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Main > Advocacy > Advocacy 1996 Archive

Advocacy 1996 Article Archive

November, 1996:

Yahoo!'s New Gaming Category / POGs from HELL!!!

I can't help but have mixed feelings about what our good friend Nate brought to my attention not too long ago: Yahoo!, a popular WWW search engine, has added a new category to their Role-Playing section: Satan Worship and RPGs.

On the down side, I feel that such a category only leads many to disbelieve what we gamers know to be true; that the two have nothing to do with each other. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but I can visualize a situation in which someone is doing some leisurely web surfing, wanders curiously into Yahoo!'s RPG section (knowing little to nothing about the hobby but genuinely interested), and finds that there is a section linking RPGs with Satanism. Yeowch! Granted, it's not any worse of a first impression that reading about a teen gamer who has committed suicide, but it hits home a little stronger.

I find myself wincing when I see the word "Satanism" connected with such effortlessness to gaming, despite the fact that there have been more than enough wrongful attacks on RPGs to warrant such an appropriate title.

On the plus side, after checking out their list of sites under "Satan Worship and RPGs," I found that all but one of them were pro-game sites (that is, if you consider the "Game of Satan" parody page a pro-game site. I do.). Hopefully, when they process my URL update, the CAR-PGa page will be yet another, improving our odds even more.

Go ahead, check it out for yourself:
I'll be here when you get back, I promise!

The lone anti-game page on the list is David L. Brown's "Beware of Magic: The Gathering" page at: At first, it appears to be another parody page, as Brown admits to attending Gen Con '93 and videotaping the first demos of M:TG. But, with a little reading, it becomes evident that Brown is not happy with the popularity of it all.

Brown lists four major problems with Magic: The Gathering: The primary focus on the occult, the violent nature of the game, the addictive nature of the game, and the identification of the players with evil characters.

Well, one out of four isn't bad, is it? To address each of these briefly:

Primary focus on the occult: Well, there are pentagrams on a couple of cards. These cards are older ones, however, and to the best of my knowledge, updated versions of the cards have had new art sans any kind of pentagram (Unholy Strength is the first that comes to mind). As someone who has studied the occult out of interest in the nature of mankind's belief systems, I have to say that Magic cards are a far cry from occultic items. The main source of this paranoia stems from the format; cards remind the average person of the Tarot (which, ironically, was a game before it was turned into a method of divination).

Violent nature of the game: By the way he writes, Brown makes you think as if Magic contains a set of rules for intense and realistic combat and damage. The funny thing is, he explains the entire process by quoting Aimee Miller of the Washington Post. You start with 20 points. Each success by an opponent takes away some of those points. When you are out of points, you lose. The Magic: The Gathering Pocket Player's Guide (Fourth Edition) has this to say about defeating an opponent:

"You win if your opponent's life total drops to 0 or less or if your opponent can no longer draw a card." (page B-2)

See? No blood. No gore. When you're out of points, or out of cards, you lose. Oh, and did I mention that all of this stuff that's going on is imaginary?

Addictive nature of the game: Well, he's got us here, doesn't he? This game is certainly addictive. In fact, I would say it's nearly as addictive as watching sports, hanging out at the mall, going to the movies, or just about any other leisure activity you can think of. The difference is, it usually requires a lot more brain power.

Identification of the players with evil characters: I'm not sure if Brown really knows how Magic is played after reading this one. While I've heard rumor that the game was originally designed as a combination RPG/card game, it certainly has not grown in that manner. While customizing a deck can show a certain type of character, it's better likened to the way in which someone plays chess, rather than the creation of an individual persona. I have yet to see anyone play Magic "in character;" there is simply too much going on with those cards to try and worry about role-playing at the same time.

It's interesting to note that Brown's research of Magic doesn't actually involve learning how to play the game. He mentions "reading two books..., watching the game being played, reading numerous news articles and reading scores of internet e-mail messages on the game," but at no point does he actually break down and try it for himself. This, to me, smacks of the Pat Pulling method of learning how a game is played!

