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Advocacy 1999 Article Archive
Even MORE Pokemon Problems
A teenager from Quebec was stabbed by a 12-year-old
boy in a dispute over Pokemon cards on October 26th. It seems
that he was attempting to get his younger brother's cards back from the
assailant, who had taken them.
This is the kind of story that will undoubtedly get
twisted against the game, despite the fact that the game itself had nothing
to do with the crime. Check out the full story here.
In other Pokemon news, McDonald's has backed
out of a deal to offer Pokemon toys with their Happy Meals, stating
that the characters do not reflect family values. Burger King, ever
the controversy-mongers, have picked up the promotion and run with it.
Was McDonald's drawing a connection to gaming in
this decision? Time will tell... when the Dungeons &
Dragons movie hits the theaters next summer.
If you guessed that Spencer Lease
brought both of these stories to my attention... you were right!
Chick Publications Strikes
Chick Publications, the company that brought us the
infamous Dark Dungeons pamphlet, has released "Stairway To Hell,"
a book that calls Dungeons & Dragons one of "Satan's traps,"
along with suicide, drugs, rock music and sex. Whereas Dark Dungeons
was free (and still too expensive), Chick has put a price tag of $8.50
on this guide to teenage damnation... so you're not likely to find it laying
around in public places. Which is a good thing.
Dark Dungeons has been out of print by Chick
for some time now (I had to practically beg for a copy back in 1993), but
you can still view it online from many sources. Check out my new
page devoted to this little scrap of propaganda by clicking here.
Special thanks to... let's all say
it together... SPENCER LEASE for pointing this out to me.
The 700 Club Gets Hip?
One of my duties as keeper of this page is to carefully
monitor the 700 Club's web page
each Halloween, which is when they tend to trot out their "dangers of the
occult" stories, including some that decry roleplaying and card games.
Just check the archive for a few examples.
The good news: there are no new anti-gaming stories
listed this year.
The bad news: they dug out and reprinted an old story
from 1996 ("Vampire: Not Just A Game," about
the Jon Bush case) to help flesh out the
The weird news: in an article about a reformed
vampire, the reporter uses the term "gothic punk." To those who are
unaware, this is a term coined by the authors of Vampire: The Masquerade
and trademarked by White Wolf, the publishers of the game. Now, either
this term has become so widely used that the clueless 700 Club has
picked it up off of the street, or someone in Robertson's employ is a bona-fide
I suppose it could also be possible that someone
over there has actually read a Vampire rulebook, but judging
by their misconceptions about roleplaying, I seriously doubt it.
Now that Halloween is over, I'll be darned if I can
find the article on their page... and they don't seem to have a search
function. If anyone has a copy, I'd be most appreciative if they
could forward it. Thanks.
RPGADL Gets Evicted
The Role-Playing Anti-Defamation League has a new home,
and a new name, with no thanks to Tripod, the previous provider for the
RPGADL web page.
In a paranoid effort to avoid legal action, Tripod
shut the site down without so much as a notice to Johanna Mead, the keeper
of the site and it's webring. It seems that B'nai Brith, the
Jewish Anti-Defamation League, doesn't care for anyone using the term "Anti-Defamation
League," and has taken legal action against other groups using it.
Rather than incur their wrath, Tripod pulled the plug on the site.
is not lost, however; Johanna has found a new name, The Role-Playing
Defense League, and a new host at http://area51.peopleweb.com/rpgdefense/index.html.
Stop on by, and display one of her banners on your page... she has a couple
of dozen to choose from!
National Parenting Seal of Approval
The National Parenting
Center has issued a seal of approval to Wizards of the Coast's Pokemon
trading card game. In their Product Testing Report, they call Pokemon
"compelling game that involves strategy, creative thinking and a dash of
Check out this story for
more details, and this
page to see the other recent seal of approval recipients.
The legendary Spencer Lease brought the following to
my attention: a law firm in San Diego has filed a lawsuit against Nintendo
of America over the Pokemon card game, claiming that it amounts
to illegal gambling.
The basis of the case revolves around the varying
rarities of the cards, since cards of greater value than others appear
at random in booster packs, and players must pay for the packs to play
the game. The law firm of Milberg, Weiss, Bershad, Hynes and Lerach
calls this an "illegal gambling enterprise."
Similar lawsuits have been filed against the makers
of sports trading card makers, with no success to date. But Pokemon
has become such a massive craze recently that it seems like this is just
another attempt at cashing in.
For the full story, click
Dobson Produces Fantasy
From the October 1999 issue of the Focus On The Family
James Dobson's Focus
on the Family has decided to break into the fantasy literature business,
with their release of the dramatic reading of C.S. Lewis' The Magician's
Nephew, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series.
This is their second project based on the books of Narnia, the first
being an audioplay of the ever-popular The Lion, the Witch, and the
This seems unusual coming from FotF, which is responsible
for their own share of anti-gaming material with Playing
With Dragon Fire and Castles and Cauldrons, especially when you consider
that the Narnia books are filled with magic spells being used both
for good and evil. The presence of magic in D&D is one
of the things that has inspired FotF to rally against "secular" gaming.
It looks like play-acting fantasy characters is only
acceptable when FotF has you on the payroll (and stands to make a tidy
profit in sales).
