Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

I Was an 80s Gaming/Metal Nerd...

Around 1982, I discovered that everything I liked was Satanic. Dungeons and Dragons, obviously (hence the blog), but also metal music (to be clear, its better specimens and not the questionable hair-metal variety). You'd think I was holding a daily black mass to hear the hysterical rumblings from certain quarters. Youth was under assault; Satan was pulling dark strings using every tool in his arsenal - music and, apparently, imagination... 

I'm sure some of those who never came to their senses would be horrified at my secular humanism; but this isn't a religious thing. Some of the best and brightest hobbyists, people I like and respect immensely, were - and remain - people of faith. And I saw firsthand how moral panics, unmoored from reality or evidence, hurt these early gamers as well-meaning parents locked away their rulebooks, convinced they were saving souls.

Demons, magic; things prohibited by the Good Book featured prominently. And just like rock and roll and cars (yes, cars), gaming took kids to places adults couldn't follow (barring the superior sort who took the time to ask or actually participate). I suffered articles in supposedly respectable media claiming things objectively - and demonstrably - false, which made me appreciate the value of evidence while showing that my elders could still be wrong.

It was a volatile mix. We were young and newly rebellious; and here's this sweet new thing that allowed us to experience another world - and to be another self. It wasn't about rebellion, per se (our Chess Club was dubbed The Mild Bunch); but it became a subversive act once everyone began freaking out. More than anything we'd seen, gaming was awesome because fantasy was awesome. Dragons and wizards and magic swords are awesome...

And then one day your buddy plays some Dio - or Ozzy, or whatever, and it speaks to that fantasy loving part of you. The driving guitars marched us into battle even as the solos taught us that a person could do more than play chords behind a singer. And its lyrics, running the gauntlet from horror to magic to samurai warriors, was the wizard painted on the side of your neighbor's van. With matching imagery, heavy metal was gaming music made flesh.

And you saw this speciation; the drama nerds, obviously, but also some pure metalheads (think Eddie from Stranger Things) who may not have even graduated but loved fantasy, because it's awesome, and saw their aspirations in dice and dragons. This didn't help polish gaming's image to a hysterical public - be we understood. And the cross pollination won metal some unlikely devotees - and elevated a genre to the status of nerd rock.

I steered a middle course. My friends called me a Mingler because I moved through many circles (steadfastly avoiding certain ones), including the metalheads. In my experience, roleplaying showcased their criminally overlooked talent and intelligence, and this went both ways. Metal friends made us more worldly and open to experiences beyond our relatively sheltered existence. The benefits to both factions was definitely not a stranger thing...    


  1. How many kids turned away from religion because the satanic panic taught kids that the religious leaders didn't know what they were talking about but used their bully pulpit anyway?

  2. Ha! So wild when you consider the conservative “Roman Catholic” faith had no issue with D&D (at least, never expressed to me…a kid who went to Catholic school his entire life and church every Sunday). It was only (the parents of) my friends in evangelical faiths that had issues with D&D (they probably already thought us Catholics were closet diabolists anyway).

    1. Yeah, there was a definite evangelical slant...