I’ve just had the URL to this nasty little tale mentioned in a chatserver where some friends and I hang out…then thirty seconds later, I see the same story mentioned on BoingBoing. The protagonist of the tale, a friend of friends of mine, had someone at the New Jersey/New York ferry authority attempt to confiscate a copy of a role-playing game book, Exalted: The Abyssals, that he had been carrying in his knapsack because the would-be confiscator felt it was “inappropriate” for other ferry-goers to be exposed to it. (What’s more, this wasn’t even the first incident where having a RPG book got this particular gamer hassled.)
Of course, this is hardly the first time that roleplaying games have been considered “inappropriate”; religious and other attacks on RPGs have quite a long history, in fact, including a condemnation by a fellow who’s been in the news a good deal recently for certain other condemnations, Dr. James Dobson. (Dobson’s “Adventures in Odyssey” radio show depicting D&D as satanic has such a skewed vision of reality that it is almost as funny as the Dead Alewives’ famous “D&D skit” which depicts gamers as they really are.) But for the most part, D&D-bashing was a religious fad of the eighties that has by and large faded since the founder of BADD died. (Its “ecological niche” has since been largely filled by Harry Potter-bashing, but that’s a subject for another rant.)
This is, however, the first time that I have heard of something like this happening, where some authority in the real world (other than a school teacher or principal, where the rules are very different) has tried to confiscate a gaming book for “inappropriateness.” It’s a bit of a scary thing to have happen, for sure. Still, I doubt it’s indicative of any larger trend on the part of that ferry authority. More than likely it was just one or two guards on a power-trip, looking for things to confiscate to boost his ego…and since they probably didn’t expect to be able to get away with taking someone’s dirty magazine, picked on the somewhat spooky-looking RPG book instead.
In the end, the joke will be on him, though; I gather that the story has been hitting a lot of livejournals and other web logs since being posted to mephron’s LJ, so the incident is getting a lot of attention. One can only hope it will result in some sort of corrective action.
Update: As mentioned in an update to the BoingBoing story, game author/web journalist Greg Costikyan wrote to the company that runs the ferry about this incident. He received a response that they were very interested in contacting mephron to find out exactly where and when this had occurred, since such an incident would have been in violation of both corporate policy and maritime law. If and when any outcome will be revealed is uncertain, however; shaken by the abruptness of this unwanted fame, mephron won’t be posting anything publicly for a while. Can’t say that I blame him, either.
Final Update: mephron has made an LJ post including the text of his letter to the ferry company and a few closing words.