Dungeons & Dragons controversy

By BETH AUSTIN   |   Jan. 18, 1985

CHICAGO -- Two groups warn that the violent fantasies involved in the game Dungeons & Dragons have been linked to teenage suicides and slayings -- but the game's maker said Friday the groups are just tilting at windmills.

The National Coalition on Television Violence and a group called 'Bothered by D & D' launched a campaign Thursday to warn against the adolescent role-playing game, which members say has been linked to nine suicides and slayings.

'There is no doubt in my mind that the game Dungeons & Dragons is causing young men to kill themselves and others,' said Dr. Thomas Radecki, a University of Illinois Medical School psychiatrist and chairman of NCTV.

But TSR Inc., the Lake Geneva, Wis., company that makes Dungeons & Dragons, claims the game actually is good for young people, because it encourages them to use their imaginations.

'The allegations that Dr. Radecki made are absolutely ridiculous,' company spokesman Dieter Sturm said. 'Today we have some 3 to 4 million regular players right here in the United States alone. We've had parents and teachers compliment us about the game because it's so much fun and makes such use of the imagination.'

The two groups have asked the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission for regulations warning consumers of the possible violent effects of the game and the Saturday morning cartoon.

Suicide notes, police reports and family interviews blaming Dungeons & Dragons for violent acts substantiate the groups' claims, Radecki said.

He cited nine suicides and murders since 1979 he believes were directly linked to the game -- including two teenage brothers in Lafayette, Colo., who apparently based a death pact on the game.

But Sturm said any violence is usually rooted in the individual's personal problems.

James Dallas Egbert, 16, was a student at Michigan State University when he disappeared from a residence hall Aug. 15, 1979. He was located by private investigator William Dear 29 days later in an apartment in Morgan City, La.

Dear had speculated Egbert may have been injured or killed during a real-life version of the game played in the miles of steam tunnels under the East Lansing campus.

Nearly a year later, Egbert -- then 17 and enrolled at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio -- shot himself in the head with a pistol. He was declared brain dead and life support equipment was disconnected Aug. 16, 1980.

Pat Pulling of Montpelier, Va., who founded 'Bothered by D & D' after her 16-year-old son, Irving, shot himself in the heart, said the game encourages fantasies of intense and sadistic violence.

Sturm denied the game is violent.

'In the Dungeons & Dragons game, what we're talking about is good vs. evil. Evil is never portrayed in an attractive light. All of the Dungeons & Dragons products focus on the struggle of good vs. the forces of evil, casting the protagonist as the agent of right.'

If parents and players are warned the fantasies may become difficult to control, Radecki said, players will be alert to possible problems.

Sturm said the company agrees that parents should monitor their children's play, just as they supervise their television viewing and other activities.

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