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Title: The Latest Attack on RPGs in Sweden

Source: Björn Hellqvist

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It began with a grisly discovery on 30 December, 2002. A couple of children found a severed head in a river in Halmstad, a town in southwestern Sweden.  The victim was soon identified as Marcus Norén, 22 years old, who had been last seen on the night between the 27th and 28th. He was known as a pleasant guy with a well-ordered life, but the newspapers found a dark secret... He had participated in Vampire: The Masquerade live-action role-playing for years. The tabloid newspapers had a field day. The articles and theories were centered on the speculation that the murder was part of a game that went horribly wrong. It was understood that the murderer(s) could be found among his friends. Experts of all stripes were interviewed, and there were some who made claims that role-playing games can lead to violent behaviour, and thought that they should be banned. People were qouted out of context, and there are even claims that some quotes were fabricated. One of the worst transgressions was the publication of a doctored photo, where the victim had been made as to look like a classic Dracula (because he had played a member of the Nosferatu clan in one campaign - go figure!). The Swedish national association for role-players and other gamers, Sverok, denied the claims that a game was to blame, and the local police department didn't regard a game-related act as a likely cause of death.

The murder case took an unexpected (to some) turn on 3 January, 2003. Two men, 46 and 28 years old, were arrested, and parts of the victim were found in the older man's apartment. They were both known as drug addicts and for their violent behaviour, and it seems like they had met the victim by chance, took a dislike to him (he was reported to have been dressed in a long, black leather coat) and killed him on an impulse, probably by the older man. The tabloids were caught out in the open, with new articles on the "dangerous games" published the very same day. The family of the victim had lost a son, but the bad guys got caught, the roleplayers came clean, and the tabloids and their so-called experts lost whatever credibility they still possessed. There will be other situations like this, trust me, but we should spread good PR about our games in the meantime. That is a good way of honouring the memory of a young man, who lost his life a cold, dark winter night.

Reported by Björn Hellqvist, Sweden

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