Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Educators! Clergymen! Psychologists!

This notice appeared in issue #60 of Dragon (April 1982).

I wonder what occasioned it. My immediate thought was that it had to do with the aftermath of the James Dallas Egbert III case, but that happened in 1979 (though I suppose it's still possible). The other thought I had is that it was a consequence of Pat Pulling's campaign against D&D, but that hadn't happened yet, as her son wouldn't commit suicide until a couple of months later.

Still, it is interesting.

21 comments:

  1. Rona Jaffe's terrible novel, "Mazes and Monsters," came out in 1981 and was made into a made-for-TV movie in 1982. I imagine the flap around that (I recall concerned questions from family members, &c.) may have been the spur for this ad.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Strange that you post this now. Over the weekend I had one of my first run-ins with an anti-D&D evangelical type in what must be 10 years or so. It happened at a local flea market, and it was one of those things that just popped up out of nowhere in conversation. I find that some of the older generation, whose opinions were formed on the hobby by news media and the Chick Tracts and have never bothered to see what it is really about, have stayed with those opinions over the years. I was just looking for a particular Christian book in his small Christian book store, which I actually found, and he started in on a subject which moved us into the subject of RPGs. Needless to say, we could not see eye to eye, and I bought my book and moved on quickly. Even a fellow Christian isn't safe from this diminishing but still-present stigma against D&D in the religious community. I hate to think what he would have said if he found out I listen to... gasp... DEATH METAL.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That ad wasn't a response to any particular negative event, AFAIK. TSR was riding high in 1982. We were hearing from numerous people, however, about schools and libraries that were reluctant to allow D&D clubs to use their facilities, and we'd been looking for a doorway to expand into the educational market. Getting positive quotes from educators, clergymen, and psychologists would have helped in both of those efforts.

    Steve

    ReplyDelete
  4. Aw...see, I was hoping this was an ad looking to form a D&D group of educators, clergy, and psychologists. But I wouldn't join unless clergywomen were welcome, too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Interesting. Maybe it was the changing of the times. According to many interviewed who worked at TSR at the time, the 'contorversy' was big money. It didn't hurt at all, just helped. But I've often wondered about that. In 1981, when I first heard of the game, there was no discernible stigma with D&D that I was aware of. The first two who introduced me to it were among the most popular kids in my class. Watch E.T. (released June, 1982 but filmed starting Sept. 1981). What are the 'cool, football playing brother and his friends' doing when we first meet the family? It seemed like just one of the many things hitting mainstream along with Atari video games and Trivial Pursuit. But by 1985, well more than half of those who were playing it in 81, wouldn't touch the game with a 10 ft. pole-arm.

    So something happened, and the loss of any customer for any reason is never good. At least in my corner of the world, it was almost a mass exodus. I think Anthony is on to something. I remember that TV movie well (released in December, 1882). It was back in the day of 13 channels when most of America talked about the latest made-for-TV movie, no matter how bad. And the thing we all talked about in school the next day? In the movie, they were all geeks and losers. And more to the point - and I sometimes think this is the important part about the image attached to D&D - they weren't portrayed as popular jocks and homecoming queens who became geeks, mental cases, and Satan worshippers because of the game. The movie portrayed them as playing the game *because* they were already geeks, mental cases, and losers of this or that sort. And important distinction. That was certainly how my classmates and I read the movie. That may have already become how the game was being seen by more and more people - including teens and young adults.

    Plus, by 82, a strange alliance between factions attacking the game was beginning to form. Let's face it, when was the last time Tipper Gore and James Dobson agreed on anything? It wasn't just church groups or teacher groups - but everyone who jumped on it, during the time when pop-psychology on daytime talk shows and evening news magazines was all the rage, everyone was talking about the occult, and society was beginning to be turned upside down by MTV (leaving parents a bit on edge).

    I wonder if even by this time in 82, some at TSR were beginning to think that whatever benefits they had reaped from the firestorm of controversies were starting to show the first indications of slowing because of the same firestorm. Maybe they were trying to proactively stop what might happen. Just a thought.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey, AD&D taught me the difference between raise dead and resurrection. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Steven: I guess you worked at TSR at the time?

