I pondered what to write in this month’s column. Normally I’m not much for noting special events, but this column marks the conclusion of four years during which a new subject has been addressed each month, relating our faith to our gaming, exploring how we can make our game play specifically Christian. The hope is that such a milestone would be marked by one of the better entries in the series. It’s difficult to know, however, which articles will prove themselves particularly helpful until the responses start appearing, so there’s not much sense in focusing too much effort on that decision. Noting that this is about playing games that are peculiarly Christian, I realized I had a topic note that spoke of a specifically Christian story one might tell in a game.
Of course, it might be presumptive to begin by stating that it is a particularly Christian story. That would seem to be the first question. We have twice before examined stories that might be specifically Christian in their essence. In Deals it was the Faust story, the story of the man who sold his soul to the devil and didn’t really get what he wanted from it. In Goethe’s hands that was a very Christian story; the question is whether it would be so in the hands of the average role player. We also considered the Redemption story—not the Redemption Story, the story of Christ’s sacrifice for us, but the more personal story of the Prodigal, God’s effort to redeem us individually. It may be that this is a specifically Christian story; on the other hand, it appears in pop culture expressed by those who have no known commitment to our faith, so if it is a specifically Christian story it may have lost much of its impact in our post-Christian world. Read more
God of our fathers, Whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.
There’s an old joke about a comedians convention at which those in attendance didn’t bother to tell any jokes in their speeches, but rather referred to the jokes by number so everyone could think of the joke and laugh, and the speaker could get on with his speech. In much the same way, people who discuss philosophy and theology have given labels to a handful of ideas which attempt to prove that God exists. One of those, the one in which we are interested at the moment, is called the teleological argument for the existence of God. It’s an argument you’ve surely heard, but might not know by that name. Teleology is about design.
In the classic formation of the argument presented by William Paley in his Evidences of the Christian Religion, it is predicated that the existence of a watch demands the existence of a watchmaker. From this it is then argued that the universe has the marks of a designer, the act of an intelligence who or which put it all together. Hence there must be a god (not necessarily the Christian God, but at least a creative intelligence) responsible for the construction of the world. Read more
In The Wind in the Willows the main characters sing a Christmas carol which speaks of the animals as the first to “sing Noel”, to recognize Christ on Earth.
It is, of course, a fantasy; and perhaps more than that, it is a children’s fantasy. There is no reason to take it seriously. On the other hand, I’m sure I’ve encountered the idea of the animals around the manger worshipping Christ in other Christmas carols. Although I cannot think of an example at the moment, as December begins I suspect we will hear this idea somewhere in the days ahead. Is it all fantasy, or is there something here that we are missing? Read more
For the last few months we’ve been considering character Archetypes, what we can learn from these as Christians, and how we can use them to express our faith in our games. There are quite a few more we could cover, based solely on what someone has dubbed the professional archetypes, and it has been mentioned that there are other categories of archetypes, such as role archetypes and personality archetypes. Originally when the idea was proposed, it seemed as if the phrase archetype was being used to avoid saying the rather loaded word class, but discussions have clearly shown the breadth of meaning the term has, and it could be a long series if we tried to cover all of even the major ones.
Thus this month we will look at one more, and then we will move away from this line for a while and cover a few other ideas that have been simmering for a while. I have dubbed this one Holy Men because I have not found another word. Read more
I will confess that I specifically saved this one of the Archetypes for this month. It has been something of a tradition to cover subjects related to game magic in October, begun inadvertently when I addressed the objections to Magic that first year and then returned to it a year later when I recommended Fantasy as a particularly Christian medium one year later. A Concern expressed last year also related to magic in games, so at this point it seems that in the month in which Halloween appears I must say something that is related to game magic. In fact, I already have a topic for next year’s October article, so I guess I’m taking the tradition seriously.
Seriousness is one of the characteristics of this month’s character type, the wizard. We would normally call him studious, probably learned, perhaps educated. The wizard is the sort of person who knows great secrets because he applies himself; and because of the breadth and depth of his knowledge, he wields great power. Merlin of Arthurian legend is the prototype for this character, and Gandalf of Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) and Dumbledore of Hogwart’s Academy (the Harry Potter series) both capture the concept beautifully. These are men who know, and because they know, they can do. Read more
When the dwarfs said that they had come to hire a burglar, Bilbo Baggins was insulted. He was a respectable hobbit, a bit reclusive but generally admired in the community. He certainly was no thief. The dwarfs indicated that they meant no offense. You can call it expert treasure finder if you like. It’s all the same to us. It wasn’t all the same to the honorable Mister Baggins of Bag End. Imagine being treated as some sort of rogue.
Yet he is one of our heroes, and indeed many of our heroes share something of the rogue, that clever and shady character who skirts the law and uses perhaps disreputable techniques, but always for a good cause. 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
Last month we introduced the notion of Archetypes as collections not so much of skills and traits as of values and beliefs, character concepts which inform us about ourselves and our views of the world. This month that notion meets its first test, as we consider our first archetype. We start with one that is fairly simple: the warrior.
I should clarify that I do not by this designation mean anyone and everyone who fights, nor everyone who trains to engage in combat. I have in mind the soldier who fights to defend home and family. I’m aware that there are others, and we will consider the knight, the assassin, perhaps the barbarian, perhaps others, as distinct kinds of fighting men who represent something else. This is the simple man who fights because someone has to do it. Read more
Perhaps it was just a passing thought; perhaps it was a sudden inspiration. One of the members of the Christian Gamers Guild who has in the past suggested good ideas for topics for this series (including the Sex and Gender discussions) asked whether there had been an article on archetypes, and suggested that it might be the basis for a new miniseries.
Indeed, the series is in need of a new subject, something related to our faith and our games that has not been discussed in the previous thirty-eight columns. A theme that opens possibilities for several columns is a welcome idea. There was only one problem. What exactly is an archetype anyway, and what can be said about it? Read more
I must credit James V. West for inspiring this column. On a game-related forum elsewhere on the world wide web, he raised a question, and then he answered it. Between when I read the question and when I read his answer, I had provided my own answer, which proved to be somewhat distinct from his, and yet to fit with his quite well. Reading his thoughts, I saw in them something of value for this column, and determined to convey them here, combined with my own.
The question concerned why people would be interested in playing a role playing game that wrestled with the meaning of life, of moral and ethical questions and problems. Read more