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Christian Gamers and Self Esteem

Started by Jason Lee, November 29, 2002, 11:56:50 PM

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Jason Lee

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
As such, I think I'll change my definition of "Christian games" to those that both deal specifically with Christianity and ultimately support or futher the exploration of a Christain faith.  This does not mean they have to say "Christianity is right and good" but they at least should allow for "Christianity is something worthwhile to explore and wrestle with."

That's really an important destinction, one I was (wrongly) taking for granted as understood.  To use Jonathan's definition of Christian games, that is the kind of game I was concerned might receive leers on the game shelf.

Interstingly enough, it seems that a Christian game might get a similar response from an atheist and a Christian ("this game is too preachy" or "why do I care?").

I think the chain of conversation of this thread answers a lot of questions in and of itself.

Would a Christian object to games that place christianity on an even could-be-truth slate with atheism or buddism:  We've been talking about Christianity and atheism as abstract concept this entire time, and no one seems to care much - everyone has their personal definitions and can apply them to the subject matter (which you can do with a game if you can do with conversation).

And a piece of the original question: do Christians gamers (as an average, not a whole) fear letting other gamers know they are Christian? ... Yes and no, it seems like the individual group makes a lot of difference (as it does with anything in life).  Plenty of Christians seem to have spoken up about their religion without fear (though tossing in their hat in a little later, I can't tell if it's because they had nothing to say, weren't interested in the thread, or thought they were alone).

Yeah, ok, maybe it's just because we're being reasonable instead of judgemental - but I swear the Forge is not the single pure reservoir for reasonable people.
- Cruciel


If I wanted a game that specifically modeled what being a Christian meant to me, I would choose Sorcerer hands down.  The premise of the game is "what would you do?"  For me at least, aside from acceptance of the possibility of salvation of my soul, that pretty much sums up what it means to be a Christian.  In the end my life will be judged, with salvation or damnation in the balance.
Clay Dowling - Online Campaign Planning and Management

Kester Pelagius

Greetings Clay,

As this is my first post to you let me take this opportunity to say howdy.

So, howdy!

Quote from: ClayIf I wanted a game that specifically modeled what being a Christian meant to me, I would choose Sorcerer hands down.  The premise of the game is "what would you do?"  For me at least, aside from acceptance of the possibility of salvation of my soul, that pretty much sums up what it means to be a Christian.  In the end my life will be judged, with salvation or damnation in the balance.

Looking over the posts to this thread one thing struck me as somewhat odd, which I think this post sums up nicely.

Whose view of Christianity are we talking about?

Does Clay's statement fit with *your* (yes, you, the one reading these words) view of what is means to be a Christian?

Let's consider something few of us probably do...  Christianity comes in many *flavors*, if you will.  For instance Catholocism is not akin to Orthodox Christianity anymore than Orthodox Christianity is Coptic Christianity, to say nothing of the various denominations from Baptist to Church of the Creator or (insert name here).  Which is probably why, for most of the larger game companies, real world religion has not made any appearances within commercial game product.

Fantasy religions, based upon pseudo-real versions of theological precepts, are usually the way to go for just the reasons outlined above.  It's how satirists have worked for centuries.  It's also what makes the post-apocalyptic genre so interesting.  There is subtext underneath the mutants and road warriors.

Also how should we define Christianity, or what a Christian view of role-playing games are?

Think about that for a moment.

Certain denominations are not overtly vociferous.  Is it because they don't care?  No.  Take the Orthodox branch, for instance, no proselytizing allowed.

Of course we all know the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the air time in sensationlistic, sound byted, media programs.  So many our view of what *popular* Christianity is has been somewhat colored?

Thus better to ask what role, if any, "real world religion" should play in relation to role-playing games.  And what members of a "real world religions" think of role-playing.

Some games model fantasy religions and magic on pseudo-cabalistic templates, often with undertones of the Golden Dawn or Enochian theurgic systems.  IE: the so-called "occult" elements so often mentioned.

Or is it?

Who gets to decide what is occult knowledge and what isn't?

Would it help to know that all the word "occult" really means is "obscure"?

Probably not.  For most the material of the Golden Dawn and writings of Kabbalah are purely esoteric.  As is the tenents of one denomination of Christianity to those who do not actually belong to said denomination.

Funny how that works.  Perhaps we would do well to keep that simple fact in mind.  For unless we are part of a specific religion their beliefs, their tenents, indeed their very scripture are esoteric occult knowledge to us.

