So the first time I heard D&D was somehow "evil" was probably back in 1985, which was 3 years after the film "mazes and monsters" was released.
Not that I necessarily blame the film, its really crappy. To quickly summarize the plot, Tom Hanks character loses the ability to discern the difference between the D&D game and real life ... umm .. yup that is it in a nutshell.
As with many new things there is a hysteria that ensues and that happened with D&D. Not probably all that dissimilar from the anti-comic movement of the what 1940s-70s, or the anti-rock and roll movement, etc. etc. We have seen it with video games over the past 30 years as well. For me the fortunate thing was, my parents heard there were some possible negative aspects associated with D&D. They took the time to talk to me to figure out what the game was about, to pick the books up and look past the covers. In the end the say that the games were simply about telling a shared story, whatever story you wanted and frequently/mostly about good characters versus evil villains and monsters.
The "D&D" is somehow evil thing really hit our group hardest in the summer of 1985 when we were playing the game like 3-6 days a week for 8-10 hours a day. One of my friends mothers found out we'd been playing D&D and tried to get all of the parents to make us stop. As a result a few of my friends were not allowed to play as often as they previously had, and we lost that kid from the group.
D&D was pretty wide open in say 1982 and 1983 and unfettered by conservative religious views. This film and these ideas I think ultimately impacted the game. D&D pulled away to my view, from some of the really open and irreverent stuff in the 1st ed. era of the game. The game seemed to get something of a visual sanitizing for 2nd edition. I can't help but think at least in part it was due to the hysteria that ensued over D&D being evil/occult/wtf ever crazy church ladies thought it was by simply looking at the cover of the 1st ed. DMG and PHB. 1989 is when 2nd hit and if one looks just at the cover ... yes the 2nd ed. PHB is still witchcrafty looking (the later printing was the super generic black book set which is one of the most boring D&D sets of all time, visually speaking anyway). But its more standard and heroic an old wizard instead of this huge demon idol.
The game itself, who is to say how much it changed. I'm sure someone out there has probably written a scholarly article on this topic by now. This is just idle observation on my part ... pure conjecture ... so who knows really. I just do feel that the earlier version of the game had an intangible feeling to it that was just different than the subsequent versions. The game felt a little more "white-washed" and toned down to some extent, maybe PG/PCized a little more. For sure there are still some cool/harsh/adult elements to the game, but it just didn't feel the same on some levels. I will be a little lazy here and not break the books out to provide examples, I just don't have the time today. Perhaps a good idea for a post some other day. Anyway as far as where D&D went some people inevitably disliked 2nd edition for whatever reason, mostly just Thaco I think ... other than that I haven't heard anything really consistent. I think the main dislike of 2nd now is its a little more complex than basic/1st and it isn't 3.0 era grid based. For me it is the version that I had perhaps the most fun with, so I'm not saying I do not like second. Not at all. I just see some of the at least aesthetic change that took place and just wonder ... what if there was no mazes and monsters ... what if hysteria never entered into the equation? Would 2nd edition have been more like 1st, aesthetically and otherwise? Then of course the subsequent versions would have been impacted as well. Ironically I guess this is just another version of the "Mazes and Minotaur" question (that question was what would D&D have looked like if it was based primarily Greek mythology primarily instead of the northern European/Conan/Tolkien (I don't give a shit what Gygax said D&D was HEAVILY influenced by Tolkien), etc. etc.).
Anyway rambling ranting ... done ...
Anyway rambling ranting ... done ...