Archives for posts with tag: ninja warrior

In this case decided in 2010, a prisoner had his Dungeons and Dragons material confiscated and was prevented from engaging in gameplay or possessing the book materials. This Court of Appeals affirmed. There are no first amendment rights to play dungeon and dragons in prison. The Court cites to Meyer v Branker (Ninjalaw 68) amongst other cases that legitimize a claim that D&D can lead to unhealthy fantasy-seeking escapist-behaviors, at least in some people. Therefore the government prison has a legitimate interest in banning the content.

KEVIN T. SINGER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
RICHARD RAEMISCH, * PHILLIP KINGSTON, BRUCE C. MURASK I, and MARC J. MASSIE, Defendants-Appellees.
* Pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 43(c)(2), Richard Raemisch, the current Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, is automatically substituted for former Secretary Matthew J. Frank.

No. 07-3400

UNITED STATES
COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

593 F.3d 529
2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 1506

Argued September 18, 2009
Decided January 25, 2010

Before Chief Judge Easterbrook and Circuit Judges Williams and Tinder

Opinion by Circuit Judge Tinder:

After concluding that the popular role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons (“D&D”) represented a threat to prison security, officials at Wisconsin’s Waupun Correctional Institution took action to eradicate D&D within the prison’s walls. Inmate Kevin T. Singer found himself on the front lines of Waupun’s war on D&D when prison officials confiscated a large quantity of D&D-related publications from his cell. Singer sought relief from the prison’s new regulations–and the return of his D&D materials–through the prison’s complaint system, a pursuit which ultimately proved fruitless. Singer then brought this action against a variety of prison officials pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. He alleged that Waupun’s confiscation of his D&D materials and imposition of a ban on D&D play violated his First Amendment right to free speech and his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. The prison officials moved for summary judgment on all of Singer’s claims, and the district court granted their motion in full. Singer appeals the grant of summary judgment with respect to his First Amendment claims, and we affirm.

I. Background

Kevin T. Singer is an inmate at Wisconsin’s Waupun Correctional Institution. He is also a devoted player of D&D, a fantasy role-playing game in which players collectively develop a story around characters whose personae they adopt. Singer has been a D&D enthusiast since childhood and over time has acquired numerous D&D-related publications. His enthusiasm for D&D is such that he has handwritten a ninety-six page manuscript outlining the specific details of a “campaign setting” he developed for use in D&D gameplay. Footnote #1: A typical D&D game is made up of an “adventure,” or single story that players develop as a group. A related series of games and adventures becomes a “campaign.” The fictional locations in which the adventures and campaigns take place–ranging in size and complexity from cities to entire universes–are called “campaign settings.” For more information about D&D and D&D gameplay, see Wizards of the Coast, What is D&D?, http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/whatisdnd (last visited Jan. 20, 2010).

Singer’s devotion to D&D was unwavering during his incarceration at Waupun. He frequently ordered D&D publications and game materials by mail and had them delivered to his cell. Singer was able to order and possess his D&D materials without incident from June 2002 until November 2004. This all changed on or about November 14, 2004, when Waupun’s long-serving Disruptive Group Coordinator, Captain Bruce Muraski, received an anonymous letter from an inmate. The letter expressed concern that Singer and three other inmates were forming a D&D gang and were trying to recruit others to join by passing around their D&D publications and touting the “rush” they got from playing the game. Muraski, Waupun’s expert on gang activity, decided to heed the letter’s advice and “check into this gang before it gets out of hand.”

On November 15, 2004, Muraski ordered Waupun staff to search the cells of the inmates named in the letter. The search of Singer’s cell turned up twenty-one books, fourteen magazines, and Singer’s handwritten D&D manuscript, all of which were confiscated. Muraski examined the confiscated materials and determined that they were all D&D related. In a December 6, 2004 letter to Singer, Muraski informed Singer that “inmates are not allowed to engage in or possess written material that details rules, codes, dogma of games/activities such as ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ because it promotes fantasy role playing, competitive hostility, violence, addictive escape behaviors, and possible gambling.” This prohibition was later reiterated in a daily bulletin that was posted throughout the prison. It was also incorporated into a broader policy prohibiting inmates from engaging in all types of fantasy games.

Though plaintiff cited “a literacy tutor and a role-playing game analyst, testified to a positive relationship between D&D and rehabilitation, none disputed or even acknowledged the prison officials’ assertions that there are valid reasons to fear a relationship running in the opposite direction”:

The prison officials pointed to a few published circuit court cases to give traction to their views. We view these cases as persuasive evidence that for some individuals, games like D&D can impede rehabilitation, lead to escapist tendencies, or result in more dire consequences. See Meyer v. Branker, 506 F.3d 358, 370 (4th Cir. 2007) (noting that defendant Meyer “was obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons,” and that “this obsession caused ‘[him] to retreat into a fantasy world of Ninja warriors’ “); Thompson v. Dixon, 987 F.2d 1038, 1039 (4th Cir. 1993) (affirming the conviction of one of two men who brought a D&D adventure to life by entering the home of an elderly couple and assassinating them); cf. Sellers v. Ward, 135 F.3d 1333, 1335 (10th Cir. 1998) (defense counsel argued that Sellers’s addiction to D&D dictated his actions and disconnected him from any consciousness of wrongdoing or [**20] responsibility for three murders); Watters v. TSR, Inc., 904 F.2d 378, 380 (6th Cir. 1990) (describing a teenager who committed suicide as “a ‘devoted’ Dungeons and Dragons player who became absorbed by the game to the point of losing touch with reality”).

