Saturday, October 24, 2009

The return of the Nerd Brigade

After many weeks of hiatus, CM and the Nerd Brigade are up to their usual hijinks again. The house is alive with the sound of teen boys debating how to enter a room chock full of bugbears, the crunch of homemade popcorn and the scent of boiling hot dogs.

Back in the early '80s, when it seems a lot of parents didn't have anything more pressing to worry about, there was a sizable hue and cry about D&D and other tabletop role-playing games being a sort of gateway drug to Satanism. Such worries seem almost quaint these days -- witness the Nerd Brigade, a group of teenage boys from our church, none of whose parents seem to have batted an eye over their participation in this group -- but nearly 30 years ago parents really worried about the state of their D&D-playing kids' souls. It was enough of a concern that numerous articles were written in the attempt to pacify parents -- "no, your kids aren't going to become trenchcoat-wearing violent cultists just by playing D&D." (Some things never change; now it seems concerned parents get their panties in a twist about the occult effects of runaway bestsellers their kids want to read, such as the Harry Potter series. Uh, right. The minute I can holler "Wingardium leviosa!" and actually make something fly, you folks will have a leg to stand on, m'kay?)

RPG enthusiast Kismet has written a good article on some of the benefits of RPGs (they increase the exercise of imagination, improve reading and math skills, and encourage teamwork and camaraderie), and has also written an article on the pitfalls of such games (condensed into one phrase: they're time-wasters). In my opinion, though, D&D is like a lot of other hobbies: what you bring with you has a lot more influence on you than anything in the nature of the hobby. If Jhaymes has an unhealthy interest in gore and he bakes cakes for fun, you shouldn't be all that surprised if he comes up with a gray brain cake that bleeds realistically when you cut into it. It has little or nothing to do with the shady or occult nature of cake-baking, and everything to do with the inclination of the individual.
Mmm, cut me a piece of cerebellum, Jhaymes!