Unlike the US, the UK never really had the Moral Majority up in arms about how Dungeons & Dragons would destroy your brain and make you a vassal of the Dark Lord.
Compare the horrified, sensationalist tone in this report on Dungeons & Dragons from 60 minutes in 1985 or this from CBC with news reports from the UK. On the BBC’s Southeast Today in 1983, Mike Donkin described the game as a “cross between a hobby and a Cult”, but the tone is much more benevolent.
In May 1980, the BBC’s Heart Of The Matter spent a considerable time talking about D&D in a show based around why people make particular decisions, but both broadcasters and participants struggle to actually explain what the game is – they also refer to it as a “The Sword & Sorcery Cult” and claim “you can actually die in this game”. You do get to see incredibly low key role playing though – it’s worlds away from the stuff you see on Penny Arcade’s Acquisitions Incorporated or Critical Role.
In January 1985 Mad Dogs & Englishmen (featuring the original silver fox Des Lynam) covered the Live Action Role Playing company Treasure Trap – presumably a bit more visually interesting than that “My Cleric will come forward his holy symbol in hand” guy in Heart Of The Matter. That same year BBC Breakfast Time’s Bob Whittaker covered the annual Games Day convention. Here’s a post Nosin’ Around Ben Elton playing D&D with Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson. You can’t get any more 80s than that.
Some of these shows were excerpted on the BBC’s nostalgiafest I Love 1984, and Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Toys, but the audio from each of them can be found here (although you’ll have to click around a bit) as a companion piece to a recent programme about interactive fiction called SKILL STAMINA & LUCK, made by the games writer Naomi Alderman. There’s a particular focus on Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, and, on that companion site, lengthy interviews with Livingstone and Jackson.
Unlike Alderman’s respectful and nostalgic look back, the overwhelming tone in these older broadcasts is bemused and mildly condescending, but no one seems too bothered about madness, murder and Lucifer. Typical British reserve, I guess. We’d rather not be afraid of something if we can instead laugh at it.