Friday, April 15, 2022

A to Z 10 Year Update: M is for Mazes & Monsters

This post has been updated since it was originally published on April 14, 2012.

A to Z 2012: Gaming in the 1980s

Mazes & Monsters

I previously posted about the satanic panic and alarm over D&D in my J is for "Just a Game" post.  The scene from Mazes & Monsters unfortunately demonstrates what many people at the time believed about D&D.  These people had usually never played D&D but the rumors, hearsay, and media attention would fuel the fire of their ignorance. 

The movie was based on the book by Rona Jaffe.  I do not know her motivation for the novel or what side of the D&D argument she stands on.  It is pretty apparent from reading the book and watching the movie that her knowledge of D&D is best described as superficial.  Take this still for instance:
In all of the years that I have played D&D and other games, I have NEVER seen, heard, or been a part of any game that was done by candlelight.  I am sure that this was done for dramatic flair, but I have never seen it done in reality.  The lack of accuracy was not important to the people viewing this, but the images and actions were very important.  Many people associate candles with "ritual" or "occult" type stuff and used this to help fuel the fire.  The detractors just ran wild with this information, and some would cite this movie as an example; some would suggest it was even "based on a true story"! Yes, there was a kernel of fact to the story in that a college student was believed to be missing in the tunnels below the campus and he happened to be a D&D fan, but the rest of Mazes & Monsters is strictly fiction.

Fortunately, I never directly faced this sort of hysteria from close family.  My mom just needed help with the names of the products she would buy as birthday or Christmas presents.  My step dad did not fully object but would just say "be aware of what you are messing with".  At times his stance would annoy me BUT I do get it now.  It is actually sound advice and makes sense.  You should be aware of what you are messing with regardless what "it" is - games, religion, politics, etc.  It never led to any arguments or heated discussions so it is no problem at all. 

Now that the 80's are long gone, I thought this sort of hysteria and alarm would be gone but it does resurface every now and then.  I hope that one day people will realize that activities such as gaming are not to blame for the actions of some people.  It all comes down to choice and agency.  People can choose to act "good" or "bad".

I bought a copy of the DVD years ago at a used gaming store.  I've watched the movie with my 15-year-old son one night.  He liked the few, quick scenes showing the game board and them playing.  He wasn't really impressed with the rest of the movie.  I explained the real-life case that was used as inspiration for the story and about the satanic panic.   He thought I was making up all of the stuff about the satanic panic with D&D getting banned in places, books burned, and the anti-D&D rhetoric.  His exact words were "I can't believe people actually believed that!".  Get ready, kid, you're going to have plenty of face palm moments ahead in your life.

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