My name is Osye E. Pritchett III (pronounced Oh-Sea). I am a Christian and a gamer. This is my story (abridged).
To start I would like to affirm that I believe in God. I believe in the Incarnation; that is, I believe that God became man in the person of Jesus. Wholly God. Wholly man. I believe in His death and resurrection.
Contrary to many of our co-religionists, I also believe that it is acceptable to play role-playing games, even the dreaded game Dungeons and Dragons.
I was born in 1970, and was raised in various Pentecostal churches and denominations. Most of my schooling was in private schools, predominantly Baptist schools. As an aside I want to point out that going to Pentecostal churches and attending Baptist private schools is a great way to confuse a young child.
I have attended a plethora of churches across the U.S., east coast to west coast, from non-denominational to Anglican to Methodist (I am currently visiting an Anglican church). Throughout these experiences I have made a casual study of the teachings of quite a few denominations, finding many areas of agreement between them. These areas of agreement have encouraged me to support communication, communion, and love between the believers of different confessions. As it says in John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”Read more
This is Faith in Play #8: Redemption Story, for July 2018.
Years ago I wrote Faith and Gaming: Redemption, which was republished last spring. In it I made the distinction between the “Prodigal Stories” that we sometimes call stories of redemption and the real “Redemption Story”, the story of how the price was paid, how we were saved. I then addressed whether prodigal stories were inherently and specifically Christian, although I admit that the answer was a bit inconclusive—after all, even its creator says that Star Wars is about the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker (a.k.a. Darth Vader—you knew that, forget I mentioned it), but he would never claim it to be a Christian story.
Yet it never occurred to me to consider the other side of that, the actual redemption story, and whether that might be included in our games and stories. Further, I’m embarrassed to say, I find that it has been included in a number of stories with which I am familiar, so apparently it can be done.
The glaringly obvious example is the one I mentioned in that other article: the death and resurrection of Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe of The Chronicles of Narnia. The redemption in that particular telling is very individual: Aslan dies to save Edmund, although there is a hint of more in the statement that when the innocent dies for the guilty, the ancient magic would cause death to work backwards. It is one of the best pictures of the Redemption Story in fiction.
It is not alone, though. J. K. Rowling ultimately explained that she never wanted to tell anyone that the Harry Potter series was a Christian story because she believed that one fact would be the spoiler that gave away the ending. In the end, Harry voluntarily sacrifices his own life to save everyone at Hogwarts—and because of magic Voldemort never realized he had cast, Harry’s death becomes Voldemort’s defeat, and Harry returns to life to finish the dark wizard. We thus have the chosen one defeating evil by dying and returning to life.
I was further reminded, by the piece we wrote decades ago on The Problem with Pokémon, that in the Pokémon movie Ash also gives his life to save his friends, and is brought back to life. It has been a long time since I saw that movie, but it again appears that the self-sacrifice of a lead character was a redemptive act.
I don’t want to stretch this too far. Many stories include the hero sacrificing his own life; not all of them are redemption stories, and I’m not even completely certain all of these necessarily are. Yet they suggest that a redemption story is possible in a fictional setting. It is something that can be done in a book—I won’t say easily, but with care and skill successfully.
The much more difficult question is whether it can be done in a game, and if so how it would be done.
The critical problem is, who plays the redeemer? When Mel Gibson directed The Passion of Christ he cast himself in one on-screen role: his hands drove the nails. If I am the referee in such a game, is the most important character in the story, the central character who pays the redemptive price, one of my non-player characters? Or if it is one of the player characters, how do I make that work? I am all in favor of player characters making dramatic sacrificial deaths—Multiverser encourages them, because the death of a player character becomes the tool that moves him to another world, another story, so the player can both let the character die and and have him survive. However, how do I arrange the sacrificial death that leads to the redemptive resurrection? Does the player have to be in cahoots with me on that, or do I have to keep it a secret, hope he will make the sacrifice, and surprise him with the outcome? What if he balks at the sacrifice?
And after all that, would it be a necessarily Christian story?
That is a difficult question to answer. I don’t know whether the Pokémon movie was intended as a Christian story, or how many people recognized it as such, despite the fact that Pikachu won the big fight by repeatedly turning the other cheek until his attacker collapsed from exhaustion just before Ash made his sacrificial move. I do know that there are people who have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and probably more who have seen the movie, who do not know it is a Christian story by a Christian author. It may again be one of those stories that you can tell, but without someone to call attention to it some will never recognize.
If any of you know of a game in which it was done, I would love to hear the story.
Sometimes I look at the search queries that lead people to this website, and I see something interesting. One day last year, I saw that someone had asked Bing “is hacking a sin in christanity” (sic). I have no idea what that person actually had on their mind—if they were wondering about software piracy, or cheating in a video game, rooting their phone, or penetrating the computer systems at NORAD. All I know is that they were interested in God’s view of hacking. Now, bear in mind that I’m no theologian nor a professional minister. I am just someone with a platform who thinks he has something to say. Maybe it will help somebody. Read more
The heavens are telling the glory of God; the wonder of his works displays the firmament.
I grew up to that, to some degree. It’s the words to perhaps the most familiar selection from Haydn’s oratorio, The Creation, and it was sung by church choirs before I was in them and when I was in them. I had the opportunity to sing most of the rest of the larger work in high school, but this is the piece I remember. It tells us that the stars, the sky, the heavenly bodies, are all joined in announcing God’s greatness.
Last month we pondered whether Animals knew something we didn’t know. This month we move from the non-sentient to the inanimate. Do the stars declare the glory of God? Read more
Two months ago we began considering character Archetypes and how they reflected our values, for better or for worse. Last month we considered Warriors in that connection, and this month we are going to expand on that notion by looking at the knight.
To grasp this as an archetype, it is important that we agree on what we mean. Here I am looking at the noble fighter, whether called samurai or paladin or cavalier or some other name. These are those who fight for honor and glory and are proud of what they do. Read more
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