The 80s were the best time to be a kid. It’s not even a contest. Cartoons were at a high point (G.I. Joe, Transformers, TMNT, He-Man, the list goes on and on), action figures were super cool, technology was advancing but not dominating childhood (although “Hell Yeah Nintendo!”), Hulk Hogan was telling us to say our prayers and eat our vitamins and not a racist, no one would second guess getting a drink from Bill Cosby, and most importantly there was an innocence that seems to be missing from today’s generation. Could you imagine being a kid now? Ugh. I think I would have had a nervous breakdown by age six. All this technology and social media bullying, and lack of good cartoons. For serious kids today have shit cartoons. Do you remember waking up every Saturday morning, and sitting in front of the TV until eleven o’clock eating cereal? That was my jam. I lived for Saturday mornings. My sister and I would set up pillows all over the floor and make forts, and bring our Pillow People (they were a thing) and just hang out in Pillow People world for the morning (for the record Squeaky Door was my favorite). It was a simpler time. As a quick side I think it’s important that I’m on record saying I can’t picture what my life would have been like if I experienced my 20’s during the eighties. Well actually, I kind of know how that would’ve ended up. Most likely found dead, naked, in a room with a black light and neon posters, listening to Eddie Murphy’s Party All the Time through my Teddy Rupskin, with various drugs spread out over programs from the ’86 Mets. Wow. Could I have fit any more references into one sentence?
My parents were the best. They always supported my crazy toy/cartoon obsessions and allowed me to expand my imagination through playing with action figures or writing stories or anything else that went through my child like mind. My childhood was full of encouragement in the different avenues I pursued for creativity, and I’m for ever grateful for that. When I try and think back at how many “comic books” of made up super heroes my parents had to look through or how many monster stories they had to read, I always smile because none of those things were ever pushed aside as nonsense. Despite the fact that I couldn’t draw to save my life (although I can draw the hell out of a bunny with an ear ring smoking a cigarette), I was never discouraged. That’s not to say that there weren’t lines drawn in the sand though. Despite the plethora of options to 80’s kids there were certain things that were closed off to me. The main one being Dungeons & Dragons.
It could just be me, but I think the very mention of Dungeons & Dragons brings up the same thoughts to people from my generation. Satanic weirdos who sacrifice goats. Okay, that was weirdly specific but you catch the drift. There was a stigma that was associated with people who played Dungeons & Dragons and that stigma was quite clearly they worshiped the devil. My parents were always very adamant in keeping me away from the D&D scene. I remember once my Grandmother’s neighbor saw that we were visiting and brought me down a toy. Right? You don’t see neighbors doing that stuff now a days. I remember it was some sort lion/dragon hybrid and it was sick! I want to say it came in a purple box too. For some reason that seems very correct at the moment. Any way the thing of it was I was never allowed to play with it because on that purple box read the words, Dungeons & Dragons. I remember this going down two separate ways. Way one being the toy was given to my parents to “hold on to” and I never received it or Way Two which saw my parents decline the toy and this woman insisting to the point where my father had to talk to her away from the group. Also, what’s a grown woman doing with a Dungeons and Dragon toy?! Now that I think of it there were never any goats in my Grandmother’s apartment complex. Gasp. Totally a satanic goat sacrificing weirdo. Good call Mom and Dad!
It’s hard to be mad at my parents about their judgement call, although I suspect at the time I was pissed, because this black cloud of evil totally hung over the whole D&D society. From a young age I was taught that people who played worshiped the devil (as we established), had long hair and hated their parents, listened to metal music, and probably smoked cigarettes too. This wasn’t just my parents talking (they wouldn’t be that specific in classifying people any way), but was pieced together from the point of views of others who were against the whole D&D craze. It quickly became the best way to label outsiders. Quite simply put, if you hear something enough you start to believe it, and I too grew weary of the Dungeons & Dragons crowd. They’re existence is probably why I never owned a goat (Author’s Note: there is no truth to this statement whatsoever, and what does it even mean? Did I suspect my possible goat owning would only prompt someone to come out of the wood works to sacrifice it? How arrogant of me, right?).
Up until four years ago I still probably believed this whole idea that D&D was evil. Then I watched an episode of Community and my whole mind set shifted. For those of you who don’t know, and now is probably not the proper time to fully get into it, but I’ve often said if you opened up my head you would see that it works very similarly to an episode of Community. There is just something about that show that gets me. So picture me sitting there watching this episode about D&D and having my face totally melted. For starters it’s a wicked funny episode, but more importantly it was the first time I had ever actually been exposed to a game of Dungeons & Dragons and I’m not ashamed to say that I was heavily intrigued.
Not once during the game did any one mention the devil, the story consisted with the quest to find a dragon, you had cool character names with different skill sets, and best of all… it was a game that took place in your head! That’s right! This game, this evil, evil game, promoted the use of your imagination! I couldn’t believe it. I instantly loved the entire concept. It was video games, but inside your head. It was fantasy but where you were the heroes. It was community building with others who saw the world in a similar light as you. And suddenly the glass ceiling shattered. People who played Dungeons & Dragons weren’t satanic weirdos, they were people who wanted to escape the trappings of every day life and find a place where they could shake it off and be themselves with like minded people. They weren’t weirdos at all. They were humans who just happened to have a different outlet.
Since this episode of Community I’ve seen the Big Bang Theory tackle the game as well as the documentary on Dan Harmon, Harmontown, which saw him play D&D with live audiences. The more I saw the game being played the better understanding I had for it. I could feel the stereotypes of Dungeons & Dragons players purging themselves from my head, and being replaced by something else entirely. This strange urge to kind of play a game. Not in the sense where I would become obsessed, I have enough on my plate as it is, but to participate. To get a feel for this universe and have fun for a couple of hours with a few friends. Maybe with wine being drunk out of goblets and my Lord of the Rings playlist (titled Filthy Hobbits) playing in the background. Yeah that would be kind of a cool way to spend a night with friends. Totally a bucket list item.
I look back on it now, and I don’t blame my parents for keeping me away from the game. There was a heavy stigma attached to it, and chances are with the way my imagination worked, I could have become hooked on this game. Sometimes I even think I would would have made a freakin’ awesome Dungeon Master. But now that I’m older I see Dungeons & Dragons in a new light. They’re just a bunch of geeks who want to play a game with some friends. Sounds like my type of people.