RPGs officially a threat to the state

February 9th, 2004: Mike Sugarbaker says...
RPGs officially a threat to the state

Okay, people, we have a problem: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that an Oregon prison inmate can’t receive roleplaying materials in the mail. Firstly, it’s White Dwarf that’s at issue (so to speak), so there aren’t any roleplaying materials in it… but the court doesn’t draw that distinction, and maybe it isn’t fair to ask it to split hairs as finely as we do. Apparently, the same prisoner had earlier been denied a subscription to the superhero comic Green Lantern, on the basis of an obscure law that’s been overturned, but the real motivation behind that was probably the same as that of this ruling: “to prevent inmates from placing themselves in fantasy roles that reduce accountability and substitute raw power for legitimate authority.” Uh, yeah: who’s got the raw power here, hoss?

It would be easier to decry such a stereotype about gaming materials if there weren’t (more than) a grain of truth in it. But my bigger concern is something else: the computing and Internet industries have been struggling in a similar fashion with judges that appear unwilling or unable to grasp all the subtleties of that which they’re passing legislation for. Have our subcultures become so complex that they outstrip the complexity of the law – that is to say, too complex to be healthy? Or are we just looking at the classic American schizophrenia of the mainstream versus the intellectuals/geeks/bohemians/whatever? This is just depressing – I mean, I don’t relish the thought of some con ordering up a box of bloodlusted Orks either, but still.


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