Back in the 1980s, the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons set off a media frenzy and a moral panic: While kids across America embraced the fantasy game, which let them fight dragons from the comfort of their couches, many parents and members of the press claimed the game promoted devil worship and even murder.

In the short documentary “Lessons From a Media Panic,” The New York Times explores the early history of Dungeons and Dragons, focusing on the story of DnD player James Dallas Egbert III, whose disappearance in the 1980s drew attention to the game—and helped spark the panic that was to come. Though Egbert was eventually found unharmed, and investigators found no link to the fantasy RPG, the press nevertheless became fixated on the game, connecting it to demonology, witchcraft, voodoo, and a string of teen murders.

Nowadays, it’s hard to comprehend the fear that surrounded Dungeons and Dragons in its early years. As the documentary notes, we’re more likely to associate the game with famous intellectuals like Junot Diaz or Stephen Colbert, who played it as kids, than with anything nefarious. Featuring TV and newspaper clips from the 1980s and interviews with everyone from Diaz to game developer Timothy Kask, "Lessons From a Media Panic" brings new insight to the hysteria that surrounded Dungeons and Dragons in the 1980s. 

[h/t New York Times]

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