My previous post generated considerable debate (chiefly about, of all things, Daddy Pig). But it raises wider, and more important, questions that I think it would be worth devoting a post to addressing.
There is a tendency I have often noticed among nerdish men of a certain age to get defensive about particular hobbies - video games, heavy metal, horror films, comics, D&D, and so on. Having been told that these pastimes are variously stupid, evil, corrupting, a waste of time, sinful, and so on in their youths, such men have adopted a position at the opposite extreme, which is that it does not matter what media one consumes. One can listen to as much Cannibal Corpse as one likes, watch Driller Killer five times a day, and spend the rest of one's time murdering disabled children and puppies on Call of Duty: Ed Gein Edition, and it has no effect on one's psyche at all. Nobody is corrupted by any of this; nobody in the real world is affected; one can consume whatever media one desires and still be perfectly well-adjusted.
It is understandable why some people think like this, but it is difficult to imagine a position which could be less accurate. To demonstrate its foolishness, one simply has to ask a couple of straightforward questions. First, do you think it would be appropriate for a six-year-old to be given unrestricted access to pornhub? Second, do you think it is impossible to be moved by a work of great art? And, third, do you think it is impossible for characters in fiction of any kind to be inspirational, or to reinforce a negative stereotype? Well, I'm afraid that if your answer to any of those questions was 'no', then that means that you concede that the media one consumes matters in respect of its impact on the psyche, soul, mind, or whatever word you prefer. All reasonable people can do is argue about the extent to which it matters, in what context, and to whom - and what to do about it.
(A closely related argument concerns the question of 'copycat' behaviour, as when that shy young man Jimmy McJimmy who kept himself to himself and was polite to his neighbours one day commits a vile murder and it is discovered that he had spent the last three days locked in his basement watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or whatever. Clearly, the chain of causation is not clear and nobody has ever been able to identify a situation in which a crazed killer has had his brain borked simply by watching a video nasty. But, equally clearly, it's pretty unlikely that watching such stuff has no effect at the margins. No media savvy person alive in the 21st century can possibly deny that young people in particular are prone to copy behaviours and attitudes which they pick up from watching YouTube, TikTok, etc.; is it really such a stretch to imagine that what one watches as entertainment has an accumulated effect on the way one thinks?)
In short, of course cultural products matter, and of course they influence how people think and therefore how they behave. How could they not? Acknowledging this doesn't, and shouldn't, mean that our culture needs policing or that anything in particular needs banning. It simply means that it is foolish to go through life thinking that what one consumes by way of culture has no effect on how one sees the world, or how one acts in it.
This raises the interesting question, to my eye, as to whether what goes on at a D&D table matters. And here I don't mean to suggest that when a bunch of D&D players imagine their PCs massacring a tribe or orcs that it is going to turn them all into genocidaires or desensitise them to violence. Rather, I mean to ask whether the choices which one makes when thinking as a PC - the decisions which one makes when 'role playing' broadly understood - can have an impact on how one approaches choice-making in real life. To boil the inquiry down to its essence, is it possible to use a PC in an RPG auto-didactically as a way to experiment with what it would mean to behave more honourably, more decisively, more compassionately, etc., and to then reflect on how that could be implemented in one's actual life?