    I noticed that there were a lot of people where I was growing up who didn't want anything to do witht he game, not because they thought it was 'satanic' or anything like that, they just thought it was 'uncool' or 'stupid' or 'a waste of time.' (I'm thinking of the years 1978 to mid 80s). AT that time I did not have any close friends in the evangelical Christian movement, but some of the teachers at my school were really against the D&D game because they thought that it glorified violence and caused students to ignore their studies (which I suppose it did, but what teenage boy doesn't have an interest in violence, mayhem and ignoring his studies?).
    I've since decided that one of the deans of students at my old school just had a bee in his bonnet about D&D because he didn't like some of the D&D players (like me) and wanted to stick a spoke in our wheel and try to prevent us from having fun (even though I think he rationalized his behavior by telling himself that the game was a 'bad influence' and he was trying to help reform some 'at risk' kids by doing what he could to prevent us from playing it. He would invent new rules (like the 'No D&D games in the classrooms or in the rec-room, but Monopoly is OK' that he came up with one day). He threw a shit fit when he discovered me drawing dungeon maps in my notebook during studyhall. He threatened to confiscate my friends D&D books just because he had them in the classroom (he wasn't playing; he just had the books with him). Of course, this was also the guy who invented the 'No Kiss t-shirts or stickers or posters allowed on campus' rule as well, so clearly he had some control issues. I think he didn't want teenagers behaving like teenagers (which makes me wonder how he ended up teaching in a Catholic Junior High/Highschool...).

    ReplyDelete
  8. The first thing I thought when I saw the headline was that it was describing a Call of Cthulhu party. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for the post. I think if anything TSR was trying to manage their image as well as increasing the appeal of D & D. Getting feedback from individuals in those areas was probably part of market research. Perception is not reality, but if one can’t get past the perception they won’t encounter the reality. I am sure there was some hope of mainstreaming the hobby and avoiding the perception that the game only appealed to social outcasts and people who didn’t run with the “acceptable” groups.

    ReplyDelete
  10. @Theodoric - The group I DM is made up of 3 psychiatrists and a guy that works at a nuclear plant. We haven't managed to recruit any clergy as yet. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  11. If you were to recruit from the clergy, they could be clerics. If you tapped into the educators, you could also get fighters (PE teachers), magic-user/illusionists (chemistry teachers), and bards (English teachers)!

    ReplyDelete
  12. @Jared Brame: ...or thieves (some of the administrators in the Detroit Public Schools)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Before his death, Gary Gygax posted on ENWorld that he was looking to grow DnD and roleplaying into the classroom and education. He had tagged a child psychologist/teacher to help put the project together, but started having serious trouble with the Blumes before it could reach fruition. It's unfulfillment seemed deeply regrettable to him.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I resisted the temptation to say "Oh My!" after reading the title of this post. I'll go away now...

    ReplyDelete
  15. Strangely enough, I am a hardcore nerdcore RPG gamer who grew up, became a behaviorist, and then a teacher.

    Always wondered where that odd urge to worship Satan, murder my students, and bathe in their blood came from...

    ReplyDelete
  16. RPG's can be a great teaching tool. I've always been disappointed that schools and teachers haven't used it more, especially as an aid for teaching elementary level math. In class we were expected to sit quietly and absorb the information presented, but a game makes you an active participant and facilitates internalizing the information.

    It is sad to me that RPG's are still not taken seriously as a tool for both education and as a medium to discuss difficult and uncomfortable moral questions.

    To me, this notice shows that I was not alone in my frustration.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Personally, I would be curious to see what some thoughtful, learned people of these fields had to say about D&D. Why do I find it so compelling?

    If I were to arrange a dinner party and invite my ten-year old self, my twenty-year old self, and my thirty-year old self, what we'd have to talk about is d&d. my thirty-year old self would say wistfully that he hasn't played for a few years, but it would take about two minutes to get him talking about influence its had on his life. (little does he know . . .)

    oddly enough, the other constant (which we might not talk about) would be our Christian faith. and that's what really makes my head spin-- would I have spent so much time thinking about what I believe if it weren't for d&d and it's not-so-thoughtful detractors?

    ReplyDelete
  18. @John: Great point!
    @Trey: Sounds like a great group.
    @Jared: When I think of most of the clergy I know, I feel like they'd want to escape into a different role and take their frustration out by bashing things with big weapons or blasting them with arcane energies.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Educators! Clergymen! Psychologists!

    The least-popular GURPS supplement ever.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Personally, D&D for me was a refuge from religion and the intolerance and ignorance displayed by the religious persons surrounding me when I was young. It has been with great dismay that I've come to realize just how devout EGG himself actually was (a point also lost on D&D's fanatical detractors, ironically). I couldn't have cared less what a clergyman thought about it when I was 12 years old, and care even less now. I found educators to be roughly equally hostile to RPGs, growing up.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.