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View Full Version : What was it like growing up through the anti RPG hysteria of the 70s and 80s?



Boo8er
2014-07-23, 12:04 PM
I am 20 and I don't remember this since I am new to games like DnD. But I have been harshly criticized for playing video games and liking them but looking back on history it seems like tabletop dungeons and dragons and other Roleplaying games were harshly criticized the same way that video games are today. Some of the stories I read about the anti DnD groups read like the same way that many parents have against video games. I would like to know what was your experience during the anti DnD hysteria of that time?

Knaight
2014-07-23, 12:15 PM
Some of the stories I read about the anti DnD groups read like the same way that many parents have against video games. I would like to know what was your experience during the anti DnD hysteria of that time?

A lot of them are worse. I know several people who had their D&D collections burnt by their parents when the hysteria was up - though I also know a number of people who's parents/general community pretty much just laughed off the whole thing.

ellindsey
2014-07-23, 12:19 PM
My parents didn't care. My impression was that most parents didn't care. I had one not very close friend whose parents wouldn't let him play RPGs due to the hysteria, but they were the kind of parents who wouldn't let him do a lot of things.

Knaight
2014-07-23, 12:25 PM
My parents didn't care. My impression was that most parents didn't care. I had one not very close friend whose parents wouldn't let him play RPGs due to the hysteria, but they were the kind of parents who wouldn't let him do a lot of things.

Where were you, geographically speaking, during the period? It was always a pretty heavily localized phenomenon from what I've heard*. Not only was it localized pretty strongly to the U.S, it was way more prevalent in certain parts than others. The people I know who had their collections burnt were pretty much all in either rural or suburban areas of the south or west U.S., with a distinct gap around college towns. Meanwhile, people outside of that area mostly missed it, based on what I've heard.

*My information is secondhand, it's something my parent's generation lived through. That does include my mother and a number of her siblings, who played D&D and are the reason I'm even in the hobby.

Arbane
2014-07-23, 01:27 PM
It was never an issue for me, growing up in New Jersey.

TheEmerged
2014-07-23, 01:41 PM
I posted a larger response to this, but the board ate it.

Executive summary: calling it a "hysteria" is an exageration. I got more trouble out of being a general nerd than because I played D&D. I think the hobby did more damage to itself than outside persecution did.

Geographical Area: SW Ohio, and I'm from a heavily conservative & religous background.

Socksy
2014-07-23, 01:42 PM
I'm 17, but my dad and my uncle on my mum's side both played RPGs throughout that time. My dad was at university and my uncle's parents didn't care, from what I've heard. My family live in the UK though, and I don't think it was anywhere near as bad over here. People were too busy worrying about rock music. :p

Palanan
2014-07-23, 02:12 PM
I ran into some of that in the community at large, but this leads us straight into forum-verboten discussion. It was certainly an aspect of the times.

On the home front, my parents were okay with it, mainly because they were in that embarrassing share-your-kids'-interests phase. (Well, embarrassing when you're thirteen, anyway.) They generally approved, in the same way that moms approve of Warhammer minis today, because there are plenty of worse options for young teenagers to be getting into.

As it happened, I played my first real D&D game with a friend and his father, who clearly wasn't concerned at all. But where I grew up, anyone playing RPGs or reading comics was kind of a social weirdo anyway, so it was all lumped in together.

Model rockets? Serious geekery.

ngilop
2014-07-23, 02:23 PM
While i did not live through that era of time, ive read a lot about it, particualry about the two kids who killed the parents 'Because D&D' an dnot ya know because of the drugs and others things they were into.

It to me is similar to todays anti gun and anti smoking craze. People are not looking at the real and true reasons things are happeneing ( for example mental illness in the case of the deadly shootings) and just slapping blame on things that cannot really fight back.

I guess how they did music when comulbine happened. THAT did strike home ( SE Ohio.. shout out to my fellow buckeye above /HUG) and i thought 'this is stupid as heck.. just becuase somebodyt listens to say marylin mansion don't mean they are gonna run up into a place with guns blazing)

When i first started getting really getting i should say, into D&d my mom was concerned, so I started doing all of this research inot the game, social stigmas, benefits and what not of playing it.

then at the end i gave my mom for all intents and purposes a 14 page 'thesis' onplaying D&D, which pointed out how peopel who play D&D generally are less likely to commit suicide, genrally better at accepting others regardless of differense, more open to trying new things, have higher IQ, etc etc

I have no idea where that paper is now so i cannot toss out numbers to you off the top of my head and evben then since i wrote that in the umm mid 90s? they woudl prob be incorrect now anyways

Now that I am in the south and the 'bible belt' as they call it, its a bit different its bad enough that i get assaulted over being a yank, id imagine they would form an good old torch and pitchfork mob if these locals ever found out i 'play satan's game'

Airk
2014-07-23, 02:32 PM
It to me is similar to todays anti gun and anti smoking craze. People are not looking at the real and true reasons things are happeneing ( for example mental illness in the case of the deadly shootings) and just slapping blame on things that cannot really fight back.

Uh. I don't think it's comparable. If you went back in time and took the D&D books away from some kid who went on a killing spree, he'd still have gone on a killing spree. If you went back in time and took away all his guns, well, let's just say you kill a lot fewer people when you go on a killing spree with a knife.

Not even sure how smoking is comparable, as that is something that is completely documented as pretty much ONLY being a quick ticket to lung cancer.

Anyway, to return to the OP:

I grew up in rich suburban Connecticut. No one cared AT ALL about this stuff. I bought my D&D basic set at the toy store on main street. This was mid-80s, for reference. Indeed, I barely even knew this "Hysteria" was a thing.

ElenionAncalima
2014-07-23, 02:54 PM
It seem to me like the opponents weren't that widespread...they were just very loud and passionate.

The worst story I heard from someone I know was one of my sister's friends, who was the son of a baptist pastor. A handful of people found out about him playing DnD and freaked out, demanding that his father either put a stop to it or resign. His father did neither, because with the exception of a couple very ridiculous people, no one cared. This was in the 90's, though... so maybe it would have been a lot worse in the 70's and 80's.

oxybe
2014-07-23, 03:04 PM
As someone who grew up playing 2nd ed in the tail end of the '90s, I didn't see the hysteria first hand (though i heard about it online), neither did the people I learn to game from.

A little bit after getting us the 3rd ed core books, my mom did hear about the whole "makes you turn into evil devil worshippers" from my aunt but since we played in the living room or dining room in full view of mum, she pretty quickly dismissed those worries as she had a few years of experience knowing what D&D entails.

Plus she actually read the books once. Didn't understand or care for it mind you, but mom was cool like that. If we wanted to bond over a game, we had Super Bomberman: the competitive game of hurling live explosives at your friends and family.

EDIT: Forgot to mention, PEI Canada

huttj509
2014-07-23, 03:15 PM
I was born in '82. My mother didn't care, because she remembered when folks said the same thing about rock music (and probably the printing press, the wheel, and fire...people said that, not she remembered it...that was my dad).

Plus, we had a number of dnd sessions in our sitting room, so she knew our friends and what the sessions were like.

Man, I need to play her the dead alewives sketch at some point...I think she'd appreciate it (where's the mountain dew?).

sktarq
2014-07-23, 03:27 PM
It was widespread only in the fact that examples of people screaming out against it appeared all over the US but never seemed "common" in most of the US from what I heard (I lived through the end of it and most of the older players still traded stories about it). I know most of the time it seemed to be based on a massive lack of understanding of what DnD was like. LARPing drew more fire than table top in theory but most people screaming at it never made the distinction. In most areas the views of local pastor had the most influence on it and a few people made bank by fanning people's fears of it. This was also the era when much of the USA (possibly even a slight majority) was convinced there were organized Satanic cults abusing and sacrificing children nationwide. . . . and DnD was seen as an outgrowth of that problem (youth recruitment tool or some such)

valadil
2014-07-23, 03:36 PM
I was born in the early 80s and started playing in the mid 90s. There was no hostility whatsoever (well, unless you count when we played in gym class - how dare someone do something that isn't a sport?!) but I think there was some residual hate in the air. I remembered playing and wondering what the outcry had been, so I guess I wasn't completely away from the hysteria.

Airk
2014-07-23, 03:50 PM
(well, unless you count when we played in gym class - how dare someone do something that isn't a sport?!)

I don't really think the sarcastic indignation is appropriate. Gym class isn't "games class" it's supposed to be for physical activities. I mean, how does the sentence work if I say "unless you count when we played in history class - how dare someone do something that isn't memorizing dates?!"?

Kesnit
2014-07-23, 04:42 PM
(My memory is rather hazy, as I was a young kid when this happened.)

I remember my dad getting me a 1st ed. set. We played a little, but since it was only him and me, there wasn't a lot we could do. Mom, however, didn't approve. At the time, I didn't know why. Eventually, the box went on the shelf in the closet and stayed there for I-don't-know-how-long. Not sure when we got rid of it. I wasn't playing, so it wasn't as if I missed it. I wanted to play, but just playing with my dad (who didn't know how to run a game) wasn't all that great.

Winter_Wolf
2014-07-23, 04:54 PM
Gotta say, the only way I even knew about people getting a-scared of the "evil books" was by reading about it in Dragon Magazine. No one really gave a good flying crap about D&D where I grew up in Alaska, because we had actual problems like underage alcoholism and drug use. Most people would probably be screaming "Praise be!" if their kid bothered to even crack a book by choice. Literally the only people who would have gotten worked up about it were the crackpots who got worked up about everything, and it was pretty much just that one family of oddballs. They weren't overly liked and mostly ignored by everyone else.

If you can believe it, Harry Potter actually got more of a, "hey is this one of them devil-books?" reaction from my family. They sure didn't try to burn 'em though. I was mildly offended that apparently I'm considered the expert on devil-books in my family, though. Hadn't even read the book at the time, but I'm pretty sure the deadpan "are you freaking kidding me?" stare answered their question well enough.

Mark Hall
2014-07-23, 04:55 PM
For many years, I wasn't allowed to play. I brought this up to my mom, who says she was concerned by the amount of time I spent on it, but I recall it having something to do with Satanism and evil when I got started in 1989. At one point, I even sat her down with the 2e Player's Handbook and the Palladium Fantasy 1st edition book. For those who don't know, the 2e player's handbook was pretty tame... a little cheesecake, but nothing you couldn't see in TV ads, but no mention of demons or anything like that. PFRPG, which she had no trouble with me playing, contained actual rules for demon worship, and stats for Satan (with 666 HP, naturally).

She's still got a knee-jerk reaction against it, but I've been playing pretty solidly for 20 years. A lot of the worst of it missed me, because I was too young.

EDIT: Geographically mixed. My dad was in the Army, so we lived in Nebraska, Kansas, Virigina and South Korea to round out the 80s. My parents are both from semi-rural Kansas, though.

kyoryu
2014-07-23, 05:03 PM
Grew up in a small town in Indiana in the 80s.

Playing D&D was a total non-issue. There were some people making a big deal, of course, and the whole Tom Hanks movie thing, but realistically there was a lot more light than heat.

veti
2014-07-23, 05:51 PM
I'm 17, but my dad and my uncle on my mum's side both played RPGs throughout that time. My dad was at university and my uncle's parents didn't care, from what I've heard. My family live in the UK though, and I don't think it was anywhere near as bad over here. People were too busy worrying about rock music. :p

I started playing, in the UK, in the late 70s. The most hysterical thing about it was hearing the stories from certain parts of the US. And seeing "Mazes & Monsters" when it came out.

I did have a teacher at school ask me, at one point, about the game. I explained enthusiastically, glad to spread the word. He seemed to lose interest when I made it clear the whole thing was just imaginary, nobody did anything for real, so I think he might have been listening to some of the dumber stories on the subject - but that's just a guess on my part. That's the closest I ever came to "official disapproval".

Edit: Mind you, I don't recall anyone giving much of a damn' about rock music either. You may be getting confused with the early 60s. Okay, punk caused a few waves, but that's about it.

nedz
2014-07-23, 06:07 PM
I've been playing since the 70's. The hysteria you speak of was just a story about how crazy some Americans were, over here in the UK at any rate. At the time it was mildly disconcerting that people could react that way, but I never experienced it.

Mark Hall
2014-07-23, 07:02 PM
I did have a teacher at school ask me, at one point, about the game. I explained enthusiastically, glad to spread the word. He seemed to lose interest when I made it clear the whole thing was just imaginary, nobody did anything for real, so I think he might have been listening to some of the dumber stories on the subject - but that's just a guess on my part. That's the closest I ever came to "official disapproval".


Oh! Forgot about the substitute who made me put my book away because she considered it evil, but that was in the early 90s in Louisiana.

comicshorse
2014-07-23, 08:00 PM
Started playing in the late 70's in the UK and though I heard about this I never encountered it. In fact the closest I ever really got to this was being told off a few years ago by my little niece for taking about a game with her brother too much

Thrudd
2014-07-23, 08:49 PM
Late 80's, I only had one experience: one of my parents' (Catholic) friends wouldn't let me play D&D with her son. Didn't even want the box in her house. But she also wouldn't let her son have toy guns, toy soldiers, or buy renaissance faire tchotchkes (like the little pewter claw with a glass ball in it, or figurines of wizards and dragons). The guns and soldiers were because she didn't want her son learning to glorify violence, I'm guessing. The Ren Faire stuff was because it was "of the occult" in her words. D&D was probably a combination of both. All of those ideas were so foreign to me I couldn't even understand it at the time...my family was Catholic, too, but I was raised reading fantasy and science-fiction, watching war movies, Star Wars, and Conan the Barbarian. My dad is nothing if not a glorifier of fictional violence *lol*.

Mr Beer
2014-07-23, 08:49 PM
No problems at all from my parents, I seem to recall some minor flack from the school authorities but one kid we gamed with had born again parents. They banned from playing, threw away all his stuff. His mom found some dice one day after he got barred from gaming, ranted about 'devil dice' and stole them. Fkn wackjob.

Roland St. Jude
2014-07-24, 12:47 AM
Sheriff: Thread locked. This topic is just too tied up in real world religion to be a workable topic here. Already there are several references to real world religion and possibly one or two about politics. If you want to get at the heart of hysteria in the 70s & 80s, you will find religion there, and we just can't discuss that here.