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What Role Playing Teaches. . .

Written by Tanja de Bie

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Currently the RPG Consortium and its mother organization the Amethyst Alliance are developing an exciting new project called R.A.D.I.C.A.L. (Roleplayers Against Defamation, Infringement of Copyright And Libel). We have explained our stance on copyright before. But R.A.D.I.C.A.L. is more, it is a pro-RPG defense movement.

So is such an organization really necessary? Surely the eighties with its backlash against role-playing, heavy metal and other aspects of youth culture by certain groups of Christian fundamentalists belongs to the past? Perhaps, but Role Playing since then has been tarnished, never satisfactorily cleaned of its perceived crimes. Every time something happens that involves young people that makes no sense at all, such as high school shootings, the media suddenly jump on evidence that one or more perpetrators played AD&D or Vampire and refer to that taint with one or two sentences as a possible explanation of the senseless killing without exploring it in depth, pushing Role Playing further in the dirt without giving its supporters a chance to defend themselves. It is almost as if the fact that Role Playing is evil is an established scientific fact. Which, needless to say, it isn't.

The Christian fundamentalist are located in the south of the USA in the so called Bible Belt, but Australia too has its own movement (link) mirroring conservatives tendencies there. Demographically speaking these are the same extremely conservative white protestant Christians that seek a return to family values. The extreme end of this movement picks on role playing but also rages against new age, paganism, heavy metal, poor people, Asians, Jews, aboriginals, Afro Americans, Catholics, immigrants; in short anything that is foreign to their own White Anglo Saxon Protestant culture. A culture I might add, that they perceive as being threatened, so the campaign at times almost takes on the flavor of war.

The list of claims made against role-playing is seemingly endless, going from the psychological scientific approach at one end of the spectrum (role-playing teaches children that violence can be rewarding, role-playing causes depression and suicide amongst teenagers) to the horror focused fundamentalist extreme at the other end of the spectrum (role-playing teaches Satanism, role playing is an introduction to Occultism, Role Playing Game rule books include poison recipes, detailed spell casting instructions, methods of demon summoning, role-playing incites the worshipping of false idols, the morals in role playing go against Christian morals by glorifying evil etc.).

It is difficult to find a defense against the psychological scientific approach, but current research, both in the USA and internationally, is helping us. The effect of TV violence on children, not dissimilar to violence in role playing is a well researched subject. A full rebuttal with scientific citations written by a Dutch graduated clinical psychologist will be added to the R.A.D.I.C.A.L. site. In her preliminary finding she mentioned "It has been proven that violent scenes create more aggression in children if they are presented as reality and real life violence. The clearer it is that a story has been made up, is in fact a fantasy, the less it leads to violent behavior and it seems to me dragons and the like clearly suggest a fantasy," and goes on to remark "Children's development psychology is the only area I found so far talking about fantasy role-playing, especially the role of fantasy in a child's cognitive development.

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