Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Mazes and Monsters
Mazes and Monsters is a made for TV movie about a group of college students and their interest in the eponymous role-playing game (RPG). It was based on a novel by Rona Jaffe and premiered on CBS in 1982. It stars Tom Hanks, Wendy Crewson, David Wallace and Chris Makepeace . The movie is currently available on VHS tape.
Mazes and Monsters came out in the heyday of the RPG Dungeons & Dragons (the movie's title is a thinly veiled reference to the game) and was seen by some as a warning to parents about the dangers of RPGs. It came out at a time when Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) was starting to be attacked by Christian groups who alleged that it promoted Satanism and other forms of occult activities (much like video games and the Harry Potter series of books are being attacked today).
Robbie Wheeling (Hanks) starts college at the fictional "Grant University" and soon develops a group of friends. They are fans of a game called "Mazes and Monsters," a game which he used to play but gave up for some reason. Though he is reluctant, they convince him to start playing again with them.
After playing the game for some time, the friends decide to explore a nearby series of caves in an effort to "live out their fantasy." During the spelunking, Wheeling experiences a psychotic episode, where he hallucinates that he has slain a monster. Wheeling then slips into a fantasy realm where monsters, elves and magic are real to him. Unable to control his game-imposed schizophrenic hallucinations, Wheeling attempts suicide, but is rescued by his friends.
The movie ends with the friends visiting Wheeling at his parents' estate, him calling themselves by their RPG character's names. Via some dialog provided by his mother, it is made clear that Wheeling is permanently mentally damaged and that there is little hope of his recovery. It is implied that Wheeling lives out the rest of his life trapped in his imaginary world believing that he is living at an Inn (actually his parents' home) and paying for his boarding with a magic coin.
Though few parents heeded the "warning" espoused by this film, it generated angry reactions from fans of RPG games, especially fans of D&D, seeing it as a direct attack on their hobby. They claimed that the movie misrepresented the RPG-genre in a number of ways:
- RPG players are not mentally unstable
- To players, playing the game is "living out their fantasy," and few feel a desire for a real-life acting out of the elements found in the game
- The implication that RPG's are an occult activity and played in occult settings
- Most of the elements of an RPG are depicted inaccurately and are almost laughable in their portrayal
Despite their reaction, many non-players of the game believed it portrayed an accurate depiction of RPG games and their players. Since RPG's were a new genre of games in the early 1980s, most viewers had little else to base their opinions on.
- The IMDb entry on Mazes and Monsters
- Satirical "fan site" of the movie with many stills from the movie
- RPGnet review
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