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Game Hysteria and the Truth
Title: Game Hysteria and the Truth
Source: Michael A. Stackpole, 1989
NOTICE: The following material is copyrighted as indicated in the body of text. It has been posted to this web page for archival purposes, and in doing so, no claim of authorship is expressed or implied, nor is a profit being made from the use of the material.
Game Hysteria and the Truthby Michael A. Stackpole
Dungeons and Dragons" in 1974 did something no other game had ever done: it imposed rules on what had been heretofore the exercise of the imagination. It became the first ever Role Playing Game and, while many others have followed and the rules have been revised several different times, it continues to be the best well known and most widely distributed game of that type. Role Playing Games (RPGs) have been translated in a host of different languages and are as popular in Europe and Japan as they are in the United States.
Dungeons and Dragons codified and dressed up with dice and pictures the imaginary games we all had played as children; Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians and Tea Party. It made available to adolescents and adults a vehicle to exercise their imaginations in a very active sense; a prerogative largely usurped by the television in modern society. It provided a social setting for a game designed to let people escape everyday
cares and have some fun.
If the critics of Role Playing Games are to be believed, it also did something else. According to them, it opened the gates of Hell and has seduced over 100 individuals into acts of murder, mayhem and suicide. RPGs are, across the board, labeled as primers to the occult and are charged with leading children into Satanic covens from which they do not return. Heavy RPG involvement had been advanced as extenuating circumstances for murder, robbery, kidnapping and a host of lesser crimes.
The body of this paper will examine the claims made by the foes of games. It will focus on the evidence they have advanced to back their claims. It will also pay special attention to Patricia Pulling, the founder of Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons (BADD) and the techniques she has used in pursuing her vendetta against a hobby she blames for the death of her son. Lastly, it will touch upon the links between BADD and some other
organizations within the anti-Satanism movement.
By September 1977 I had completed my first game design and saw it published in August of 1978. Since that time I have created 3 paper and pencil role playing games, 2 computer role playing games, 5 solitaire adventures for RPGs, a game-master adventure, and have written in whole or part over 60 articles and selections in anthology projects or magazines. I have won awards for all of my computer game designs, including Computer Gaming World's Best Adventure Game of 1988 for Wasteland and the Strategist Club's Best Role Playing Game for 1988 for Bard's Tale III. Stormhaven won Best Role Playing Adventure for 1983 and Citybook 1 took the same award the previous year. I have done work for the following game systems: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Tunnels and Trolls, Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes, BattleTech, Top Secret, Star Wars, Justice, Inc., Champions, ShadowRun and the Renegade Legion Role Playing Game. My work has been translated into French, Japanese, German, Swedish and Italian, as well as having both American and British printings.
In addition to all that, I have four science fiction novels currently in print and was recently selected to be listed in the 22nd Edition of Who's Who in the West. I am the Executive Director of the Phoenix Skeptics and a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America. I am a founder and the head of the Academy of Game Critics and a member of the Academy of Gaming Arts and Design. I am also a member of the Game Manufacturers' Speakers' Bureau. I also have a degree in History from the University of Vermont, with a teaching minor.
In short, I have a solid grasp on reality and gaming. I have been involved with the industry on a full time basis since the explosion of RPGs in 1979. My training as a historian has given me the tools to research the background of many of these claims, and my sources within the industry provide me accurate data on sales and distribution of games. I know what is in a game, whether or not the game is in print, and roughly how many copies were ever available. All this, as will be seen, is important.
The publication of "Dungeons and Dragons" in 1974 was unique. It applied fantasy elements to miniatures wargaming. Up to that point, lead soldiers had been used to refight the battles of history, or to pit armies against each other in "what if" battles: what if Genghis Khan had actually laid siege to Jerusalem, or the Britons had been organized to oppose the Romans.
Indeed, this latter scenario, in 1969, provided the first instance of magic being used when David Arneson, the co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons, allowed a friend to introduce a druid into a Britons versus Romans battle. The player was fooling around when he said, "I call a lightning bolt down to destroy your war elephant!" Dave, as the Gamemaster, pulled the elephant off the board. The Romans subsequently massed and killed the pesky druid, but the elements of role playing had been introduced into a staid war game for the first time.
By 1974 E. Gary Gygax had written down and caused to be published the rules that Dave had developed over the years. The trio of books were virtually incomprehensible to anyone who did not understand miniatures wargaming. Almost immediately imitations began appearing and, in the grand tradition of gaming, did what D&D had done, but did it differently. The second RPG in existence was Tunnels and Trolls, and that is the system with which the author is most familiar.
By 1989 over 300 role playing games have been produced for the paper and pencil market. Counting in computer games would boost that number well over 500. The games cover subjects from fantasy and science fiction to espionage and on down to "Woof, Meow: the role playing game of Cats and Dogs." The games range
widely in subject matter, approach, complexity and level of professionalism in writing and production. According to David Arneson, there are over 10,000,000 copies of D&D extant worldwide and Pat Pulling says, in her book The Devil's Web, that there is a base of users numbering over 4,000,000.
It is very important to note that while D&D in its myriad forms (Basic, Expert, "classic," Advanced and Advanced, 2nd edition) is certainly the largest selling RPG, the trend in the industry has been to move away from the fantasy genre. The glut of fantasy games on the market makes it very difficult to introduce a new fantasy title. In addition, the audience has steadily moved toward games with a high-tech edge; perhaps because years of hacking away with swords against monsters had lead to the desire to shoot something so it doesn't get back up.
Whatever the reason, the most popular games to be introduced recently are ShadowRun (a cross of high- tech and fantasy), Star Wars, Twilight 2000 (after the Holocaust), Warhammer 40,000 (SF gaming in a bleak future) and Champions (a superhero game).
No one would deny that as children grow up they seek to establish an identity independent of their parents. In searching for this new identity, kids often latch on to something that provides them a handle on who they are. We have all been able to identify the cliques that form in high school: the jocks, the brains, the drop-outs, the car freaks, the beauty queens, the band and the outsiders. At one time or another most individuals growing up in America classified themselves in one of those groups, or dreaded being branded with such a label.
Two new classifications that have arisen since the 1970s are computer nerds and gamers. The reason for their late arrival is that what they choose to identify with did not exist prior to the mid 1970s. Computer nerds are more easily accepted by their parents because understanding computers can be the start of a promising career. A computer nerd's grasp of what goes on inside a computer is a survival skill in the modern world. Yes, junior might be a bit shy, but boy can he clear up that virus that's been destroying my company's hard disk.
Gamers, on the other hand, have a greater problem. RPGs did not exist for their parents. Unless a youth was lucky enough to have a parent or older sibling who was willing to learn and perhaps play a game, he would be alone at home. His parents would see him devoting a great deal of time to a game, and that roughly translates to spending most of your time fooling around. As "fooling around" is not one of those high paying jobs, and careers in gaming are not easy to come by, a parent's concern is more than understandable.
And it must be said that kids can become obsessed with gaming, just as they can be obsessed with sports, cars, computers, dating, music, television, movies, ad infinitum. This obsession may well not be healthy, especially if it continues for a long time. However, no parent would suggest that cars are evil just because Bob spends all of his time working on his car. Why, then, are games viewed with fear?
THE WHO WHAT WHEN WHERE AND HOW OF TEEN SATANISM
1. Adolescents from all walks of life.
2. Many from middle to upper middle class families
3a Over or Under Achievers
3c Some are Rebellious
3d Some have low self esteem and are loners
3e Some children have been abused (physically or sexually)
WHEN does this occur?
It appears the ages most vulnerable are 11-17
1. Public places such as rock concerts, game clubs in communities or at school.
2. Private parties at a friend's home.
1. Through Black Heavy Metal Music
2. Through fantasy role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons (R)
3. Obsession with movies, videos, which have occult themes
4. Collecting and reading/researching occult books
5. Involvement with "Satanic Cults", [sic] through recruitment
6. Some are born into families who pratice [sic] "satanic cult rituals"
TWO BASIC PRINCIPLES APPLY HERE
"Law of Attraction" and the "Law of Invitation"
WHAT can be expected?
1. Obsession with occult entertainment
2. Minor to major behavior disorders
3. Committing crimes and status offenses such as:
A. Running away
B. Graverobbing (such as bones)
C. Breaking and entering to steal religious artifacts or sometimes stealing small items to prove loyalty to the group
D. Defacing public or private property using "Satanic Graffetti [sic]" or related Graffetti [sic]
E. Threatening to kill (self or others, self mutilation is very common)
F. Aggression directed towards family, teachers and authority figures
G. Contempt for organized religion
H. Supremist attitudes
I. Kidnapping or assistance in kidnapping
K. Suicide pacts among members of the group
WHAT can we do?
1. Document all information relating to occult involvement (even if it does not appear relevant at the time)
2. Keep an open mind
3. Stay objective
4. Never assume that an individual is acting along [sic] until all other information surrounding the case and individual has been fully investigated.
5. If individual is involved in "satanic activity," he/she will deny a great deal to protect other members of the group as well as the "satanic philosophy".[sic] 6. Have a team approach, work with a therapist, a clergymen and other helping professionals.
7. Educate the community so that potential tragedies might be avoided.
This profile, which is distributed by BADD to police departments for their use in interrogating suspects in crimes clearly has some flaws. Even a casual glance at the first three sections will show that virtually any child from the ages of 11-17 is a potential candidate for seduction into Satanism. Furthermore, this seduction will take place at times when a parent is least likely to be present. In short, if you have a reasonably intelligent child from a good background and he is out of your sight, he is open to recruitment by Satanists.
And, as section four points out, after Heavy Metal music, the devil's legions use RPGs to recruit their cultists. (A cynic might note, after looking at Mrs. Pulling's list of methods for Satanists, that it is no wonder Satanism is on the rise. Before Heavy Metal, games and movies, they had little to offer prospective recruits.)
No one in their right mind would scoff at a parent's concern for what his child is doing in his spare time. Everyone agrees that parental interest in activities is important, and games have long been a way to bring the family together in a social setting. Gaming is very much a group activity and all game professionals encourage parents to keep up with what their children are doing. Ultimately it is a parent's responsibility to monitor his child's behavior, to notice if there is a problem = and to deal with that problem when it arises.
grounds is not hard to do.
D&D, Dr. Thomas Radecki says, "this game is one of nonstop combat and violence." This, however, is not a valid characterization of D&D and other games in the field.
From a designer's standpoint, I produce games that limit violent conflict by making the outcome of the same very deadly. I also encourage non- violence by making the rewards for a non-violent or less violent resolution to a problem greater than the rewards for killing something. Furthermore, as games have developed over the years, the rewards for engaging in role play and interpersonal interaction have been increased, and the mechanisms have been refined, so the focus of games becomes role playing instead of combat.
