Saturday, 28 March 2015
What the D&D Satanic-Panic Did to an Entire Generation of Geeks
So, there's a new academic book on RPGs: "Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds".
There's an article reviewing the book, sort of, here. Note, I have not read this book myself; what follows is my own speculations on the subject, not something related to the book.
As to the book, I think the concept is interesting, but as always I am HIGHLY dubious of anything that comes out of academia regarding RPGs, even if it's from my own Religious Studies background. Strike that - ESPECIALLY then, since I know just how indoctrinated that field is by anti-perennial Marxist ideologues who want to see all religion is a meaningless product of local cultural factors.
It does sound like it could be good, though. And there's also this quote:
"When grown-ups told me that playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) was going to drive me insane or cause me to worship the devil, it suddenly dawned on me that adults were fallible: They ran the schools, the churches, and the police, but they didn’t always think rationally or know what they were talking about."
As far as the comment above: my own observation as a religious scholar would be that the RPG hobby, and indeed the whole generation of geeks from the time of the Satanic Panic appears (to my observation) to be disproportionately populated by two groups: atheists, and people involved in what is sometimes termed 'alternative religion' (that is, people not in a standard mainstream Christian or Jewish denomination or in an orthodox mainstream version of the traditional religion of their own cultural background, but have become converts to some fringe movement or the westernized version of a non-western religion). We're talking here about just how many gamers are Wiccans, Pagans of other sorts, call themselves Buddhists, Taoists, some form of fringe or ultra-personal Christianity, or New-age "Spiritual" (not really following any religion, but practicing Reiki or Yoga or Crystal Healing or all of the above).
I think that the phenomenon quoted above, the early realization that the very accusation of D&D as "satanic" by trusted authority figures when any young kid playing D&D knew it wasn't, had two effects:
a) A lot of those kids felt like they could never just trust anyone's word unquestioned again. It was a potential moment (like many others can be) where you realize that most people don't actually know fuck all about religion/philosophy/reality and are just quoting dogma, rather than a product of their own thought processes brought about by personal experiential experimentation.
b) Half (not literally half, but whatever) of the kids for whom (a) happened decided (not necessarily that very instant, but this event was something that contributed to that direction) that clearly nothing could be real then except for that which is immediately materially quantifiable, and (again, EVENTUALLY) rejected spirituality altogether; while the other half decided (eventually, as a gradual product of, among other things, etc.) that if most people didn't actually know FUCK ALL about religion, they would want to seek it out themselves and find out that experiential Truth.
Ironically, I think that the first 'half' above were the kids who were internally horrified at the idea of being accused of being satanists for liking D&D. They became atheists because deep down they were scared of some sort of "divine punishment" for an inherent spiritual wrongness they didn't even know they had until that moment, and (most horrifyingly) didn't seem to be able to even identify, and so would prefer a world where no such danger could possibly exist. The other kids, who became Wiccans or Pagans or Neo-Buddhists or Tantric Sex Polygamists or hippie Etheogen Experiencers or Ceremonial High Magicians (or, for that matter, literal Satanists), are the ones who deep down weren't afraid of god but outraged by the betrayal of a society that seemed like reality to them and suddenly very clearly wasn't. That moment (among others, blah blah etc.) was a realization of the fundamental illusion of Paradigm, and thus a Paradigm Shift into the weird, in search of the Real.
Of course, that's all just a poetic way of saying that when their parents said "D&D is evil because it teaches you Real Magic!!", some kids said "my parents are retarded; that must mean there's no Jesus and no Real magic!", and other kids said "my parents are retarded; so fuck yeah I'm going to go find me some 'Real Magic'!"
Currently Smoking: Stanwell Compact + Image Latakia