August 26, 2020

AND THUS, THE CANCEL CULTURE LEFT ONCE AGAIN COMES FULL CIRCLE WITH THE MORAL MAJORITY: The Woke Police Came for Dungeons & Dragons. The legendary role-playing game has become “problematic.”

It all begins with the problem of Orcs. These fictional humanoids, green-skinned brutes with hides of leather, were conceptualized by J.R.R. Tolkien, at least, in their modern incarnation. More fleshed out than most of Tolkien’s mythological monsters (with the addition of an origin story), Orcs, which are based on Northern European folktales, are akin to the Goblin—just bigger, meaner, and much scarier. They serve as a contrast to the lithe and enlightened elves in the Lord of the Rings universe. In The Fall of Gondolin, Tolkien writes:

For all that race were bred by Melko of the subterranean heats and slime. Their hearts were of granite and their bodies deformed; foul their faces which smiled not, but their laugh that of the clash of metal, and to nothing were they more fain than to aid in the basest of the purposes of Melko.

Servants of an evil power in Tolkien’s books, this characterization of orcs closely mirrors their depiction in Dungeons & Dragons. These servants of a greater evil are usually footsoldiers, minions to a dragon, or demon, or an orc chieftain at the bottom of a dungeon. They serve as fodder for the players, to be defeated alongside undead skeletons and other evil creatures.

Just as Dungeons & Dragons inspired the creation of new fantasy franchises, so too did the lore of Orcs expand beyond their brutish but humble origins. In World of Warcraft, for instance, they’re depicted as a warlike race with a unique culture of their own, split into different clans. They are more than simply monsters in Warcraft; they’re the main characters, led by a warchief who seeks to elevate his people above their barbarism. And while they are still not wholly human, the humanization of Orcs in the media has made them much more empathetic creatures than Tolkien or the creators of Dungeons & Dragons ever envisioned. The evolution of the Orc, based loosely on colonialist tropes of native peoples and European pagans, has made them a ripe topic for the woke brigade that has found a cause in the dehumanization of a fantasy creature that wasn’t even human in the first place.

Flashback: The great 1980s Dungeons & Dragons panic:

In 1985, Jon Quigley, of the Lakeview Full Gospel Fellowship, spoke for many opponents when he claimed: “The game is an occult tool that opens up young people to influence or possession by demons.”

These fears also found their way into the UK. Fantasy author KT Davies recalls “showing a vicar a gaming figure – he likened D&D to demon worship because there were ‘gods’ in the game”.

Veteran roleplayer Andy Smith found himself in the unusual position of being both a roleplayer and a Christian. “While working for a Christian organisation I was told to remove my roleplaying books from the shared accommodation as they were offensive to some of the other workers and contained references to demon-worship.”

Looking back now, it’s possible to see the tendrils of a classic moral panic, and some elements of the slightly esoteric world of roleplaying did stir the imaginations of panicked outsiders.

A moral panic? The “Safetyism”-driven left seems to be having nothing be in nothing but panic mode these days.

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