Hasbro Buys A Whole Lotta
Yeah, I know you've heard it by now, but in case you
haven't: Hasbro purchased Wizards of the Coast in September for a cool
$325 million. (For you die hard Magic fans, that's 812,500
Lotuses, which if sacrificed, would produce 2,437,500 mana in the color
of your choice. Just putting it into perspective for you.)
What does this mean for gaming? Well, my predictions
are that we'll start seeing D&D and Magic in K-Mart (and
Wal-Mart, until the protests begin), which is good for the industry and
for bringing new blood into the hobby, but bad for the small game shop.
Time will tell.
Minister Teaches Ritual
Sacrifice With Pokemon
In an act of overwhelming irony, a minister from Colorado
Springs declared war on the Pokemon craze by burning Pokemon
cards with a blowtorch, and hacking at an action figure with a sword, while
his 9-year-old son tore the head and limbs off of a doll.
Mark Juvera, the children's pastor at Grace Fellowship
Church, performed the gruesome display in front of 85 children between
the ages of 6 and 12. During the scene, the children chanted "Burn
it, burn it!" and "Chop it up, chop it up!"
No, really. I'm not making this up. Check
out this Denver Post story: Pastor Calls Pokemon
Juvera, along with Mark Cowart, head pastor of the
non-denominational church, dislikes the "dark references" of Pokemon.
One of the concerns over the game is that it encourages
children to play a godlike role over the creatures in their monster collection.
Another concern is that children surfing the Pokemon web site can find
themselves learning more about Magic: the Gathering, which the clueless
Denver Post lists as "a game similar to Dungeons and Dragons."
They also get nervous over the fact that one of the
monsters sprouts horns. One can only wonder if they have attempted
an anti-pitchfork movement among Colorado's farmers.
All right, time to climb up on the old soapbox...
In a day and age when we blame so much of our nation's
problems on violence in the entertainment industry, it seems horribly hypocritical
to use violence to make a point in church, especially to young children.
To teach impressionable young people to literally burn and stab anything
that they fear or dislike is sending the wrong message, whether the messenger
is a pastor, a movie director, or a rap artist. This is ironic on
two levels: first, it is torch-wavers and sword-swingers like Juevra who
criticize card and role-playing games for teaching violence, and second,
cartoons such as Pokemon teach a lot more in the way of peace and
harmony than Mr. Juevra's sermons do. It gravely concerns me that
people like this are left in charge of so many children.
Pokemon teaches nothing in the way of "godhood,"
any more than raising a pet does. Basically, it concerns collecting
various monsters with varying abilities, and training them to engage in
combat with others. Embedded in the games are lessons in strategy,
patience, and chivalry. And, it is completely bloodless.
On another note, the doll-tearing incident sounds
familiar... didn't a demon-possessed cat do that in Focus on the Family's
anti-game production Castles and Cauldrons? Could we be scratching
the surface with this revelation?
Special thanks to the following
people for pointing this one out to me: Cecil36, Spencer Lease (who else?),
Randell Lee Wolff, Brandon Myres, Jason Paul McCartan, and J. Cronk, as
well as Greg Schauer, who didn't e-mail it to me.
On the other end of the spectrum: Decipher, publisher
of the Star Wars collectible card game (among others), has announced
the third annual Shawn Valdez Memorial Tournament Weekend, a fundraising
tournament dedicated to one of the game's most devoted players. The
tournament raises funds for the Child Cancer Fund.
Shawn, who was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia
at 5 years of age, died in August 1996. At the time, he was devoting
all of his energy to a sanctioned Star Wars tournament in his hometown
of Jacksonville, Florida. After playing two games, he grew weak,
and had to leave the game early. He died the next day.
The next year, Shawn received his posthumous tournament
rating, a custom
Star Wars card was created in his honor, and Decipher held the first
informal tournament that bears Shawn's name. That year, they raised
$3,000 for the Child Cancer Fund. Last year, through both the tournament
and an online auction, they raised $21,000.
You can find out more by checking out the story on
Back up on the box: It's ironic that I came upon
these two stories within a couple of days of each other; one, the story
of a man leading children in a violent ritual against a card game, and
another about a group of people using a game to do something truly good
for others in need. It looks like Juevra could learn a thing or two
from the gamers about really helping people. But, he won't.
A shame, really.
A Positive Gaming Article...
No, this isn't the belated April Fool's installment;
there was an article, printed in a real newspaper that really
had some positive things to say about a bunch of thirtysomething guys playing
& Dragons. It showed up, apparently by accident, in the pages
of the Lakeland Ledger on September 5th, 1999.
All right, I'll turn the sarcasm filter back on now...
here to read it!
Special thanks to Glenn Welser for
pointing this one out to me.
Hoody Freakin' Hoo!
As a long time fan of the comic book Knights
of the Dinner Table, I was thrilled to find out from Spencer Lease
that my own little web page got mentioned in a recent issue. In the
August, 1999 issue, Knights author Jolly Blackburn responds to a
letter by Spencer, and recommends The Escapist to anyone interested
in gaming advocacy.
What can I say? I'm honored. Thanks Spencer
and Jolly, and of course, B.A., Bob, Dave, Sara, and Brian!
