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Main > Advocacy > Advocacy 1999 Archive

Advocacy 1999 Article Archive

November, 1999:

Even MORE Pokemon Problems

A teenager from Quebec was stabbed by a 12-year-old boy in a dispute over Pokemon cards on October 26th.  It seems that he was attempting to get his younger brother's cards back from the assailant, who had taken them.

This is the kind of story that will undoubtedly get twisted against the game, despite the fact that the game itself had nothing to do with the crime.   Check out the full story here.

In other Pokemon news, McDonald's has backed out of a deal to offer Pokemon toys with their Happy Meals, stating that the characters do not reflect family values.  Burger King, ever the controversy-mongers, have picked up the promotion and run with it.

Was McDonald's drawing a connection to gaming in this decision?   Time will tell... when the Dungeons & Dragons movie hits the theaters next summer.

If you guessed that Spencer Lease brought both of these stories to my attention... you were right!

Chick Publications Strikes Again

Chick Publications, the company that brought us the infamous Dark Dungeons pamphlet, has released "Stairway To Hell," a book that calls Dungeons & Dragons one of "Satan's traps," along with suicide, drugs, rock music and sex.  Whereas Dark Dungeons was free (and still too expensive), Chick has put a price tag of $8.50 on this guide to teenage damnation... so you're not likely to find it laying around in public places.  Which is a good thing.

Dark Dungeons has been out of print by Chick for some time now (I had to practically beg for a copy back in 1993), but you can still view it online from many sources.  Check out my new page devoted to this little scrap of propaganda by clicking here.

Special thanks to... let's all say it together... SPENCER LEASE for pointing this out to me.

The 700 Club Gets Hip?

One of my duties as keeper of this page is to carefully monitor the 700 Club's web page each Halloween, which is when they tend to trot out their "dangers of the occult" stories, including some that decry roleplaying and card games.  Just check the archive for a few examples.

The good news: there are no new anti-gaming stories listed this year. 

The bad news: they dug out and reprinted an old story from 1996 ("Vampire: Not Just A Game," about the Jon Bush case) to help flesh out the page. 

The weird news: in an article about a reformed vampire, the reporter uses the term "gothic punk."  To those who are unaware, this is a term coined by the authors of Vampire: The Masquerade and trademarked by White Wolf, the publishers of the game.  Now, either this term has become so widely used that the clueless 700 Club has picked it up off of the street, or someone in Robertson's employ is a bona-fide roleplayer.

I suppose it could also be possible that someone over there has actually read a Vampire rulebook, but judging by their misconceptions about roleplaying, I seriously doubt it.

Now that Halloween is over, I'll be darned if I can find the article on their page... and they don't seem to have a search function.  If anyone has a copy, I'd be most appreciative if they could forward it.  Thanks.

October, 1999:

RPGADL Gets Evicted

The Role-Playing Anti-Defamation League has a new home, and a new name, with no thanks to Tripod, the previous provider for the RPGADL web page.

In a paranoid effort to avoid legal action, Tripod shut the site down without so much as a notice to Johanna Mead, the keeper of the site and it's webring.  It seems that B'nai Brith,  the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, doesn't care for anyone using the term "Anti-Defamation League," and has taken legal action against other groups using it.  Rather than incur their wrath, Tripod pulled the plug on the site.

rpgadl3.jpg (7468 bytes)All is not lost, however; Johanna has found a new name, The Role-Playing Defense League, and a new host at   Stop on by, and display one of her banners on your page... she has a couple of dozen to choose from!

Pokemon Gets National Parenting Seal of Approval

The National Parenting Center has issued a seal of approval to Wizards of the Coast's Pokemon trading card game.  In their Product Testing Report, they call Pokemon a "compelling game that involves strategy, creative thinking and a dash of luck." 

Check out this story for more details, and this page to see the other recent seal of approval recipients.

More Pokemon Problems

The legendary Spencer Lease brought the following to my attention: a law firm in San Diego has filed a lawsuit against Nintendo of America over the Pokemon card game, claiming that it amounts to illegal gambling.

The basis of the case revolves around the varying rarities of the cards, since cards of greater value than others appear at random in booster packs, and players must pay for the packs to play the game.  The law firm of Milberg, Weiss, Bershad, Hynes and Lerach calls this an "illegal gambling enterprise."

Similar lawsuits have been filed against the makers of sports trading card makers, with no success to date.  But Pokemon has become such a massive craze recently that it seems like this is just another attempt at cashing in.

For the full story, click here.

Dobson Produces Fantasy Audioplays

From the October 1999 issue of the Focus On The Family Newsletter:

James Dobson's Focus on the Family has decided to break into the fantasy literature business, with their release of the dramatic reading of C.S. Lewis' The Magician's Nephew, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series.  This is their second project based on the books of Narnia, the first being an audioplay of the ever-popular The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

This seems unusual coming from FotF, which is responsible for their own share of anti-gaming material with Playing With Dragon Fire and Castles and Cauldrons, especially when you consider that the Narnia books are filled with magic spells being used both for good and evil.  The presence of magic in D&D is one of the things that has inspired FotF to rally against "secular" gaming.