In short, the scenario being run determines how much combat will occur. If a game is being run that takes place at a cocktail party in a posh New York apartment, the potential for violence is extremely low. (Note: it is extremely low as would be measured by most people. Dr. Radecki and his National Coalition Against Television Violence (NCTV) have entirely different standards for violence.) Many Gamemasters work to avoid violence in their games just because it is not as much fun as role playing.
1. Dr. S. Kenneth Schonberg of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York conducted an in-depth study of over 700 adolescents who had attempted suicide. Not one case indicated D&D or any RPG as a reason for their suicide attempt.
2. Beth Grant-DeRoos, Spokesperson for the Associated Gifted and Creative Children of California, conducted a survey which included all major American cities. Coroners were asked to review the psychological autopsies of adolescent suicides. Not one case indicated D&D or any RPG as contributing to the suicide.
3. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia released a report on teen suicide. Nothing indicated that suicide was more common among teens who played D&D.
4. The American Association of Suicidology in Denver, Colorado is an expert source of information on the epidemic of suicide. They have no evidence that indicates any games have been the causes of suicides.
5. In The Devil's Web, Pat Pulling cites a user base for D&D alone as 4,000,000 players. Since the introduction of the game in 1975, the suicide rate for individuals aged 15-24 has fluctuated between 11.7 (1975) and 12.8 (1980) deaths per 100,000 individuals in the population. (The rate has been falling since then.) If gamers were killing themselves at the average rate for their age group we would have between 468 and 512 successful
suicides a year. As the American Association of Suicidology notes, only 6% of suicide attempts are successful, so the number of unsuccessful gamer suicides would run between 7800 and 8533 annually.
In The Devil's Web, Mrs. Pulling cites 125 deaths connected to the games as of 1987, though she does report "Many, many more [cases] remain unpublicized; the cases are in files marked 'confidential.' This is not hype. This is not speculation. The cases are there." Even at four times her reported case list, the total would not equal one year's average number of suicides for gamers, if they were killing themselves at a rate equal to the rest of the population. Given that the 125 cases cited above consist of roughly 50% murders and 50% suicides, the statistics cast even more doubt on the link between games and suicide.
6. The evidence goes even further when the warning signs of suicide are taken into account. Teen suicides are usually loners and drug users. In The Devil's Web Pat herself notes, "Some [players] are loners, but many are not as this is a group-oriented game." She also says, "Generally, the adolescent D&D player is not involved with drugs; at most, there may be some use of marijuana."
It is important to point out that having a close group of friends provides the support a kid needs to get through difficult times. Furthermore, it provides a network of individuals who can be on the lookout for the changes in behavior and activities that could point out a potential suicide. Gaming groups do build tight and long lasting friendships of the sort that encourage helping and sharing problems.
There is no causal link between games and suicide any more than there is a link between breathing and suicide. Suicide is a desperate act of a very sick individual and to trivialize their condition by suggesting a game could push them over edge is cruel and unfeeling. To suggest a game could change an otherwise normal child into a suicidal or homicidal maniac asks us to believe that a normal individual cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality. It also vests an incredible amount of power in a game, and allows people to put their responsibility and guilt off onto an inanimate object.
D&D game at school. A recruiter from a local coven monitors the gaming group and selects Johnny as the sort of person he wants in his diabolical group. He invites Johnny to a "party" and befriends him. During this party, or the next one or the one after that, Johnny is talked into doing something he shouldn't (smoking dope, dropping acid or becoming sexually active) and this behavior is caught on video tape. If Johnny ever decides to leave the group, he's trapped.
This recruitment story often ends in one of three ways. Johnny, remorseful, kills himself. Johnny, now insane, kills his parents to dedicate his life to Satan. Johnny has a change of heart and is murdered by the coven to preserve their secrets, with the murder often being arranged to look like suicide.
It should be pointed out that no solid evidence has been presented to show games as having been used as recruitment tools by occult groups, if those groups exist at all. The only anecdotal evidence comes from Rosemary Loyacano who maintains that is how her son Steven was seduced into a coven. She claims he managed to keep his involvement with the coven hidden from her, though she found all sorts of paraphernalia after his suicide. (As will be seen later, this interpretation of Steven Loyacano's death is contradicted by other writings about him.)
Perhaps because there is no evidence of recruitment, BADD and others always manage to intimate that Dave Arneson and E. Gary Gygax are closet Satanists and that their work is part of the fallen angel's plan for taking over the minds of the young. The fact that Dave Arneson is now, and was at the time he wrote his part of D&D, a born-again Christian has escaped their notice. Lawrence Schick, the editor for the first edition of the AD&D
hardbacks, has said the TSR research library consisted of a few history books and not a single volume of occult knowledge. (It is curious that the majority of the books on the occult that Pulling uses to point up the Satanistic stuff in D&D were actually written after D&D and may have used the games as resource material, not the other way around as she likes to imply.)
However, it is perhaps not their fault that they rail against games, because the people asking them for judgements are presenting only a few facts. Those facts, seemingly chosen at random from sources that are, at best, questionable, provide an incomplete picture of both gaming and the state of a gamer's mind. When one begins with incomplete evidence and ignorance, one only produces nonsense in commenting on it.
But from where, if this threat has been studied in such great detail, does this vast ignorance arise?
The Devil's Web she says she has given testimony in a number of trials and cites 3 as standing out in her mind. "My role was that of jury education, explaining to the jury members the game of 'Dungeons & Dragons' and how it is played."
That she could be hired to give testimony in a court of law as an expert on games is quite chilling. The only solace to be found in this is that, at least in the three cases she cites, her client was convicted and sentenced to death or life without parole.
Mrs. Pulling says in her book, "A number of other fantasy role-playing games exist, and most are imitations of 'Dungeons & Dragons.' Some of the most popular ones are 'Tunnels & Trolls,' 'The Arduin Grimoire,' 'Runequest,' 'Empire of the Petal Throne,' 'Nuclear Escalation,' 'Traveller,' 'Boot Hill,' 'Demons,' 'The Court of Ardor,' 'Melee & Wizard,' Metamorphosis Alpha,' and 'Gamma World.'"
Tunnels & Trolls is still in print and has even been computerized. Version of this game have been translated into French, German, Italian and Japanese. T&T does include magic, but has no religious system included or implied in the game. The game has been available since 1975, has had five editions, but has seen its sales dwindle since 1985. Its chief claim to fame was in its line of solo adventures to be played by single players. (Through the solo line I became involved in T&T and I have authored five solo adventures for that system.) Her main objection to T&T, according to Pulling's A Law Enforcement Primer On Fantasy Role-Playing Games is "In this game you obtain your character by rolling 3 six-sided dice (6,6,6)..."
The Arduin Grimoire is a set of unsanctioned D&D supplements written by Dave Hargraves. Hargraves died in 1988, but a publisher in Texas keeps his work in print. Arduin's highest point of distribution came in the early 80's, but because of the violence depicted in the game, most shops don't stock it and won't sell it. At best 30,000 copies of the books were probably produced and the author knows of no translations.
Runequest is one of the most popular RPGs and was the first to break away from using "levels" to gauge character development. It has been translated into several languages, but annual sales have slipped since 1986 when the Avalon Hill Game Company took over publication from the Chaosium. Runequest likewise suffers,
in Pulling opinion, from the onerous usage of 3 six-sided dice for rolling characters (6,6,6).
Empire of the Petal Throne was originally published by TSR. It went out of print in the early 80s, then reappeared from Gamescience in 1983. The game is virtually unknown in 1989 and difficult to find in gaming stores.
Nuclear Escalation is not a role-playing game at all. I know this because I helped develop this sequel to Nuclear War. It is a card game. Pulling put it on the list in Primer on the basis of ad copy in an unspecified magazine. The text she has excerpted includes the phrase "Nuclear Escalation card game" in it. (Having written the ad originally, I made sure the game was clearly seen as a card game.)
Traveller is a science fiction published by Game Designers Workshop. The game has been changed and is now published under the title Megatraveller, with Traveller 2300 AD being another title in that line. This game has neither magic nor religion, though the occasional psionic ability (ESP, Telepathy, etc.) could be taken by some as demonic. It is a very popular game.
Boot Hill was a wild west game published by TSR. It has been out of print since the mid 1980s.
Demons was a small board game from SPI, Inc. It appeared in 1980/81 and has been out of print since 1982. SPI was later absorbed by TSR and the game has not been reissued.
The Court of Ardor is not a role playing game, but an adventure for the Middle Earth Role Playing Game (a game based on the world of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of The Rings). (It cannot be used except in conjunction with the MERP or with another RPG after extensive revision.) Iron Crown Enterprises first published it in 1983 and it was the toughest/highest level adventure produced for that game system. It has been out of print for the last couple of years and there are no immediate plans to reprint it.
Melee & Wizard is actually two games: Melee and Wizard. Melee was a man to man combat game and Wizard was a magic duel game. The two could be combined for larger battles. Designed by Steve Jackson, they were published by Metagaming. They have been out of print since Metagaming's collapse in 1983.
Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World were both TSR products released in the late 70s and early 80s. MA is out of print, though Gamma World had a revised edition in 1986. Gamma World has been revived as Gammarauders, but the two games have little more than concept in common.
So, of the thirteen games on the Pulling list, the score is:
5 out of print
5 in serious decline
2 are not role playing games at all
1 is still popular, but goes under a different name
Mrs. Pulling's expertise with games apparently ends with 1983 because all of the products she lists in her 1989 book were printed before then, and none that have hit the market since are covered or even mentioned with the exception explained below.
Mrs. Pulling continues her listing of games in Web by noting, "In England, a fantasy role-playing game is being played by mail. A news article headline reads, 'Kids sent murder in the mail.' ...The game is called 'It's A Crime,' and details have been mailed to homes all over England."
What Mrs. Pulling fails to understand, it seems, is that "It's A Crime" is a game that was created and is still being run here in the United States. It has been available since 1985 and is produced by Adventures By Mail. The game deals with building up a criminal cartel, which is not a subject I find particularly attractive, but it has enjoyed a modest following since its inception.
She continues on, calling "Further into Fantasy" a "popular fantasy-by- mail game in England." She links it to the case of Michael Ryan, a young man who went on a shooting spree in England. What she does not know is that the game was very small, had no more than two dozen players and was being run by two Swedes in Scotland. The game collapsed after the Michael Ryan incident and the Swedes fled the country. No charges of any sort
have been brought against them and no one has suggested his involvement in the game had anything to do with his madness.