Brown makes a handful of other errors in his report: He calls RoboRally a role-playing game, he claims that Garfield himself called Dungeons & Dragons "an infamous tool for occultists" (when material quoted in the sentence before shows otherwise), and refers to the Rage card game as Rage Combat, just before stating that he has "researched" that game along with others. Am I nitpicking? Sure. Why? Because, as always, these kinds of errors are invariably found whenever someone attacks our games without properly researching and trying to understand them (which, unfortunately, happens far too often). The Garfield misquote is far from picking a nit, by the way, and is something that both Garfield and TSR would become quite concerned about if they were to see it.

A little further into the same page, Brown expresses his concerns over Pogs, or milk caps. As mindless a game as it is, Brown finds fault with some of the illustrations found on the caps. But his biggest concern comes from a comment made by a QVC announcer and attributed to the World Pog Federation: "Every stack of pogs has it's own aura. You concentrate on your ch'i." It's hard to imagine such a comment taken so seriously, especially considering it's source (a QVC announcer quoting the World Pog Federation?), but this is a good example of the kind of proportions that a simple game can get blown to, especially when it is misunderstood.

I understand Brown also has a problem with trolls. I've got to get on his mailing list! :^)

Play nice,

October, 1996:

NASA Recommends Role-Playing To Cooped-Up Cosmonauts

The front page of The Independent's July 19th issue printed a story that is rarely seen in our great country; one that actually advocates the use of RPGs as a co-operative tool. At an astronomer's convention in Birmingham, Alabama, space psychologist JoAnna Wood suggested that lengthy missions (such as one to Mars, which could take up to two years) might be less stressful on the crew if they participated in co-operative games "such as Dungeons & Dragons...". This stems from Russia's decision to ban chess sets from the Mir space station, due to repeated incidents in which arguments and general competitiveness have increased the stress levels of the astronauts.

I guess it's better than trying to play Magic: The Gathering in zero-gravity!

Play nice,

September, 1996:

Bush May Get Up To 180 Years

Jon Bush, the Virginia Beach air-conditioning technician who was arrested early this year was found guilty of thirty counts ranging from carnal knowledge of a minor to contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Bush is reported to have used "Vampire: The Masquerade" to lure his victims into a sexual encounter with him. The following articles were found on the Virginia Pilot:



In these articles, two issues about the case have been revealed. First is that it was Vampire: The Masquerade, notVampire: The Eternal Struggle that was played by Bush. To the uninitiated, this may sound like I am arguing a non-issue ("he wasn't watching Voyager, he was watching Deep Space Nine!!!"), but the point here is this; it is very difficult for someone to confuse a collectible card game with a role-playing game when both are familiar to that person. When someone makes a mistake such as this, it often raises a doubt as to whether the RPGs or CCGs were involved at all.

The second issue raised is that Bush allegedly used V:TM as a lure for teenagers into his "vampire family." This was left out of earlier accounts, and even at one point, mention was made that none of his "family" played the game with him, and many did not even know about it.

This last issue allows the media and anti-gamers to make RPGs out as a "tool" for seduction and sexual molestation, when in reality, almost any activity can be used in a similar manner, and has been

Below are some links to earlier articles on this case that have appeared in the Pilot:





Currently, the April 2nd article "Self-proclaimed vampire indicted on 35 charges against teen girls" is not available, as is the entire April 2nd issue of the Pilot. This is probably due to server error.

Bush is slated for sentencing on November 26th.

Go Ricki, Go Ricki...

Before I wrap this installment up, I do have one more bone to pick. This one involves an episode of the Ricki Lake show, which aired in London on June 18th (I am not sure when the episode aired in the states). I did not personally get to view this episode; rather, I read about it in arcane magazine, so I do not have many of the details.

The topic of this particular show concerned itself with husbands who spend too much time with their friends, and not enough time with their spouses. One of these husbands happened to be a gamer, and spent every night playing D&D with his friends.

Ricki passed her usual heavy-handed justice on our fellow gamer, calling D&D a childish pasttime that she herself had grown out of in the tenth grade. What she (apparently) failed to mention was that his immaturity lied in his devotion and responsibility to his wife and child, rather than the game he plays.

She also failed to mention exactly when she plans to "grow out" of doing televison talk shows, but that's another story, and another 'web page!

Play Nice,

July, 1996:

Since the beginning of 1996, we have seen three major incidents involving RPGs; the first of these was in February, with the arrest of Jon Bush. Jon had created a "vampire family," as the media called it, of nearly forty teens. Initiation into this gang, among the female members, consisted of having sex with Bush, or allowing him to bite the initiate on the breast. It was discovered that Bush was a fan of the collectible card game Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, and this was played upon, even by the 700 Club, despite the fact that Jon did not play the game with any of the members of his gang, and many of them did not know that the game existed.

The second deals with Robert Rosado, a Denton, Texas man accused of luring children into a "sex game" of his own design, called "Rebel Pony Riders." In it, children as young as 12 were asked to disrobe, and if they did not comply, other, more cooperative children would disrobe as encouragement. A 3/21/96 article in the Dallas Morning News described Rosado as an "enthusiast of fantasy games such as Dungeons and Dragon (sic), Vampire Nights (?), and Cyberpunk." Later in the article, it is briefly stated that his future mother-in-law does not believe the charges, and that it is possible that someone has wrongly accused him out of spite.

The biggest, at least as far as having the most repercussions, would have to be the situation in Italy, in which a high-school senior, who is identified only as Roberto C., hung himself in a forest where he used to play as a child. Roberto, from the stories I have received, was described as a fan of Magic: The Gathering, and Killer, a live-action role-playing game, now out of print, by Steve Jackson Games.

What the transcripts of the articles from the Italian media show are threefold; misunderstanding, misinformation, and mistakes. Luciano Faraon, a lawyer who has involved himself in the case, claims in several interviews that Killer is played with cards, and even names one of them: Mind Twist (a card from Magic: The Gathering).* One suggestion is made towards Roberto's interest in basketball that draws the conclusion that sports are a better pasttime than RPGs.* In another segment, a description of the group that Roberto played with tells us that they gathered together in the local library to read fantasy novels, play games, learn English, and develop their creativity; this is referred to as a "weird obsession."*

The London Sunday Times, also covered the piece; oddly enough, this same newspaper that referred to RPGs as "macabre... games which call for players to act out executions,"** has run a review for a computer RPG in their July 6th edition; Star Trek: A Final Unity, in which the reviewer calls it an "excellent game for someone who wants a role-playing adventure that may last them months."*** Strange, isn't it, that the same newspaper would both condemn and condone a leisure activity in stories dated only a couple of weeks apart?

Other facts that have been glossed over are: Roberto was failing Chemistry, had already been left back once, and was facing the suicide of a fellow gamer; in another rarely-mentioned interview, the coroner, a Dr. Ferlin, remarks that Roberto's body had no "breakings," as most hanging victim's bodies do; he appears to have died of suffocation, but may not have been hanged.

On the plus side, Roberto's parents have been supportive of RPGs. His father denies all connections, and is quoted as saying:
"No, I do not have anything to accuse the game for, they have nothing to do with the final act of my son. I do not consider them dangerous at all, as far as they are not used maniacally it might actually be the opposite. They are not to be criminalized, seized... There are many other things on which we can focus nowadays to find the real causes”.

It seems I have strayed slightly from my original statement; I haven't mentioned the repurcussions yet. Faraon has made a request for legal authorities to seize all gaming related material (magazines, books, cards, etc.) through the entire Italian region; no word yet as to how much success he has had so far.

Maurizio Puviani has created a bi-lingual page concerning this issue. The logo above is his; click it, and you'll be delivered there directly. Maurizio has a petition that I think everyone reading this should sign; if you've got a minute, please do so.

I can't finish this page without my obligatory plug for CAR-PGa; if you are unfamiliar with the Committee For The Advancement of Role-Playing Games, click here to find out more.

Play nice (even when no one else seems to),


* From a collection of news stories translated (from Italian) by Max Cocullo, click here to see it, followed by a rebuttal by myself.
** The London Sunday Times, Sunday, June 9th, 1996.
*** The London Times, Saturday, July 6th, 1996; Internet Edition, Weekend Games section; review by Steve Dawes, article by Tim Wapshott. (I have not prepared a copy of the articles for access here, but by following the above links, one can easily connect with their page and find the articles in their archives. They do require that you log in with a name and password, but access to their page is free once you have registered.)

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