Wednesday, August 20, 2008

McCain is no Dungeon Master

John McCain staffer Michael Goldfarb on McCain's blog responded to criticism that McCain plagiarized an account from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, when the Soviet prisoner became inspired after a fellow inmate drew a cross in the sand. McCain told the same story about his experiences as a captive in Vietnam, with a guard who drew a cross in the sand. Goldfarb called the attacks "desperate" and then compared Barrack Obama supporters to Dungeons & Dragons geeks:

"It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman's memory of war from the comfort of mom's basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others. "

Is that how you stifle your detractors? Call your opponents nerds? Is John McCain running for president of the United States or high school class president?
And Dungeons & Dragons? Does the old stereotype of the socially-awkward geek in his parent's basement playing D&D really resonate with voters who aren't trapped in 1978?
Talk about misdirection. Your candidate is questioned about whether he lifted a story from a Soviet prisoner and you bring up D&D. If that's the best the McCain camp can do, they are in trouble.
In his blog, Goldfarb compared the editors of The New York Times to a blogger "sitting at home in his mother's basement and ranting into the ether between games of Dungeons & Dragons."
Is Goldfarb's frame of reference the 1982 made-for-TV movie "Mazes and Monsters," where a disturbed gamer (future Oscar-winner Tom Hanks) goes batty after losing himself in a game that's strangely like D&D?
Back in the 1980s, which is probably where McCain's cultural barometer stops, a movement by evangelicals and parent groups decried D&D as promoting Satanism and antisocial behavior. Of course none of these people actually played the game, but that's not important. What's important was that rabid zealots propagated untruths about a game where prepubescent teenagers sat around a table pretending to battle orcs and trolls.
Now it's not that Goldfarb is calling Obama supporters or anyone questioning McCain as evil Satanists (although that ad might hit sometime closer to the election). It's that he's calling them...geeks.
So any time you point out a candidate is playing fast and loose with the facts, you're an acne-scarred D&D nerd?
What's wrong with roleplayers anyway that they deserve this negative stigma? Most roleplayers I know are intelligent, creative and successful people. They're not maladjusted loners or rejects.
I think Goldfarb is showing his ignorance and, quite frankly, his obtuseness when it comes to this much-maligned hobby of RPGs (that's roleplaying games, not rocket-propelled grenades, Mr. Cheney). Roleplayers adopt alternate identities and use combat and violence to overcome obstacles. Sounds an awful lot like Bush Republicans, right? See? They do have something in common with the Dungeons & Dragons crowd.
I played D&D in school, and I own several RPGs, including several editions of D&D. I've written and designed an RPG and from my experience, the gaming industry is not a hobby for nebbishy nerds - it's a great opportunity to meet and work with professional people.
I was talking about Goldfarb's D&D barb to a buddy of mine who owns a local game shop. He's held game drives in his store where people can donate games and comic books to American troops serving in Iraq. What Goldfarb and the other McCain staffers might not realize is members of the military actually play D&D and roleplaying games. A few people I know in the gaming industry who design RPGs served in the military at one point in their lives. How many conservatives who play RPGs and D&D did Goldfarb alienate with his snarky comparison?
Goldfarb actually apologized for his statements after a wave of protest hit the Internet:

"If my comments caused any harm or hurt to the hard working Americans who play Dungeons & Dragons, I apologize. This campaign is committed to increasing the strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma scores of every American."

Wow. What a suck up. Think he had a staffer run out and buy a 4th edition and generate a character? To appease the gaming geeks he lists the abilities and all's forgiven? Why stop there? Why not mention hit points, the Bag of Holding or Mordenkainen's Sword?
Goldfarb's ill-chosen jab is not really about D&D or gaming. It's about the devaluation of intelligent people in our society. It associates intelligence with nerds and awkwardness and, according to McCain's camp, they're the ones running Obama's campaign.
This leads to the intriguing question: who the fuck is managing the McCain campaign? What out of touch blueblooded preppie douchebags are pulling this guy's strings? Aren't there enough alpha wolf posers and Project for the New American Century neocons who need to pad out their resumes? If D&D is their cultural benchmark, they really need to leave the country club and get out more. This is the 21st century, Skippy! Broaden your horizons!
Maybe actually playing a game of D&D would introduce McCain, Goldfarb and their ilk to a new concept: using their imaginations.