We are officially one week away from Dungeons and Dragons day in my Gaming in American Culture class.
Toward the beginning of the semester I listed D&D day as one of the enticing course elements, so being on the cusp makes me salivate with anticipation.
Considering I barely have any experience outside of one character building session in high school, I’ve gotten a little practice. We played D&D at the party I brought my Redondo Beach friends to in Fullerton over Spring Break.
I kicked ass as my pre-built elf sorcerer Elfson.
But in-class today we prepared for our upcoming escapades in a different way: Talking about the moral panics caused by D&D.
Because you know. If something is fun and leaning in a pagan direction, parents are going to freak out about it.
Looking at you, Pokémon. And also Pokémon.
… Okay, it’s not entirely fair to simplify that into a joke. We actually discussed interesting aspects behind the 1980’s D&D panic, including the perceived loss of self-identity to multiple, fractured fantasy identities steeped in olde mythological traditions of witchcraft and monsters.
It just so happens that you can only showcase the moral panic by laying out all of the over-the-top examples of role-playing game hysteria.
Most notably: Dark Dungeons.
This amazing comic created by Jack T. Chick in 1984 seems to be the perfect embodiment of Big Brother wiping out imagination and personal expression in exchange for the conformity of true-blue American Catholicism.
Or that’s how my boy Mitchell perceived it, at least.
There are arguably kernels of truth in Chick’s fear of fantasy overwhelming reality. It’s hard to take the guy seriously when you write such lines as:
“Lord Jesus … you guide me through life. I want You to be in charge of everything…not that lousy D&D manual.”
Following the deus ex machina of random friend appearing to save the damsel in distress — having apparently prayed and fasted for her off-screen.
Or at least… I find it hard to take this comic seriously.
Apparently others do not, as a short film adaptation came out in 2014.
Something I only know about because
my friend Jonathan reminded me that JonTron put out a video about the movie in 2016.
Isn’t the internet just a god damn beautiful mess?
But wait, that’s not all!
On top of Dark Dungeons, we spent part of our class period watching and discussing Mazes and Monsters.
The 1982 Tom Hanks flick where then-unknown sentient toy cowboy / crazy stranded FedEx employee / historic figure with a pension for chocolate almost kills himself after getting so invested in a parody of D&D that he can no longer distinguish fantasy from real life.
It’s amazing that Hanks went on to have one of the most successful actor careers of all time with a start as wild as Mazes and Monsters.
With all of that said, it only makes sense that we get to risk our lives playing the tabletop role-playing game for our entire next class period.
By God am I looking forward to it.
P.S. — There was another cool part of my day that I wanted to talk about, but could not think of an organic way to include it. Outside of there being vaguely related fantasy elements.
So I’ll just pin it down here.
During the break between my classes, Dr. Sandra Perez (the Director of the University Honors Program) brought over an underclassman while I was working in the Honors Center because she wants to write a fiction novel for her senior project.
Apparently I was the expert in that department, as Dr. Perez said she was very impressed with all of the pre-planning she’d seen me do for my novel.
It was nice to be considered an expert in something like that!
Or at least the most readily available spring of knowledge.
Featured Image courtesy of Philip Mitchell via Wikimedia Commons