Gaming In The Boardroom
I caught wind of this one in the back pages of a recent
issue of KoDT:
HRDQ, is a company
that, as they put it, "provides off-the-shelf training and development
resources and customized services to corporate, educational, and industry-related
organizations" to companies and corporations such as Amtrak, Disney, Intel,
Some of those resources are games that you play at
work. I'm not talking the occasional game of Windows solitare while the
boss isn't looking; these are exercises in teamwork and management skills
that you play out as characters that must accomplish certain tasks.
In Jungle Escape, for example, you play in a group
of unfortunates who have crash landed in a rainforest. Your goal
is to build an escape helicopter using spare parts, your wits, and whatever
teamwork you can scrape together. In Mars Surface Rover, you
build and race a vehicle across the surface of the red planet, using differing
levels of leadership and authority.
Don't expect to find their games in your local gaming
store, however; the price range is a little out of the range of the average
person's game budget. Jungle Escape will set you back $245 and Mars
Surface Rover is a hefty $575. Obviously, HRDQ realizes that
they can set their prices whereever they want, and that most megacorps
don't know that they could save a bundle by investing in several copies
of FUDGE and a bunch of erector sets. Hey, more power to 'em, I say...
In the end, we can only hope that products like these will help to create
a better understanding of the hobby.
Oops!: A Correction
Well, I'm no different from anyone else when it comes
to making mistakes... except that when I make them, they are usually
pretty embarrassing. Take my recent story, D&D Sells Out
/ D&D Goes On Tour (in the June update), for example.
In it, I rave about the "glowing terms" in which D&D is described,
and the lack of negative media bias in the stories.
As it turns out, these stories were in fact press
releases written by a representative of Wizards of the Coast! Business
Wire is a service that distributes press releases to the media for
a fee. These stories were not written by an unbiased reporter by
any means. My apologies to anyone who was inconvenienced by this
Thanks go out to Rob Curran for pointing this faux
pas out to me... and for admitting he still liked the page anyway.
The 700 Club Endorses
Yes, you're reading that right, and no, it's nothing
from Mind's Eye Theatre! The 700 Club recently printed an
article entitled Y2K Could Be A Mixed Blessing,
which author Chris Mitchell discusses a live-action role-playing game developed
by the Arlington Institute.
"The Arlington Institute has developed
a game called Countdown to Y2K. It explores how communities nationwide
can better cope with Y2K. The game, which can be replicated by any community,
was hosted by Public Technologies Incorporated, the national technology
organization for local governments in Washington, D.C. Groups representing
cities, churches, local governments and Y2K organizations participated.
They played imaginary roles, ranging from the local press, a pastor or
The article then shifts it's focus from the game to
a discussion of the importance of ministering to "unbelievers" during the
Y2K crisis. It seems that The 700 Club has no real problems with
role-playing, as long as it has the potential to bring more paying parishoners.
Rumor has it that in the original Countdown to
Y2K campaign, the Nosferatu gained control of the local press, the
pastor was set upon by a gang of Black Spiral Dancers, and the mayor found
a trod to Arcadia and was never seen again. Oh yeah, and a
group of prankster Virtual Adepts prevented the devastating computer crash
on December 31st at 11:59 p.m., deliberately waiting until the last minute.
All right, all right... I made that last part up...
Seriously, a visit to the Arlington
Institute's web page proves rather interesting... Countdown To Y2K
described in unapologetic terms as a "roleplaying game" that is run by
a "game master." The guidebook suggests that participants take on
the roles of characters that they can easily understand; the police chief
should be played by a police officer or someone who has a degree in criminology,
for example. The game master then reveals the events of the coming
year to the players, and the results depend on their responses.
It is yet another fine example of role-playing used
in a beneficial scenario, only this time, it bears a much closer resemblance
to what we do for recreation. And the 700 Club never caught on.
Thanks to Sven Olson for bringing
this story to my attention.
AD&D Third Edition
Wizards of the Coast announced at this year's Gen Con
that a third edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons will be
released, starting with three revised volumes in late summer fall of 2000.
The new edition will contain "an integrated skill system; a standard resolution
mechanic; the reintroduction of half-orcs, assassins and monks; and the
removal of demi-human level limits." Wizards also claims that the
third edition will offer "flexibility to players, emphasizing consequences
rather than limitations in character generation and development."
This comes a year after the 25th anniversary of the
dawning of the original AD&D game, and ten years after the release
of AD&D's second edition. With the recent sales performance of
the new D&D introductory set (see "D&D Sells Out," below), this
may contribute greatly towards bringing a lot of new people to the hobby.
At the same time, it is drawing quite a bit of criticism
from long-time gamers, at the very least in newsgroups such as rec.games.frp.misc.
One can already hear the cries of foul over WoTC's decision to change their
favorite (or least favorite) game. One way or another, the entire gaming
community will feel the ripples from this one.
Click here to
read the official press release.
A&E Versus D&D...
On July 5th, A&E aired an hour-long special entitled
"Dead Kid Walking." It told of the events leading up to the recent
execution of Sean Sellers and
the surrounding controversy (for more information, see "Sean
Sellers Executed," below).
The "teasers" for the special, voice-overs run during
the credits at the end of each show, billed the special as the story of
a man who claimed that his "obsession with Dungeons & Dragons" fueled
his desire to kill.
