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Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic Over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds
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Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic Over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  105 ratings  ·  19 reviews
The 1980s saw the peak of a moral panic over fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. A coalition of moral entrepreneurs that included representatives from the Christian Right, the field of psychology, and law enforcement claimed that these games were not only psychologically dangerous but an occult religion masquerading as a game. Dangerous Games explores ...more
ebook, 368 pages
Published February 12th 2015 by University of California Press (first published February 10th 2015)
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Start your review of Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic Over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds
I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed reading a scholarly book this much. The subject matter is fascinating, the methodology is solid, the writing is both erudite and accessible. The whole thing, in short, is a joy to read. I want to make sure I start by making this very clear, because my review will include a few criticisms, but these should not take away from any potential reader’s interest in the book.

This is one of the first serious efforts to look at the importance of the game “Dungeons
C.T. Phipps


"Never argue with an idiot. You'll never convince the idiot that you're correct, and bystanders won't be able to tell who's who." - Mark Twain

This is a deeply frustrating book for me because I wanted to like it but the problem is that it keeps running into the truism of the aforementioned quote undermines it at very turn. There's an apocryphal story passed around in my Kentucky game group from my DM to me that came from a convention he attended. Basical
Feb 21, 2021 rated it liked it
A dense read with occasional nuggets of wisdom.

If my review sounds very conflicted, then I suppose it's because I am. There are plenty of things in this book that feel top notch, while others feel like hasty and poorly researched conclusions. The book itself wanders from a down-to-earth retelling of the Satanic Panic, to an esoteric foray into social constructs and role-playing. The end result is one book that feels like too many. I will try to address each part separately.

The book's initial sub
I interlibrary loaned this title and I had to return it before much progress was made. The start was interesting. Maybe I will finish it when I have more free time.
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A dense yet readable academic text on religion, sociology, and role playing games! I can't imagine there is a huge audience for a book like this, but the author hit many of my 'Like' buttons with his history of Dungeons&Dragons, his narrative account of the 'Satanic panic' of the 80s, and his analysis of the religious aspects of fantasy role playing games, as well as his analysis of why fundamentalist Christians found them to be so threatening.

A brief autobiographical anecdote: in the mid-1980s
I will give this book 5 stars because it was really well-written, but mostly because it combines two of my biggest passions: social science and rpgs.

The research question is simple yet challenging: how can we interpret the moral panic over role playing games? The book is framed in sociology of religion using a wide variety of theoretical and methodological tools. It is easy to read even for a person who has not taken a single class of epistemology or social theory, which is one of its biggest as
Guerric Haché
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was first alerted to this book through an episode of Geek's Guide to the Galaxy, and from that discussion I knew this book would be a fairly detailed look at the history of the moral panic and outrage directed at Dungeons & Dragons in the late 20th century. In that regard, I was not disappointed - Laycock lays out an exhaustive history of the panic, to the point where his investigation stretches back well before the creation of D&D in some aspects, and follows the panic all the way do its dwin ...more
May 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm never quite sure how to review nonfiction. The subject matter was interesting, and seemed accurate at least from the role-playing games side of things (I'm not familiar enough with fundamentalist Christianity to speak to that side of things, nor am I familiar with many of the scholars he quotes), but the book was a bit repetitive and I can't help feeling like it could've been edited down. Or maybe scholarly tomes are supposed to be repetitive. It was still an interesting read.

(Then again, of
Rhiannon Grant
May 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-uob
I had this as a PDF from the university library which made reading a bit awkward, but worth it. A useful combination of detailed historical work (on D&D, related games, Christian campaigners, Otherkin, and crimes and tragedies which got caught up in the discussion) and theoretical work which includes exploration of the multiple frames involved and the complex states of truthfulness, fantasy, and things inbetween which exist throughout the moral panic.
Brian Gee
Sep 26, 2022 rated it really liked it
* full review forthcoming *
Zak Kizer
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Though a bit jargon heavy in some places, Dangerous Games is a compelling and accessible work that pierces the absurdity of moral panics with clear insight.
Jun 23, 2022 rated it it was amazing
In terms of intersections of my interests, I feel like this book was written for me. Great analysis of not just the history of the moral panic over RPGs but the role of imaginative play in our lives.
Jun 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Pretty dense. Felt like a sociology textbook. Decently repetitive in various parts. However, an interesting history and take on imagination, role-playing games, and religion.
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a definitive book on the Satanic panic about Roleplaying games. I really enjoyed it even though it has dry sections.
Daniel A.
First off, this book was truly fascinating. Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic Over Role-Playing Games Says About Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds by religious studies professor Joseph P. Laycock looks like a graduate thesis, but it's still eminently readable, and offers vital insights into the nature of religion, spiritual belief, the nature of play and games, and the creation of meaning.

Some people younger than myself may not remember, but when I was growing up there was very real concer
Harry Bookerson
I came into this expecting the history of D&D and the moral panic surrounding it, but there's SO MUCH MORE in here. I totally wasn't expecting this book to change my outlook on religion and the concept of ritual, but it did! The parts about 'serious play' really spoke to me as someone who DMs in an educational setting.
I'm not an academic reader, so this took a while for me to get through and I think I'm going to have to go back to it in a year or so and read it again, but I'm looking forward to
Lucas Grant
Mar 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent. It was very scholarly so it did take me awhile to read (I would put it aside and read fiction in between) but the information was great. May not appeal to "non roleplayers" but as someone who had an aunt tell him to burn his "Satan game" during the 80s I found the book fascinating. ...more
David Krueger
Aug 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Listen to my interview with the author at: http://marginalia.lareviewofbooks.org... ...more
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“While the romantics rejected the Enlightenment’s exaltation of reason, many theologians accepted it and sought to frame the Bible as a set of empirical data.” 2 likes
“In an interview given at Gen Con in 2007, Gygax explained that he had been reluctant to talk about his identity as a Christian during the era of the panic: “I was afraid it would give Christianity a bad name because I did D&D.”4” 2 likes
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