For many people, their
first introduction to Dungeon & Dragons was when James Dallas Egbert III
went missing in the summer of 1979. Egbert was a 16-year-old sophomore at MichiganStateUniversity.
He was a computer genius. At age 12 he was repairing computers for the United
States Air Force.
Egbert was involved in many things: computers, drugs, bisexuality, and
Dungeon & Dragons. When his disappearance was reported by his friends,
many theories were offered. However, the media seized on one possible theory:
Egbert was down in the university's labyrinth of steam tunnels playing a real
life game of D&D.
In reality Egbert was suffering from severe depression. He was under extreme
parental pressure to succeed (when he reported to his mother he got a 3.5 in
a computer course, his mother chastised him for not getting a 4.0), he was
heavily into drugs, he was grappling with his bisexuality, and as a young
teen genius he simply felt like he didn't fit in on campus. (Apparently, he
was so socially inept many judged him retarded.)
A massive search of the campus tunnels was conducted but no evidence of Egbert
turned up. In reality he had simply run away and stayed with a succession of
friends. However, the media frenzy and his fear of parental retribution
prevented him from returning home. Egbert eventually made contact with a
private detective hired by his family and he was reunited. (It's been
suggested that the private detective hired by the family to find Egbert was
feeding the media D&D frenzy in an attempt to keep the fact Egbert was a
drug user, suicide prone, and was experimenting with gay sex out of the media
eye.) Unfortunately, his family failed to get him the help he truly needed. A
year after being found, Egbert committed suicide on August 11, 1980. He shot himself in the head
in his parents' living room.
The Egbert case inspired a horrible made-for-TV-movie called Mazes and
Monsters that the role playing community has spent decades trying to live