Faith and Gaming: Bad Guys

Last month as we explored ways to express our faith in our gaming, we suggested that it could be done by playing the Good Guys. But we also insisted that this was not the only way it could be done. In fact, quite unexpectedly, we can often bring our faith to bear on a game by playing the villains. This is done, most commonly, by revealing what evil truly is. C. S. Lewis once wrote that good could easily understand evil, but that evil not only did not understand good, it did not as fully understand itself. Many gamers play evil characters thinking it is the easy and rewarding path. By showing what evil is really about, the Christian gamer can point people to the truth.

TWO Poison Ivys! DC villain cosplayers.
TWO Poison Ivys! DC villain cosplayers.

Aesop wrote a fable about a snake who begged a woman for a ride across a river. The woman was reluctant to carry a snake; after all, one bite from the snake, and she would surely die. But the snake pointed out that its own life depended on her making it all the way across, so it would be foolish for it to kill her. Half way across the river, the snake bit the woman. In answer to her question, the snake said, “Why are you surprised? You knew I was a snake.” We are forced to ask whether the evil character is truly in control of his actions, or whether it is evil which controls him, compelling him to do what will ultimately destroy him.

I knew someone who played D&D for many years, who had an assassin whom he cherished. It was the most powerful character in the gaming group in which he played, and he guarded that power. Whenever any other player’s character began to rival his own, he assassinated it. Whenever any other character became a threat, he assassinated it. Whenever another character had something his wanted, he assassinated it. Eventually, he retired from the game—but the gaming group continued. Everyone played evil characters. Someone from that group shared with me the simple rule that governed the ends of their adventures: the closer you get to home, the less everyone sleeps, and the fewer are left alive. If you close your eyes, you won’t wake up, because another character will kill you for your share of the loot. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done for them, or what you might be worth in the future. In the end, only one character will enjoy the profits. The evil character can never be trustworthy or trusted. Nor can he ever be trusting. If the good paladin extends a hand to pull him up from the pit, he cannot take that hand, for he must believe the paladin will drop him into the depths below. It is, after all, what he would do.

I wrote a world for Multiverser: The Second Book of Worlds entitled Post-sympathetic Man. Within this world, everyone had come to believe that the weak should die and the strong thrive, for the good of mankind. As players face and discover this place, they realize how truly horrible evil can be even while it pretends it is good.

The Reverend Howard Bussell, once Dean of Christian Life at Gordon College, tells of his first pulpit. He had been asked initially to work as youth pastor in a church which did everything it could to be modern and nothing to be Christian. He worked with the young people, making some inroads in bringing the gospel to them. When the senior pastor retired, he was asked to take the pulpit for a few months while they sought a replacement—but not to do anything so old fashioned as to preach from the Bible. Aghast, he asked if it would be all right to preach from The Lord of the Flies, and they had no problem with that. So over the next couple of months he preached the first eight chapters of Romans from The Lord of the Flies, brought the whole church under conviction, and started a revival.

When we see how evil we really are, we see the need to repent. By portraying evil as it is, by playing the evil characters in all their villainy, we can bring our faith into the game by its very absence. Other players may begin to see themselves reflected in the characters we play, and so see their need for salvation.

Can Christians play the bad guys? Indeed we can; we can play them badder than anyone else, because we understand what they are more clearly than anyone else. We can bring them to life on the stages of our games, and drive people to face what they would dearly love to ignore: the evil of their own hearts. In so doing, we bring our faith into our games.

This article was original published in September 2002 on the Christian Gamers Guild’s website. The entire series remains available at its original URL.

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