It looks like play-acting fantasy characters is only acceptable when FotF has you on the payroll (and stands to make a tidy profit in sales).

September, 1999:

Hasbro Buys A Whole Lotta Games

Yeah, I know you've heard it by now, but in case you haven't: Hasbro purchased Wizards of the Coast in September for a cool $325 million.   (For you die hard Magic fans, that's 812,500 Black Lotuses, which if sacrificed, would produce 2,437,500 mana in the color of your choice.  Just putting it into perspective for you.)

What does this mean for gaming?  Well, my predictions are that we'll start seeing D&D and Magic in K-Mart (and Wal-Mart, until the protests begin), which is good for the industry and for bringing new blood into the hobby, but bad for the small game shop.  Time will tell.

Minister Teaches Ritual Sacrifice With Pokemon

In an act of overwhelming irony, a minister from Colorado Springs declared war on the Pokemon craze by burning Pokemon cards with a blowtorch, and hacking at an action figure with a sword, while his 9-year-old son tore the head and limbs off of a doll.

Mark Juvera, the children's pastor at Grace Fellowship Church, performed the gruesome display in front of 85 children between the ages of 6 and 12.  During the scene, the children chanted "Burn it, burn it!" and "Chop it up, chop it up!"

No, really.  I'm not making this up.  Check out this Denver Post story: Pastor Calls Pokemon 'Poison.'

Juvera, along with Mark Cowart, head pastor of the non-denominational church, dislikes the "dark references" of Pokemon. 

One of the concerns over the game is that it encourages children to play a godlike role over the creatures in their monster collection.   Another concern is that children surfing the Pokemon web site can find themselves learning more about Magic: the Gathering, which the clueless Denver Post lists  as "a game similar to Dungeons and Dragons." 

They also get nervous over the fact that one of the Pokemon monsters sprouts horns.  One can only wonder if they have attempted an anti-pitchfork movement among Colorado's farmers.

All right, time to climb up on the old soapbox...

In a day and age when we blame so much of our nation's problems on violence in the entertainment industry, it seems horribly hypocritical to use violence to make a point in church, especially to young children.  To teach impressionable young people to literally burn and stab anything that they fear or dislike is sending the wrong message, whether the messenger is a pastor, a movie director, or a rap artist.  This is ironic on two levels: first, it is torch-wavers and sword-swingers like Juevra who criticize card and role-playing games for teaching violence, and second, cartoons such as Pokemon teach a lot more in the way of peace and harmony than Mr. Juevra's sermons do.  It gravely concerns me that people like this are left in charge of so many children.

Pokemon teaches nothing in the way of "godhood," any more than raising a pet does.  Basically, it concerns collecting various monsters with varying abilities, and training them to engage in combat with others.  Embedded in the games are lessons in strategy, patience, and chivalry.   And, it is completely bloodless.

On another note, the doll-tearing incident sounds familiar... didn't a demon-possessed cat do that in Focus on the Family's anti-game production Castles and Cauldrons?  Could we be scratching the surface with this revelation?

Special thanks to the following people for pointing this one out to me: Cecil36, Spencer Lease (who else?), Randell Lee Wolff, Brandon Myres, Jason Paul McCartan, and J. Cronk, as well as Greg Schauer, who didn't e-mail it to me.

Decipher Honors Shawn Valdez

On the other end of the spectrum: Decipher, publisher of the Star Wars collectible card game (among others), has announced the third annual Shawn Valdez Memorial Tournament Weekend, a fundraising tournament dedicated to one of the game's most devoted players.  The tournament raises funds for the Child Cancer Fund.

Shawn, who was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia at 5 years of age, died in August 1996.  At the time, he was devoting all of his energy to a sanctioned Star Wars tournament in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida.  After playing two games, he grew weak, and had to leave the game early.   He died the next day.

The next year, Shawn received his posthumous tournament rating, a custom Star Wars card was created in his honor, and Decipher held the first informal tournament that bears Shawn's name.  That year, they raised $3,000 for the Child Cancer Fund.  Last year, through both the tournament and an online auction, they raised $21,000.

You can find out more by checking out the story on Decipher's web page.

Back up on the box: It's ironic that I came upon these two stories within a couple of days of each other; one, the story of a man leading children in a violent ritual against a card game, and another about a group of people using a game to do something truly good for others in need.  It looks like Juevra could learn a thing or two from the gamers about really helping people.  But, he won't.  A shame, really.

A Positive Gaming Article... Really!

No, this isn't the belated April Fool's installment; there was an article, printed in a real newspaper that really had some positive things to say about a bunch of thirtysomething guys playing Dungeons & Dragons.  It showed up, apparently by accident, in the pages of the Lakeland Ledger on September 5th, 1999.

All right, I'll turn the sarcasm filter back on now... Click here to read it!

Special thanks to Glenn Welser for pointing this one out to me.

Hoody Freakin' Hoo!

As a long time fan of the comic book Knights of the Dinner Table, I was thrilled to find out from Spencer Lease that my own little web page got mentioned in a recent issue.  In the August, 1999 issue, Knights author Jolly Blackburn responds to a letter by Spencer, and recommends The Escapist to anyone interested in gaming advocacy.