Dungeons & Dragons. Her grasp of RPGs is weak, however, and can be pointed up through things she has written. Or, in the case of the How the Game Is Played section of The Devil's Web, things she has rewritten.
For the sake of brevity, I will only quote a couple of passages from The Devil's Web and it's source: The Darren Molitor Letter.
The Devil's Web:
The game itself is set in the middle ages. Each player is solely responsible for the actions of his character, and all players are under the direction of the Dungeon Master. Play begins with the six rolls of dice by each participant who then uses the six numbers he has rolled to organized the traits of his character (based upon strength, intelligence, wisdom, constitution, dexterity, and charisma). If he wishes, he may roll again to determine the physical size of his character after which he assigns his persona, a race (such as elf, dwarf, etc.), a class (occupation) and an alignment (attitude or outlook).
The Darren Molitor Letter:
The game is called "Dungeons & Dragons" and it is a fantasy role-playing game. As you can probably assume from the title it is set in the medieval era of our time or history. Because it is a game of "fantasy" anything is possible and being a "role-playing" game means you act as a character of that time as if you were on stage. But there is no physical action on the player's part.everything is played or imagined in the mind. And you, as the player, are the sole person responsible for the action of your character or characters. You control him totally. His/her actions, words feelings, thought. Everything about this character you control.
To obtain a "character", [sic] a player must first roll three six-sided dice. Add up the numbers rolled and write it down. A player does this six times and then he must organize the numbers he has rolled to the six characteristics of his character. The six characteristics are strength, intelligence, wisdom, constitution, dexterity and charisma. These characteristics are the "heart" of your character. After which the player may roll to obtain the height and weight or he/she may choose it. The player assigns a race to the character, a class, which is his/her occupation and the alignment. An alignment is the character's attitude or outlook on life.
The Devil's Web:
[The Dungeon Master's] major responsibility is to create an adventure or dungeon for the characters. Books are available with prepared dungeons, but most DMs prefer to create the dungeons themselves. He must invent the scenery that the characters may encounter in the course of the adventure, the climate, the smells, the monsters and the treasure. This process can take from 36 to 48 hours of work. One woman has left her career to be a full-time DM; she is supported entirely by her D&D players.
The Darren Molitor Letter:
The DM has a lot of responsibility, as you can imagine. For example, the DM must create an adventure or dungeon. There are many books called modules with "dungeons" already prepared, but for the most part the DM creates them himself/herself. He/she must create the scenery (indoor, outdoor, underground, the various and numerable characters a player may encounter, the temperature, the smell, the monsters and the treasure. [sic] It is a very long and tedious process and the average dungeon takes anywhere from 36-48 hours of work. There is one case of the game being followed, that the DM, a lady, has quit her job and does nothing except create and prepare a dungeon for her players. She has created an entire country. The players of the group support her living necessities. They pay for her home, her groceries, her bills, etc.
I provide the text comparison above for two reasons, neither of which is to prove Pat Pulling or her ghost writer Kathy Cawthon plagiarists. The first block of text from Darren is an accurate, if semi-literate, explanation of how a character is created for D&D. What is important in the representation of this explanation is that it attaches great importance to rolling dice when creating a character. As players know, the more important part of character creation is the fabrication of a background story so you have an idea of who the character you are to play is and what he wants out of the game. This is directly analogous to actors creating fictional pasts for their characters in movies so they know how to base their portrayal in whatever project they are doing.
The second excerpts are important because here we have Pat Pulling's source for her comment about a woman who is supported solely by her players. If she exists at all, and I am dubious about taking a convicted murderer's word for that, she must have friends who have money to burn. In all the years I have spent involved with gaming I have never heard of a DM or Gamemaster who is being "kept" by his or her players. A non-working spouse might act as DM for a group of players, but that is hardly the picture painted above.
Lastly, it is indeed possible to lavish incredible amount of time in building up a world for gaming. The total number of hours spent probably dwarfs the numbers given above, but it is time spent both gaming and in one or two hour bites here and there. The first adventure a player creates might take 10 or 12 hours to get perfect, but very few folks have the gumption to make their game a full time job. As the learning curve progresses, design time becomes shorter and some individuals, myself included, run games totally off the cuff; no preparation
time at all.
No one said games can't be time consuming, but what relaxing hobby isn't?
It would be fallacious to suggest the only way a doctor could cure a disease is to have had the disease. On the other hand, an expert in gaming would be expected to have an understanding of a game, and few are the people who can fully comprehend all the nuances and features of a game without playing it. Just reading the rules of chess and learning how to move the pieces does not impart the understanding of the game that playing it several times does.
DragonLance series of novels? Based on a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, they went on to become best selling books ranked on the New York Times Best Seller List.
It is clear that Mrs. Pulling is not an expert in games. She takes as gospel the word of a disturbed youth who was convicted of murder and gives it her imprimatur. She has no idea of what games are current, that the trends are actually away from fantasy and can find no more fault with some products than that they use 3 six-sided dice at one point in them. (One could argue Craps, though a die shy of the proscribed number, is clearly demonic, while Yahtzee only imperils the soul if played with less than four dice.)
Ignorance is bliss, except when it becomes a crusade.
WHAT can we do?
2. Keep an open mind
3. Stay objective
5. If individual is involved in "satanic activity," he/she will deny a great deal to protect other members of the group as well as the "satanic philosophy".[sic]
These three points are interesting when grouped together like this. While Pat encourages and open mind and objectivity in points 2 and 3, she provides a caution in point 5. In essence, she says, if they do not tell you what you want to hear, they are lying because Satanists will lie to protect their friends. This advice also sets up a "Catch-22" for gamers when the police use the questionnaire Pulling has provided in this packet.
In the questionnaire titled Interviewing Fantasy Role Playing Gamers Pulling advises:
It is very important to understand that not all players of fantasy role playing games over identify with the game and or their player/characters. However, it appears that a significant amount of youngers are having difficulty with separating fantasy from reality. Or in other instances, their role playing has modified their behavior to the extent that they react in real life situations in the same fashion that they would react in a gaming situation. This is not always obvious or apparent to the suspect. The personality change is so subtle that in some cases the role player is unaware of any behavior or personality changes.
Here again we have a warning to the cops that a player may not be able to distinguish between fantasy or reality, and that any behavior change is so subtle the person might not notice it. Pulling continues:
This is why it is important for the investigator to not only be familiar with the game but to be able to ask questions which are relevant to the suspect's gaming background.
Once we get into these questions, things get interesting. Recall that Pulling has told the investigators that the players will lie to protect their friends. She has also said the players may not be functioning in this reality. Bearing those things in mind, as well as endeavoring to be open minded, the investigator is given the following list of questions with hints for answers. Anything within asterisks (*) are my comments added in.
1. Since it is necessary to have a Dungeon Master or game master/leader and two or more player characters, it is important to ask the suspect, who is the Dungeon Master. [sic] (At this point you may get double talk about several people being the Dungeon Master or the suspect may say "no one in particular. [sic] This is not typically standard. Generally there is one person who assumes the continuous lead of Dungeon Master.)
*Actually, sharing the Gamemaster duties is more common. In one gaming group in Phoenix we had a half-dozen Gamemasters working within the same world. Switching off Gamemastering duties, especially between game systems is very common and gives everyone a chance to experience both sides of the game.*
2. What is the character of your suspect in the game?
They will be as follows: Thief, Magic User, Fighter, Cleric. In the aforementioned character classes they may be sub-classes that the individual will refer to such as Thief-Assassin, etc.
*These are most often known as character classes in gaming. They were very common in early RPGs, but often went by other names, like Rogue, Wizard, Shaman, etc. Since 1983 or so, virtually no game has come out with character classes because they are restrictive to play. It would be very easy for a player to deny having a Thief or Magic User or Fighter or Cleric.*
3. Also, ask the individual if he "ran" multiple characters such as a Fighter/Magic-user.
*The same comment as above applies - denying knowledge of how to answer this question would not be
uncommon among gamers.*
4. Each character will have certain abilities or attributes such as Strength, Wisdom, Intelligence, Charisma, Constitution and Dexterity.
These abilities are obtained by rolling 3 6-sided dice. Therefore, the ability score of each category will range from 3 to 18. You should find out what the [attributes are for their current game characters].
*Two problems here. Many games have attributes with different names, like Agility, Speed, Comliness, Presence, Essence and Body. Furthermore only in D&D are scores restricted to 3-18. In Tunnels & Trolls, for example, scores have no cap. In Traveller they go from 1 to F and in ShadowRun they go from 1-7. In a game I finished designing in July 1989, attributes run from 2-20 initially and are determined by point allocation or the
roll of 2 ten sided dice.*
5. How long has the individual been playing this role playing game?
*No clue given on a proper answer and the relevance of this question is doubtful.*
6. How long has he/she been playing the particular character that he is currently playing?
*Again, no clue as to a right answer.*
7. What is his level of his character/characters? Be specific.
*No clue for an answer here, but this must be an important question because it appears again as question 12. There Pulling explains that level reflects how much power a character has. This is only true in games where they have levels. Like character classes, levels have become somewhat passa' in more recent games.*
8. What is his/her alignment?
The following are a list of categories for alignment: Chaotic Evil, Chaotic Good, Chaotic Neutral, Lawful Evil, Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, Neutral Evil, Neutral Good and Neutral.
"...Observations indicate that in the past a significant number of adolescents will [sic] choose an evil alignment. The reasons that young players give for choosing an evil alignment is they feel that there are less restrictions on the player/characters therefore, they can do more, get by with more and stay alive longer in the game.
*In reality, most players do whatever they have to do and don't worry about alignment. Alignments are generally viewed with distaste among players and are not featured in many games outside the D&D family. (I once postulated an alignment system for a game that consisted of one axis running from Naughty to Nice and the other from Sloppy to Neat, but it never caught on.) Alignments are basically silly and impede play, so are most often
[Pulling continues in this section by noting "There was a young boy who was fourteen years old in Orlando, Florida who stated that he as a Thief with a Lawful Good Alignment. In reality thieves are not thought of in society as Good, therefore the confusion over proper attitudes about more qualities become confused. Right and Wrong are situational. *I might note that Robin Hood or the patriots who held the Boston Tea Party could have been tagged with the label of Lawful Good Thieves.* ]
9. Has the individual has [sic] any curses placed on his/her character? If yes, what kind and get him to discuss the procedure, type of curse.
