Criminal acts by gamers?
There are many anecdotal stories about youth who have become involved with
have become totally obsessed with the game. They become emotionally linked to their
pretend RPG character. They lose the capacity to separate fantasy from reality. Some
stressor makes them snap. They either commit suicide or go on a murder rampage. These
stories make excellent material for an "urban legend". Such stories are widely
discussed throughout North America. Fortunately, RPGs simply do not work this way. A
gamer who commits suicide after having lost his identity in a RPG is probably as rare as a person
who goes into a deep depression and kills themselves because they went bankrupt playing a
game of Monopoly. Pro-RPG groups have investigated each of the murder-suicides which are
allegedly caused by gaming. No causal link has ever been found.
The claims by conservative Christian groups that gamers commit suicide or engage in
criminal acts do not appear to hold water:
- Michael Stackpole calculated expected suicide rates by gamers during the early years of Dungeons
and Dragons. He used B.A.D.D.'s estimate of 4 million gamers worldwide. Assuming that
fantasy role game playing had no effect on youth suicide rate, one would have
expected about 500 gamers would have committed suicide each year. As of
1987, B.A.D.D. had documented an average of 7 per year. It would appear that playing
D&D could be promoted as a public health measure, because it would seem
to drastically lower the
suicide rate among youth. 1,2
- Suzanne Abyeta & James Forest studied the criminal tendencies of "gamers"
and found that they committed fewer than average numbers of crimes for
individuals of the same age. 3
- The Association of Gifted-Creative Children of California surveyed
psychological autopsies of adolescent suicides and were unable to find any that
were linked to these games. Their National Association has endorsed Dungeons and Dragons
for its educational content. 4,5
- The American Association of Suicidology, 6 the Center
for Disease Control, 7 and Health & Welfare
(Canada) 8 have conducted extensive studies into teen
suicide. They have found that no link to fantasy role-playing games exists.
- Dr. S. Kenneth Schonbert studied over 700 adolescent suicides and found none which had
fantasy role-playing games as a factor. 9
- The Committee for the Advancement of Role-Playing Games was organized in 1988 to counter the attacks by
and other groups. The Committee has investigated each of the 130 suicide or criminal cases that
B.A.D.D. advanced. 21 are missing name, date and/or place and could not
be located. Of the over 100 that the Committee has found, they have been unable to
find any that were caused by role-playing games.
- William Schnoebelen has listed 11 suicides or murders which he
believes were tied to D&D. 10
Are fantasy role playing games occultic?
The answer is both yes and no, depending upon one's point of view.
There are many religious terms like demonic possession,
Satan, and Satanism
which have multiple meanings. Often conservative Christians use one
definition, whereas others use another definition:
- Common beliefs among conservative Christians: They often
oppose fantasy games because of the alleged occult content of the games.
They frequently state that RPG rule books include poison recipes or methods of summoning
demons, etc. This appears to be a misunderstanding. A very few games have printed spell incantations from folk and
ceremonial magick, but most do not. A gamer who wants his pretend character to cast a
spell in order to protect itself from attack might simply say to the GM "I am
casting a healing spell now." Note that neither the player nor their character
actually casts a spell or practices magick. The player simply describes what the
imaginary character is doing. Gaming is basically an adult version of make
believe. It does not promote actual black magic or manipulative
Evangelical Christian authors often
view Satanism as being at the core of "the occult".
Many believe that Satanism is a secret, underground, highly
organized evil group that is international in scope and under the personal control of
Satan. Some feel that Satanists are responsible for kidnapping,
torturing, ritually killing and even eating infants and children. They look upon many
diverse occultic activities as performing a recruitment function for Satanists; these
include fantasy role-playing games, astrology, heavy metal rock music, the "Care
Bears" and "Smurfs" on children's TV, a second religion Wicca - often called "white" Witchcraft.
Some conservative Christians view all religions other
than Christianity (e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam) as forms of Satanism.
- Common beliefs among mainline and liberal Christians, some
conservative Christians, secularists, RPG
players, etc: They view the Occult in very different terms. It is
seen as a list of many unrelated and harmless activities: two religions, one type
of game, one form of music, a variety of methods of foretelling the future and some
imaginative and charming children's cartoons. In particular, two very different
religions, Satanism and Wicca
are unrelated to the other
activities mentioned. Neither Satanists nor Wiccans recruit members. "The
Occult" is not an organized entity.
Since conservative Christians use a different definition for the term
"occult" from others, it is not possible to harmonize these two beliefs.
Are RPGs a form of Satanism?
Some conservative Christians have taken the position that since deities other
than the Christian trinity are mentioned in some RPGs, that the games are
Satanic. This is an logical consequence of their
biblically-based belief that when a person worships a deity other than the
Judeo-Christian God, they are either worshiping Satan himself, or one of his
demons. On this basis, they claim that religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism
are actually forms of Satanism. Their belief is not shared by most others who
view conservative Christianity, liberal Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and
hundreds of other faith groups as being very different from one another and
unrelated to Satanism.
The link between RPGs and Satanism breaks down over one important point:
players do not worship other deities when playing Dungeons and Dragons©
and similar games. They do not even recognize their existence as living
Occasionally, a player will select a character who has a relationship
with a non-Christian God or Goddess. For example, one RPG enthusiast
selected a paladin character -- a mixture of warrior and priest. She writes
that her character's Goddess "is one of justice, righteousness and law,
though not without mercy." That Goddess plays a very important role in
the paladin's life. But the RPG player is a Christian in real life, and in
no way worships the Goddess of her character.
Recent RPG references in the secular media:
- 1999-APR-23: School violence: Dave Thomas is the local district attorney in Littleton
CO, the location of the most horrendous school shooting in American
history. 14 students
and a teacher died violently. He gave an emotional speech, calling for an end to violence.
The Associated Press review stated "He said America isn't taking care of its
children. He wondered aloud about video games, movies, role-playing games like Dungeons
& Dragons and how they influenced young people."
- 2000-JUN-30: D&D Movie: Limited information about
"Dungeons & Dragons: The Movie" was given in a press conference at
Dragon Con in Atlanta GA. The movie was later released, on 2000-DEC-7. Costing $35 million, the film
was shot in Czechoslovakia. Two sequels have already been written. It
was released on DVD on 2001-MAY-22.
- 2001-AUG-19: New book on RPGs: Chick Publications is
promoting a new article by one of their leading authors -- William Schnoebelen. He has allegedly claimed that
he has been an expert or clergyperson in: Alexandrian Wicca, Druidic Craft of the Wise, Church of All Worlds, Church and School of Wicca,
Catholicism. He claims to have become a high degree Mason, a hard-core (baby sacrificing) Satanist, a Mormon,
a bishop in the Gnostic Church, AND an evangelical Christian. He
has had one unusually busy career! Chick Publications notes in a news
release that "In spite of the emphasis on magic, violent death and
cruelty, even Christian young people are getting caught up in these
games." 11 In 1984, he wrote an essay titled "Straight
Talk on Dungeons and Dragons. 12 In it, he claims
that the developers of Dungeons and Dragons
used him as a consultant in the 1970's. His new report is called "New
updated research: Should a Christian play Dungeons & Dragons."
13 He writes: "I am amazed at how many so-proclaimed
Christians who defend the game, do so with foul and abusive language.
This, I think, speaks volumes about the spiritual impact of the game."
Comments from visitors to this web site:
- 2000-DEC: "...there are many times where I have played a
villainous character in a game, characters such as necromancers, evil
dragons, assassins etc. But you know what I get from playing those
characters? -- a good acting lesson, that's all. It is like playing a
part in a movie but I am improvising the whole thing,. Never at one
time when my character is smited do I get the so-called 'murderous
and suicidal intentions' that most religious parties claim
these games tend to give young adults."
- 2000-DEC: "Parents seem to forget that the 'devil' isn't
responsible for all the evil out there. Evil isn't evil. It is just a
stereotype that is given to an unexplained misfortune. Maybe parents
should join in on the fun and see what it is all about before they allow
their...minister to warp their minds into believe that RPG gaming is a
way that the devil influences their children."
- 2001-JUL: "[Some conservative Christians] stand up
against D&D saying that it is evil, and teaches kids magic, gets them
into the occult, when...[they] know nothing about it. At the same time
people play identical games that aren't set in a Fantasy realm and that
is suddenly ok. People get obsessed with James Bond computer games and
spend hours shooting up virtual bad guys, and that is ok."
- 2002-NOV: "Just because the game makes mention of occult
gods does not mean you hold these gods above the true God....realizing
these gods are made-up fake untrue gods is completely different from
- Michael Stackpole, The Truth About Role-Playing Games in Shawn Carlson &
Gerald Larue, Satanism in America, Gaia Press, El Cerrito CA, P. 241
- Michael Stackpole at: http://www.rpgstudies.net/
- Suzanne Abyeta & James Forest Relationship of role-playing games to self-reported
criminal behavior, , Psychological Reports, Issue 69, 1991, P. 1187
- Associated Gifted and Creative Children of California
- Kristine Thompson, "Role Playing Games: Expect the Unexpected, Gifted
Children Newsletter, Vol 5, #2, 1984-FEB.
- American Association of Suicidology
- James A. Mercy, Chief, Intentional Injuries Team, Centers for Disease Control,
Atlanta, GA, (reaffirmed by his successor, Dr. Patrick O'Carroll)
- Arthur J. Lips, Mental Health Consultant, Health and Welfare, Ottawa, Canada
- Dr. S. Kenneth Schonbert, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, NY
- William Schnoebelen, "Straight Talk on Dungeons and Dragons," at:
- ChickNews mailing list, untitled, 2001-AUG-17. Their web site is at:
- William Schnoebelen, "Straight Talk on Dungeons and Dragons," at:
- William Schnoebelen, "New updated research: Should a Christian play
Dungeons & Dragons," at: "
Copyright © 1996 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2008-JUL-15
Author: B.A. Robinson