The special, however, didn't reflect this.
In fact, absolutely no mention of gaming was made whatsoever... despite
the wording of the teaser. While mention was made of Sellers' fascination
with Satanism and the occult, the obligatory connection to gaming was not
made. The story focused more on the debate over the death penalty
than the possible causes for Sellers' homicidal tendencies.
Which is confusing. Why would A&E do this?
Did they "forget" about the D&D angle while writing the special?
Did it end up on the editing room floor? Was it a last-minute attempt
to attract ratings with an extra layer of controversy? We may never
Sam Chupp launches KIDS
AND RPGs Mailing List
Sam Chupp, former White Wolf employee, has started a
new mailing list aimed at involving children in the RPG hobby. Sam
has contributed to such memorable World of Darkness books as The Vampire
Player's Guide, Book of Nod, Book of the Wyrm, and Changeling (a
personal favorite) as well as many books for In
Nomine and Fading Suns.
Not only is the mailing list a great idea, but the
page is an excellent read as well. To quote Sam:
Sam then goes on to answer pressing questions that the
uninitiated may have about the hobby, such as What are the special needs
of girls in RPG's? and How can a good Christian parent accept his
child playing RPG's? The FAQ is well-written, and useful even
to those who may not be interested in the mailing list itself.
"This mailing list is for the discussion of children
in non-computer-related roleplaying games, either the pen-and-paper tabletop
kind or the live-action roleplaying kind. Adults and children are welcome
to participate in the discussion, which will include but not be limited
to the following topics:
1.) the best games for kids,
2.) game design for kids
3.) girls as roleplayers
4.) roleplaying advocacy (esp. for children) "
My personal favorite Q&A on the list is:
This list sounds like a must for anyone who is interested
in introducing their little ones to the hobby. At the very least,
everyone should check out his answers to concerns about occultism and Satanism.
Q: Isn't this just a phase?
A: That's what my parents thought 23 years ago.
You can join the Kids and RPGs mailing list
by clicking here.
THIS JUST IN: TIME Slams
This one came in just as I was getting this ready for
upload, so pardon the sketchy writing: A recent Time article on the
popularity of the online RPG Everquest contains a gratuitous slam
on tabletop gamers, referring to them as "dateless dweebs" who spend their
Saturday nights gaming. This is apparently being held in contrast
to online gamers, who do basically the same thing, but are much more "hip,"
because computers are "cool" now.
The irony is that online games are rather antisocial,
as they are played alone, while tabletop games are always played with a
group of people, face-to-face.
The comment is rude, inappropriate (games like Everquest
would not exist but for D&D), and downright immature. I urge
everyone reading this to check out the article and let Time know how you
feel. (At the present time, the article is not available on Time's
web page, and I am working on getting a hardcopy. Check back
for the info.)
Thanks, again, to Spencer Lease, to whom I have willed
this web page. He certainly seems to supply most of the info for
D&D Sells Out
/ D&D Goes on Tour
According to an article published on Business Wire,
the new starter edition of D&D, released by Wizards of the Coast in
April, has sold out of it's inital press run, and hopefully has introduced
thousands of people to the hobby of adventure gaming.
Not only is this good news to the gaming industry,
but the article itself is a well-written piece praising the benefits of
the role-playing hobby. D&D is described in glowing terms
as a game of "imagination and communal storytelling" rather than "fierce
Not only that, but the seemingly obligatory references
to murder and suicide are left out. It's just too bad this article
didn't see a wider distribution.
Check out the article here: Initial
Print Run of Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game Boxed Set Sells Out
As I was just getting ready to post this to the page,
another announcement came over the Business Wire: Wizards of the Coast
is planning a 25th Anniversary Tour for Dungeons & Dragons, starting
The tour, which begins in Washington State, will
visit 10 different U.S. cities, and will feature autograph sessions, game
demos & tournaments, and a unique art exhibit featuring a historical
overview of the gaming hobby.
On top of it all, WoTC is asking all attendees to
bring a non-perishable food item to the tour, which will be donated to
a local food bank.
Check out the article here: National
Tour and Limited-Edition Dungeons & Dragons Boxed Set Kick Off 25th
a Keyword for Troubled Teens
WordCHECK software and The Young Author's Magazine have
teamed up to create a system that they hope will point out problem areas
among American teens, and single out those that may have violent tendencies.
The system works like this: creative writing assignments
written by teens are checked for frequency of a set group of "key words"
that, studies have shown, appear frequently in compositions written by
"troubled youths" concerning their family lives and their relationships
with their friends and classmates.
The system, titled the Values and Violence Project,
will be e-mailed this August to more than 93,000 public, private and home
school programs in the United States, in the form of weekly writing projects.
What does this have to do with gaming? Well,
one of the words on the "key word" list is dungeon. This means
that any teen involved in this program who writes about their D&D hobby,
or that of a friend or family member, could possibly raise a red flag with
their educators, depending on how many of the other key words appear in
the same document.
According to the article, words such as fury,
pain, neglect, and torture appear on the list, but so do more
neutral words such as sincere, forgiving, and nowhere.
One can only wonder if dragon, vampire, or magic appear on
the list as well.
Had I been involved in this program in high school,
I would have buried the needle in the red zone of potential violence, so
often did I pen tales of my gaming adventures. I'm sure many of you
can say the same thing.
The other concern I have with this is that the system
seems to be flawed. While they seem to have done some research into
the writing patterns of troubled youths, there is no mention made as to
whether these results were compared to any control group. If this
is the case, and wasn't simply an oversight in the text, we may eventually
see this being used as a tool against gaming. Let's hope it doesn't
go that far.
For the full story, click here.
Concerned Gamers Start
the light of the recent media feeding frenzy over the Columbine High School
shooting (for more info, see below), several gamers, including myself,
have begun to organize a new advocacy group; Gaming Advocacy and Media
Education, or G.A.M.E.
While much of the project is in development, and
discussions on methods and direction are ongoing, the basic concept is
to have a group that actively improves the public image of gaming through
such acts as charity work and public demonstration.
Over time, you will see a page devoted to G.A.M.E.
right here on the Escapist, and eventually, we hope to get our own domain
for the group. Until that time, keep checking the Advocacy page for
the latest news.
Well, it's looking more and more like Newsweek has done
it again, misquoting someone in order to get an anti-game angle.
During a recent conversation between Spencer Lease and Mark Potok, who
was mentioned in a previous article ("Newsweek Slams D&D... Again"),
Potok claimed that he was lead into making the offending comment by his
According to Potok (as quoted by Lease), while discussing
the mindset of Wolfgang Hawke, a white supremacist, Potok made the statement
that Hawke lived in a fantasy world where Jews ran the universe and he
was the main threat to them. The reporter then asked if he
meant something like Dungeons and Dragons, and Potok, without giving it
too much thought, said "yes."
From this, Newsweek turned that exchange into a direct
quote from Potok, saying "In some ways, it's like Dungeons & Dragons,"
complete with quote marks.
Newsweek has shown on numerous occasions that they
care little for gaming... and, on occasion, will go to any lengths to make
the hobby look bad. This is one of the more insipid examples.
For the full story of the Columbine High School
shooting, keep scrolling.
The most recent updates are posted at the
top of this page.
THE COLUMBINE SHOOTING
Sweden's own anti-gaming duo, Didi Örnstedt and
Björn Sjöstedt, have also tried to link the Columbine shooting,
as well as recent bombings in London, with games, specifically White Wollf's
of Darkness games. They also seem to think that White Wolf may
have a connection to a neo-nazi group, and claim that the game studio "supplies
all the information one might want on how to kill and assassinate."
Proof positive that they have never cracked open a World of Darkness book
in their lives.
Their page can be found at: http://w1.836.telia.com/~u83602251/news.htm,
but is of little use to anyone who can't read Swedish. Luckily, I
have an English translation supplied by my good friend Björn Hellqvist.
You can read it by clicking here: Terror, bombs and
White Wolves (I have also included the original Swedish text, for those
of you who may be fluent in Swedish and would like to check the translation).
For the full story of the Columbine High
School shooting, keep scrolling.
The most recent updates are posted at the
top of this page.
4/29/99: SF Gate
Pulls Game Bashing Story; Tampa Bay Joins the Fray
It looks like SF Gate
couldn't stand the heat. Not only did they pull their story "Classmates
Describe Shooters As Obsessed With Goth World," they are now redirecting
all traffic from that story to a counterpoint story, "Bay
Area Goths Say Media Has It Wrong," in which several local teens speak
out on the bashing that the Gothic subculture has been taking lately.
While it doesn't directly retract the statements
made by the "expert" in the earlier article, and the only people interviewed
are teens (who will naturally lack credibility with most of the public,
since they are "Goths" and some admit to be gamers), it certainly is a
step in the right direction.
I was just about to post this update to the page,
when I got a message from someone who informed me that Sgt. Williams, the
"Goth expert" mentioned in SF Gate's
story, was misquoted in that story, and is in fact an active member of
the Canadian LARP group Shared Universe.
Is it possible that SF
Gate pulled the story due to shoddy reporting? Was Williams really
misquoted? I have no clear answers, but I am working on it
even as I type this update.
Don't stop typing those letters yet, however... another
online news source has made a harsh statment against D&D, this time
lumping it with the ultra-violent video game Mortal Kombat.
Kathleen Heide, a criminology professor at the University
of South Florida, is quoted as saying "(k)ids that spend time in fantasy
games like `Dungeons and Dragons' and `Mortal Kombat' often get the message
of death and destruction.''
Assuming she was not misquoted as well, Heide apparently
doesn't know a video game from a tabletop role-playing game, much less
how D&D is played, and neither does anyone at the Tampa Bay Tribune.
Let's teach them, shall we?
The entire article can be viewed here: "Clues
Aren't Always in the Clothes".
Send your letters to the Tampa Bay Online at: www.tampabayonline.net/letters.htm,
or send it directly at email@example.com.
Snail-mail: P.O. Box 191, Tampa, FL 33601-4005. You can also write
to the author, Ace Atkins, at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or call at (813) 259-7800.
You can also contact Kathleen Heide at email@example.com.
Drop her a line and let her know how you feel about her statement.
Special thanks to A.J. Chodan for
alerting me to the Tampa Bay Online article, and "The Fiend" for notifying
me about SF Gate.