*Mrs. Pulling's concern over curses stems from her belief that having a curse placed on his character is what drove her son to kill himself.*
10. What was the individual's character name/names?
*Mrs. Pulling places a great deal of weight on the name of characters, especially if they can be found in occult works, such as the dreaded Necronomicon! She also notes Darren Molitor used the names Demun and Sammy Sager for his characters. After he confessed to the FBI, he signed his confession in those names as well as his own.*
11. What was his/her racial class in the game?
This only becomes important with the fact that many youngsters will try to "get over" on you when you ask what is their character and they will tell you that they are an elf. An elf in the game is a racial class, not a character class,
therefore most people feel that elves are innocuous, innocent creature and pass over any involvement with negative thoughts.
The Racial classes are as follows: Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Half-Elven, Halfling *(Hobbit)*, Half-Orc and Human.
*In other games there are other racial/alien types. The advantage of playing a different race comes in added strength for Dwarves, or night vision for Elves, etc. People play other races to escape, which is what relaxation and hobbies are all about. The choice of racial type has no significance.*
12. What is his/her level in the game?
*See question seven.*
13. What god or gods did the individual serve in the game?
*Because most games do not deal with religion, the answer to this game could be "Huh?" very easily.*
As can easily be seen from the material above, not only are the questions insignificant, but the explanation of possible answers are nearly incoherent. Very obviously Pulling's questions are designed todetermine if the suspect can distinguish between fantasy and reality. While it could be argued that this sort of judgement is best made by someone with psychological training, it is an important point because of things Pat Pulling herself mentions in the Techniques.
In her "The Who What When Where and How of Teen Satanism" she appends to the HOW section this curious note: "TWO BASIC PRINCIPLES APPY HERE 'Law of Attraction' and the 'Law of Invitation.'" Being unaware of these "Laws" from a scientific or legal standpoint, my only assumption can be that Mrs. Pulling is referring to laws of magic. This would suggest, then, she believes that individuals within the society are using diabolical powers, governed by certain laws, to enslave or capture our children.
What a fantastic concept.
Mrs. Pulling adds another set of questions to the coven's worth she asked the police to use above. The first is : "Has he read the Necronomicon or is he familiar with it?" In her explanation of this general section she notes, "This will help determine if the individual has a working knowledge of the occult, and if his gaming abilities lean more to the dark side which could give cause or reason for bizarre behavior."
With that being the lead off question, and such a dire explanation, this Necronomicon must be quite a heinous work, you would think.
The fact is that the Necronomicon is a joke. It was created as a volume of "forbidden knowledge" by Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Lovecraft wrote back during the pulp era and created the Elder Gods, the best known of which is Cthulu (Kaa-thu-lu or Kaa-tu-lu). The Necronomicon was supposedly written by the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred. Penned in blood on parchment made of human flesh, it contained a history of the Elder Gods and spoke of
their nature and the things they had done. To read it was to go insane.
Lovecraft shared his "Cthulu Mythos" with the other writers of the day, opening it up to public domain. Cthulu, the other gods and the Necronomicon began to show up in stories in the horror genre from a whole host of writers; professional and amateur alike. Phantom copies of this book would mysteriously appear listed in library databases, though it always seemed to be checked out to a Mr. A. Alhazred.
In short, the Necronomicon became a joke shared by fantasy and horror fans.
In the late seventies the first of at least five different versions of the book appeared on the market. Most are gibberish and at least one version repeats its Romanized Arabic text every ten pages (the author having assumed that no one would ever try to wade through more than ten pages of the nonsense). Another book appeared with a black leather binding and gold stamped cover. It retailed for $50 in 1978 and now goes for well over $100.
Though now extant, The Necronomicon has the same veracity as Gulliver's Travels. Citing it as an occult book would be akin to citing Rona Jaffee's novel "Mazes and Monsters" as an investigative book. (The fact that NCTV's Dr. Thomas Radecki did just that in one of his press releases does not make the novel a factual book.) A moment's research into the Necronomicon would have revealed its less than blue-ribbon pedigree, but Mrs.
Pulling has not apparently put that much study into this tome.
Carelessness and a lack of diligence can explain some of the problems with Mrs. Pulling's approach, but many people feel those shortcomings can be overlooked because they perceive her work as vital and so pure in its motivation. I have to disagree with that sentiment because it condones the deliberate production of erroneous material reminiscent of Joe McCarthy's modus operandi thirty years ago. Pat warns above about determining how much of a gamer's abilities are applied to the "dark side which could give cause or reason for bizarre behavior." Let's take a look at the darkside of Pat Pulling's investigations.
stupidity. I find it a philosophical jewel that helps bleed off anger whenever circumstances conspire to make life inconvenient. When I first heard of Pat Pulling's crusade against games, I applied this bon mot to it and chose not to be angered by her. As time passed and I heard what I classified as distortions coming from that camp, my level of concern rose to the point where I started to look into it.
You might be interested to know, however, the certification process. Anyone with any educational background can obtain a license. One must, though, do two things. First, one must either attend a 42-hour or a 48-hour course, which can be conducted virtually anywhere. The course includes such topics as rules of evidence, civil and criminal procedure, collecting and reporting information, interviewing techniques, and investigative techniques. The difference between the two courses -- six hours -- involves firearms instruction. Obviously, in six hours one cannot learn much about firearms beyond a simple orientation. Anyway, Pulling appears certified in the armed variety. The second prerequisite to obtaining a license is to pass a background investigation consisting of a fingerprint-based criminal records check through the state and FBI files. If one passes the background check, and if one passes a one-hour exam at the end of the private investigator training, one pays for a license.
Her career, if it was six years old in 1987, would have predated her son's 9 June 82 suicide by at least six months. Regardless, she became a PI in October of 1987, and not a second sooner. To represent herself as having been such before that time granted her "facts" a legitimacy that neither they nor her investigations deserve.
Because the story was published in Phoenix, I called Doug Dollemore and we agreed to meet. When I showed him Pulling's edition of his story, he glanced at it, then stopped when he got to the last page. He told me that the original story had run in one long column, and on the last page produced by Pulling it had been snipped into five parts so it could all fit on one sheet of paper. In doing the cutting, the pieces had carefully been rearranged to provide the sheriff's quote last.
As can be seen above, that quote is a nasty indictment of gaming. In Doug's original version of the story it ended with Sean's mother saying, "If there's a trial I want to be there. I want some answers." This was an ending more in keeping with the whole non-judgmental tone of the piece. Doug also noted that the News-Sun had not been contacted for nor given consent for the piece to be reprinted with Pat's material.
Pat Pulling, in her Primer, reprinted the article from the Washington post about her son's death. The story ran a full 20 column inches on 13 Aug 1983, but Mrs. Pulling only runs the first 14 inches of the story. Cut are the comments of a classmate and a defense of Dungeons and Dragons by TSR. The classmate's comments, as can be seen in the cases section of this report, suggest Bink Pulling had more problems than just with the game. (The article concerned the lawsuit Pulling's parents filed against the school where the game was played and TSR, Inc. The case was thrown out of court.)
Most of Mrs. Pulling's publications are compilations of newspaper articles and press releases that are reprinted with little or no comment. While Mrs. Pulling is under no obligation to print follow-up articles that might contradict the first story that she is printing, editing newspaper accounts is, by no means legitimate and, in the case of copyrighted material, is illegal. As will be seen later on in the section of this paper dealing with the cases she cites, contradictory evidence is easy to find.
In January of 1988 Pat Pulling stated, in a Style Weekly article, she "conservatively estimates that about 8 percent of the Richmond [VA]-area population is involved with Satanic worship at some level." A Richmond News Leader article (7 April 89) notes this would be roughly 56,000 people, "more than the number of United Methodists in the Richmond area and nearly the entire population of Hanover County."
In an interview for that story Mrs. Pulling redefined "Satanic worship" as "occult" and said it included "dabbling in witchcraft and such New Age activities as channeling." She went on to say that she had gotten the 8% figure by "estimating 4 percent of the area's teen-agers, and 4 percent of the adults, were involved. She added the figures."
The reporter informed her that mathematically that amounted to 4% of the total population, but she said it didn't matter because 8 percent was probably "conservative" anyway. She went on to add that some of the bodies from unexplained homicides across the country actually may be Satanic sacrifice victims. "They certainly have found a number of unsolved murders with no motive, haven't they?"
Aa Richmond Times-Dispatch article of 23 September 88 noted, "Authorities have estimated that more than 30,000 people nationwide, including doctors, lawyers and other professionals practice... alternative religion [like Satanism and other cults]." In that same article, one that predates both the 8 percent solution and its defense, Pulling is quoted as saying, "To me, this is just like any other fanatic type of group. They're not large in numbers, but they create a lot of problems."
Barely seven months earlier another Richmond Times-Dispatch article about Pulling (5 March 88) estimated the number of Satanists at "300,000 nationally." It was noted they come from "as many as four generations of Satanists and from feeding stream of teen-agers recruited with promise of easy drugs and sex and the ultimate in revolt against parental control. 'We've found that the people in Satanism can be found on all levels of society,' says Pat Pulling...'Across the country, doctors, lawyers, clergymen, even police are involved in this.'" In this
particular story she also makes her famous 8 percent remark, but it goes unquestioned and uncorrected.
Mrs. Pulling gives us a number of conflicting images in these stories. First we have 300,000 Satanists involved in all levels of society, including the police. Seven months pass and they've been reduced to a tenth of their former number, but they still comprise 8% of the Richmond area population. At this point Mrs. Pulling calls them "not large in number." Later yet she defends her error in estimating 56,000 people of Richmond as being Satanists by noting her estimate was "conservative."
Statistics are useful for all sorts of things. For example, if we take Mrs. Pulling's estimated eight percent and apply it to her base user population for Dungeons and Dragons of 4,000,000, we get 320,000 individuals. That is more than the number of Satanists her highest estimate suggests exist. If, however, we apply her definition of Satanism/occultism to the 250,000,000 people in the United States and use her 8%, we get 20,000,000 occultists/Satanists running around in the country.
The important thing to note here is that Pulling's statistics and comments tend to vary wildly. If there was a distinct threat, one that could be dealt with in a clear manner, the statistics would support her theories. But when Pat needs to show she's up to the job of taking on the Satanists, they're no problem. When she's speaking to the press or police officers about the threat, it takes on biblical proportions. It could be argued that Pat has a firmer grasp on all this stuff than anyone else, but the lack of evidence to back up her estimates, and the sheer outlandishness of those estimates, cast doubt upon them.
One other thing must be understood here. Mrs. Pulling notes that the police have plenty of murders nationwide with no motive and suggests that many of them could be Satanist victims. As her class in evidence gathering should have pointed out, a motive is not necessary for a crime or conviction. Random murders and serial killings occur with no motive in evidence. Furthermore, a motive might be so obscure that unless a suspect is caught, there's no way to begin to even guess at the reason someone might have had for killing another person.