That said their is no reason why a role-playing game can't be used as a instructional or educational tool.  In fact that is probably how most of use learned about Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology in the first place.

Kind Regards,

Kester Pelagius
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis." -Dante Alighieri

M. J. Young

Quote from: crucielWould a Christian object to games that place christianity on an even could-be-truth slate with atheism or buddism?
In a sense, that's just like life; and I think most of us as Christians would be comfortable in a game which was just like life in that way. That is, there has always been something which irked me about Gamma World and Star Trek; it's this idea that in the future there isn't any religion. Never mind that there isn't any Christianity; there's no Judaism, no Islam, no Buddhism, nothing. I find it difficult to imagine that beliefs that have stood for thousands of years will vanish in a few hundred. In fact, I think that a large part of the atheism of the Enlightenment expected all religions to vanish in a generation; they didn't.

But you have this practical problem when you turn it into a game. It might depend on your milieu, but in many cases you're going to have to have some idea regarding what the truth actually is. Consider this scenario. You've got to player characters, one a Christian the other an atheist (and this has nothing to do with the beliefs of the players at this point). They are on a space ship which suddenly gets hit by some piece of space debris that leaves it severely damaged. What happens next? The Christian prays that God will help them, and protect the people on board; then both of them go work on the problem.

If this were real life, they would make the repairs, help the people, and try to get things back to normal. Then the Christian would thank God for helping them, and the atheist would deride him for thinking God had anything to do with it.

But this is a game. The question of which of these men is correct has a real answer in the resolution system. Did the fact that the Christian asked God for help impact the outcome, or not? If prayer will never make any difference, then under the game system the Christian is wrong; if prayer will make a difference, then under the game system the atheist is wrong.

About the only possibility for an end run around this problem is to encode into the rules something like this: For some reason which is not explicit, prayer sometimes makes a difference and sometimes does not. Thus the role of a die would determine whether the Christian's prayer helped. But from a mechanics perspective, this means the Christian character has an edge over the atheist character--there is something he can do which might increase the probability of favorable outcomes. At that point, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, the atheist is an impractical choice. I can't think of a balance. (Actually, I can think of a balance, one used in Multiverser; but it really only works in games with a higher level of magic: because of his disbelief in the supernatural, the atheist is more resistant to magic used against him. In this sci-fi setting, it's hard to imagine that some primitive alien pronouncing some curse is going to impact the Christian more than the atheist.)

I have nothing against such a game in principle; I just see it as extremely difficult to actually do in practice. At some fundamental level you have to decide what the real nature of the universe is, or you can't answer these kinds of situations.

--M. J. Young

P.S.--Thanks, Ron; I was just feeling overburdened by everything I'm trying to juggle, and knowing that my contributions here are appreciated has been a genuine encouragement.


I would prefer that in such a game the whole question was struck out; atheism is not possible or irrational when, as Terry Pratchett put it, the gods come round and throw stones through atheists windows.  There is no need to respesent the doubt encoded mechanically, IMO: and then I and indeed anyone else can simply write off the fact of gods existance in the game as a specific setting element.
Impeach the bomber boys:

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci


Let me take a moment and draw a line--

In my FRPG--High Valor, there is a monotheistac religion, and it is correct in its beliefs (mostly) it has splintered a bit with different orders who have different outlooks, but whose core beliefs is that The Lord on High, the Great Dreamer exists and sent a child to die so that they could be free of the enslavement by the Fane-Lords. This is the Church of the Martyr.

It is fundamentally correct--a PC's faith in following the Highlord (Priest or not) can impact the game--it can repel evil, perorm blessings (if VERY high) and even ask for miracles.

But there are still worshippers of other dieties---other "gods" who by the Church of the Martyr's teachings aren't real.

The game dictactes that /yes/ they aren't real--the people /in the game/ don't know this because of this one thing--Magic.


You see a Spellcaster can simulate, mimic and even perform nigh identical effects to the Faithful--they can oh ward a circle with words of power to hold evil at bay. They can say words to summon up helpful spirits, or call (in the name of their god) a miracle (spell) that allows them to take the shape of a bear.

So fundamentally those peoples--mostly Rykarn, and Caen-Cluith tribes, but others simply believe that their Seers, and Shamans, (whose knowledge is passed down from teacher to some chosen child) is using the same methods and manners as the Church of the Martyr--they are all casting spells, in the name of their gods!