And therefore,

Conclusion

Despite Singer’s large quantum of affidavit testimony asserting that D&D is not associated with gangs and that the game can improve inmate rehabilitation, he has failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact concerning the reasonableness of the relationship between Waupun’s D&D ban and the prison’s clearly legitimate penological interests. The district court’s grant of summary judgment is therefore AFFIRMED.

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In 1991, Hasbro was again in Federal Court arguing about ninja. Recall from the first ninjalaw post, that Hasbro was responsible for the first instance of ninja in the Federal Courts in 1988. Just three years later, they are back in court arguing about a license on a line of ninja action figures called Ninja Warriors.

HASBRO, INC., Plaintiff/Counterclaim-Defendant, v. CHILD’S PLAY INTERNATIONAL CORP., Defendant/Counterclaim-Plaintiff, and STUART R. ROSS, Defendant
No. 87 Civ. 4613 (WK)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
1991 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10794

Decided – August 1, 1991

Judge Knapp’s opinion begins:

In this action arising from a license to manufacture and market a line of ninja action figure toys, licensee/counterclaim-defendant Hasbro, Inc. (“Hasbro”) moves for summary judgment dismissing the amended counterclaims against it. For reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

Explaining:

The following facts are not in dispute. Child’s Play was at all times relevant to this action a corporation controlled and operated by its president, defendant Stuart Ross. It was formed in late 1984, primarily to develop, manufacture and distribute children’s toys. Sometime in 1985, Child’s Play acquired from a third party a line of toys consisting of seven ninja warrior human action figures, one of which rode horseback (the “Ninja Warriors” or the “Line”). Each figure had been given a name, had Asian features and dress, and was armed with an exotic weapon. [footnotes omitted]

In Footnote #4,

Based on a martial arts theme, ninja action figures are designed to be used by children in simulated battles waged with weapons such as large swords, boomerangs and lances.

Continuing,

By the spring of 1986, ninja action figures generally were enjoying considerable popularity in the children’s toy market. Seeking fully to capitalize on this wave of popularity, Child’s Play decided to license its Line to a toy manufacturer and marketer with expertise and financial resources greater than its own.

To this end, Child’s Play approached counterclaim-defendant Hasbro, a major developer, manufacturer and marketer of children’s toys. Although Hasbro had since 1982 included between one and four ninja action figures in its G.I. Joe action figure line, it had not yet developed its own line of action figures devoted solely to the ninja martial arts theme. Seeking to take advantage of the popularity of ninja action figures, it considered the possibility of acquiring Child’s Play’s Line.
[footnotes omitted]

In Footnote #6,

In the only affidavit submitted in opposition to the motion, Ross states that he was unaware that Hasbro had included ninja action figures within its G.I. Joe line. There is, however, no suggestion that that line had not been extensively advertised by Hasbro, or that the existence of ninja G.I. Joe action figures was not otherwise readily observable by anyone in the industry. Cf. Conan Properties, Inc. v. Mattel, Inc. (S.D.N.Y. 1989) 712 F. Supp. 353, 367-68.

Then the decline in ninja popularity,

Notwithstanding Hasbro’s efforts, the attention of children somehow became focused on toys other than ninja human action figures. During the fall and early winter of 1986, Hasbro’s salesmen began reporting to senior management that its retailer-customers would not be purchasing the Line because consumers had stopped buying ninja action figures manufactured by other toy companies

And,

As a result of the disappointing response to ninja figures in general, and the Line in particular, Hasbro postponed and eventually abandoned its plan to launch a television advertising campaign.

And,

Hasbro’s sales force already was reporting that there was great resistance from Hasbro’s retail store customers which were not placing orders for the Ninja Warriors. The Hasbro sales force was reporting that Hasbro’s customers felt that the ninja action figure fad was ending and the appeal of ninja lines of boys toy action figures was in decline as ninja lines of other manufacturers were being left on the shelves of their stores; Our customers had no capacity or disposition to take another ninja line of boys toy action figures.

And since,

there is nothing in the record to suggest that Hasbro, in continuing to produce ninja figures within its G.I. Joe line, either exceeded its rights to do so under the Agreement or did so to the detriment of the Ninja Warrior Line.

Therefore,

We have considered Child’s Play’s other contentions and find them to be without merit. Because we conclude that Child’s Play has failed to come forward with sufficient evidence from which a trier of fact reasonably could find that Hasbro’s efforts to promote the Line were insufficient, Hasbro’s motion for summary judgment is granted.

I wonder, did Ninja Warriors really fail because of a declining market interest? Or did Hasbro successfully kill a competing line of toys? According to the Court it was the former. But maybe it was also poor action figure quality, note the limited joint movement in the pictures below compared to GI Joe.

This toy archive website lists the Ninja Warriors character names but unfortunately there are no pictures. And this action figure forum site has these pictures: