MAZES AND MONSTERS (1982)—The Devil's in the D20

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On this week’s annotated deep dive, The Cultists present Steven H Stern’s ‘Mazes and Monsters’ (1982). On August 15, 1979, James Dallas Egbert disappeared from his college dorm room. Subsequent investigators and the press quickly arrived at one conclusion: the still new and blossoming game Dungeons and Dragons had something, if not everything, to do with it. Fueled by the growing rise of “moral panic” and the mass media conviction in the youth-corrupting power of satan, the true story of Egbert’s life was quickly twisted into a cautionary tale of what happens to children who RPG. Capitalizing on the sensational concerns, Mazes and Monsters tells this story—allegedly. Starring Tom Hanks in his first feature film role, this made for TV movie about the psychosis-inducing effects of D&D remains an important historical artifact of 80s moral panic and gaming paranoia. Even if the film itself also remains pretty unwatchable.

(Episode annotated topics include: the real story behind Egbert’s disappearance; the development history of D&D; the 1980s rise of “satanic panic”; and other subsequent D&D TV portrayals—from The Greatest American Hero’s “Wizards and Warlocks” (1983) to Riverdale’s “Griffins and Gargoyles” (2019)).

Episode Safeword: “salvation”

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