Over the past 50 years, Dungeons & Dragons has emerged from dimly-lit basements and entered the popular culture. The fantasy role-playing game is so mainstream that it’s been adapted into a movie starring Chris Pine, which is set to hit theaters on March 31. With its reputation today, it’s easy to forget how the game was initially received. The video below is a good reminder.
The YouTube channel Blandco put together this supercut of old news clips and PSAs warning of the RPG’s dark influence on impressionable children. When Satanic Panic reached its peak in the 1980s, everything from heavy metal to children’s cartoons was linked to the occult. Dungeons & Dragons, which featured magic and monsters and appealed to teens, became an easy target for the moral outrage.
The tabletop game was blamed for blood rituals, deaths, and the disappearance of a 16-year-old player named James Egbert. Though there was no proof linking his case to D&D, that version of his story persisted. It was even made into a TV movie starring a young Tom Hanks titled Mazes and Monsters in 1982.
The hysteria wasn’t enough to convince people to stop playing. Dungeons & Dragons outlived the ‘80s wave of Satanic Panic, and thanks to its starring role in Stranger Things, it’s more popular than ever. The release of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves this Friday is further evidence that the role-playing game is here to stay.