Faith in Play #1: Reintroduction

This is Faith in Play #1: Reintroduction, for December 2017.

There is a sense in which this is the continuation of the Faith and Gaming series. I began writing that in April, 2001, and continued doing so every month for four years—and then stopped. It seemed to end abruptly to me, but as I looked back at it the final installment was an excellent last article, and it has stood the test of time as such, as the series was published first independently by me and then in an expanded book by Blackwyrm. The end seemed abrupt to me because it was occasioned by a computer crash at my end that took all my notes for future series articles (it ended the Game Ideas Unlimited series at Gaming Outpost as well), and at the time I could not see how to get back up to speed. However, it has been more than a decade—thirteen years this past April—since the series ended, and I am often asked, and often consider for myself, whether I am going to continue it. Part of my answer has always been a question: what remains for me to write? Yet there is always more to write; I just have to identify it and tackle it.

And thus there is another sense in which this is a new series—thus the new name, Faith in Play. Part of that is because I noticed from the vantage of years of hindsight that much that I had been writing specifically about role playing games applied much more broadly to all of life, and especially to all of our leisure activities. So with that in mind, I am again putting the fingers to the keys and producing more thoughts on how we integrate faith with life, and particularly with those parts of life that in some sense seem the least religious, the times when we are playing. C. S. Lewis more than once cited a conversation from Pride and Prejudice in which Mr. Bingley was explaining a ball, that is, a festival dance, to Miss Bingley, who had never attended one. Miss Bingley asked, “Would not conversation be much more rational than dancing?”, and Mr. Bingley replies, “Much more rational, but much less like a ball.” And that is the challenge we often face in our leisure activities: that they are what they are, not the least bit rational, and yet not for that reason unimportant. In some ways, how we spend our leisure time, what we do when we are having fun or relaxing, may be the most important part of our Christianity, because it is the one thing over which we have the most control, the one part of our lives in which we most express who and what we are, and usually the time when we are interacting with others most naturally.

This is not the first time I have begun a new series of articles, and I generally begin with an introductory post. That post usually explains what it is I hope to write, and who I am that I feel qualified to write any such thing. Having explained the former, that leaves me with the awkward part of presenting my credentials.

I will endeavor not to repeat too much of what I said long ago in Faith and Gaming: Preliminaries.

For the past nearly two decades I have been the Chaplain of the Christian Gamers Guild. I never sought the position; it seems that God had determined that I was going to have this ministry, and so having agreed to take the spot temporarily when a series of resignations left the office open, I was then re-elected to it every two years including this past year. God seems to have known what He was doing, though. I was once dubbed one of the “unholy trinity of game defense” (along with CARPGa‘s Reverend Paul Cardwell and The Escapist‘s Bill Walton), and have written quite a few articles on other gaming sites including RPGnet, The Forge, Places to Go People to Be, and RoleplayingTips.Com. It is, in a sense, the convergence of two threads in my life which were never really separate but might have seemed so.

The gaming thread did not really begin in 1980, because I had been a gamer before I had heard of role playing games, with Avalon Hill and other “Bookcase Games”, Atari video games, board games, and more. I actually owned a home version of Pong before Atari appeared. However, in 1980 we heard about Dungeons & Dragons™, and being big fans of Christian fantasy literature by C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien we sought it and tracked down a copy of what was then dubbed Basic Dungeons & Dragons™ (later known as 1st Edition Basic, the “Holmes” system), and I became a Dungeon Master. Looking for what to do when the rules ran out, we found the books for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons™ (later known as Original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, or 1st Edition Advanced) and completely ignorant of the fact that these were supposed to be different games segued our game from one system to the other. When I run D&D today, it is always OAD&D, but with some vestiges of BD&D1 retained. Our gaming group also picked up Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World, Star Frontiers, and Traveller, in which I played.

In 1992 I was introduced to Ed “E. R.” Jones, who had for a dozen years been playing every role playing game he could find and for half that time been working on a game system which he couldn’t quite get together. Later that year he got me playing it, and then helping him write and design what ultimately I would finish and publish as Multiverser. It appeared in 1997.

I need to catch up the other thread a bit. I would not claim that I was always a Christian, but then John the Baptist was the only person of whom it was said he was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. I first began studying the Bible as a preschooler in the format known as The Golden Book of Bible Stories, and took it very seriously. The details of my journey to faith are probably written elsewhere, but by the time I was finishing high school I was the principle member of a Christian rock band (The Last Psalm) doing evangelistic concerts in the northern reaches of our state (New Jersey), which soon became well known enough that someone at The American Bible Society had heard of us when we asked for literature for a big university concert we were doing. I continued doing music ministry—well, there were breaks along the way, but it was only a couple years ago that my band Collision released its album, and I have sung and spoken in a few places since then. Along the way I got degrees in Biblical Studies from Luther College of the Bible and Liberal Arts and Gordon College. I also completed a doctorate from Widener University School of Law (with honors), and qualified for American Mensa.

All of that led to an article on my personal web site, Confessions of a Dungeons & Dragons™ Addict, which caught the attention of Reverend Jim Aubuchon, who invited me to join the Christian Gamers Guild. I am not a joiner, and was really brand new to the Internet thing (well, it was 1997, so “old” on the Internet was like anything before 1996), so I declined. However, someone who was enjoying my game dropped me a note to alert me to the fact that someone at the Christian Gamers Guild was saying that my game was plagiarized, so I felt it necessary to join to respond to those charges (which had been entirely resolved before my membership got through). Once I was there, I stayed, and was asked to head up some effort that never really got anywhere but put me on the Board, and then—well, I think the threads have caught up with each other now. That’s how I wound up in this position.

It is also one of the reasons I am resuming writing a series. I have been teaching a Bible Study under the auspices of the Guild—we started with the first verse of Romans in 2006, and have finished the epistles and started Revelation (a.k.a. The Apocalypse)—but if you don’t subscribe to that list you’re not benefiting from that. The Guild’s web site having been reformatted last year, the old series has been rerun and gotten quite a bit of attention from readers. At my request, there is an index of the republished articles, giving you the opportunity to catch up with most of what I have already written on these subjects. The webmaster needs new material to keep the site going, so I have committed to creating a monthly post in the new series. He has given me the first Tuesday of the month, so this is the first of those. As I write this I have only two more article ideas—but then, I am writing it several months in advance of its appearance, so hopefully I’ll have found a few more ideas before this posts. Meanwhile, if there’s something you think I should have addressed that the old series missed, drop me a comment or a Facebook post or something and let me know what you would like to read. After all, even in the old series quite a few of the titles were from e-mail or other comments. So give me your ideas, and I’ll give you mine.

(In the time since this was written, I have come up with quite a few more ideas, and have also committed to a second monthly series on the third Tuesday of the month, which will officially launch in two weeks.)

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