Since my related post earlier, I have been a little obsessed with reading about the sad details of Runequest IV project leader Oliver Jovanovic's sex abuse case. What's clear from the successful appeal that overturned his conviction is that there was a troubling misuse of New York State's rape shield laws to ban email and phone evidence that would have cleared Jovanovic.
I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, so I can't make much further informed commentary on this. But I have been a real-world print journalist on and off again for two decades now and I am floored by how sensational and irresponsible coverage of the case was at that time.
More relevantly to this blog, is how some of the more lurid accounts repeatedly point to his involvement with Runequest and role-playing games in general as a sideways proof of his creepy deviance. The hysterical framing would be funny if it hadn't had such a tragic outcome.
Take this 1996 excerpt from that shining bastion of journalistic integrity, the New York Daily News:
"Apparently this guy has a very warped video collection," including titles devoted to sexual deviation, said one law enforcement source.
There were also books of photography that include explicit images of gay sex that Jovanovic said he considers art, the source added.
As part of the probe, police are sifting through the E-mail Jovanovic sent and received through America Online.
His E-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org an apparent reference to a complex fantasy game he loved to play called RuneQuest. In the game, which is played on paper, GRAY is an acronym for the "Glorious ReAscent of Yelm."
In the game, Yelm is an evil emperor.
|Evidence of deviant sexual activity?|
Worse though is this oh-so soberly-titled one from the same paper:
DANGER, DAGGERS KEY TO GAME PLAN
The Columbia University doctoral student accused of torturing a woman he met online helped create a computer role-playing game in which characters gain points by maiming opponents.
Oliver Jovanovic developed a point system for "RuneQuest: Adventures in Glorantha," a copyrighted fantasy game like "Dungeons and Dragons," in which players assume roles ranging from mighty gladiators to elderly farmers and create adventures in a magical kingdom.
In 1994, two years before meeting his alleged victim through an America Online chat room, Jovanovic posted a summary of the game's major rule changes on the Internet to introduce prospective players to "the cosmology, history, lands and peoples of Glorantha, focusing on the regions around Dragon Pass."
Explaining a change in the point calculation, Jovanovic wrote: "Thus, a normal dagger blow can easily sever an arm, and a normal kick will cripple an unarmed target. We would prefer a more reasonable range of damage, and to not force characters to wear armor.
You know, it takes some serious spin to make RQ's cumbersome combat rules seem this titillating.