I just saw a piece on the Boston Herald, talking about a killer and playing up the fact that he played Dungeons and Dragons like it was relevant to the case. This, in tandem with other stories like how a prisoner was told he can’t play D&D, even though it really is in line with other activities prisoners are allowed, shows that there really is more stigma against the game than some of us seem to realize these days.
Now, to clarify, I think there are plenty of arguments you could make for banning D&D in jail. Of course, most of those arguments would also lead to banning sports, video games, and most of the other small amenities prisoners enjoy while living what is probably a soul-crushing life behind bars. However, “D&D promotes gang activity” was not one of those reasonable arguments.
Onto the meat of what I want to talk about though. That is the irresponsible news reporting of the Boston Herald. A couple examples from this illustrious piece, with my responses:
““They even acted this crap out,” the source said.”
I wanted to address this point out first, because it seems so innocuous, but it’s loaded. First, they talk like acting is a bad thing. Acting, to one degree or another, is integral to the experience. It’s creative, group storytelling. Like putting together a play, with the dangerous or impossible parts determined by dice and described by the group. Second, this makes out those who larp as crazy, and while I find the idea of larping not to my liking, I have friends who larp and understand it’s just a more active form of the game. Furthermore, larping is safe, as they use fake foam weapons that you couldn’t possibly injure someone with. Think Nerf, and you know exactly how dangerous what they use is, which is not at all. Finally, the reference to roleplaying as “crap”. Sure, you might not like it, but leave the rest of us alone. This “crap” didn’t lead to the killing. It doesn’t deserve your comtempt. Get over it and do something productive with your time instead of slandering a harmless pastime.
“The popular fantasy role-playing game has a long history of controversy, with objections raised to its demonic and violent elements. Some experts have cited the D&D backgrounds of people who were later involved in violent crimes, while others say it just a game.”
And of course, how can we forget this standard, throwaway line guaranteed to promote controversy and ratings. The only controversy is from the fact that we legitimize the opinions of people who know nothing at all about the game. I realize some may say I’m doing that by arguing this here, but what I’m talking about is when we treat the opposing opinion as equal all the time, even when it is factually wrong or misleading. Yeah, there are demons and violence in D&D. There are also demons and violence on TV, in books, and in the Bible that provides the grounds half these people are using to stomp all over D&D. Just because there are demonic characters doesn’t make the game demonic. They’re part of the evil in campaigns that is typically fought against. The violence is just as justifiable as any movie violence is, and there is usually more violence in any action movie than in a game of D&D. And to be clear, referencing the first point a bit, the violence is part of a story being written and played through by a group of people, it is not literally acted out.
Finally, a point on the experts involved. If you cited the D&D background of someone involved in violent crime as a cause of the crime, then you are not an expert on D&D or roleplaying games. Anyone who has actually sat down and played this game knows for a fact that it is harmless entertainment. It does not create killers, it does not enroll people in a satanic cult, it is not an affront to God. It is a game, it is fun, it teaches people to creatively think on their feet, and it allows everyone to create a story together, cooperatively, or blow off some steam in an imaginary battle against evil. Among other good things.
So, to those who report the news. Stop legitimizing controversy that isn’t legitimate. If you insist on reporting the other side to be “fair and balanced”, be sure to explain when they are, in fact, wrong and shouldn’t actually be taken seriously. Better yet, just stop acting like D&D is some evil, controversial activity and report on the actual story, which was about a serial killer, not about D&D causing him to kill, since that isn’t what actually happened.
In short, please report on facts, not fiction. Thank you.