Some time back, someone asked me whether particular kinds of stories were inherently Christian stories, and I didn’t have an answer at that moment. I have since suggested, notably in considering Faust, Sorcerer, and Deals with the devil, that some stories might indeed be at least strongly if not inherently Christian. However, the questioner was not considering the Faustian story when he raised the question; he was thinking of the Prodigal story, the story of redemption, as that which is an inherently Christian story.
It’s a compelling notion. After all, one of the names often given to the central message of our faith is The Redemption Story, and thus we have good reason to ask whether all redemption stories necessarily tell of the truth in the gospel to some degree. Playing a character who fell and was then redeemed seems like it would fit perfectly into this mold, a parable of Christianity in a fictional setting.
Of course, the gospel is in a sense not that sort of redemption story; Read more
Role playing games have been criticized for many things that are easily explained. Readers of this magazine don’t need to hear why the involvement of magic, false gods, or demons and devils isn’t a real objection to role playing per se. Or hear why it doesn’t matter if we play with non-Christians whose characters may reject God and His morality even more than they themselves have. But once all of these questions have been answered, one comes back that is not so easy to dismiss. Characters in role playing games have an alarming tendency to solve problems by the use of force, even what we would have to admit is at times violent, bloody, gory, unnecessary force. Yet Christians are called to turn the other cheek, to suffer when persecuted for the faith; in most games, that will get your character killed “right quick”—and this seems in some ways to mirror reality. Where would the world be today had not Christians in many countries joined with their countrymen to oppose Germany and Japan during World War II? And do we truly believe that Christians should not serve as police officers, soldiers, or in other potentially violent occupations? Although a few among us might say so, for most of us the idea that we should expect God to stop evildoers when we are not willing to do so ourselves is hardly more defensible than permitting them to continue harming others unopposed. Read more
It happens that as I write this the world again stands on the brink of war, although as you read it that war probably will have been resolved. I’m old enough to know that this happens with alarming frequency, and that whenever it does happen there will be people arguing about whether the pending or realized fight is a just war, that is, one that should be fought in some transcendent sense of should. Does God approve of this war? Are we on the right side in it? Read more
Late last year (2002 at the time of this writing), on what I hope I may be excused for calling an inauspicious day, someone known to me only by an Internet screen name, somewhere else in these United States, was persecuted for being a gamer. Read more
Eight months ago we began exploring ways of bring our faith to bear on our games. In that time, we looked at quite a variety of ideas. We said that you could play the Good Guys, characters who shared at least part of your faith; but that you could also play the Bad Guys, showing the nature of evil and possibly making others examine their own hearts through this. Fantasy was recommended, as magic demands we consider the possibility of the supernatural world; and it was suggested that the existence of that supernatural world view demanded that Justice prevail in the worlds we create. We spoke of glorifying God by being The Best players we could be. We considered reflecting in our characters the Awe which should naturally follow from being in the presence of a god. Last month we added Wisdom to the list of things that reflect a belief in God.
As we come to the end of two years of this series, I realize that there is a far more subtle means of bringing our faith into our games. It has many expressions, but ultimately all of them can be summed up as one form or another of imagery. Read more
I was looking back at the article Good Guys in this series, as it discussed how we can bring our faith into our games by playing characters who directly express that faith, when it suddenly occurred to me that I could not remember a character playing that sense of awe we sometimes have when we enter the presence of God. Immediately I thought there were reasons; and it is worth perhaps exploring those reasons.
Most games I’ve seen in which there is a concept of the divine (apart from Multiverser and a few games designed specifically to be Christian) use an essentially polytheistic concept. It may well be that polytheism inherently waters down the degree to which the gods impress us. After all, if this is the god of one thing and that of another, and the best that can be said of the king of the gods is that the others are supposed to do what he says, not one of them is particularly powerful or awesome as compared with the God of gods who has all power in His hands. And not only are they individually less impressive, even collectively they somehow fail to measure up. Read more
Often you will get advice from Christians suggesting that if you want to play role playing games as a Christian you need to remove the magic from the games. Don’t play the wizards, whatever you do; and if you have the choice, stick to science fiction games, or espionage or western or other settings in which there isn’t any magic. Magic, we are told, is a terrible thing which should be removed from our games as much as possible.
I’m going to go against the grain. One of the best ways I know to bring your faith to bear on the games you play is to infuse those games with magic. Read more
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. Read more
Last month’s installment of Faith and Gaming, Making Peace, was the twelfth in the series. We’ve been talking about the integration of faith and gaming for a year now; and that in itself could be a call to go back to the beginning and consider our basic purpose. But I recently read these words in a public forum, from a Christian who is a gamer; and this idea (edited for punctuation and grammar) also brought me back to the preliminaries we discussed a year ago, the basic reason why we’re talking about faith and gaming at all.
I’ve never been terribly fond of Christian games, though, to be honest with you, partly because I think that the subject matter is where I draw a line between fantasy world and reality. I don’t want to put my Christianity on the shelf with my gamebooks. I keep my Bibles in a different bookcase…
Last month as we concluded our consideration of Magic, we raised a bigger issue: is it appropriate for characters in a fictional world to call upon any deity?
It is not a simple question. At every turn God has commanded that we have no regard for other gods; it is top of the list in the Ten Commandments, the concept behind many of the prohibitions (from sorcery to cutting the corners of your beard), and the reason why Israel and Judah were conquered by foreign nations. You shall have no other gods before Me.
But at the same time, you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
We are caught between the proverbial two horns. Read more