Some people seem to be saying that we've gotten by so far without any major problems, and 16 seems to work fine. I sympathize with this perspective, since I started when the age was set even younger.
Back in the very early 80's, I saw a segment on PM Magazine (an entertainment news show) that had a clip of medieval foam fighting. The game was Emarthenguarth – Darkon's predecessor. Baltimore was far away from where I lived at the time, and I was too young to play anyhow, but I remember very clearly my longing to get on the field.
Later, my family moved to Maryland, and while Emarthenguarth had died out, I was fortunate to find a copy of the Darkon rulebook in the Columbia Mall hobby store in late 1985. I called Greywulf's number listed inside, and made arrangements to attend my first event.
Today, I'd have had to wait a couple more years.
Of course, today our society is sadly more restrictive and uptight than ever – very quick to sue. It's so odd to me, because on the one hand, society is more tolerant of sexual preference, less racist, etc.. On the other, it's even more uptight about concerns of security and safety.
Back then, the notion of wearing helmets when riding bicycles was absurd in and of itself, but today, I see helmets on children riding 3-wheeled scooters that can't go but a few miles an hour. A brisk walk is faster. Halloween trick-or-treating today is often done in a narrow range of prescribed hours, and frequently in the company of adults. Many children are monitored and controlled in the context of "play dates", rather than just being turned loose to run the neighborhood and roam far and wide in nearby woodlands. Parents wait at school busstops with their children.
In short, the current environment is nothing like when us older members were kids.
I looked up the movies that were top grossers at the box office in 1986. Here are the first 3:
1.) Top Gun
2.) Crocodile Dundee
The social culture that made those movies is long gone. Crocodile Dundee is especially dated. Why should we believe that an early way of doing things in-game stays fresh? We did what we did based on what was socially acceptable; it was a calculated risk at the time. Today's calculations are different.
I feel that we should face up to the fact that we have to continually change our rules to reflect the times in which we live. I mean, personally, I don't give a damn about age. I'd like to let someone out on the field the moment they don't look like a small child who'd get crushed. I don't think that's in the game's best interest, though.
At some point, we decided 14 was too young, and upped it to 16. Well, that would have kept me away for a few years back my early days...but you know what? I'd have waited and joined when I was 16.
We should look at what our arguments are for and against. From the 'for' camp, I hear that we'd be discouraging new members and affecting our attendance. I am curious, though; how many Darkonians today are minors? Can we see how many parentally-signed waivers we got in the last year or two, and how many of those players continued on in game for at least a couple ranks?
Because, on the other hand, we can't easily quantify our liability and the potential damage to the game. I have a hard time thinking that if anything did go to court, or end up in the media, it wouldn't be a hideous mess if it involved someone underage. We have a hard time getting sites as it is.
I don't like fear-mongering, personally, and I dislike the idea of having to second-guess ourselves for potential bogeyman liabilities. I do feel, though, that there's real danger here, and as someone who wants to see Darkon endure for the generations of players yet to come up, we should be willing to consider change that protects our game.
Prince Inox Elsonáge Thensiur
Swordslinger of No Quarter!
Warriors' Guild, OE, CCx8, CM(Warrior Mage)
Beast of BABALON