What can I say?  I'm honored.  Thanks Spencer and Jolly, and of course, B.A., Bob, Dave, Sara, and Brian!

Gaming In The Boardroom

I caught wind of this one in the back pages of a recent issue of KoDT:

HRDQ, is a company that, as they put it, "provides off-the-shelf training and development resources and customized services to corporate, educational, and industry-related organizations" to companies and corporations such as Amtrak, Disney, Intel, and McDonald's.

Some of those resources are games that you play at work. I'm not talking the occasional game of Windows solitare while the boss isn't looking; these are exercises in teamwork and management skills that you play out as characters that must accomplish certain tasks. 

In Jungle Escape, for example, you play in a group of unfortunates who have crash landed in a rainforest.  Your goal is to build an escape helicopter using spare parts, your wits, and whatever teamwork you can scrape together.   In Mars Surface Rover, you build and race a vehicle across the surface of the red planet, using differing levels of leadership and authority.

Don't expect to find their games in your local gaming store, however; the price range is a little out of the range of the average person's game budget.  Jungle Escape will set you back $245 and Mars Surface Rover is a hefty $575.   Obviously, HRDQ realizes that they can set their prices whereever they want, and that most megacorps don't know that they could save a bundle by investing in several copies of FUDGE and a bunch of erector sets.  Hey, more power to 'em, I say...   In the end, we can only hope that products like these will help to create a better understanding of the hobby.

Oops!: A Correction

Well, I'm no different from anyone else when it comes to making mistakes... except that when I make them, they are usually pretty embarrassing.  Take my recent story, D&D Sells Out / D&D Goes On Tour (in the June update), for example.  In it, I rave about the "glowing terms" in which D&D is described, and the lack of negative media bias in the stories.

As it turns out, these stories were in fact press releases written by a representative of Wizards of the Coast! Business Wire is a service that distributes press releases to the media for a fee.  These stories were not written by an unbiased reporter by any means.  My apologies to anyone who was inconvenienced by this flub.

Thanks go out to Rob Curran for pointing this faux pas out to me... and for admitting he still liked the page anyway.

August, 1999:

The 700 Club Endorses LARP Rules

Yes, you're reading that right, and no, it's nothing from Mind's Eye Theatre!  The 700 Club recently printed an article entitled Y2K Could Be A Mixed Blessing, in which author Chris Mitchell discusses a live-action role-playing game developed by the Arlington Institute.
"The Arlington Institute has developed a game called Countdown to Y2K. It explores how communities nationwide can better cope with Y2K. The game, which can be replicated by any community, was hosted by Public Technologies Incorporated, the national technology organization for local governments in Washington, D.C. Groups representing cities, churches, local governments and Y2K organizations participated. They played imaginary roles, ranging from the local press, a pastor or the mayor."
The article then shifts it's focus from the game to a discussion of the importance of ministering to "unbelievers" during the Y2K crisis.  It seems that The 700 Club has no real problems with role-playing, as long as it has the potential to bring more paying parishoners.

Rumor has it that in the original Countdown to Y2K campaign, the Nosferatu gained control of the local press, the pastor was set upon by a gang of Black Spiral Dancers, and the mayor found a trod to Arcadia and was never seen again.  Oh yeah, and a group of prankster Virtual Adepts prevented the devastating computer crash on December 31st at 11:59 p.m., deliberately waiting until the last minute. 

All right, all right... I made that last part up...   Sue me!

Seriously, a visit to the Arlington Institute's web page proves rather interesting... Countdown To Y2K is described in unapologetic terms as a "roleplaying game" that is run by a "game master."  The guidebook suggests that participants take on the roles of characters that they can easily understand; the police chief should be played by a police officer or someone who has a degree in criminology, for example.  The game master then reveals the events of the coming year to the players, and the results depend on their responses.

It is yet another fine example of role-playing used in a beneficial scenario, only this time, it bears a much closer resemblance to what we do for recreation.  And the 700 Club never caught on.

Thanks to Sven Olson for bringing this story to my attention.

AD&D Third Edition Announced

Wizards of the Coast announced at this year's Gen Con that a third edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons will be released, starting with three revised volumes in late summer fall of 2000.  The new edition will contain "an integrated skill system; a standard resolution mechanic; the reintroduction of half-orcs, assassins and monks; and the removal of demi-human level limits."  Wizards also claims that the third edition will offer "flexibility to players, emphasizing consequences rather than limitations in character generation and development."

This comes a year after the 25th anniversary of the dawning of the original AD&D game, and ten years after the release of AD&D's second edition.  With the recent sales performance of the new D&D introductory set (see "D&D Sells Out," below), this may contribute greatly towards bringing a lot of new people to the hobby. 

At the same time, it is drawing quite a bit of criticism from long-time gamers, at the very least in newsgroups such as  One can already hear the cries of foul over WoTC's decision to change their favorite (or least favorite) game. One way or another, the entire gaming community will feel the ripples from this one.

