This is Faith in Play #54: Stigma, for May 2022.
Half a year ago, when RPG-ology #48: Embraces was published, a reader following our Facebook page (which exists primarily to let people know we exist somewhere else) commented that we should drop the word “Christian” from our group’s name. I responded to ask why, but never got an explanation; so I’m speculating. I’ve thought of three possibilities.
The first possible explanation for the reader’s comment is that there was nothing particularly Christian about that specific article, which deals with bringing romantic relationships into our role playing games. That’s certainly true, and the article says up front that although written by the group’s chaplain, me, when I was chaplain, it was published on an entirely secular role playing game site twenty years ago and recovered to be republished here. Yet the suggestion that because it was a secular article it shouldn’t be published by the Christian Gamers Guild is a bit offensive–after all, we are the Christian Gamers Guild, and if as Christians we choose to discuss aspects of gaming that are not specifically faith-oriented, we should not be chided for that. The RPG-ology series was in fact created to publish such articles, so that this companion series Faith in Play, launched the same month, would not be derailed by such articles but they could still be included on the site.
Besides, our faith embraces all of life, including our romances and relationships. To suggest that because we are Christian we shouldn’t be talking about romance in games is to say that somehow that shouldn’t be part of our lives. It says that we are different, in a negative way.
Worse, and the second possible explanation, it may be saying that Christians shouldn’t write about romance in games, that this is something that should be excluded from our play. Christians should not be thinking about that kind of love, about courtship and marriage, and particularly in relation to imaginary characters. It suggests that roleplaying romance in a game is sinful, beneath our calling. Yet that suggests several things that just aren’t defensible. For one thing, good people, even saints, have such relationships; Song of Solomon is about precisely such a relationship, in rather graphic detail. Including them in our fiction is important in terms of conveying a sense of reality. Beyond that, although people who have a high sense of character identification have trouble with the idea, sometimes a very Christian message can be brought into the game by playing the Bad Guys. To say that Christians should never have romance in our role playing games would be to say that we should never play realistic people. That again says that we are different, and probably again in a negative way.
But perhaps our reader did not mean either of these. Perhaps he meant something he intended to be positive, that this was a good article worth reading, and that the fact that it was published by the Christian Gamers Guild was going to prevent some people from reading it who might benefit from it. Indeed, we noted that attitude almost a year and a half ago in Faith in Play #26: Fields to Harvest, that there were some people who would not read an article if they knew it was by a Christian (and we then observed that such people had better be very careful about what they read, because some of the most respected writers in the field are believers). If the point is that having the designation Christian in our name would discourage some from reading, that’s not unreasonable. On the other hand, part of the mission of the Guild is to demonstrate to gamers that we are not that different from them, that what separates us has nothing to do with what we play, and that we and they can contribute much to each other’s games. I want those who read the article to know that it was written by a Christian gamer, because part of the point is that the gamer who wrote something intelligent and useful for play is a Christian, and not therefore the enemy. The suggestion that I keep that part secret is not really so offensive–the reader means well–but it is still about stigma, because the reader is saying that people won’t read our good articles if they appear on our Christian-branded web site.
However, I think they will. I think they will if gamers like those reading this article make a point of noting other articles we post, the good ones about gaming, and share them with their gamer friends. Sure, it’s on a site called “Christian”, but it’s a good article worth reading.
And thus with your help the word “Christian” can shed some of that stigma in the gamer community.