Why role playing can be good for Christians

It is no surprise that people want to find a “source” to link to the violence. For example, guns are often linked to shootings. Islam is often linked to the terror events of September 11, 2001, and to other mass bombings. Even in the 1980s, Dungeons & Dragons was linked to be the source of Satanic rituals and suicides (Riggs, 2016). However, there is usually more to the story than people would like to claim.

As I am an active gamer who has played pen-and-paper RPGs, and now is a GM, I disagree that RPGs are the works of the devil. I am also a Christian, so some people might not understand how this does not interfere with my beliefs. To demonstrate this, here is a little test. If you, as the reader, are choosing between a good alignment, a neutral alignment, or an evil alignment to play, which would you choose? If the evil alignment came up, congratulations: you are of the minority. If you were in a party with 2-4 other gamers, the evil alignment would be less likely to be chosen. This may be that on the whole, there is a stereotype that an evil character cannot play well with others. When ranking the 9 D&D alignments, the neutral and good alignments do appear on the top of the list (Bricken, 2012). Indeed, even D&D and d20 systems that use the alignment rules declare why good and neutral classes are the best to play, and why the evil ones are the most dangerous to play (Hypertext d20 SRD, n.d.) This does not help level the playing ground on all alignments.

So why are RPGs signed as a source of evil? This is because of a simple problem of pointing blame. This can be seen as early as Genesis 3. One chapter earlier in Genesis 2:16, God gives man (Adam) the free will to eat whatever he likes (Bible.com, n.d). There was one tree that was forbidden, and both Adam & Eve pointed blame to another target. I had a few personal experiences where I knew a woman let an affair in a RPG session game trickle into their real-life, and ruined their relationships. Various excuses were given why adultery was acceptable. However, the problem was that she found it acceptable, against her conscious, to have sex with another. The hijackers on the September 2001 attacks let their hatred of the USA dominate their lives that they planned drastic actions to down 3 planes with innocent bystanders for their gain, not realizing that it would have no real impact on their mission to ruin the country. Shooters who attack in a Walmart or a cinema seek personal fame, but do not manage to take down the corporation they choose to attack. Others, who may or may not have a direct connection to the incidents of violence, choose to look for a target of blame, just like Adam and Eve. The fruit, or the D&D book may be near the scene, but it did not call out to break the law.

How can we, as Christians, embrace RPG in a positive light? First of all, as a GM, I do believe in awarding experience points based on how well one plays their character. This includes their alignment roles. As many players tend to play in a positive or neutral alignment, as opposed to an evil alignment, this helps to enforce the ideas of cooperation, and problem solving that does not always involve hacking other character’s lives. They can also look toward the GM to provide some assistance. Jesus can be illustrated as a great GM in passages such as Luke 8, where he provides some questions before telling a story. A GM is essentially telling a story, and letting other characters fill in the details. A good RPG session involves everyone ending happy. In addition, when problem solving is applied with a good GM, it opens avenues to possibly non-violent means of accomplishing goals. If one is playing an evil character, it may reveal how increasingly tough it is to maintain an evil character, and how to convert it to the positive. Similarly, it may be possible to turn enemies into best friends in real life without gunshots and a six-foot trench with a headstone. These lessons can be easily applied to real life. These are lessons that Jesus tried to illustrate, being the perfect man for the job. The game is not evil; we are the ones who have the will to make it evil or not.

 

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