The Panic Over Dungeons & Dragons (in 1985)

filed under: retro

In the mid 1980s, the U.S. media latched on to a story: teens were committing suicide, and the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons was somehow to blame. As a kid who was playing D&D during this media firestorm, I remember the outcry pretty vividly. All the kids I knew who played the game were nerds, just like me. I was vaguely aware that sometimes teens did commit suicide...perhaps even nerds. Was there any connection between nerds playing D&D and nerds committing suicide? Not from what I saw. But I saw a lot of adults up in arms, concerned for my health and my soul, while for me, D&D was just a fun way to socialize and nerd out with my friends. (A similar discussion centered on teen suicide and heavy metal, and it always seemed equally bizarre to me.)

In 1985, 60 Minutes broadcast a segment on the controversy over Dungeons & Dragons, interviewing the families of kids who had killed themselves, and who had also been D&D players. 60 Minutes also interviewed D&D creator Gary Gygax, who stated that the whole thing was just "a witch hunt." If you played D&D in the 80s, or remember the controversy over it, this video is worth a look:

[This video may not work on your mobile device. But here are more examples of print media outrage over D&D from that era.]

Now that most of the people in the 60 Minutes story are either dead or discredited, the whole thing seems like a distant bad memory, one of many moral panics that swept the U.S. in the 1980s.

This post originally appeared in 2009.

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May 8, 2014 - 1:20pm
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