A civilized person who has no Faith, and thus bey definition an athiest believes much the same thing--that the Church is just using /magic/ a natural and controllable supernatural force to make people believe in a non visibile mythical entity.

Is there a benefit to playing an Athiest? Yes, your less likely to get asked to go do things in the name of the Church and or the High-Lord.

(or at least they are less likely to be able to convince your PC /why/ they should go)

The fact that faith is /real/ is to some only proof in a lesser power--not a divine providence, but just magic. Like we might say "its just Special Effects", "Its just a trick" if we actually saw someont fly, walk on water and so on. (Me I at least presume its possible because of my beliefs to /not/ be a trick--but not to the extent that I'm not going to try and look for a trick /first/ thus even I am a bit of a cynic there.)

There was a movie a few years ago called "Almost an Angel" starring what's his name of Crocodile Dundee fame (and the same young woman who was in those films as his mentor/friend/girlfriend later wife?)

In it an ex con with a knack for electronics changes his style of crime from burglary to bank-hold ups, using his "generic" appearance. He gets hurt and ends up in the hospital and believes that God (Charlton Heston) has sent him back to earth as an angel. The whole movie sets up things which /make/ him believe---being shot at but not hurt (blanks in the gun.) and so on, whereupon he finds himself trying to do what he believes is God's Work, using his skills of burglery and electronics to convince a contribitor to a kids recreation center to give them money rather than some obviously flim-flam Televangelist.

Now the entire movie sets it up to make it looke like he's delusional, but in the end--things happen which are undoubatably miracles.

Now the question is was it divine intervention? was he really an angel? or was he just had enough self-belief to override reality for a moment (much like the Magic in White Wolfs MAge Game?)


I forgot to mention something about possible athiests--in the game Will, that is Self Will and Faith tend to oppose each other--a person whose self is strong will tend to be less faithful (as faith often is giving up of self to let someone else handle things) and will is essentially belief in self handling things to some degree--this is why you don't find most priests using magic--and why athiests get a bonus similar to MJ Youngs---in a magical Multiverse setting, because a high will allows one to resist magic a little better (and if your magically inclined perform magic as well) this make the two "stats" a balancing act for anyone who wants to be both strong willed and faithful--a very tough, and perilous path. (Of course a high faith allows possible divine protection against magic, so it makes that benefit fairly even)


Coming in late here, but I want to weigh in behind everything M. J. has said. My approach to a thread is to basically organize my thoughts as I read until I have a point that I want to make. Pretty much every time I've had a coherent post planned out in my mind, the next entry in the thread is one from M. J. saying what I was going to say, only more clearly than I would have put it. :)

So, with all that out of the way, I'm just going to offer some personal information in the intrest of demographics: I'm a christian. I don't worry about making this known to gamers, mainly because the kind of gamers I hang around with aren't going to be bothered by it. Raven and I once had a throwdown argument over creationism, and I think we're better buds now than we were before. :)

(Incidentally, Raven's voice would be good in this thread, as he's recently had some experiences with the unfortunate "sailor moon costume" counterparts that M. J. has mentioned. Let me tell you I don't want to be associated in any way with the people who just lost Raven his job.)

I'm actually more careful about mentioning my beliefs to my orchestra colleagues than I am to gamers. This is not becasue I'm afraid of being judged by them (a non-issue for me) but because I don't want them to be afraid that *I'll* judge *them.* I don't want to be a damper that stops them from acting natural for fear of offending me.

As for my relatives, some of them are of a more legalistic bent (former baptists for example) and wouldn't understand. They've been taught that D&D is satanic, and would be disturbed if they knew I had anything to do with it. So I keep my books out of sight when they're around, in order not to cause offense.

I just want to make one (Hmm. Turns out it was more than one. Oh well. :) point about christian players and their characters.  

Note: By "anti-gaming religious type" I mean the sort of person who is actually out there fighting against games (or Harry Potter, frex), not someone who has simply been *taught* that "RPGs Are Evil (TM)."

The sticking point for anti-gaming religious types typically seems to be one of two things:

1 - "evil should not be portrayed as good"
2 - "christian people should not play characters that do evil things."

I agree with the principle of #1. The problem is that activists often have made an emotional decision about the morality of something that does not have a strong scriptural foundation. I can't tell you how many times I've seen "Harry Potter makes magic seem cool. Magic is evil. Therefore, Harry Potter is evil!" And then, people make the dangerous jump to "any work containing magic is evil, regardless of how magic is portrayed." (I remember a christian friend who's mother wouldn't let him read the Hobbit.)

"Magic" as it is found in most fantasy literature is imaginary. The idea of the Bible having *anything* to say about a concept that was devised purely for entertainment is just ridiculous. If they were railing against "Kill Puppies for Satan," I could buy it. (Even that's a stretch, given the parody nature of KPS.) But against D&D? Harry Potter? It just makes me laugh. It's like saying that Lysol is poisonous, so you shouldn't eat peas, because they're the same color. Huh?

The problem is that ignorant people have loud and convincing voices.

My response to #2 is "pish posh poo" more or less. It has about the same level of reason as the argument that christian authors shouldn't write books in which the characters (frex) swear. It's ridiculous. People sin. Even christians sin (as much as the anti-gamer religious types would like to have you believe otherwise). A great deal of conflict arises from immoral behavior, or from the potential to behave immoraly. "Cloud 9: The Harp Strumming" is not going to be a very interesting RPG to play.

Finally, the idea that a christian shouldn't read books / watch movies / play games with questionable content is bogus. We live in a world that has a lot of "questionable content." If you (frex) aren't allowed to read a book that has a couple of swear words in it, how on earth are you going to handle real-world every-day encounters? (I know, I'm drifting OT, but I feel this is a relevant rant.) People have brains. Kids especially have brains. At a certain point they have to be allowed to judge for themselves what's acceptable and what's not.

Evan Waters

Quote from: Clinton R. NixonCruciel,

Most definitely. It's funny, because I couldn't really talk about my gaming growing up, with the very religious, very conservative, very fearful-of-the-devil parents.

Now, I live in Seattle, and am a very liberal, very ecumenical, kinda-maybe-Christian, and I wouldn't tell a soul, much less a gamer. I normally avoid talking about's forums, but you'll get your ass verbally stoned there if you mention you believe in a god. .

That's not been my experience.

The* groups, on the other hand...


A couple of points I'd like to add: As for RL relationship of christian church to RPGs, I know several groups in my home country who have at times played on church property, with the consent of the pastor. Of course, there's some things you still have to regard: My favorite anecdote is one of the pastor asking one group about the game they were playing....they described to him in general terms how RPGs work... they did NOT tell him they were playing In Nomine....which was probably a good idea.

However, as was pointed out, there's christianity and then there's christianity. In the US, with its wide diversity in denominations, the problem is that it's the loudest bunch that is obviously most visible. That, however, is in no way representative for christianity. (Note that Christianity is the larges world religion, and as such, Falwell isn't anywhere near as important for what it means to be Christian as he makes himself to be. The vast majority disagrees with him)

In fact, leading to the post regarding a christian praying ICly and an IC atheist voicing derision over it, the situation might very likely not even arise, depending on the christian:

QuoteMatthew 6,5-6:   And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6   But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

As such, the Atheist might never see the christian actually pray. Behavior varies drastically between different denominations. Even missionaries don't have to necessarily urge others to join their faith. Many denominations try to convince others rather by exemplary conduct rather than active proselytizing.

As for contracycle's citing Pratchett that atheism is not possible or irrational when the gods come round and throw stones through atheists' windows, that supposes that it's the style of said gods to act that way. If, rather, they postpone judgement to after you are dead (as some christian denominations say, making the notion of "God has brought this upon you as punishment for your sins" during one's lifetime bogus), then there won't be any stones. Of course, there might be a nasty surprise waiting in the great beyond, but that's a wholly different issue.

As for Jonathan Walton's pointing at games not making it a major issue as to what it's like to be a Christian etc, you are correct for most US games. However, looking internationally, there used to be the French game "Miles Christi", in which all characters were knights of the Temple, and behavior according to both knightly and monastic ideals was what allowed you to develop the character further. In fact, the game included debriefings in which the characters had to admit their sins and accept penance for them, and in case they forgot something, their fellow group members were supposed to point out their omissions in a friendly, non-derisive fashion (since derision would once again have been sinful behavior ;) ) That also allowed a whole lot of IC hard decisions....the Templars were supposed to protect pilgrims. They also were supposed not to hurt any Christians... one sample scenario had, IIRC, the son of a christian noble desire to off his father to get his inheritance a bit early.... now with the Templars not having the power to excommunicate anyone, how do you protect someone from assassins when you're not allowed to hurt the assassin? ;)