> Advocacy 2002 Archive
Advocacy 2002 Article Archive
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
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
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
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
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
The most recent developments involve the
arrest of Tuite based on some "new blood evidence" that has recently been
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
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
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
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
One of these games was called Enchanter, and Infocom
thought they would try to promote this game by advertising on the back
Boy's Life magazine, which has Boy Scouts as its target
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
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.
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
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
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.
(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
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
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
Pulling's "The Devil's Web." That is his reference material
for information about Dungeons & Dragons.
For the full story, click
Afghans Resume Chess
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.
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
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
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 www.dorktower.com!
Buy the print comics, too!