A reader writes:
I enjoy it when you blog about role playing games, comic books, etc. During my high school days, I played AD&D and the Warhammer table top game with my friends. I recall that some Evangelical Christians had a problem with role playing games in general and with AD&D in particular. But since that was before my conversion, I payed them little heed.
During my conversion, which was heavily influenced by Evangelical Protestants, I came to the realization that much of what I believed was wrong. Although the subject never came up, I suspect that my Protestant friends would have discouraged me from playing RPGs. Since my conversion I haven’t played them at all, except for the computer variety, nor do I talk about them with my newer Catholic friends.
So here, finally, are my questions:
1. When the topic of the "danger" of RPGs was hot, do you happen to know if any Orthodox Catholic leaders at the time commented on it?
I don’t know of any, but then I wasn’t Catholic back then, either. I was maybe just discovering Christ at the time all that was the rage. It seems to me, though, that Evangelicals went in much more for then anti-RPG stuff than Catholics did, though I am quite sure that you can find some Catholics who are overly concerned with "demonic influences" that would diss the whole concept.
2. If someone did come to you and say that you shouldn’t be playing (or blogging about) RPGs, how would you structure your counter argument?
My defense of blogging about them would be completely different than a defense I would mount concerning playing them. Blogging is simply another form of talking or commenting, and there are no topics on which it is intrinsically taboo to even comment. The question is what is the quality of the contents: Do they accurately reflect the nature of the thing commented about? Do they have a tendency to steer folks toward a correct or an incorrect appraisal of the thing commented upon.
As to the subject of playing RPGs, the instinct to play is built into human nature. God means us to do it. He also built us so that we enjoy stories and coming up with imaginative, fantastic scenarios. All of these are in principle healthy and can play an ennobling role in human life and culture (as in, e.g., The Lord of the Rings trilogy). Given the God-given impulses to play and imagination, there is no in principle barrier to Role-Playing Games.
If a person wants to attack Role-Playing Games, then, he’s going to need to come up with a reason that focuses on the evils of an individual RPG rather than RPGs as a group. Presumably, that argument would be directed to the content of a particular game.
In this regard, the game merely having fantasy content would not be enough. If the content of The Lord of the Rings were the same, it would make no difference whether people experience it by reading it, watching it on screen, or playing it as a game. Merely the fantasy content of the work is not enough to make it illicit.
On the other hand, one might mount an argument that the content of a particular game is sufficiently morally problematic that it should not be indulged in. This argument may succeed in many particular cases. The way many D&D worlds are run, the characters regularly engage in immoral behavior in a way that has a deleterious moral effect on their players. (As the game designer Steve Jackson has pointed out, The average party of player-characters, incidentally, considers itself to be lawful good and is actually chaotic neutral.)
There are many individual games that I would not participate in due to moral repugnance, and so I concede the potential force of the argument, but I note that it applies only to particular games and not to the concept of Role-Playing Games as a whole.
Who can morally participate in what games will depend on the nature of the game and the dispositions and moral fortitude of the player. Different people have different temptations, and one ought to stay out of games that foster one’s temptations.
One also might make an argument (as some back during the anti-RPG days did) that RPGs encourage obsessive behavior on the part of players. I would challenge this and say that young males (the majority of RPG players) tend to have obsessive behavior whether they are playing RPGs or not. While it is true that one can devote so much time to this hobby that it competes with other things one ought to be doing (e.g., meeting girls), that is true of any hobby and thus constitutes no objection to RPGs in particular. RPGs have no particular hyponotizing power that is lacked by girls or movies or TV or the Internet or girls or comic books or iPods or girls or popular music or cars or girls or hunting or fishing or girls or duelling or moonshine or girls or any of the countless other things young men have obsessed about in the present or the past.
3. Do you have any related thoughts about the same subject, applied to books and movies (Harry Potter, etc)?
Bwahhh! You have just asked a question too broad to be answered in blog format. In principle, all of these forms of entertainment are fine of a mature person who is secure in his Catholic faith and not subject to usual temptations. The mere presence of fantasy content does not disqualify them. However, the moral content is important, and not all works are suited for all sudiences, particularly when children are involved.