To find that out, I went to the skeptics, Michael Shermer and Jeffrey Victor. The whole argument was weird to me and the skeptics were the ones talking about weird things. "Who needs Satanic cults?" Shermer asks. "Talk-show hosts, book publishers, anti-cult groups, fundamentalists, and certain religious groups, is the reply." Skullduggery wasn't made to present a coherent, logical argument. It existed to make money, and the best way to do that was to latch on to a popular trend. It didn't have to be gaming as Satanic conspiracy, but Ota needed something acceptably Satanic to stand in as a hate figure so he could sell his movie. If ice cream had the same social stigma, Adam would have smothered his victims in Ben and Jerry's. Gaming was a convenient target, nothing more.
The bigger question was, why focus on the Satanic connection to begin with? Victor looked into roleplaying as part of his work on Satanic panics. Policemen, conservative spokespersons, newspaper reporters and others were all on record saying that gaming led to occultism which led to ritual killings. Why do people listen to the argument at all?
Victor says, "a witch hunt is, in part, motivated by guilt and projection of 'sins.' There is plenty of guilt among parents today, and it is guilt related to those precise objects of their resentment... The ideological targets of Satanism witch hunters are things which are believed to shape the minds of children: child-care centers, schoolbooks, popular music, and even games."
They're not listening because they believe in the argument; they're listening because they know there are lots of things they're either powerless to do anything about or don't understand. It's partly an abdication of personal responsibility in refusing to take positive action (say, taking the trouble to learn more about things they don't understand), but it's also an unwilling acknowledgement that most of the time we all are helpless. With that feeling of helplessness comes guilt, resentment, anger, and a desire to do something.
Ota's cinematic dunderpiece isn't worth watching unless you happen to like laughing at bad movies. However, I still have a soft spot in my heart for it, not for what it is, but for what it led me to. Had Skullduggery not been made, had the hysterics not wailed about roleplaying throughout the 80s, I might not have been as inclined to consider the other side of the argument. There would have been no need; but I would have been the poorer without Shermer, Victor, and the skeptics. I might have become more accepting of the status quo, might not have wondered when an agenda was being pushed, who was doing the pushing, and why.
So thank you, Ota, for Skullduggery. You did me good, without meaning to.
Adam never watches bad movies. Well, hardly ever. Only when they're hilariously awful.