4/24/99: More Concerning
the Colorado Shooting
Two new items have come to me in the last couple of
days. One of them is strict heresay, and I would like to try to get
verification on it. The other is another AP article that mentions
First, on the 4/21/99 episode of CNBC's Upfront,
Geraldo Rivera made a comment that, paraphrased, said: "Thousands of people
play games like Doom and Dungeons & Dragons, and they don't go out
and kill anyone. Why is it that some kids do?"
Did anyone catch this episode, possibly even on tape,
or does anyone know how a transcript can be obtained? Hearing Rivera
say such a thing is something I really have to hear to believe. Maybe
he's learned something about jumping to conclusions after that trip to
Al Capone's vault... (thanks to J. Stevens for
The second item is another AP story titled "Shooting
Prosecutor Speaks Out," in which a district attorney and father
of two Columbine graduates muses on and on about the tragedy, it's possible
causes, and how a change needs to be made, although he doesn't have any
of the answers. The general message behind the story is that no one
has been numbed to the horror of the multiple homicide, but it is odd that
he should single out D&D while placing blame, since there has still
been no formal announcement that any of the suspects were involved in any
kind of RPG.
There has been the casual reference that the two
deceased killers were into "war games," but these are usually described
as World War II era simulations. Were there even the smallest evidence
of fantasy gaming material among the possessions of either youth, the media
would be running full anti-game stories everywhere. Since that has
not happened, it seems as if someone on the inside is stirring up some
The full story of the media attacks on RPGs as a
result of this crime is below, as well as the information on the letter-writing
campaign. Keep those letters coming!
Colorado Shooting Brings Obligatory Gaming Slams
I'm sure many of you joined me on April 20th as I watched
with rapt attention at the coverage of the shooting at Columbine High School
in Colorado. I'm also sure that most of you that did watch were waiting
for the inevitable claim that Vampire or Magic had something
to do with the unthinkable crime.
The claim came a day later, when SF
Gate, the web presence of the San Francisco Chronicle, printed a story
titled "Classmates Describe Shooters As Obsessed
With Goth World." In it, Sergeant Dave Williams, a self-proclaimed
expert on gothic culture, rambles on about Vampire: The Masquerade,
despite the fact that no evidence has yet been revealed that proves that
any of the suspects ever played the game.
"I call it Dungeons and Dragons on steroids," he
begins, and continues by saying that the trenchcoats worn by the suspects
are the modern equivalent of the vampire's cape. He goes on to display
a slight amount of knowledge of the game that is tainted by his own personal
convictions; he mentions the seven clans of vampires, and singles out the
Brujah (and calls them the "most violent" clan) and Sabbat (which makes
"random simulated violent attacks" on the players).
He does point out that "clashes" in the game are
resolved by a quick match of "rock, paper, scissors," but follows it with
something more sinister; the article paraphrases a claim by him that the
game "requires players to totally immerse themselves in the study of the
Williams' statements are classic Satanic Panic; since
he doesn't understand the game, it must have something to do with
"the occult," which by his own definition is anything that cannot be understood.
does not require anyone to "immerse themselves" in occult tomes, but does
require a knowledge of it's own fictional mythos and rules, something
that many people aren't able to easily understand: thus, the occult.
There is no clear reason why this article shifts
from the topic of a Colorado school shooting to one of an Ohio police sergeant's
reservations about role-playing, unless the source is attempting to speculate
a possible motive for the crime. It is terribly irresponsible of
a news source to print such speculation before any of the facts are in.
But that is what we have come to expect from the gaming-hostile media,
especially when they find an "expert."
Post printed a similar article, "Gunmen
Recalled as Outcasts," on the same day. While they lacked
the "expert" testimony of a police sergeant, they still attempted to make
a gaming connection by stating that the Gothic scene was "(i)nspired by
fantasy games such as Dungeons and Dragons."
This is a ridiculously misinformed statement.
If anything, the Gothic scene has it's roots in the works of authors like
Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite, the music of artists such as Bauhaus and
The Mission U.K., as well as the wealth of vampire and monster movies that
Hollywood and independent film have brought us. D&D has
had little if anything to do with the movement, and the currently popular
RPG has become so because of the Goth scene... not the other way
It doesn't end there, however... on the next day,
I got word from Jon Liming that the AP was releasing a story titled "Schools
Told To Watch Violent Kids" that took a random poke at D&D,
calling it a "rebellious" hobby, in the same category as collecting World
War II weaponry.
Then I heard from Spencer Lease, who sent me an editorial
from the Boston Globe: "Colorado's
carnage is inevitable in our culture of violence," in which John
Ellis spouts statistics about the amount of violence that children are
exposed to on television, then follows by saying that the statistics do
not include, among other things, "playing Dungeons and Dragons."
It seems like the Chronicle, Post, Globe, and even
the AP are trying to beat everyone else to the gaming angle, long before
the evidence is in, without actually committing themselves to it.
Warm up your typing fingers, dear readers... the
time has come to tell them how you feel about their stories. First,
read the articles they printed:
Then, drop the respective sources a line at the links
I have supplied below.
San Francisco Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/select.feedback.html
(this is a form page to send an LTE or general feedback message), call
them at 415-561-8700, or write snail-mail at 1001 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco,
I'm urging everyone reading this to write at least one
letter or make at least one phone call... if the media gets enough bugs
in their ear, they may even run some counterpoint stories.
Washington Post: firstname.lastname@example.org,
and you can write directly to Marc Fisher (the author of the article) at
Boston Globe: http://extranet.globe.com/LettersEditor
(this is a form page to send an LTE to the paper), or send it to email@example.com.
You can complain about article content by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org,
or via phone at 617-929-3020, or leave a message at 617-929-3022
Associated Press: http://www.ap.org/pages/aptoday/aptoday_contact.html,
or e-mail them directly at email@example.com.
Snail mail: The Associated Press, International Headquarters, 50 Rockefeller
Plaza, New York, NY 10020; phone: 212-621-1500.
I have created a form letter that you can cut and
paste, for those of you who may not have the time to come up with one on
your own. All you have to do is insert your own name and e-mail
it (or print it and send it) to the appropriate source. Lengthen
it, paraphrase it, completely rewrite it... just so long as you give yourself
credit for sending it. You can get to it by clicking here.
Thanks go to two Escapist readers,
Darrin Kelley, A.J. Chodan, who forwarded me two of the above stories within
a half hour of each other, as well as Jon Liming and Spencer Lease.
Aspiring Gamer Born
so I hope. On Wednesday, March 10th, at 2:44 a.m., Paula and I had
our second child (and second daughter), Nolah Killian Walton.
Despite a few complications that kept her in the hospital for nearly a
week, she is doing well, and keeping us on our toes at all hours of the
day (and night). No word yet on whether she will prefer playing over
gamemastering, but she does seem to be rather bossy, and rather suited
for a position behind the GM screen.
Her older sister, Aylish, now two and a half, has a
penchant for Magic cards and her daddy's lead figures (which she
doesn't get to touch at all). She is also very fond of playing
make believe and making up stories to go with the pictures in her books,
so she is already on the right path.
Nolah's arrival was the primary reason that the March
update to The Escapist got bumped back a month... although, I did manage
to find a computer in the lounge at the hospital, and I even worked
on the page a little while I was there. If that's not devotion,
I'm not sure what is!
For those of you interested in looking at pictures
of cute kids, you can see ours by going here...
that is, when I get around to getting that page set up. If
you can't seem to get through, keep trying.
(Yeah, yeah, I know... it's not even gaming news,
let alone gaming advocacy news, but if you don't like it... make
your own page!)
"Jesse" Goes Gaming
On January 21st, NBC aired an episode of their "Jesse"
series that caused a bit of a stir in the gaming community, including a
boycott attempt. "Jesse" is a sitcom based around a single
mother played by Christina Applegate (of "Married: With Children" fame).
In the episode, the title character begins dating her math teacher, and
the two of them go to a club meeting. What her teacher fails
to tell her is that the club is a Dungeons & Dragons club.
I have not seen the episode for myself, so I am going
by the descriptions of it that I have read on RPGnet,
but the events that have caused the most concern include:
As Jesse's math teacher enters the room in which the
meeting is being held, the players appear to openly worship the
DM, even going so far as to bow to him.
To find out where the telephone is, Jesse has to
refer to it as the Magic Voice Transporter.
After Jesse calls a friend and tells her that she
is at a D&D game, the friend screeches "Get out of there!"
The whole mess caught the attention of TV Guide, which
published a small piece on the whole matter, mentioning the boycott campaign
and the website RPGnet.
The same friend tells Jesse that the only way to
get out of the game is to have her character die.
WoTC President Peter Adkinson, when asked for comment,
had the following to say:
The boycott campaign, led by Spencer Lease, became rather
ugly. According to an interview with Lease, a flame campaign
ensued in which several people "posing" as gamers attempted to undermine
his efforts, and a phony message from someone claiming to be the late Brandon
Tartikoff berated any gamers who dared to be offended by the episode.
"The staff here at WotC worked closely with the writers
for the Jesse episode in question and we even granted approval to use some
of our trademarked terms, like Dungeons & Dragons and Dungeon Master.
While it's true the episode did portray D&D fans as geeks, there are
many positive aspects to this show. They did NOT portray D&D fans as
satanists, they portrayed the game as social, harmless, and having a math
professor as a player is certainly a positive rolemodel for D&D players.
On the whole, we're pleased with the exposure, and would be delighted if
D&D was thought of by the masses merely as geeky and not geeky and
Now for my two cents:
It is very easy for gamers to become overprotective
of the hobby, when you consider the amount of bad press it receives on
a regular basis. I think that is exactly what has happened in this
case. Lease was offended, and had every right to be, at something
that he felt was unfair and imbalanced. What he got in return was
As for the episode, I have to admit chuckling as
I read the transcripts of it... especially at the comments about the "magic
voice transporter" and Jesse's friend warning her to get away from gamers
at all costs. Pokes at gamers are becoming more common in prime
time TV; The Simpsons and Beavis and Butthead have taken shots at us, and
Saturday Night Live has hit us several times below the belt. I even
recall an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 where Tom Servo
tries to teach a very confused Crow and Mike how to roleplay... and they
"just don't get it."