Click here to read the official press release.

July, 1999:

A&E Versus D&D... Or Not.

On July 5th, A&E aired an hour-long special entitled "Dead Kid Walking."  It told of the events leading up to the recent execution of Sean Sellers and the surrounding controversy (for more information, see "Sean Sellers Executed," below).

The "teasers" for the special, voice-overs run during the credits at the end of each show, billed the special as the story of a man who claimed that his "obsession with Dungeons & Dragons" fueled his desire to kill.

The special, however, didn't reflect this.  In fact, absolutely no mention of gaming was made whatsoever... despite the wording of the teaser.  While mention was made of Sellers' fascination with Satanism and the occult, the obligatory connection to gaming was not made.  The story focused more on the debate over the death penalty than the possible causes for Sellers' homicidal tendencies.

Which is confusing.  Why would A&E do this?   Did they "forget" about the D&D angle while writing the special?   Did it end up on the editing room floor?  Was it a last-minute attempt to attract ratings with an extra layer of controversy?  We may never know...

Sam Chupp launches KIDS AND RPGs Mailing List

Sam Chupp, former White Wolf employee, has started a new mailing list aimed at involving children in the RPG hobby.  Sam has contributed to such memorable World of Darkness books as The Vampire Player's Guide, Book of Nod, Book of the Wyrm, and Changeling (a personal favorite) as well as many books for In Nomine and Fading Suns.

Not only is the mailing list a great idea, but the FAQ page is an excellent read as well.  To quote Sam:

"This mailing list is for the discussion of children in non-computer-related roleplaying games, either the pen-and-paper tabletop kind or the live-action roleplaying kind. Adults and children are welcome to participate in the discussion, which will include but not be limited to the following topics: 
1.) the best games for kids, 
2.) game design for kids 
3.) girls as roleplayers 
4.) roleplaying advocacy (esp. for children) "
Sam then goes on to answer pressing questions that the uninitiated may have about the hobby, such as What are the special needs of girls in RPG's? and How can a good Christian parent accept his child playing RPG's?  The FAQ is well-written, and useful even to those who may not be interested in the mailing list itself. 

My personal favorite Q&A on the list is: 

Q: Isn't this just a phase?
A: That's what my parents thought 23 years ago.
This list sounds like a must for anyone who is interested in introducing their little ones to the hobby.  At the very least, everyone should check out his answers to concerns about occultism and Satanism.

You can join the Kids and RPGs mailing list by clicking here.

June, 1999:


This one came in just as I was getting this ready for upload, so pardon the sketchy writing:  A recent Time article on the popularity of the online RPG Everquest contains a gratuitous slam on tabletop gamers, referring to them as "dateless dweebs" who spend their Saturday nights gaming.  This is apparently being held in contrast to online gamers, who do basically the same thing, but are much more "hip," because computers are "cool" now. 

The irony is that online games are rather antisocial, as they are played alone, while tabletop games are always played with a group of people, face-to-face.

The comment is rude, inappropriate (games like Everquest would not exist but for D&D), and downright immature.  I urge everyone reading this to check out the article and let Time know how you feel.  (At the present time, the article is not available on Time's web page, and I am working on getting a hardcopy.   Check back for the info.)

Thanks, again, to Spencer Lease, to whom I have willed this web page.  He certainly seems to supply most of the info for it...

D&D Sells Out / D&D Goes on Tour

According to an article published on Business Wire, the new starter edition of D&D, released by Wizards of the Coast in April, has sold out of it's inital press run, and hopefully has introduced thousands of people to the hobby of adventure gaming. 

Not only is this good news to the gaming industry, but the article itself is a well-written piece praising the benefits of the role-playing hobby.   D&D is described in glowing terms as a game of "imagination and communal storytelling" rather than "fierce competition."

Not only that, but the seemingly obligatory references to murder and suicide are left out.  It's just too bad this article didn't see a wider distribution.

Check out the article here: Initial Print Run of Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game Boxed Set Sells Out

As I was just getting ready to post this to the page, another announcement came over the Business Wire: Wizards of the Coast is planning a 25th Anniversary Tour for Dungeons & Dragons, starting in July. 

The tour, which begins in Washington State, will visit 10 different U.S. cities, and will feature autograph sessions, game demos & tournaments, and a unique art exhibit featuring a historical overview of the gaming hobby.

On top of it all, WoTC is asking all attendees to bring a non-perishable food item to the tour, which will be donated to a local food bank.

Check out the article here: National Tour and Limited-Edition Dungeons & Dragons Boxed Set Kick Off 25th Anniversary Celebration

Dungeon Becomes a Keyword for Troubled Teens

WordCHECK software and The Young Author's Magazine have teamed up to create a system that they hope will point out problem areas among American teens, and single out those that may have violent tendencies.

The system works like this: creative writing assignments written by teens are checked for frequency of a set group of "key words" that, studies have shown, appear frequently in compositions written by "troubled youths" concerning their family lives and their relationships with their friends and classmates.

The system, titled the Values and Violence Project, will be e-mailed this August to more than 93,000 public, private and home school programs in the United States, in the form of weekly writing projects.

What does this have to do with gaming?  Well, one of the words on the "key word" list is dungeon.  This means that any teen involved in this program who writes about their D&D hobby, or that of a friend or family member, could possibly raise a red flag with their educators, depending on how many of the other key words appear in the same document. 

According to the article, words such as fury, pain, neglect, and torture appear on the list, but so do more neutral words such as sincere, forgiving, and nowhere.  One can only wonder if dragon, vampire, or magic appear on the list as well.

Had I been involved in this program in high school, I would have buried the needle in the red zone of potential violence, so often did I pen tales of my gaming adventures.  I'm sure many of you can say the same thing.

The other concern I have with this is that the system seems to be flawed.  While they seem to have done some research into the writing patterns of troubled youths, there is no mention made as to whether these results were compared to any control group.  If this is the case, and wasn't simply an oversight in the text, we may eventually see this being used as a tool against gaming.  Let's hope it doesn't go that far.

For the full story, click here.

Concerned Gamers Start New G.A.M.E.

G.A.M.E. LogoIn the light of the recent media feeding frenzy over the Columbine High School shooting (for more info, see below), several gamers, including myself, have begun to organize a new advocacy group; Gaming Advocacy and Media Education, or G.A.M.E. 

While much of the project is in development, and discussions on methods and direction are ongoing, the basic concept is to have a group that actively improves the public image of gaming through such acts as charity work and public demonstration.

Over time, you will see a page devoted to G.A.M.E. right here on the Escapist, and eventually, we hope to get our own domain for the group.  Until that time, keep checking the Advocacy page for the latest news.

Newsweek Misquotes Potok

Well, it's looking more and more like Newsweek has done it again, misquoting someone in order to get an anti-game angle.  During a recent conversation between Spencer Lease and Mark Potok, who was mentioned in a previous article ("Newsweek Slams D&D... Again"), Potok claimed that he was lead into making the offending comment by his interviewer.

According to Potok (as quoted by Lease), while discussing the mindset of Wolfgang Hawke, a white supremacist, Potok made the statement that Hawke lived in a fantasy world where Jews ran the universe and he was the main threat to them.   The reporter then asked if he meant something like Dungeons and Dragons, and Potok, without giving it too much thought, said "yes."

From this, Newsweek turned that exchange into a direct quote from Potok, saying "In some ways, it's like Dungeons & Dragons," complete with quote marks.

Newsweek has shown on numerous occasions that they care little for gaming... and, on occasion, will go to any lengths to make the hobby look bad.  This is one of the more insipid examples.


For the full story of the Columbine High School shooting, keep scrolling.
The most recent updates are posted at the top of this page.


Sweden's own anti-gaming duo, Didi Örnstedt and Björn Sjöstedt, have also tried to link the Columbine shooting, as well as recent bombings in London, with games, specifically White Wollf's World of Darkness games.  They also seem to think that White Wolf may have a connection to a neo-nazi group, and claim that the game studio "supplies all the information one might want on how to kill and assassinate."  Proof positive that they have never cracked open a World of Darkness book in their lives.

Their page can be found at:, but is of little use to anyone who can't read Swedish.  Luckily, I have an English translation supplied by my good friend Björn Hellqvist.  You can read it by clicking here: Terror, bombs and White Wolves (I have also included the original Swedish text, for those of you who may be fluent in Swedish and would like to check the translation).


For the full story of the Columbine High School shooting, keep scrolling.
The most recent updates are posted at the top of this page.

4/29/99: SF Gate Pulls Game Bashing Story; Tampa Bay Joins the Fray

It looks like SF Gate couldn't stand the heat.  Not only did they pull their story "Classmates Describe Shooters As Obsessed With Goth World," they are now redirecting all traffic from that story to a counterpoint story, "Bay Area Goths Say Media Has It Wrong," in which several local teens speak out on the bashing that the Gothic subculture has been taking lately. 

While it doesn't directly retract the statements made by the "expert" in the earlier article, and the only people interviewed are teens (who will naturally lack credibility with most of the public, since they are "Goths" and some admit to be gamers), it certainly is a step in the right direction.

I was just about to post this update to the page, when I got a message from someone who informed me that Sgt. Williams, the "Goth expert" mentioned in SF Gate's story, was misquoted in that story, and is in fact an active member of the Canadian LARP group Shared Universe. 

Is it possible that SF Gate pulled the story due to shoddy reporting?  Was Williams really misquoted?   I have no clear answers, but I am working on it even as I type this update.

Don't stop typing those letters yet, however... another online news source has made a harsh statment against D&D, this time lumping it with the ultra-violent video game Mortal Kombat.

Kathleen Heide, a criminology professor at the University of South Florida, is quoted as saying "(k)ids that spend time in fantasy games like `Dungeons and Dragons' and `Mortal Kombat' often get the message of death and destruction.'' 

Assuming she was not misquoted as well, Heide apparently doesn't know a video game from a tabletop role-playing game, much less how D&D is played, and neither does anyone at the Tampa Bay Tribune.  Let's teach them, shall we?

The entire article can be viewed here: "Clues Aren't Always in the Clothes".

Send your letters to the Tampa Bay Online at:, or send it directly at   Snail-mail: P.O. Box 191, Tampa, FL 33601-4005.  You can also write to the author, Ace Atkins, at, or call at (813) 259-7800. 

You can also contact Kathleen Heide at  Drop her a line and let her know how you feel about her statement.

Special thanks to A.J. Chodan for alerting me to the Tampa Bay Online article, and "The Fiend" for notifying me about SF Gate.

4/24/99: More Concerning the Colorado Shooting

Two new items have come to me in the last couple of days.  One of them is strict heresay, and I would like to try to get verification on it.  The other is another AP article that mentions D&D.

First, on the 4/21/99 episode of CNBC's Upfront, Geraldo Rivera made a comment that, paraphrased, said: "Thousands of people play games like Doom and Dungeons & Dragons, and they don't go out and kill anyone.   Why is it that some kids do?"

Did anyone catch this episode, possibly even on tape, or does anyone know how a transcript can be obtained?  Hearing Rivera say such a thing is something I really have to hear to believe.  Maybe he's learned something about jumping to conclusions after that trip to Al Capone's vault...     (thanks to J. Stevens for that tidbit)

The second item is another AP story titled "Shooting Prosecutor Speaks Out," in which a district attorney and father of two Columbine graduates muses on and on about the tragedy, it's possible causes, and how a change needs to be made, although he doesn't have any of the answers.  The general message behind the story is that no one has been numbed to the horror of the multiple homicide, but it is odd that he should single out D&D while placing blame, since there has still been no formal announcement that any of the suspects were involved in any kind of RPG.

There has been the casual reference that the two deceased killers were into "war games," but these are usually described as World War II era simulations.  Were there even the smallest evidence of fantasy gaming material among the possessions of either youth, the media would be running full anti-game stories everywhere.  Since that has not happened, it seems as if someone on the inside is stirring up some anti-game hostility.

The full story of the media attacks on RPGs as a result of this crime is below, as well as the information on the letter-writing campaign.   Keep those letters coming!

4/23/99: Colorado Shooting Brings Obligatory Gaming Slams

I'm sure many of you joined me on April 20th as I watched with rapt attention at the coverage of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.  I'm also sure that most of you that did watch were waiting for the inevitable claim that Vampire or Magic had something to do with the unthinkable crime. 

The claim came a day later, when SF Gate, the web presence of the San Francisco Chronicle, printed a story titled "Classmates Describe Shooters As Obsessed With Goth World."  In it, Sergeant Dave Williams, a self-proclaimed expert on gothic culture, rambles on about Vampire: The Masquerade, despite the fact that no evidence has yet been revealed that proves that any of the suspects ever played the game.

"I call it Dungeons and Dragons on steroids," he begins, and continues by saying that the trenchcoats worn by the suspects are the modern equivalent of the vampire's cape.  He goes on to display a slight amount of knowledge of the game that is tainted by his own personal convictions; he mentions the seven clans of vampires, and singles out the Brujah (and calls them the "most violent" clan) and Sabbat (which makes "random simulated violent attacks" on the players). 

He does point out that "clashes" in the game are resolved by a quick match of "rock, paper, scissors," but follows it with something more sinister; the article paraphrases a claim by him that the game "requires players to totally immerse themselves in the study of the occult."

Williams' statements are classic Satanic Panic; since he doesn't understand the game, it must have something to do with "the occult," which by his own definition is anything that cannot be understood. Vampire does not require anyone to "immerse themselves" in occult tomes, but does require a knowledge of it's own fictional mythos and rules, something that many people aren't able to easily understand: thus, the occult.

There is no clear reason why this article shifts from the topic of a Colorado school shooting to one of an Ohio police sergeant's reservations about role-playing, unless the source is attempting to speculate a possible motive for the crime.  It is terribly irresponsible of a news source to print such speculation before any of the facts are in.  But that is what we have come to expect from the gaming-hostile media, especially when they find an "expert." 

The Washington Post printed a similar article, "Gunmen Recalled as Outcasts," on the same day.  While they lacked the "expert" testimony of a police sergeant, they still attempted to make a gaming connection by stating that the Gothic scene was "(i)nspired by fantasy games such as Dungeons and Dragons."

This is a ridiculously misinformed statement.  If anything, the Gothic scene has it's roots in the works of authors like Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite, the music of artists such as Bauhaus and The Mission U.K., as well as the wealth of vampire and monster movies that Hollywood and independent film have brought us.   D&D has had little if anything to do with the movement, and the currently popular Vampire RPG has become so because of the Goth scene... not the other way around.

It doesn't end there, however... on the next day, I got word from Jon Liming that the AP was releasing a story titled "Schools Told To Watch Violent Kids" that took a random poke at D&D, calling it a "rebellious" hobby, in the same category as collecting World War II weaponry.

Then I heard from Spencer Lease, who sent me an editorial from the Boston Globe: "Colorado's carnage is inevitable in our culture of violence," in which John Ellis spouts statistics about the amount of violence that children are exposed to on television, then follows by saying that the statistics do not include, among other things, "playing Dungeons and Dragons."

