The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

An apology. Sort of. OK, not really.

Just days ago, I posted a story recollecting the heady days of the 1980s, when everyone from 20/20 to the 700 Club was talking about the grave threat to America posed by... Dungeons & Dragons. I was still in elementary school when that all happened, but it seemed awfully stupid even then to suggest that those 8-sided dice were producing a generation of devil-worshiping killers. But that was before heavy metal. And video games more sophisticated than Dig-Dug. (Wow, another D&D! I'm beginning to see cause for alarm...)

Well, I'd like to apologize for being 'soft on Dungeons & Dragons' twenty years ago. I would've thought that a lot fewer people were breaking out the pointy dice these days, what with Netflix, the Internets, cable TV, video games a bit more sophisticated than Dig-Dug, and all the other goodies that have provided us with so many other ways to be a nerd. Not to mention old standbys like an interest in the opposite sex or a driver's license.
But I had it wrong from the beginning, as this interview shows:

Drugs have made a huge impact on the street culture. Portland is a very meth-affected city. And meth is well documented for inducing psychosis. Some street kids have become heavy methamphetamine users. Many of them deal methamphetamine as well as other drugs. It has made them a lot more violent, a lot more criminal. And it's also the kind of a drug that will facilitate a lot of their paranoia and fantasy games.

Can you explain that a bit more? You talk a great deal about the influence that fantasy-gaming culture has had on street families.

Over the past decade, through "Dungeons & Dragons" and computer fantasy play and gaming, it's becoming increasingly acceptable for people in their 20s to spend hours a day engaged in adopting mythical characters or pretending they are part of a medieval society.

But this suggests that I've had the wrong idea about those "harmless" Renaissance Festivals, too! It's no excuse, but I'd like to blame the prevalence of stories like this for my ignorance:

We’re trained every year on the language that we use, RenSpeak. It’s basically a British accent peppered with words and phrases that were commonly used in 1530s England. It takes a while to get back in the habit of speaking that way, and it’s just as difficult to break it when the season is over. . . The best [patrons we've had were] the three or four fully costumed Klingons. I went up to them and said, ‘Qapla.’ They completely loved the fact that Henry VIII spoke Klingon. It’s the only Klingon word I could remember. It seemed to work, because they got real animated, and I had my pictures taken with them: Henry and the Klingons.

Either those turkey legs are filled with enough triptophan to turn you into a maniacal killer, or this gal's trail-blazing research isn't all it's cracked up to be.