Thanks to Goethe, there is a very compelling story of a man named Faust, a man who made a deal with the devil. The story has become something of a cultural idea, such that the word “Faustian” is used to describe any effort to achieve something at too great a cost. Faust, according to the story, sold his soul to the devil.
I have not read the book, I am embarrassed to admit; there are many great books I have not had the opportunity to acquire or the time to peruse. I have been exposed to the core of the story through educational television, so I am aware that the deal did not work out so well for Faust. He discovered that everything the devil gave him was a cheat, and everything he had that might have been good his supposed benefactor managed to ruin. Yet in the end he found redemption. What interests me more is the idea that someone might make such a deal with the devil and not have the kinds of complaints Goethe suggested for his protagonist. There are always stories of people who sold their soul to the devil for what they really wanted; those deals fascinated me. Read more
Last month raised the matter of Battle. It took us to very personal matters of whether through our role playing we learn to view fighting as a preferred solution or a necessary evil. Yet it also introduced another question, the question of how to tell whether war is the right thing to do. That question is difficult to answer in reality; it is far more difficult to answer in fiction. Read more
I was recently re-reading my article Faith and Gaming: Christian Games (I often re-read my old material, and sometimes it gets me thinking afresh about issues previously addressed, so I write new ones like this one, usually posted over at the mark Joseph “young” web log). I think every time I read that article, which explains why I am not a big fan of “Christian” games, I remember something I created decades back in college which I called a “game” and which I “played” with a number of my more intelligent and/or educated Christian friends. I always think of writing it up to pass on to you, and I always nix the idea because some would say it’s not a game—but I think we had something like fun, certainly enjoyment, from playing it, or whatever we were doing. So here it is. I never named it. I suppose you could call it M. J. Young’s Bible Verse Game, if you need a name for it, or just The Bible Verse Game if you think it arrogant of me to put my name in it. (I only put my name in it because I’m sure there are scores, if not thousands, of other Bible verse games out there, but this is the only one I’ve played.)
As I noted in that article, I am not generally a fan of Christian games, for several reasons. I think this game, though, avoids most of the problems I’ve had with such games, and is particularly valuable for Christians to play with each other. 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 am often confronted in games by what I can only describe as foolishness on the part of the characters. Players often state that their characters are doing things that no sane person would even consider doing; and they, the players, have the nerve to get upset when their foolishness reaps its rewards.
Recently someone I know only as a screen name on an Internet communications program was bemoaning the disaster that had occurred at his most recent game. One of the players was running a Barbarian under current Dungeons & Dragons™ rules, and had stated the character alignment as Chaotic Neutral. 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
Many years ago I was at summer camp; it was a rather unusual summer camp. It was run by the United Presbyterian Church on the Lebanon, New Jersey, campgrounds of the American Baptist Convention, and it was for high school aged students who loved to perform music, giving them the opportunity to work under the baton of one of the best conductors alive—who happened to be Jewish. We learned to sing and play some of the greatest music ever written, by Bach and Handel, Mozart and Mendelssohn. Oh, we did the Bible things, too, and the summer camp things, but ultimately this was music camp, and we did music.
One of those who was primarily responsible for running the camp was a Presbyterian minister generally known as Pastor Tom. I remember him sharing informally one day with a few of us. There are many ways to glorify God, he said. The way we’re doing that here is by producing the best music we are able to produce. I came to realize that he was right, that God was truly glorified by the music we sang, because we all did our best and created something wonderful.
I’ve come to realize over time that this same concept, of doing things as well as we can to glorify God, applies to much more than music. Read more
There are ultimately two views of the universe. It is not quite so simple as the Christian view versus everyone else; that which Christians believe about the universe is shared by many other people. But the prevailing view of the age is not the Christian view; and if we are to bring our faith to bear in our games, perhaps we can start by creating worlds in which the Christian view is a bit more clearly true. Read more