Wednesday, January 27, 2010

And then there were only Dragons....

The news story precipitating this article was first brought to our attention by the site upon which the internet itself hinges.  We refer, of course, to Penny Arcade, without which the vast sea of knowledge known as the World Wide Web would no doubt cease to exist.

Nevertheless, we confirmed their report with the New York Times.  Just because.

In essence, prisoners in Wisconsin are being denied the right to play D&D, as there is concern it will encourage them to form gangs and attempt escape.

It is the considered opinion of The Middle Room that there may be a misunderstanding here.  In our eternal campaign to spread enlightenment and knowledge, we thought we would explain the fallacy in this logic.  Bear in mind, we have not come to offer commentary on ethics or other peripheral issues.  Tycho, from Penny Arcade, has thoughts to share along those lines, and we'll leave it to our readers to form their own ideas about cruel and unusual punishment and the fine line between obsession and religion.  Our sole endeavor is, as it has always been, the application of reason to the world around us.

Therefore, we begin with the assertion that prisoners exposed to Dungeons & Dragons might form gangs.  Here we see one of the more common points of confusion: while the game does involve, in some circumstances, gang-like groups of characters wielding deadly weapons, the players themselves remain seated around a table holding dice and pieces of paper.  We do not begrudge the Wisconsin Department of Corrections for failing to note to difference between reality and fantasy: they are certainly not the first unable to make such a distinction.

As to the second point, that prisoners may be encouraged to attempt to live out escape fantasies, we turn to our own experiences in Middle School.  In the eighth grade, we found ourselves, on occasion, remaining in school after hours of our own volition so that we might play Dungeons & Dragons in the school library.  While this may at first seem a trivial fact, we remind our readers that Middle School is in many ways a comparable environment to prison.

Were the concern that the inmates might be unwilling to leave prison when their time had been served, we would be less critical of their reasoning.  As to the notion that playing a game without end will cause the players to seek escape, we are a tad skeptical.  The Department of Corrections, in our opinion, may be underestimating the addictive nature of D&D.

Perhaps they should have at least rolled up characters before rendering a verdict.

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