While it does help to maintain a negative stereotype
to a small degree, it also means that we are gaining a little bit of acceptance
in popular culture. Ten years ago, the only references to gaming
on television were hack pieces like Geraldo Rivera's Games That Kill,
the dreaded 60 Minutes story. Fifteen years ago, it was Mazes
and Monsters, a virtual stereotype-creating machine. And
twenty years ago, it was coverage of the James Dallas Egbert disappearance.
At the risk of sounding too optimistic, It looks to me like we're making
some kind of progress.
All in all, it's an excellent example of just how
ugly things can get, and in the case of the spam campaign and falsified
message, how immature people can be.
Below are links to the press releases that are posted
on the RPGnet page.
Community Begins Protest! 2/9/99: RPGnet,
TV Guide, 'Jesse,' and WotC
In their March 8th issue, Newsweek
took another stab at Dungeons & Dragons, this time by quoting
Poverty Law Center member Mark Potok in an article that was addressing
an entirely different subject.
The statement made concerned a white supremasist
who calls himself Wolfgang Davis Hawke. Potok describes Hawke's personal
What Potok is trying to say isn't very clear; it's almost
like some kind of non-sequitur. He could have easily said "In some
ways, it's kind of like potato salad..." and it would have made the same
amount of sense. This, however, did not prevent Newsweek from printing
"In some ways, it's like 'Dungeons and
Dragons.' But he has the potential to become a real leader."
In an e-mail reply to Pierre Savoie, Potok claimed
that he used the metaphor to describe Hawke as someone who has high SAT
scores, and has a strong sense of megalomania as a result. He also
said that "only the most hypersensitive fanatics" would complain about
his statement. When Savoie got his reply, Potok said he was already
getting very tired of getting e-mail about the story.
Maybe that's why he never replied to my e-mail.
I urge everyone reading this to take Newsweek
and The Southern Poverty Law Center
to school. First, read the article that
Newsweek printed. Then, click on the links I've provided and write
both of them a letter. Write something worthwhile; don't send spam
or profanities. That won't help the situation. Tell them
how you feel.
White Plains Paranoia
According to an AP story dated February 27th,
three Catholic families are suing their local school district over violation
of their religious and privacy rights.
Among their claims: the use of "ghoul" as a 4th-grade
vocabulary word, the study of Indian and Mexican culture, a field trip
to a cemetery, a discussion on crystals from a visiting mineralogist, Earth
Day celebrations, a meeting with a yoga teacher and, you guessed it, the
district's tolerance of Magic: The Gathering on school grounds.
The case stems from the Bedford County debate over
the permission of M:TG on school grounds (see Parents
Sue School Over Owl Vomit, on the Advocacy
1997 page). After the initial objections over the game,
the district banned it from school grounds until mental health experts
could report on the possible dangers of the game. When the
game was found to pose no danger, it was permitted once more. Angry
parents then filed a suit against the school district, compiling a much
longer list of grievances.
Judge Charles Brieant became very irritated during
the trial, apparently at the subject matter of the entire case, and made
several sarcastic comments during the questioning. His observations
are well worth checking out; here are two AP stories about the trial: School
Sued on Religious Grounds, and Satanism
Lawsuit Has Weighty Issues.
Linedecker's "The Vampire
Killers" Comes Clean
Several months ago, I picked up "The Vampire Killers",
Clifford Linedecker's account of the Wendorf Vampire Clan Murders, and
one of St. Martin's True Crime Library series. I was expecting
the worst, for a couple of reasons.
Just before it's release, St.
Martin's Press announced that all of the copies were going to be destroyed
due to a glaring error in the cover art; it seems that one of the youths
pictured on the cover was not involved in the crime at all.
Then, I got word from a friend who works at amazon.com
that the book was being shipped with a green errata sheet, informing the
reader of the cover error... a quick and dirty fix, but one that probably
saved them a lot of money. Naturally, I thought the worst... just
how quick and dirty would the writing be as well?
My copy sat unread for some time, as I had purchased
it during the Christmas rush, until I recently picked it up to skim it.
Imagine my surprise as I randomly opened the book to page 272 and found
the following statement:
"Television didn't make Rod, Dana, Charity or Scott
begin sharing blood anymore than role-playing characters from "Vampire:
The Masquerade" did. "Vampire," "Werewolf," "Dungeons & Dragons,"
and other games like them are exciting, intellectually challenging pastimes
that encourage players to use their minds and their imaginations.
The dreadful psychic and emotional damage that shaped Rod's character and
led to his murderous behavior was present in his life long before he developed
his interest in vampirism."
Although I have yet to read the rest of the book, I
must say that it seems like for once, someone did their homework.
Thank you, Mr. Linedecker!
Sean Sellers Executed
Sean Sellers, a youth who killed a convenience store
clerk in 1985 and his mother and stepfather in 1986, was executed in Oklahoma
on February 4th, 1999 at 12 noon. Sellers appealed for clemency in
late January, but was denied.
Sellers' first defense was the "D&D made me do
it" defense. When this failed (as it always does), his lawyers
shifted the attention to his Satanic practices, and then again to possible
multiple personality syndrome. None of these strategies worked.
For more information, check out these two AP stories:
Execution Reignites Debate, and Death-Row Man