Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Variations on a theme

During the rise of Fundamentalism in the late 70s and early 80s, it was not uncommon to hear hyper-Christian groups to point to role-playing games, and Dungeons and Dragons in particular, as "tools of Satan". Apparently, because these books talk about things such as witchcraft, demons, and a multitude of gods, they are tools that the Evil One uses to lure innocent children to such depths as (according to the Christian Life Ministries, as quoted by ESP) "demonology, witchcraft, voodoo, murder, rape, blasphemy, suicide, assassination, insanity, sex perversion, homosexuality, prostitution, Satan worship, gambling, Jungian psychology, barbarism, cannibalism, sadism, desecration, demon summoning. necromantics, divination and many more teachings, brought to you in living color direct from the pit of hell!!!" When I first started reading things like that, I thought, "Whoah. Sounds like I'm playing with the wrong group!" No, no. What I actually thought was: "Are these people inSANE??? It's a friggin' game, for Pete's sake!" By the early 90s, though, D&D seemed to have dropped off the radar, aside from a humourously insulting reference here and there by people who had obviously played the games when they were younger, in an attempt to prove their new coolness.
But it seems that the same song is being sung again, updated for the latest fad. In the 80s, Fundamentalism was the "in" paranoia; nowadays, of course, National Security is the hottest thing going. And, yes, they're using D&D (link found thanks to BoingBoing):

This morning, they're doing bag searches again to get on the ferry. And the guy doing the searches pulls me aside and says, "Sir, I feel that I need to confiscate this book [a roleplaying sourcebook]."
I pause and say, in that tone of voice that most people would recognize as meaning, "have you lost your grip completely, chuckles?": "You need to confiscate... a book."
"Yes. I feel it's inappropriate for the other people on the ferry to be exposed to it."[. . . .]
My response: "Well, let me call the ACLU and have them come down here, and see what they think about your attempt to confiscate a book that was not in the plain sight of others due to your feeling it's not appropriate." [. . . .]
He gets all pissy at me and says, "Don't you understand this is for your safety?"

Ack ack ack! I just got so frustrated at this. On a Geek Army level, I was flabbergasted that this situation occurred due to a roleplaying book; it brought back flashes of the aforementioned Fundamentalist obsession. "What's next?"I thought. "Confisgating sourcebooks because they supposedly have the recipe for explosive powder?"
On a General Human level, though, I was even more put out. How could any book threaten anyone's safety, unless it was a book with razor-sharp pages and a nerve-toxin-laced cover? Is the paranoia really that bad in New York that the security guards feel that they need to confisgate a toy in book form?
I guess the moral of this story is: when travelling to New York, leave your Dungeon Master's guide at home.

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