Today a friend posted on Facebook, in reply to a comment of mine, with the misperception, quite common in the Christian community (or at least more conservative parts of it), that Dungeons & Dragons, and other like games (commonly called Roleplaying Games or RPGs) are demonic, the opposite of Godly, and have lead to the loss of many lives. This person was motivated by her love of me and my family, and I wanted to give her an answer that was both honest and comprehensive. Below is my reply:
The short version is that the game is completely imaginary, no more satanic than any given player, less if everyone knows how to separate fantasy from reality. The long version follows:
As a Christian and a gamer I am deeply saddened by the vast misinformation about D&D in particular, and roleplaying games in general, among Christians. I have been a gamer since I was 10. It has opened up worlds of imagination, innovation and problem solving to me. I am an adaptive thinker and more compassionate person because of the games I’ve played.
Never has anyone tried to get me to worship Satan. Never has anyone sacrificed anything real. Never have I been told not to listen to God and God’s call on my life by anyone in any of these games. Yes, they did sometimes deal with dark issues, and yes sometimes that was uncomfortable. But rather than tempting me to darkness, it showed me instead that I could choose to live better than that.
D&D is played by lots of people. Some of them are troubled, and yes, some have hurt themselves and blamed it on the game. But those people were already having trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality, or were in such a dark place, they were going to hurt themselves anyway. I can say that when played around a physical table, communities which can support people who are struggling with these kinds of thoughts, problems and lack of hope. Indeed these groups of kindred souls can help pull people out of that and empower them to return to their faith and love, and even God.
The warnings you speak of were motivated by fear and misunderstanding. I can tell you that the most irregular thing that happens around any gaming table I’ve ever been at has been consumption of too much soda. Because distinguishing fantasy from reality is such an important part of these games, I wouldn’t want kids under the age of 10 to play these games without a responsible adult as part of the group to help them learn and grow. They do have some learning to do in distinguishing fantasy from reality, and the adult can provide the guidance they need. But I have played these games with my kids, and we have had fun. Just like me, their connection to God has in no way been diminished, they just use their imaginations in more versatile ways.
In fact, the vast majority of games that I have played in have taught me Godly things: you must not give way to evil, you must speak truth to power, you must let your faith guide you but not blind you, you must stand up for the weak, you must have compassion, you must challenge your allies when they do things that are wrong, and small groups of committed people can change the world.
I know your response was motivated by love and concern for me and my family, so I wanted to share this with you. This is the truth, as I have experienced it, about the hobby which has brought me so much enjoyment and so much personal growth. I have made some of the best friends I have, many persons of faith among them, while playing these games. I have learned to answer my calling in part because of these games. They are not the opposite of Godly. They are just like anything else we do in this world, a reflection of the person doing them. I will play D&D and other roleplaying games until I am mentally and physically unable to do so, and I pray that God continues to use these games to teach, empower and help me grow more fully into the person God created me to be.