Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My RPG History (Part 3: The Banning of the Books)

(Continued from Part 2 or start at Part 1)

This next part is tricky to write, mainly because I don't want to give the wrong impression of my mother. She is one of the most giving people I know, wonderful and understanding, and my oldest son's favorite person in the whole world. I don't want her to sound closed-minded, or terribly harsh, or even very strict; she's none of those things. Mom is, however, a Christian with a strong faith. I believe this is one of her most admirable traits and I like to think that she passed a lot of that faith on to me, faith which has helped me through hardships and homesickness in my job as a Soldier and elsewhere.

I said before that my brother played D&D during its peak as a national fad in the 1980s. Along with the fad popularity, and some would say the fuel of that popularity, was the anti-D&D panic. Pat Pulling, a mother who tragically lost her teenage son to suicide, began a crusade to convince the world that D&D was a dangerous game that could lead to suicide and psychological damage. Pulling's efforts led to a very strong backlash against the game among certain religious and law enforcement officials. Tom Hanks starred in a movie in which a D&D-like game drove its main character to murder. Even 60 Minutes, caught up in the sensationalism, produced a story painting D&D as a potentially dangerous game.

It might be easy now, especially in hindsight, to look back at the concerns raised by Pulling and her contemporaries as reactionary hysteria. To a Christian women raising two boys on her own, however, things weren't so cut and dry. All kinds of religious people at the time, many of them simply repeating what they'd heard from others, seemed absolutely convinced that the Dungeons and Dragons game was bad for kids. Mom couldn't just ignore all these warnings. To her, if there was even a small chance that a game could cause suicide or worse, then how could she allow her son to play it? No, D&D was no longer welcome in our house.

While I obviously don't agree that Dungeons and Dragons is a dangerous thing (or even a very serious thing, really), I do understand why my mom did what she did. She loved my brother and was trying to look out for his best interests. She would have done the same if she found a bunch of illicit drugs in his room. In the end, despite her hard stance, Mom was not entirely without compassion. She told my brother that he was allowed to play other roleplaying games, as long as they didn't involve the same occult elements as D&D. For a while, my brother dabbled with Gamma World and the Marvel Superheroes Game. The only gamebook that he bought, though, was the original edition of Top Secret: The Espionage Roleplaying Game. When my brother moved out of the house, he left Top Secret behind for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment