This is Faith in Play #26: Fields to Harvest, for January 2020.
Last month I wrote about the impact the Christian Gamers Guild has had on Christians and on gamers. I noted that there were now many other “geek ministries” trying to make a difference. In fact, between when I wrote that article and when it appeared I began to wonder whether we had become superfluous. Role playing games had moved almost entirely from feared activities suspected of cult and occult connections to mainstream entertainment embraced by ordinary people worldwide. Video games now pull more income than movies, as an industry. Board games are on the rise. Even such “fringe” geek activities as anime and cosplay are moving into the mainstream. Certainly there are still some believers who embrace errors taught decades ago about the evils of such entertainments, but they are a vanishing breed. I thus wonder if my job, defending hobby games to Christians, has become moot.
Then an odd thing happened.
You may know that I write two article series published here at the Christian Gamers Guild. This one, Faith in Play, was envisioned as a resurrection of the notions of the Faith and Gaming series originally published in the early aughts and still on our site, looking at the intersection between our faith and our leisure activities. However, when it was proposed, our webmaster said he hoped it would include material similar to and possibly drawn from the Game Ideas Unlimited series I did weekly for four years at Gaming Outpost, most of it lost when that site died. (Some of it has been preserved in French translation at the Places to Go, People to Be French site, and indeed I also wrote material for the Australian Places to Go, People to Be, and for RPGnet, RoleplayingTips.com, MysticAgesOnline, and several other role playing game sites, not all of which still exist.) Not seeing that as part of the faith and play connection, I suggested instead that I do a second series, which eventually was named RPG-ology, strictly about role playing game play, design, and theory. Thus I contribute two articles each month to the site, aimed at slightly different audience interests.
I was responding to a post on a Facebook role playing gamer group, and the question was something I had addressed in one of the RPG-ology pieces, so I linked the article. As I recall it was one that had been only slightly edited from a Game Ideas Unlimited original, and so had once appeared nearly the same at Gaming Outpost. Bryan has somehow cleverly set up the site such that such links are branded: the image shows the name of the article and the Christian Gamers Guild logo when it appears in preview on social media sites. Seeing the logo, one of the participants in the Facebook thread commented that he never read articles on Christian web sites. He said they had a certain “smell” to them.
I don’t know quite how to react to that.
On the one hand, as I said at the time, there was nothing particularly religious about that article. It addressed an issue in role playing games in simple practical terms. You could have read a very similar piece, I expect, at RPGnet or RoleplayingTips.com or EnWorld or some other “ordinary” role playing game web site. Indeed, very nearly the same article was once on Gaming Outpost. At the risk of suggesting that I am as good as my peers, I suspect that you could get similar articles from Kenneth Hite or Tracy Hickman or others writing in the field. The notion that just because I am Christian published on a site run by Christians my articles are necessarily, let’s say, tainted in some way seems not merely offensive but ridiculous.
At the same time, though, I recall C. S. Lewis commenting that one of the influences that brought him to faith was that so many of the best books he read were written by Christians, and there was something in them, some sense of the holy. If indeed that leaks into my, shall we call them, secular articles to a degree that unbelievers are impacted by it, then my RPG-ology series is serving a greater purpose than is intended. If the aforementioned reader chooses not to read my work here because of that, because I am a believer, I have sympathy for him. I would also advise him that he will have to be careful not to read my work on all those other sites, and he might also want to avoid reading similar material from such other believers as the aforementioned Ken Hite and Tracy Hickman, not to mention Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and I suppose I should not mention others at this point—but they are out there. We don’t apologize for being believers, and I suspect we are flattered if it shows.
Meanwhile, though, The reader reminds me that there is still work to do, there still are people out there who are avoiding any potential confrontation with people of faith. I’m not so worried about the pagans; I know several who are perfectly comfortable discussing faith with me and reading even my articles about faith. It is those who are so opposed to faith that they don’t want to know what people of faith have to say on other subjects that concern me. We still have bridges to build; we still have work for the Christian Gamers Guild and other ministries like us.