It seems like the Chronicle, Post, Globe, and even the AP are trying to beat everyone else to the gaming angle, long before the evidence is in, without actually committing themselves to it. 

Warm up your typing fingers, dear readers... the time has come to tell them how you feel about their stories.  First, read the articles they printed: 

Then, drop the respective sources a line at the links I have supplied below. I'm urging everyone reading this to write at least one letter or make at least one phone call... if the media gets enough bugs in their ear, they may even run some counterpoint stories.

I have created a form letter that you can cut and paste, for those of you who may not have the time to come up with one on your own.   All you have to do is insert your own name and e-mail it (or print it and send it) to the appropriate source.  Lengthen it, paraphrase it, completely rewrite it... just so long as you give yourself credit for sending it.  You can get to it by clicking here.

Thanks go to two Escapist readers, Darrin Kelley, A.J. Chodan, who forwarded me two of the above stories within a half hour of each other, as well as Jon Liming and Spencer Lease.   Nice work!

April, 1999:

Aspiring Gamer Born

...heeeeere's Nolah!...or so I hope.  On Wednesday, March 10th, at 2:44 a.m., Paula and I had our second child (and second daughter), Nolah Killian Walton.   Despite a few complications that kept her in the hospital for nearly a week, she is doing well, and keeping us on our toes at all hours of the day (and night).  No word yet on whether she will prefer playing over gamemastering, but she does seem to be rather bossy, and rather suited for a position behind the GM screen.
Her older sister, Aylish, now two and a half, has a penchant for Magic cards and her daddy's lead figures (which she doesn't get to touch at all).  She is also very fond of playing make believe and making up stories to go with the pictures in her books, so she is already on the right path.

Nolah's arrival was the primary reason that the March update to The Escapist got bumped back a month... although, I did manage to find a computer in the lounge at the hospital, and I even worked on the page a little while I was there.  If that's not devotion, I'm not sure what is!

For those of you interested in looking at pictures of cute kids, you can see ours by going here... that is, when I get around to getting that page set up.  If you can't seem to get through, keep trying.

(Yeah, yeah, I know... it's not even gaming news, let alone gaming advocacy news, but if you don't like it... make your own page!)

"Jesse" Goes Gaming

On January 21st, NBC aired an episode of their "Jesse" series that caused a bit of a stir in the gaming community, including a boycott attempt.   "Jesse" is a sitcom based around a single mother played by Christina Applegate (of "Married: With Children" fame).  In the episode, the title character begins dating her math teacher, and the two of them go to a club meeting.   What her teacher fails to tell her is that the club is a Dungeons & Dragons club.

I have not seen the episode for myself, so I am going by the descriptions of it that I have read on RPGnet, but the events that have caused the most concern include:

  • As Jesse's math teacher enters the room in which the meeting is being held, the players appear to openly worship the DM, even going so far as to bow to him.
  • To find out where the telephone is, Jesse has to refer to it as the Magic Voice Transporter.
  • After Jesse calls a friend and tells her that she is at a D&D game, the friend screeches "Get out of there!"
  • The same friend tells Jesse that the only way to get out of the game is to have her character die.
The whole mess caught the attention of TV Guide, which published a small piece on the whole matter, mentioning the boycott campaign and the website RPGnet

WoTC President Peter Adkinson, when asked for comment, had the following to say: 

"The staff here at WotC worked closely with the writers for the Jesse episode in question and we even granted approval to use some of our trademarked terms, like Dungeons & Dragons and Dungeon Master. While it's true the episode did portray D&D fans as geeks, there are many positive aspects to this show. They did NOT portray D&D fans as satanists, they portrayed the game as social, harmless, and having a math professor as a player is certainly a positive rolemodel for D&D players. On the whole, we're pleased with the exposure, and would be delighted if D&D was thought of by the masses merely as geeky and not geeky and satanic." 
The boycott campaign, led by Spencer Lease, became rather ugly.   According to an interview with Lease, a flame campaign ensued in which several people "posing" as gamers attempted to undermine his efforts, and a phony message from someone claiming to be the late Brandon Tartikoff berated any gamers who dared to be offended by the episode.

Now for my two cents:

It is very easy for gamers to become overprotective of the hobby, when you consider the amount of bad press it receives on a regular basis.  I think that is exactly what has happened in this case.  Lease was offended, and had every right to be, at something that he felt was unfair and imbalanced.  What he got in return was not deserved.

As for the episode, I have to admit chuckling as I read the transcripts of it... especially at the comments about the "magic voice transporter" and Jesse's friend warning her to get away from gamers at all costs.   Pokes at gamers are becoming more common in prime time TV; The Simpsons and Beavis and Butthead have taken shots at us, and Saturday Night Live has hit us several times below the belt.  I even recall an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 where Tom Servo tries to teach a very confused Crow and Mike how to roleplay... and they "just don't get it."

While it does help to maintain a negative stereotype to a small degree, it also means that we are gaining a little bit of acceptance in popular culture.   Ten years ago, the only references to gaming on television were hack pieces like Geraldo Rivera's Games That Kill, and the dreaded 60 Minutes story.  Fifteen years ago, it was Mazes and Monsters, a virtual stereotype-creating machine.  And twenty years ago, it was coverage of the James Dallas Egbert disappearance.  At the risk of sounding too optimistic, It looks to me like we're making some kind of progress.

All in all, it's an excellent example of just how ugly things can get, and in the case of the spam campaign and falsified message, how immature people can be.

Below are links to the press releases that are posted on the RPGnet page.

1/22/99: Gaming Community Begins Protest!  2/9/99: RPGnet, TV Guide, 'Jesse,' and WotC

Newsweek Slams D&D... Again

In their March 8th issue, Newsweek took another stab at Dungeons & Dragons, this time by quoting Southern Poverty Law Center member Mark Potok in an article that was addressing an entirely different subject.

The statement made concerned a white supremasist who calls himself Wolfgang Davis Hawke.  Potok describes Hawke's personal charisma thusly: 

"In some ways, it's like 'Dungeons and Dragons.' But he has the potential to become a real leader." 
What Potok is trying to say isn't very clear; it's almost like some kind of non-sequitur.  He could have easily said "In some ways, it's kind of like potato salad..." and it would have made the same amount of sense.  This, however, did not prevent Newsweek from printing it.

In an e-mail reply to Pierre Savoie, Potok claimed that he used the metaphor to describe Hawke as someone who has high SAT scores, and has a strong sense of megalomania as a result.  He also said that "only the most hypersensitive fanatics" would complain about his statement.  When Savoie got his reply, Potok said he was already getting very tired of getting e-mail about the story. 

Maybe that's why he never replied to my e-mail.

I urge everyone reading this to take Newsweek and The Southern Poverty Law Center to school.  First, read the article that Newsweek printed.  Then, click on the links I've provided and write both of them a letter.  Write something worthwhile; don't send spam or profanities.   That won't help the situation.  Tell them how you feel. 

White Plains Paranoia

According to an AP story dated  February 27th, three Catholic families are suing their local school district over violation of their religious and privacy rights.

Among their claims: the use of "ghoul" as a 4th-grade vocabulary word, the study of Indian and Mexican culture, a field trip to a cemetery, a discussion on crystals from a visiting mineralogist, Earth Day celebrations, a meeting with a yoga teacher and, you guessed it, the district's tolerance of Magic: The Gathering on school grounds. 

The case stems from the Bedford County debate over the permission of M:TG on school grounds (see Parents Sue School Over Owl Vomit, on the Advocacy 1997 page).   After the initial objections over the game, the district banned it from school grounds until mental health experts could report on the possible dangers of the game.   When the game was found to pose no danger, it was permitted once more.  Angry parents then filed a suit against the school district, compiling a much longer list of grievances.

Judge Charles Brieant became very irritated during the trial, apparently at the subject matter of the entire case, and made several sarcastic comments during the questioning.  His observations are well worth checking out; here are two AP stories about the trial: School Sued on Religious Grounds, and Satanism Lawsuit Has Weighty Issues.

February, 1999:

Linedecker's "The Vampire Killers" Comes Clean

Several months ago, I picked up "The Vampire Killers", Clifford Linedecker's account of the Wendorf Vampire Clan Murders, and one of St. Martin's True Crime Library series.  I was expecting the worst, for a couple of reasons. 

Just before it's release, St. Martin's Press announced that all of the copies were going to be destroyed due to a glaring error in the cover art; it seems that one of the youths pictured on the cover was not involved in the crime at all.

Then, I got word from a friend who works at that the book was being shipped with a green errata sheet, informing the reader of the cover error... a quick and dirty fix, but one that probably saved them a lot of money.  Naturally, I thought the worst... just how quick and dirty would the writing be as well?

My copy sat unread for some time, as I had purchased it during the Christmas rush, until I recently picked it up to skim it.  Imagine my surprise as I randomly opened the book to page 272 and found the following statement:

"Television didn't make Rod, Dana, Charity or Scott begin sharing blood anymore than role-playing characters from "Vampire: The Masquerade" did.  "Vampire," "Werewolf," "Dungeons & Dragons," and other games like them are exciting, intellectually challenging pastimes that encourage players to use their minds and their imaginations.  The dreadful psychic and emotional damage that shaped Rod's character and led to his murderous behavior was present in his life long before he developed his interest in vampirism."
Although I have yet to read the rest of the book, I must say that it seems like for once, someone did their homework.  Thank you, Mr. Linedecker!

Sean Sellers Executed

Sean Sellers, a youth who killed a convenience store clerk in 1985 and his mother and stepfather in 1986, was executed in Oklahoma on February 4th, 1999 at 12 noon.  Sellers appealed for clemency in late January, but was denied.

Sellers' first defense was the "D&D made me do it" defense.  When this failed (as it always does), his lawyers shifted the attention to his Satanic practices, and then again to possible multiple personality syndrome.  None of these strategies worked.

For more information, check out these two AP stories: Sellers' Execution Reignites Debate, and Death-Row Man Denied Clemency


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