Several years ago, I ran a fantasy horror game for a group of teenagers from my church. It was their very first roleplaying game, and I felt both very privileged to have the opportunity to introduce them to the hobby and very responsible for keeping them on a godly path in their play. My own experience with roleplaying at that age was… Well, let’s say that some of the encounters were less than holy. In that light, horror might seem like a peculiar choice of genre—the kind of conservative Pentecostals of my home church are just as uncomfortable with horror films as they are with roleplaying itself. Nevertheless, although I don’t care much for the genre in film, it’s a gaming mode that I enjoy and that I think has much to offer. This article isn’t meant to be an apology for the place of the macabre in the Christian imagination, so to keep it short, I’ll offer this link to Christian Fandom’s essay list on that topic and chaplain M.J. Young’s previous articles Writing Fear, Faith in Play #5: Fear, and RPG-ology #11: Scared. Rather, I would like to look at one particular moment in that game and offer some observations on gaming, Christian fellowship, and courage. Read more
This is Faith in Play #4: Bad Friends, for March 2018.
This started with a bit of silliness that over the course of a few hours became considerably more serious.
It was a morning drive, and on the radio someone was talking about how Jesus had saved her marriage. She said that now her husband was her “best friend”.
I know it was sincere, and it was undoubtedly truly meaningful, but I’m afraid it is so cliché that I immediately noted to my wife, “You know, no one ever talks about their worst friend.” We laughed. I said that there must be a way I can use that for something, and we pondered how you would identify your “worst friend.”
A few hours later I shared the joke with my youngest son, who did not laugh but instead said that he knew exactly who his worst friend was.
There is something of an attitude in gaming groups that says we must be friends because we’re all gamers who get together to play. It’s like thinking that you must be friends with everyone who goes to the same bowling matches or bridge games or cocktail parties. I have talked about that before, in Faith and Gaming: Friends. I have also written in mark Joseph “young” web log post #93: What is a Friend? about two distinct concepts of friendship. I hold the word to a rather high bar. I think most of the people who think themselves my friends probably are only acquaintances who like playing games with me. That’s fine; it’s good to have acquaintances of that sort. You could even call them friends.
My son’s choice for “worst friend,” though, was enlightening. He named the high school friend who, after serving in Afghanistan, became a homeless drug addict. This boy seems impossible to help—give him shelter and food, and he takes advantage of the situation to steal from the house to buy drugs.
We have a short list of people who are not allowed inside the house. They are welcome to sit on the front deck and talk with people, and we will help them as we can, but the doorway is the boundary. I always explain it to them very simply: People who live here believe that you have stolen from them and that you will do so again. As long as you are never inside the house, no one can accuse you of having stolen anything from inside the house. Thus the rule protects you from being accused. It happens that it also protects them from the temptation of stealing from us. This friend is on that list.
As I considered this, I realized that there have been many people whom we treated as friends over the years who abused that status. More than once we had to discontinue having gaming groups play in our home because someone, never identified, stole things from us, and rebuilding a gaming group after something like that is not simple. If the people we entertain in our home are our friends, we have had some bad friends. What do we do about these people?
Love your enemies, and pray for those who mistreat you, so that you may become sons of your Father in heaven. For He makes His sun shine on the good and the bad, and gives the blessing of rain to the righteous and the unrighteous.
Let me be clear. I do not mean that you necessarily have to give your bad friends free rein of your home; I do not mean that you do not report theft or other crimes to the police. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is put someone in jail—if indeed you are doing it as the best way to help them. We have had to do that at least once. What is expected, though, is that we continue to love the bad friends, even the worst friend, and to look for the best way to help them. We were never promised that showing love wouldn’t result in pain or injury to ourselves. We were promised that God would recognize His own image in us when we did so.
There is a footnote to this story. This was written about a year before it was published here, and in the intervening months my wife and I were both hospitalized and released with some severe restrictions on our activities. During this time that “worst friend” appeared, clean and sober, and stayed with us for an extended time, cooking and cleaning and otherwise making life possible for us while we were recuperating. No one is irredeemable, and a little love and grace and kindness can go a long way.
So show love to your friends, even the worst friend.
Having completed the last of the epistles, the Chaplain’s Bible Study will be beginning a study of the Revelation, or Apocalypse, of John—the last and most controversial book in the New Testament. The preliminaries post will go out sometime on Sunday, May 7th, 2017, and thereafter the study will progress at the rate of one thoroughly-examined verse per day, five days per week. You can join the study by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Yahoo!Groups interface as cgg_review.
Mark Joseph Young, “MJ” to much of the gamer community, has been Chaplain of the Christian Gamers Guild for nearing two decades, and has been teaching this Bible Study since beginning with Romans in 2006. He hold degrees in Biblical Studies from Luther College of the Bible and Liberal Arts (formerly in Teaneck, NJ) and Gordon College (Wenham, MA), received a Juris Doctore with honors from Widener University School of Law, and is Mensa qualified. He is the author of our Faith and Gaming series, and of quite a few books and many online articles on quite a variety of subjects. Some of his articles have been republished in French and German. His online presence is maintained largely by support through Patreon and PayPal.me.
The study, officially sponsored by the Christian Gamers Guild, is open to all, has participants including ministers from a wide variety of denominations, and is focused on an analytical and exegetical study of the text. We look forward to your participation.
CGG President Rodney Barnes begins a series about how a Gamemaster can be a Servant to their roleplaying group.
How big should your RPG group be?
There is not a set answer to the question of how big your group should be. But here are some helpful guidelines to help you in establishing a group size. Read more
In recent months we have drifted away from the central purpose of this series—that of examining how our faith and our gaming hobby may be integrated—into responding to the criticisms of other Christians. This is in some ways a necessary part of what we are doing. If well-intentioned Christians think that our hobby is wrong, we need to examine what they say and what we do very closely. But to some degree, the critics have derailed us, pulling us away from the basics of our discussion. It’s time to get back on track. To do this, we’re going to travel back to the fundamentals, where we began.
And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
—James 3:18, UNASB Read more
As children of God, we are charged to walk in the Light.
[I John 1:5] This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.  If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;  but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (UNASB)
Critics of role playing games would argue from this that those who spend their time in fantasy worlds filled with sorcerous magic, powerful demons, evil kingdoms, soul-stealing vampires, and foreign gods are walking in darkness, not in the light. Some would go beyond that and claim that being involved in godless science fiction worlds is equally wicked. They say (although, as we have seen in previous articles in this series, without much foundation) that to play such games is sin. Read more
The following article was originally published in May 2001 on the Christian Gamers Guild’s website. The entire series remains available at its original URL.
As I pondered where to begin our discussion of faith and gaming, I wanted to address the most fundamental aspect of our games; but I then had to debate with myself exactly what part of a role playing game is that most fundamental aspect. I decided immediately that it wasn’t the worlds in which we played; as basic as these are to the make-believe play of our youth, these are rather a layer on top of the basics. Characters, similarly, are part of the game, but an added part. Did that mean that mechanics were the fundamental aspect? After all, all games have mechanics; role playing games are most defined as games because of mechanics. And so I was preparing to write a page about Christianity and game mechanics.
And then it occurred to me that I was looking in the wrong place. Read more