Anyone could advance a theory for the "motiveless murders" that stump police on a yearly basis. It could be suggested that mole-men from the hollow earth come up to kidnap slaves, and the dead are ones who resisted. Better yet, some Nazi conspiracy is killing off people related to men who defeated the Third Reich. An utterly mad serial killer who travels around and stalks names randomly chosen from a phonebook also explains these murders. The fact is, however, none of those explanations make mole-men or Nazi conspirators or a serial murderer fact.
Why then, when the Satanist conspiracy produces as much evidence as our mole-men, are mystery murders ascribed to Satanists?
Pat Pulling, during her odyssey through the Satanic wasteland of Richmond, has come across some truly interesting characters. Cassandra "Sam" Hoyer is one who claims that she was raised in New England to become a High Priestess for a Satanic Cult. Both she and Pulling appeared on a KFYI radio show in
Phoenix on Satanism.
In an article in INSIGHT (11 January 88) Sam says she was given over to the cult at the age of 3 by her mother. She was "born physically perfect and so was found acceptable to Satan. Her twin sister was born with a deformed foot. The sister was ritually murdered, she says." On KFYI Sam elaborated, saying she was trained until the age of 17 to be the High Priestess. At that time she was sent out into the world even though she had witnessed multiple murders. She confessed to having consumed some of her sister's body at the time of her murder.
In a Richmond News Leader story (21 Sept 88) she said
she was, at the
age of 9, "ritually burned and I was one who didn't [die]. By the grace
I didn't burn, which means I was chosen to be Satan's high priestess at
age of 42." [Note: God makes Satan's draft picks for him!] She also
was tortured and abused for 16 years, then hypnotized into forgetting
everything later. "When I turned 39 they would attempt to tap back into
In a News Leader article (7 April 89) Sam's
psychotherapist said she
suffered from multiple personality disorder. The article goes on to
Ms. Hoyer began to realize she was a Satanic cult victim while
psychotherapy in recent years.
In the KFYI radio program callers were allowed to as questions of the guests. The most telling question for Hoyer came when a male caller asked, "Do Satanists believe in an afterlife?" Sam answered, "Oh, no, I don't think so." This from a woman who was being trained to be a High Priestess?
It doesn't take someone in the College of Cardinals, or a seminary graduate to answer that question from the Catholic point of view. How is it, then, that a woman being trained to hold sacrifices couldn't answer that question? And why, if Cassandra Hoyer is so terrified of Satanists finding her, is she willing to go public with her story, letting people know she lives and has lived in Richmond for the past nine years. If these Satanists are so good at making all their other victims disappear, why has Hoyer survived?
Larry Jones and File 18
As odd as it seems for Pat Pulling to be retained as a "jury trainer"
expert witness in murder cases, odder still is her alliance with Larry
Jones serves with the Boise, Idaho police department and is the head of
Cult Crime Impact Network, Inc. He is the publisher of File 18, a
that he claims reaches between 1,500 and 2,500 law enforcement
individuals. File 18 reports on occult crimes from all over the
appears to use as its sources newspaper clippings sent by readers and
A few excerpts from File 18 are in order to reflect BADD's ties with it, and the general slant of its editorial bias. While each issue bears the following, or some variation of the following disclaimer, the newsletter carries no copyright. Disclaimer: "CONFIDENTIAL: RESTRICTED ACCESS INFORMATION FOR OFFICIAL LAW ENFORCEMENT USE ONLY." The April 1989 issue expands this to read: "CONFIDENTIAL: RESTRICTED ACCESS INFORMATION. NOT FOR RELEASE TO PUBLIC, MEDIA, OR UNAUTHORIZED PERSONS OR GROUPS. INFORMATION IN THIS PUBLICATION IS INTENDED TO PRIMARILY AID LAW ENFORCEMENT, AND LEGITIMATE COMMUNITY PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE COMBATTING CULT-MOTIVATION CRIMES AND ASSISTING SURVIVORS.
The December 1988 issue notes the link with BADD.
XI. WHO HAS YOUR ADDRESS?
The February 1989 issue provides an interesting look into the thought processes of individuals charged with seeking evidence in criminal cases:
All across the United States, men sit in prisons and on death rows convicted of satanic sacrifice killings. Others have been imprisoned for gruesome abuse and victimization of infants, children, and adults. Adult survivors tell strikingly similar accounts of bondage, fear, mind control, and rituals accomplished for years under the noses (or with the complicity) of so-called "normal society" and its officials.
In that same issue the following appears:
Lastly, the two following quotes come from the April 1989 issue of File 18:
A bit later in that same issue we get:
This File 18 material needs discussion to cover only a
couple of points.
The general tone of paranoia is disturbing within a document being
published by and for police officials and other interested
idea that the solution to satanic crimes is a personal encounter with
Christ went out with witch trials. Flip Wilson's line "The devil made
me do it"
brought laughs twenty years ago, now it apparently is a motive for
from vandalism to mass murder.
Most of what appears in File 18 "is quoted from books and articles available on the newsstands... Most so-called 'police only' materials we now use have been developed by civilians!" If this is true, why does Jones publish it and thereby provide it with a veneer of legitimacy that it does not deserve? Newspaper accounts stress the unusual and always seek to have a unique angle, but that angle often fades to insignificance as a case is studied. Why then is some much emphasis placed on newsstand accounts?
The File 18 "vertical conspiracy" theory falls quickly when Occam's Razor is applied to it with even the barest of pressure. What need is there of an invisible cabal when Dan Rather or Geraldo Rivera inform everyone of any bizarre occurrence from coast to coast - making copycat antics not only easy, but a surefire way of getting publicity? Why does anyone need cultists propagating their rituals in secret when anyone can pick up a hundred different horror novels that describe things in spine-chilling detail?
The place where the most caution is needed for someone looking into the
"Satanism" phenomena comes when the above questions are answered. To
the people involved in the crusade against diabolism, the answer to our
latter question is that the horror novelists are part of the conspiracy. This
will not be said in such plain terms, but the veiled threats of a conspiracy
including doctors, lawyers, cops and other professionals covers enough bases
to leave one questioning who to trust. The conclusion will be left for you to
make, and placing people on the inside is easier than trying to sort out the
Face it, anyone who reads Stephen King has got to wonder where he
comes up with his ideas. That question leaves the lingering impression that
King must not be on the same wavelength as the rest of us. And because his
work is so exacting in detail, it is very easy to assume that he must have
special knowledge - he must be connected with all this nonsense in some
way. The fact that some misguided kids are found acting out a scene of one
of his books confirms that King is chronicling true rituals, ignoring the fact
that the kids were recreating his work. Not only does this put the cart before
the horse in a big way, but it leads to stereotyping that quickly lumps all
Where does a writer get his material? What he doesn't glean from
newspapers, magazines and research, he makes up. He uses his imagination
and puts things together to get the desired effect. If he wants a scary scene
he sets it at night with fog and the scent of decaying garbage. He includes
pentagrams and skulls, and whatever other trappings Hollywood and the
popular conception of a scary scene would contain. A splash of blood, a chant
or two, and suddenly an evil ritual is born.
Just like the reader, the writer does not have to know what is REAL, he
just has to know what people believe is real. Likewise, Pat Pulling does not
need to present real instances and evidence, she merely needs to give out a
few details and allude to darker, hidden knowledge that is too confidential
for the uninitiated to know. Our imaginations take over where Pat's leaves
As an investigator, Pat Pulling is not even barely competent. Her clients get their money's worth only when she's doing *pro bono * work.
Pat Pulling could be a writer of fiction, however. Professional fiction
writers, if you think about it, are paid liars. As can be seen from the cases
below, Pat's mastered the art of fictioneering or, more kindly, of creating a
revisionist history to bolster her in her crusade against a game she has
chosen to blame for the loss of her son.
I would do my best to present a detailed refutation of each and every one
of the 125 cases of suicide and murder Pat Pulling cites as having occurred.
"The list goes on and on. Well over 100 incidents have been widely
publicized in newspapers all over the country. A considerably larger number
of cases have not been made public."
Unfortunately, the cases that Mrs. Pulling has chosen to make public are
presented with so little detail that determining when and where they
happened is nearly impossible. Such cases, until evidence can be presented
to show they even exist, have to be considered anecdotes. As you will see in
the cases presented below, such anecdotes are easily refuted by evidence
often presented in the same newspaper article that reported them in the
first place. Because of that tendency with these cases, the urge to dismiss
anything anecdotal is overwhelming.
It should be noted at this point that what follows is not meant to be an
indictment of the press. While it as been asserted that journalism is merely a
suffix of the word irresponsible, the fact is that a reporter's job is to seek out
the unusual and inform us of it. A headline's purpose is to draw the reader
to that story. If there is a problem with modern news reporting it is that
articles cannot be inexorably linked to their follow-ups and clarifications
when they are quoted and republished.
The cases covered below are presented in no specific order. Many have been chosen because they are the cases that have been touted very heavily to justify BADD's actions. These cases, as you will see, fall apart rather quickly. If there is nothing to these seminal cases, then one has to wonder what could be there in the cases BADD does not emphasize.
James Dallas Egbert III Dallas Egbert is the first case of D&D being linked with bizarre behavior in a youth, and is the story that started all the furor back in 1979. Dallas was a brilliant yet troubled boy who graduated from high school at 13 and had entered Michigan State University at the age of 14. Pushed by his parents to excel, having a younger brother who was even brighter than he was, and being physically smaller and more frail than his older classmates, Dallas felt a great deal of pressure. By his Junior year he had discovered he was a homosexual and had become a substance abuser ; going so far as to cook up his own drugs in a lab on campus.
On 15 August 1979 Dallas decided to commit suicide. He took a drug
overdose while in the steam tunnels beneath his dorm. He awakened after
some time and ran away to stay with a friend in the homosexual community
in Lansing. By the time he regained his wits, the police had begun a massive
search for him and his parents had hired William Dear to find him. His
homosexual friends, being afraid of being charged with kidnapping a minor,
gave Dallas money and got him out of Michigan.
The police search for Dallas proved fruitless, though an arcane game map on Dallas' bulletin board in his room led them to believe he was playing a strange game. The press picked up on this and published the story concerning his disappearance and Dungeons and Dragons.
On 13 September 1979 Dallas called Dear at his Texas office and arranged
to be brought in. At that time, according to Dear's book The Dungeon
Master, Dallas said D&D had nothing to do with his disappearance. Dear
asked, "You really enjoyed Dungeons & Dragons, didn't you?" (The Dungeon
Master, page 268)
Dear later writes:
Dallas's suicide, a year after his disappearance, continues to be linked to
the game D&D even though the game, in fact, had nothing to do with either
his death or his disappearance.
