I watched an episode of my new favourite show, Community, last night and had a hilarious flashback to my youth when my friends and I played Dungeons and Dragons. In the show, the group of main characters help a depressed fat kid out by playing Dungeons and Dragons with him. Like with much of the show, when my wife and I watch it, I get all the movie/tv references and she laughs at me laughing. Last night was no different. I understood all the references, the esoteric language, the stereotype of the fantasy-obsessed dork, and to top it off, the show was narrated Lord of the Rings style. When Chang shows up to the game dressed as a Drow Elf, full black make-up and white hair, I knew the writers knew what they were doing.
My wife asked me about D&D and how she only new it as that evil game her church people told her drove misguided youth into murderous cult practices. Of course it did. Dice, adventures, mythical creatures, sword fighting, all lead to psychopathic tendencies. I remember the same comments from churchy people back in the day and I’m sure these ridiculous, judgmental opinions still exist. I suppose the makers of the role-playing game have only themselves to blame because they put pictures of dragons and monsters on the covers of the books. I remember one book with some old crone casting a spell on people…scary stuff indeed.
Here’s a different look at kids playing role-playing games some may want to consider. While other options for middle-school teens on a Friday night in my neighbourhood were, getting drunk up in the bush, playing old-school video games, hanging out in the vacant lot (oh wait, I think that was from the Outsiders? I did have a friend named Johnny though), creating and being a part of a story where you control the characters and have to use your brain to solve the mysteries of the Underdark seems like a pretty good, child-friendly, activity. The game calls for players to create their own characters with histories and all, and play out these characters with others in a fantasy setting. The best thing about what we did was that we played as a group. We were a brotherhood that fought for each other and died for each other on more than a few occasions (that Tom could be a real hard-ass DM sometimes).
Those were great times.
We didn’t go off and torture animals, or crafts weapons out of scrap sheet metal pretending they were plus 5 broadswords of Atalantia that caused double damage to undead creatures due to their sun-blade properties. We just wanted to roll some dice and kick some ass…and get snacks from Macs at 2AM. Of course there’s the nerdy stereotype (that we did not fit in to obviously) but so what. If you weren’t into it and thought it was “lame” you didn’t play. It was high-school for the most part and there, everyone is “lame,” because they’re still teenagers.
Blaming Dungeons and Dragons for the Occult or some grotesque murder because they found a Players Handbook under the killer’s bed, is just as stupid as blaming the Columbine shootings on Marylin Manson, or Glee’s ever more disappointing episodes on poor writing. It’s frustrating when a person, or worse, a group of people, jump on a hate train for something they have spent no time trying to understand. I’m thankful for the many late nights in the Gibson household saving the world from the many evils that try and destroy what is good. It gave me a chance to be creative, to think, to work with my friends, and most of all, to laugh my ass of almost every time we played.