  Never mind the basic concepts of statistics which would dictate that both of these subsets of kids would be encountered in increasing frequency because of the above statements.

    Admittedly, Rimer does take a moment out to tone down a bit, and even goes so far as to say that not all instances of "occult behavior," including odd clothing, strange music, and those terrible role-playing games, will lead to suicide or homicide.  Still, it's troubling to see such efforts of satanic panic being spread among those who are charged with being protective and accepting of young people.

    And lest you think I'm being too hard on Rimer, remember this: his "occult reference library" contains a copy of Patricia Pulling's "The Devil's Web."  That is his reference material for information about Dungeons & Dragons.

    For the full story, click here.

    February, 2002:

    Afghans Resume Chess Games 

    After five years of oppressive Taliban rule, the Afghan people are once more allowed to play chess.  From 1996 until very recently, Afghanistan was the only place in the world where playing the game of kings was illegal.  Chess players would have to play in hidden "speakeasies" for fear of being punished by the religious police, who viewed the game as a distraction from prayers.  As a result, chess sets became very difficult to obtain, as many were confiscated, and the rest were well hidden by their owners.

    This kind of puts the whole "gaming advocacy" thing into perspective, doesn't it?  Try to think about this story the next time you start to forget just how lucky you are.

    For more on this story, visit Patrick Cockburn's column on the subject.

    Sword Slayer Confesses 

    Eighteen year old Kyle Hulbert, the suspect in the grisly murder of biophysicist Robert M. Schwartz, has confessed to the act, claiming that he was trying to rescue the scientist's daughter.  Hulbert said in a police statement that Schwartz had been poisoning his daughter Clara's food, and that he was planning to make sure she did not return alive from a family trip.

    Hulbert and Clara Schwartz met in October at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, less than two months before he killed her father on December 8th.  Hulbert mad a statement that creatures named Ordog, Sabba, and Nicodemus gave him permission to kill the scientist.  Both have told police that they have a strong interest in fantasy, vampires, witchcraft, and the occult.

    For more, click here.

    Editors note: This story seems to be clear of "gaming influence," but it still scares me quite a bit, mainly because I'm a regular at the MD Ren Fest, and I was possibly even at the fest on the day these two met.  Brrrrr.   - Bill

    January, 2002:

    Happy New Year! 

    The year is still very young, with not much available in the way of gaming advocacy news, so I offer you this Dork Tower strip from the immensely talented John Kovalic:
    Yes, this strip appears on this page with the written consent of John Kovalic - thanks for asking!  Dork Tower is copyright 1999, 2002 Shetland Productions, All Rights Reserved.  Yep.  All of 'em.  Every last stinking one.  Discover Dork Tower for yourself at!  Buy the print comics, too!



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