This linkage is in part due to William Dear because, to sell more books, he
hopped on the anti-D&D bandwagon, blaming the game for Dallas' death
despite what he himself had written in the book. Lest this accusation of
blatant opportunism seem gratuitous, the Dallas Times Herald, 11 December
1988, page K-4, provides more evidence to pinpoint Dear's mercenary
motives. An ad offering autographed copies of The Dungeon Master has the
header "True Story of Boy Genius Hooked on Danger & Drugs." With the
public's concern turning toward drugs, Dear shifted his emphasis to sell more
BADD seems willfully ignorant of the time lapse between Dallas'
disappearance and his death. In a radio debate on KFYI (14 July 87) with the
author, Rosemary Loyacano reacted as if the year's time lag in no way
severed the connection between D&D and Dallas' death. Dallas is still touted
as the first martyr created by D&D.
Daniel and Steve Erwin These two young men, 16 and 12 years old respectively, had a death pact and died less than four blocks from their home, with Steve shooting his brother through the head, then killed himself. BADD points out that in the first article on the death a detective says, "There is no doubt that D&D cost them their lives."(The Denver Post 4 November 84)
In an article in the Jainesville Gazette (18 Sept 85) the family denied any
connection between the game and their sons' deaths. "Two young brothers
carried out a murder-suicide pact last fall because the older brother feared
his sentencing in an auto theft case, not because of the Dungeons & Dragons
fantasy game, their mother said." The article went on to quote Daniel's
Harold T. Collins is acknowledged in the NCTV release of 17 January 85
has having died on 30 April 83 of "auto-erotic hanging." He was 18 and lived
in Marion, Ohio. An article reprinted by BADD in Primer from The Lake
Country News-Herald (30 April 83) says the police confiscated letters from
friends in Kentucky that indicated many of them were involved in auto-
erotic hanging. It also notes that his sister did not think highly of Harold's
spending a lot of time playing D&D, but nothing indicates that the two items
are related in any way.
Timothy Grice killed himself with a shotgun on 17 January 1983 at the age
of 21. NCTV quoted a detective as saying, "D&D became a reality... He thought
he was not constrained to this life but could leave and return because of the
In a 20 September 85 letter to Dragon Magazine, his mother, Royce Grice,
Irving Lee "Bink" Pulling Bink was Pat Pulling's son. According to an
NCTV release (17 Jan 85) he shot himself on 9 June 82 "hours after a D&D
curse was placed on him during a game conducted at his local high school."
In BADD's Primer, Pulling reprints 14 of 20 column inches of a 13 August
83 story concerning the Pullings' lawsuit against the school where the game
was played and against TSR.
The article notes:
In the section of the article Pulling did not print the following appeared:
Though she presents herself as taken utterly unawares by her son's
death, at least in BADD publications, Mrs. Pulling was aware of her son's
problems. During a seminar given at the North Colorado/South Wyoming
Detective Association 9-12 Sept 86 (and as reported in File 18) she said her
son had been displaying "lycanthropic" tendencies like running around the
backyard barking. Within the month before his death, 19 rabbits Bink had
raised were inexplicably torn apart, and a cat was found disembowled with a
It seems very clear that Bink Pulling was a disturbed youth.
Steven Loyacano Steven was the son of Rosemary Loyacano, the Western
Regional Director for BADD. According to his mother, on KFYI radio (14 July
87), an occult recruiter used D&D to lure her son into the world of Satanism.
After his death on 14 October 82 of carbon monoxide poisoning, Rosemary
said she found occult books, occult pornography, symbols from black masses,
including altar cloths and candles hidden in her son's room. She said that
friends of his said he had engaged in "rituals and animal sacrifices." As she
searched his room and looked in drawers she found his writings which she
describes as "horrible."
Ted Schwarz and Duane Empey chronicle Steven's case in their book Satanism. [Note: They withhold his name, but the age, location, method of death and details supplied in published statements by the family all clearly point to his identity.] Throughout his "journey through a maze of fantasy, isolation, and ultimate madness" they splice in selections from his diaries. While the entries are undated, they do seem consistent and certainly reveal a youth feeling increasingly isolated as he stumbled through his teen years.
The report his introduction to D&D came when he was 14 years old. His
introduction to the occult happened some time after he had started playing
As a result, the authors say, Steven made a pact with the devil, promising
him his own and 20 other souls within the next 30 years. In exchange Steven
was to be given invisibility, the ability to shape shift, to stop time, to fly, to
levitate objects and to cast hellfire. He began to browse occult bookshops
without his parents' knowledge and began to read on mythology, fantasy and
the occult. Unlike Mrs. Loyacano, the authors do not mention occult group
involvement - they only mention one other friend as going to the bookstores
to him and detail no ceremonies or sacrifices.
The book goes on to say:
Later they note:
The suggestion that he had given his family no clues that something was
wrong is contradicted by a quote from his sister in Newsweek (9 Sept 85):
"The family knew something was wrong when he took down his Cheryl Ladd
posters and replaced them with pictures of demons."
The family has asserted throughout that Steven killed himself because he
could not resolve the conflict between his desire to shed blood and his love
for his family. He was afraid that he would kill them and decided, instead, to
kill himself. His suicide note, as reprinted in Satanism only hints at that
being his motive in the last paragraph:
Steven clearly was a disturbed boy, but did D&D cause his death? I tend
to think not. D&D may have sparked an interest in the occult, but it did not
kill him. In fact, nothing in BADD or NCTV publications, the discussion with
Rosemary Loyacano or the book Satanism suggest Steven was anything
more remarkable than a teen ager who was consumed by isolation and
Michael Dempsey Michael Dempsey was the 17 year old son of retired
Seattle police man Patrick Dempsey. (Dempsey is listed along with Pat
Pulling and Rosemary Loyacano as the author of a BADD publication about
NCTV says of Michael's 19 May 81 suicide: "Parents witnessed him
summoning D&D demons only moments before killing himself." (17 Jan 85
release). The Chicago Tribune story of 7 Jan 85 clarifies that a bit, saying
"Michael shot himself in the head...only hours after his parents discovered
him in his room as he invoked demons from the game." Newsweek's 9 Sept
85 story said "...following an argument with his father, he shot himself to
death." Rosemary Loyacano, on KFYI (14 July 87) said she had spoken with
Patrick Dempsey and that the argument concerned Michael spending too
much time programming D&D into a computer.
BADD has assumed that because the argument concerned the game, that is the reason Michael killed himself. The idea that fighting with his father might have emotionally affected him and caused his suicide - whatever the cause of the fight - seems to have slipped away in importance. If he and his father had been arguing about sports or schoolwork, it is safe to bet that neither of those things would be blamed for his death.
Missy Macon was a clerk in a convenience store who was killed in a robbery by Cayce Moore, Scott Davis and Chris White. A 27 October 85 story from the Ragland, Alabama News-Aegis says that Moore told Chris White they wanted to live the life of "Top Secret." They procured guns, rode around in a car until they hit upon what they wanted to do, and even agreed the Cayce was to kill the clerk because "he [had] the small gun."
The detective who found the youths had to talk Moore and Davis out of killing themselves. He testified in court that he did not know what "Top Secret" was, but that the boys had told him it was a game "similar to Dungeons & Dragons." The newspaper account goes on to correct the detective and describes "Top Secret" as a game played on college campuses in which players try to assassinate targets with dart guns, squirt guns or similar non-lethal weapons. [Known as "Killer" or "Assassin," the game enjoyed a certain amount of popularity at the beginning of the '80s. It has largely be usurped by Survival or Paint-Pellet games in the countryside.]
In fact, the detective was correct. Top Secret was a role playing game
produced by TSR that allowed players to adventure as spies. As the object of
the game was recreate James Bond type adventures, it is hard to cast an
armed robbery as part of the game's milieu. Even more curious is BADD's
omission of Top Secret from the list of games Mrs. Pulling has published as
being like D&D and harmful.
In short, these boys decided to pull a robbery and ended up murdering
someone. If they had truly wanted to play the game, they would have just
played the game.
Roland Cartier was 13 years old when he hung himself on 25 April 84. The
Christian Information Council, a fundamentalist group, campaigned against
Dungeons & Dragons being played at school, blaming his death on the game.
But, according to a New York Times story (22 Aug 85) "At a meeting in May,
the state police trooper who investigated the suicide, Paul Roy, said,
'Dungeons and Dragons no way killed this kid.' He said the youth had become
involved with drugs....'I'm sick of them saying that Roland killed himself
because of D&D - it was drugs,' said Erick Bergeson, who used to play with
the dead youth."
USA Today, on 2 August 85, ran a story that said, in part, "Shawn
Dowling, 14, who was in Roland Cartier's class at Putnam (CT) Middle School,
doesn't believe D&D caused his death. Nor does Cartier's mother, Martha, who
moved from town last month."
Martha Cartier said in a letter to the Observer Patriot (reprinted in the
Norwich CT Bulletin) "My son also played Uno, Yahtzee, Monopoly and other
games and I'll say it again - it was not from any game that my son
committed suicide. Not even D&D."
Unfortunately, the pressure on the school to remove the game continued.
As the AP reported on 8 Oct 85 "After a six month debate, the teacher
supervising student participation in the game had decided against continuing
to oversee D&D. Because no activity is allowed without a supervisor, the
game will be dropped."
James A. Stalley killed himself with a sawed off shotgun during a school
drama class at Arlington High School. The headline reads "Classmates
stunned by youth's suicide in front of his drama class." The lead sentence of
the article, however, gives a different slant to the whole story: "A teen-ager
who killed himself with a sawed-off shotgun in front of his drama class *was
a devotee of the fantasy game Dungeons and Dragons * and had a lead role in
this weekend's school play, friends said."[Emphasis added by BADD's
underlining in the reprinted article.]
The article goes on to note that James was a shy, intellectual who enjoyed
D&D, read science fiction and practiced Tai Chi Chuan. He had joined the
school drama club earlier that year and had already had a role in his first
play. Why the D&D angle was singled out for the lead line is unclear, but
nothing in the story suggests D&D caused his suicide any more than Tai Chi
or science fiction or being in the drama club.
Clifford Meling was a 17 year old weight lifter whose suicide was reported
in the Sunday Des Moines Register on 11 September 1988 with the headline:
"Dungeons, dragons and despair over illness before teen's suicide." The
coroner said, "I can't say [D&D] was the only factor [in the suicide] but it was
one of them. This particular game appears to lock into people's thinking. It
can mess up vulnerable kids."
Clifford's father Gary disagreed. He pointed to the fact that his son was
depressed about his inability to play football for the Green Mountain-Garwin
Wolverines. The previous year he had played on the state championship
team, but in July he came down with mononucleosis. He lost 20 pounds and
was left too weak to play football. "You could see it in his face," his father
said, "He was just drained."
