There’s a genre of Internet writing called “creepypasta.” It’s a subcategory of, and its name derives from, “copypasta,” which simply means a block of text that’s short and interesting enough that it gets copied and pasted over and over again, thousands of times through the Internet. As you might guess from the name, “creepypasta” is short but interesting horror stories.
One particular creepypasta that turned into a meme is the “Slenderman,” an Internet-made horror story about a supernaturally tall, thin being who preys on children. A whole mythology has sprung up around him, one of the more successful examples of true Internet folklore.
And apparently exposure to this folklore led a pair of twelve-year-old girls in Wisconsin to stab a friend 19 times. (Fortunately, she survived, though one of the wounds missed a major artery by a millimeter.) At least one of them is undergoing a mental health evaluation.
"There are lots and lots of teenagers who play video games and who played Dungeons & Dragons, who absolutely understood this was a fantasy world, this wasn’t real. But there were very rare cases where kids developed an isolated way of functioning and began to operate as though it were real," said Kinscherff, who is also associate vice president for community relations at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology in Boston.
Yeah, naturally they had to bring Dungeons & Dragons into it.
As might be expected, now “concerned parents” are apparently raising an outcry demanding that the Creepypasta Wiki and similar sites be censored or shut down. (I haven’t actually found any evidence of concerted action in this regard, except in the comments of individual news stories, but based on what I know of human nature I can believe it.) One of the wiki’s admins posted a statement on the site pointing out that all works contained within the site are fiction and not meant to be taken seriously. The administrator of Creepypasta.com has issued a much longer statement which is well worth reading.
It’s human nature to look for someone or something to blame when someone does something so horrible you don’t want to believe they could be capable of it. It deflects responsibility away from the person who did it, and by extension from the people who should have been keeping a weather eye on them to make sure they weren’t going to do something like that. That’s how the whole mess with blaming D&D for all the evils of the teenage world got started.
I guess it’s too much to hope that we can grow past it.