This is Faith in Play #55: Marriage, for June 2022.
I have written quite a bit about marriage over the years; I’ll not endeavor to list anything here. It strikes me, though, that although in my fiction I’ve had several weddings and character marriages, and in my games likewise, I haven’t written much about marriages in games.
Of course, I did discuss the benefits of in-game romantic relationships in Game Ideas Unlimited: Embraces, reprinted more recently as RPG-ology #48: Embraces; and I discussed some related ideas in Faith and Gaming: Sex; but the notion of marriage is so much richer, and deserves some attention.
It strikes me that every culture in the world has some form of marriage, pairing a man with a woman. Even peoples so primitive that they have failed to understand the connection between sex and pregnancy (yes, there have been some) have what appears to be vestigial rules for pairing couples. Feminists will tell you that it is a legal system created by men to possess and control women; meanwhile, sociologists and anthropologists tend toward the reverse view, that it is a system created to prevent men from abandoning women and children. The opinion of the Bible is that it is part of the natural order as created by God, the reuniting of two parts of a creature separated at creation which together, the masculine and the feminine, form the complete image of God.
There is a good argument that the function of a marriage is to produce and raise offspring, children to become the adults of the next generation, and that because of the particular nature of human children it takes two people not only to produce children but to raise them.
We see this pattern in other creatures, particularly many birds, in which it takes two parents to bring offspring to the point that they can survive unaided.
Of course, we see other patterns as well. With some creatures, the mothers leave the fathers and lay eggs in a distant place, then leave the eggs to hatch, and trust that enough of the offspring will survive to preserve the race. There are polygamous creatures, where one male will collect multiple females and provide some protection for all of them so they can care for the young. There are polyandrous creatures, in which the female has many children by acquiring multiple males. There are many creatues we would consider completely promiscuous, changing partners constantly and either leaving the responsibilities for the young in the hands of the mother or abandoning them to make their own way in the world from birth. On the other hand, there are a few creatures for whom the children immediately become the father’s responsibility, and the mother is free to go at least for a while.
The question for us, though, is how we address this in our games. In Faith and Gaming: Gender we considered the possibility of creatures with different numbers of genders than two, whether one or several. And so we need to consider whether our elves and aliens and other intelligent creatures also come in male and female, or whether they have some other biological arrangement; and indeed, even if they are divided into two genders, do they have marriages, commitments through which parents stay together and raise offspring to maturity, and possibly support each other thereafter?
There is much that can be learned by modelling God’s design of marriage for humans. There probably are also many things we can learn by exploring other possibilities, particularly if they show us the superiority of God’s design.