Cliff tried to return to the team, but threw up on the first day of practice
and passed out on the second. "I talked to him a half and hour before [his
suicide] happened. He said, 'Dad, last year I was the strongest kid in the
class. This year I can't do nothing.'"
The coroner said Cliff's suicide note said nothing about D&D.
Darren Molitor, Pat Beach, John Justice, James Alan Kearbey, Sean
Sellers, Jeffrey Meyers, Daniel Kasten All these young men have been
arrested for and convicted of murder. At one of three points a role playing
game has been brought into their cases: 1) Mentioned by the press at the
time of the murder, 2) Mentioned by defense lawyers as the reason for the
crime (in an insanity defense) and 3) Mentioned after conviction as the
reason for the crime in a move for clemency.
Darren Molitor is the darling of BADD. Pat Pulling testified at his trial in
St. Louis. In The Devil's Web she says, "My role was that of jury education,
explaining to the jury members the game of "Dungeons & Dragons" and how
it is played." Despite several days during which the jury was excluded from
the court room while the prosecution objected to Mrs. Pulling's appearance at
the trial, she was allowed to testify.
In her writings, Pat has placed a lot of weight on the fact that Darren
signed his confession with the names "Demun" and "Sammy Sagar" in
addition to his own name. Those were the names of two game characters he
played. Molitor also described Mary Towney's death as a "prank." He said her
strangulation was a Friday the 13th trick gone wrong.
In spite of Mrs. Pulling's efforts, Darren was convicted of murder. From prison he sends out a five page letter warning children about the evils of gaming. The letter itself is remarkable in only two things. First, it appears to be the basis of Mrs. Pulling's understanding of the games. While his presentation of how the game is played is not substantially wrong, his presentation of it, as well his choice of character names, shows Darren is not one of the most imaginative players involved in gaming.
As can be seen from the two excerpts presented much earlier, Darren's
letter is virtually illiterate. I mention this not to run Darren down, but
because later in the letter, Darren becomes incredibly intellectual. Compare
Darren's rambling presentation concerning the game presented above with
Aside from this variation in style and choice of words - and the fact that
it and BADD documents prepared by Pat Pulling share the same punctuation
errors - there is no proof that Darren's letter was ghost-written or that he
was coached in the writing of it. It is important to note, however, that Darren
has a very big stake in his "doing the right thing." When he comes up for
parole, his obvious repentance and good works will help him obtain freedom
Pat Beach murdered Amy Boyle and Larry Brock. Villains and Vigilantes (a superhero RPG) books were found at the scene of the murder. Because of that Prosecutor Reid Pixler announced to the press that the game had something to with the murder. Seven weeks later, however, Pixler backed off that possibility. According to a Chicago Tribune story (6 Oct 85) "Beach pleaded guilty to murder, telling psychiatrist that, given the chance, he would do it again, but he would be more careful to eliminate the evidence....Psychiatrists who examined Beach 20 times during the course of the summer concluded that he is a 'schizoid-type' personality."
John Justice murdered his mother, brother and father on 16 Sept 85, then attempted suicide. According to a story in People magazine (18 Nov 85) Dr. Tim Rasmusson, Justice's doctor, said, "He told me killed his mother because she was against everything he ever wanted to do. He said he killed his brother and father out of love - so they wouldn't feel hurt when he and his mother were gone." The story also said, "A few bizarre rumors of his membership in a teenage satanic cult or that he was a D&D devotee who 'sacrificed his family on his DM's orders' are only bizarre rumors."
James Alan Kearbey murdered a junior high school principal and
wounded three others with a rifle. Twilight News & Views (Winter 1986)
said of this case, "According to the information 60 Minutes had, 'Police are
blaming D&D.' ABC's news magazine show, 20/20, did a report on this very
incident on January 2, 1986. Nowhere in the report is D&D mentioned or
referred to." Kearbey did not have an easy life - he was an outcast and
school and was beaten up every day. His teachers ignored him, his father
never gave him any approval and his mother just babied him. "Kearbey's
psychologist explained the occurrence as Kearbey's way of dealing with his
Sean Sellers is on Oklahoma's death row for the murder of his mother and
step-father and a convenience store clerk. This is another trial in which Pat
Pulling participated. In Web she says Sean became involved with D&D at the
age of 13 and that it started his interest in the occult, but it was meeting a
"female witch" at the age of 15, that started his occult involvement. She
"taught him much about the occult and peaked his interest all the more.
[Sean] said that he then formed his own 'coven' based on the D&D level
system and that, while most members were teenagers, some were in their
Schwarz and Empey, in their book Satanism, provide more background
to Sellers' life. His parents divorced early and when his mother remarried,
she worked with her husband - a cross-country truck driver. As a result,
Sean was left with a succession of relatives to be raised. While they do
acknowledge that he played D&D, they utterly de-emphasize it as a factor in
"his choosing the path of Satanism." They do not mention the female witch,
but do allude to a 15 year old girlfriend of whom his parents did not
If anything, Sean Sellers is a self-styled Satanist who created his own
coven and theology. Schwarz and Empey report that since his conviction and
death sentence Sean "came to see himself as having a dual personality ;
Ezurate [a murdering demon] and Sean. He finally turned to Christianity,
studying the Bible, and talking with others about the Lord." However, only a
couple of pages earlier they noted, "Sean made a show of going to visit with a
Catholic priest and even attended a Bible study class at the request of his
mother." Given Sean's track record, his conversion may be nothing more than
a convenient ploy to influence a commutation of his death sentence to one of
Jeffrey Meyers was a soldier who, along with a friend, was arrested in a
"ninja" costume for the murder of an elderly couple. In addition to a number
of weapons being found during the investigation was a copy of Advanced
D&D's Oriental Adventures rule book. Pat spoke with him before his trial and
said, "He discussed his involvement with D&D, weaponry, the martial arts
and Eastern Mysticism." She notes he had studied the occult as well as
"dabbled with drugs." She attaches importance to the fact that his character's
name was Manteiv - Viet Nam spelled backwards.
Dr. Thomas Radecki characterized Jeff's actions as in accordance with
things done during a D&D game. The jury was unimpressed and on 15 Nov
88 guilty and "Unanimously recommend that the defendant, Jeffrey Karl
Meyers, be sentenced to death."
Daniel Kasten was arrested for shooting his adoptive parents on 31 May 87
in Long Island, NY. His lawyer, William Nash, argued that his client was
innocent by reason of insanity - to whit, he believed himself under control
of a D&D monster called a Mind Flayer. The problem with that canard is that
in a videotaped confession, Daniel admitted to having plotted in the long
term to kill his parents. He said in the confession that D&D had nothing to do
with the killing. He also said he had hesitated to kill his parents for so long
"because it was wrong." (Newsday, 21 June 88)
While Nash attempted to show his client was schizophrenic, a state appointed psychologist and a psychiatrist both agreed Kasten was faking his psychoses. In a Newsday story of 30 June 88, prosecutor Randall Hinrichs said he was not surprised at the quick guilty verdict. "'[The jury] obviously realized the evidence that was there and that it was not a viable defense,' he said, referring to the Dungeons and Dragons argument."
Jeffrey Jacklovich shot himself with a revolver on 8 Feb 85 at the age of
14. His suicide note is reported to have said, "I want to go to the world of
elves and fantasy and leave the world of conflict." Because of this note his
death has been linked to D&D instead, as the note itself indicates, his desire
to escape "the world of conflict." Had the note read, "I want to go be with
Jesus and leave the world of conflict," would Jesus have been blamed, or
would everyone had said Jeffrey was just too frail a spirit to endure the
trials and tribulations of this mortal coil?
Sean Hughes was the subject of an article that Pulling edited and reprinted.
Though the boy's death was listed as a suicide, the police seriously doubted
it because neither his rifle or truck had fingerprints on them. In fact, when
Doug Dollemore checked back with the local police, they had a murder
suspect in mind in that case.
Two important points concerning that story should be mentioned. First,
the Police Chief was convinced of D&D's having something to do with Sean's
death because of his own hatred of the game. His son is entranced with it,
and his father does not like it. Second, and more important, Sean had not,
according to friends, played the game in years. Even so, Pulling circulated the
story about Sean, and edited the end of it so the Police Chief's condemnation
of the wrapped everything up.
Perhaps my favorite of the Pulling cases is the very first one that appears
on the NCTV list: Name withheld, details confidential at request of family,
age 14, 1979, suicide. This sort of reporting with vague details is
characteristic of 5 other cases on the list of 37 NCTV first presented. In yet
others, the fact that a person was reported to have played D&D, as seen
above in the Sean Hughes case, is enough to make his death related to the
game, even though the case has not be solved or closed by the police. In
short, if there is any way at all for BADD and NCTV to link anything to D&D,
they do it.
One of the "non-fatal" cases listed points this out in exquisite detail:
Not only is it absurd to suggest that the above crime took place because of D&D, but it is ridiculous to even imply that it would not have taken place were D&D not around. In Web, Pat Pulling quotes Dr. Arnold Goldstein, Ph.D, director of the Center for Research on Aggression at the University of Syracuse, as saying, "We psychologists use role-playing in therapy... to bring about good effects." Simon's seduction of the girl was abuse of trust between patient and therapist and had nothing to do with a game.
In 1985, the BADD/NCTV list contained 37 dead individuals and 5 "non- fatal" cases of D&D violence. They note "...there are 8 more deaths (6 suicides and 2 murders) in which the information is confidential. Pat Pulling & Tom Radecki are investigating an additional 7 murders that have been recently reported to us in 3 separate cases. *Deaths are being reported at the rate of about 5 per month." *[Emphasis added.] In a January 1987 release, however, the list has only grown by two murders and the above rate projection has been amended to read, "Deaths are being reported at the rate of three to four per month."
In that two years a couple of changes were made to the list. They deleted one case (1985, #16, an anonymous suicide). They updated one case (adding the name Mike Cote to 1985, #37/1987, #36). They added two cases with a total of 3 victims (See Patrick Beach and Cayce Moore above). They also add the Roland Cartier case to this list, but have it under its own section: "Reported D&D related deaths with less information available."
Despite the shuffling, the fact is that 120 new cases did not materialize between 1985 and 1987. Likewise, 48 new cases did not arise between 1987 and 1989, despite NCTV's dire predictions. In fact, the only new cases to come to light are those of Sean Sellers, Jeffrey Meyers, Cliff Meling and Daniel Kasten. Adding the 8 deaths between those four cases to the 39 NCTV has already still puts us rather shy Pat Pulling's reported 125 cases.
As an aside, the 1985 release is the one in which Dr. Radecki quotes from
"the investigative book, 'Mazes and Monsters' by Rona Jaffe." Jaffe's book is a
novel, set at an imaginary college in an imaginary town in Pennsylvania. The
fact that it is fiction does not stop Radecki from quoting a letter written to
the school's newspaper about the dangers of D&D as if it were a testimonial.
For one who spends a great deal of time trying to determine if kids know the
difference between fantasy and reality, Dr. Radecki blundered rather grossly
Before I begin my summation, it is necessary to answer one charge that
can be leveled against me as if it will nullify everything I have presented
above. It is simply this: "Of course you're saying all that. We're talking about
your livelihood here. You only care about the money - you don't care about
the hurt families feel."
That charge contains two components to discuss. The first is that I (or
anyone else in gaming) is in it for the money. Nothing could be further from
the truth. The pay scale in the gaming industry is so low as to make serfdom
in the Middle Ages look like an upward career move. Most employees start
at minimum wage and do not rise very high above that during their careers.
Within the industry, when asked by neophytes what you have to do to
become a game designer, the most common answer is, "Take a vow of
poverty." I always add the quick caveat, "Don't worry, the companies will
make certain you keep it."
I stay, as do most of my compatriots, because the work is challenging and
intellectually demanding. With hard work a designer can become a
freelancer. He can pick and choose his tasks, answers only to himself and
gets to have his work published world wide. It is very satisfying to get a
letter from someone who has played and enjoyed a game you've designed,
and even more so when his version of the game is in a language you cannot
Game designers sacrifice many things for their avocation. If you marry
and raise a family it is because your wife works, or you've been fortunate
enough to go after and get a job with a big company. If you have a house or
car or credit cards it's because you've worked very hard or someone with
deep pockets has co-signed with you. It is not easy to remain chronically
impoverished, but when contrasted with the alternative of a dismal, punch-
clock existence, it is more than tolerable.
Game designers live for giving others pleasure and enjoyment. We seek to
make people use their brains, and we turn out products that are vehicles for
socialization within families and groups of friends. Being able to play a game
with someone else turns strangers into friends. Since that's something games
do, I cannot see how they can be described as evil.
As for the second half of the charge - that I don't feel the pain of families
; this I can deny as well. My cousin Richard was five years my senior and
lived only a block from my home. He was very much an older brother for me
as I grew up. I idolized him, as did my younger brother, and many of the
things we did were because Rick had once done them.
There were two notable exceptions to our following his lead. First, my
brother and I did not become involved with drugs. Drugs caused severe
problems for Rick and gave him an escape from his adult responsibilities.
Like a boat in a whirlpool, his lifestyle sucked him down, and drained him
dry of the wit and intelligence we had so admired.
During my sophomore year in college, Rick was in really bad shape, and
desperately wanted to straighten himself out. He came to live at my parent's
home and I found myself playing older brother to him. Rick always had a
ship coming in and tried to look beyond today's problems to tomorrow's
rewards, but he never realized that he was playing a shell game with
himself. In long conversations I recall being confronted again and again with
his certainty that he had an ace in the hole somewhere. Rick moved out after
only a week because he could not hack the rules of the house (like the
prohibition of smoking in bed).
Two things stick out in my mind from the autumn of 1977. The first was my lending Rick a copy of "The Dogs of War" by Frederick Forsythe. I'd enjoyed the book very much and recommended it to Rick. I gave him my copy. I thought he'd find some escape in the adventure novel.
I also recall one day in November when I was taking a shortcut through backyards to go to a class. I saw Rick walking toward our house on the street, but I knew no one was there and I knew he didn't see me. I didn't call out to him or stop to talk with him. I was late for class and I knew Rick would take more time than I wanted to give him at that point. I'd grown tried and frustrated because I knew he'd never change. I just walked on.
I never saw Rick again.
In the end of "The Dogs of War," the hero commits suicide.
In the end of his story, so did my cousin.
My family was notified of Rick's suicide at 9 pm on Christmas Eve. He'd
washed two handfuls of pills down with a beer, then laid down to go to sleep
in the snow at a baseball field only 500 meters from our house. He'd been
there for three days before someone found him half buried in a snowdrift.
Beside him was a list of everything he had taken - perhaps his last weak cry
for help in case someone found him in time.
In the Chicago Tribune story Patrick Dempsey is quoted as saying, "I keep
asking myself why didn't I take an interest in that [D&D] book?"
Paraphrased, that could have been my quote concerning Rick. Why did I give
him a book in which the hero killed himself? I don't know if Rick ever read
the book, but the possibility that he drew inspiration from it is not one I can
Understanding what they went through, however, does not make me the
same as them. I did not live with my cousin day in and day out for 16 years.
I wasn't there to watch the stresses build in his life, I wasn't there watching
his personality change. I didn't have years of clues that something was
wrong, and as a consequence my burden of guilt is no where near as massive
as is theirs.
My guilt has not consumed me. I have accepted it and resolved to pay more attention to friends and family members in need. I did not sublimate my guilt and channel it into a jihad against Frederick Forsythe or adventure fiction. I was able to realize that Rick had far more problems than I ever could have handled. By the end he was a juggernaut that I could probably only have slowed and, if my book sped him up, it was such a small contribution to his problem that it would have gone unnoticed.
Mrs. Pulling, Mrs. Loyacano and Mr. Dempsey have found a scapegoat for
their guilt. They've thrust their responsibility off onto a game that has done
nothing but bring enjoyment to millions of people. They have launched into a
holy war in which anyone who agrees with them - even self-confessed
murderers - are their allies, and anyone who opposed them is a minion of
I realize this is a very harsh indictment of three people who believe they
are on a God-appointed mission to save other children from the fates that
claimed their kids. I know they mean well, but good intentions cannot excuse
the falsification of cases, sloppy methodology and consistent use of
propagandistic tools in their crusade. They have manufactured an insidious
plot in which innocent games become the visible hooks that pull children
into a fatal attraction with Satanism and suicide.
As has been shown above, there is absolutely no link between games and suicide. Not only do statistics provided in a number of different studies explode that claim, but individual examination of case studies prove games innocent. If the suicide statistics for the 14 years since D&D's introduction show anything at all, gamers kill themselves at a rate that is a fraction of that of their peers. Numerical legerdemain aside, having a close group of friends to socialize with provides the sort of support network that experts agree provide help for troubles and warning of suicide.
Likewise there has been no evidence advanced to show games to be
primers on the occult. Aside from the claims of murderers seeking clemency,
or the 20/20 hindsight of people trying to figure out how their child came to
kill himself, nothing indicates games have anything to do with attracting kids
to the occult. In fact, if we took only 4% per year of the 4,000,000 D&D
players in the US for the past 10 years and made them all Satanists, we'd
have 1.6 million devil-worshippers running around. According to the 1989
Information Please Almanac, that would make them the 8th largest religion
in North America, about a million adherents behind Islam. Clearly this has
Equally false is the idea embraced by many fundamentalists that the games are an occult danger because they feature the use of magic. It is believed that using magic in a game transforms someone into a magic user, opening him up to Satanic powers and temptations. It is this school of thought that, carried out to its logical conclusion, says an actor becomes the part he plays. Not only is this clearly absurd on the surface, but the suggestion that magic functions in the real world brings with it a superstitious background dating from the time of the Crusades.
This is not to be unexpected: Reason clearly has nothing to do with the articles of faith to which the misguided so fervently cling.
Pat Pulling's claim of expertise on games has been shown to be
unsubstantiated. She has no clue as to what games are currently on the
market. Her explanation of how to play a game is taken from a description
by a murderer. She is obviously unaware of any trends within the game
industry since 1984 and has not made an attempt to stay current. Her
expertise in gaming is equivalent to the expertise of a geographer who still
believes the world is flat.
Her list of questions presented in Techniques for investigators to ask
suspects includes material that does not pertain to the vast majority of
games on the market today. The answers she supplies police officers do not
have explanations for their significance, nor does her material allow for the
possibility of different answers. In short, if you have another answer you are
lying, and you are lying because you are a Satanist trying to protect
Her reputation as an investigator sinks right along with her claims of
being a game expert. She has proven unable to keep up with market trends,
which requires nothing more than a visit to a game store from time to time
or obtaining a subscription to an industry magazine. Her sources for
casework appears to consist solely of newspaper clipping, which she
republishes in edited forms, without permission of the author. She accepts as
true utterly outlandish or entirely self-serving claims by individuals under
care for severe psychiatric problems or convicted murderers. She embraces
as an occult tome a work - The Necronomicon - that has been known to be a
joke for its entire sixty year history.
Her grasp of statistics is feeble indeed. She invests an incredible amount
of energy and emotion in her claim of 125 plus deaths related to the game,
and clings like Joe McCarthy to yet other "confidential" cases that she cannot
reveal. Given how well the cases she has made public hold up to scrutiny, it
is extremely doubtful cases beyond those already brought to light will ever
be revealed in any sort of verifiable detail.
In her quest to make sense of her son's death, Pat Pulling has set aside
truth, logic and fairness. She cites cases, but does not remove them from her
list when they are proven not to be involved with gaming. She has woven
rumor, innuendo and fantasy together and has bought into the whole
Satanist myth. She has expanded her crusade, accepting as part of it the idea
that Satanists are a slavering bunch of sadists just waiting to murder
children or, failing that, convince children to murder their parents. She has
become an expert in cults and Satanism, but really continues in her state of
No one denies the pain Pat has felt in her son's death, but sympathy for that pain cannot be used as an excuse to condone the abuses and excesses to which Mrs. Pulling has gone. There are times I don't wonder if her inquisition has increased parental panic, heightening the sort of family stresses that drove Michael Dempsey to kill himself. That is not to attempt to lay the death of anyone on her doorstep, but to point out that it does not take much for the hysteria she's stirring up to do some serious harm.I agree with Pat Pulling that parents should take an interest in what their children do, so their kids do not grow up in a vacuum without guidance and encouragement. Parental responsibility calls for an effort to make sure kids stay away from things that are harmful to them. This does not mean they should censor outright things they do not understand, but they should make the effort to learn and share new things with their children. Only in that way will the parents be aware of the new challenges facing kids, and be able to offer logical and helpful counsel to them.
Gamers also have a duty to share the games with their parents. It is one
thing to rebel and become independent, but it is another to engage in
activities that cause parents undue anxiety. Let parents and peers know
what you're doing with your time when you play a game. Let them sit in on
a session or two. If that's not possible, ask another parent or adult who
understands the games explain it to your parents. The sort of horror stories
BADD sows about games only take root in ignorance.
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