A look back at the D&D moral panic

Retro Report did a short feature on the moral panics about D&D in the 1980s. It's a fun, 13 minute look back at the moment when D&D totally changed a bunch of kids' lives, only to be vilified and literally demonized by opportunistic members of the religious right.



The video features a lot of people reminiscing about their lives as D&D kids, including Junot Diaz -- and me!

Then there is Dungeons & Dragons, introduced in 1974 as the first role-playing game made commercially available. D&D players, working collaboratively, can let their minds roam free through stories about brave warriors locked in combat with trolls, orcs, dragons and other evildoers. The game’s millions of players include prominent writers like Junot Díaz and Cory Doctorow, who have described it as their apprenticeship to storytelling, a gateway to the essence of fantasy and narrative.

But not everyone has smiled benignly upon D&D. That is reflected in this offering from Retro Report, a series of video documentaries examining major news stories of the past and their reverberations.

The 1980s were prime years for accusations that the game fostered demon worship and a belief in witchcraft and magic. Some religious figures cast it as corrupting enough to steer impressionable young players toward suicide and murder. As Retro Report recalls, fears began to be stirred in 1979 with the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III, a gifted 16-year-old student at Michigan State University and a devoted D&D player. The game warped his thinking and drove him to behave erratically — or so some insisted. In reality, the boy was already troubled. After a month’s absence, he was found. But in 1980 he ended up taking his own life.

When Dungeons & Dragons Set Off a ‘Moral Panic’
[Clyde Haberman/NYT]

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