Wednesday, June 07, 2006

D&D Watch

I was tromping through the marsh that is the political end of the blogosphere, and I came across a reference to Dungeons & Dragons. Lee Harris has written an article entitled “Al Qaeuda’s Fantasy Ideology” for Policy Review Online. In it, Mr. Harris says:

For want of a better term, call the phenomenon in question a fantasy ideology — by which I mean, political and ideological symbols and tropes used not for political purposes, but entirely for the benefit of furthering a specific personal or collective fantasy. It is, to be frank, something like “Dungeons and Dragons” carried out not with the trappings of medieval romances — old castles and maidens in distress — but entirely in terms of ideological symbols and emblems. The difference between them is that one is an innocent pastime while the other has proven to be one of the most terrible scourges to afflict the human race.

Or, healthy fantasy involves sitting around with your buds, rolling dice, swilling Mountain Dew, and eating Cheetos. (Er, well, mentally healthy, anyway.) Unhealthy fantasy involves flying planes into buildings and invading the Sudetenland.

I know nothing of Mr. Harris’ gaming credentials. His reference to “maidens in distress” seems to imply a lack of personal experience with how the game is played. Unless he was thinking of the distress caused by a gang of “violent well equipped moral anarchists who couldn't give a fig about the political stability of the realm and can't be held responsible [for the] social carnage they create.” (Thank you, Phizel.)

I still find it comforting to see D&D casually mentioned these days as something that is mostly harmless, along the lines of Texas Hold ‘em and tango. Perhaps we have lost some cultural cachet with the passing of the edgy and dangerous mystique of the 80’s, but it is nice that I don’t have to worry about my hobby being denounced by ignorant wahoos in the press. I think we as gamers have an obligation to promote and proselytize for our hobby, so it doesn’t languish into utter obscurity. It seemed we did more of that when we were being attacked. Now that we’re being mostly ignored (a far more dangerous state of affairs, honestly) we seem content to just let things be, bemoaning the loss of talent sucked away by the money-making computer gaming industry, but doing little to counter the trend.

However, like Mr. Harris, while I can see the “disease” I’m at a loss to prescribe a proper inoculation. I think the growth of creative sectors in our economy is certainly an opportunity, but we’ll need some pioneers to step forward and find a way to take proper advantage of the situation. I continue to be optimistic on both fronts, knowing full well that I may be engaging in a bit of fantastical myopia myself. ;)

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