Proverbs 12:20 ‘Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counselors of peace is joy. ‘
1 Corinthians 13:11 ‘When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.’
For most of my life, I have been fascinated by games, all sorts of games. When I was quite young, my brothers and I received an Atari 2600 for Christmas. It was wonderful and soon we were consumed by Pac-Man, Missle Command, and Yar’s Revenge. As we grew older we always managed to keep up with the newer systems: the NES, the Super NES, the Genesis, and so on. I remember the times fondly when our living room was overtaken by shouts of “HADOUKEN!” and “GET OVER HERE!”. But side by side with these flashing lights on the television that we could magically manipulate, we also enjoyed tabletop games.
We spent countless hours playing such classics as Monopoly, Checkers, and Pictionary. Until, one fateful summer day, my older brother burst through the door with a copy of Basic Dungeons and Dragons along with the Keep on the Borderlands module that he purchased at a yard sale. It opened a whole new world to us. Soon, we were careening through dark caves and dank dungeons, shanking monstrous foes and being shanked back in kind, and it was absolutely delightful. This love for gaming grew and grew. Before I knew it, not only were we hacking our way through hordes of orcs but we were hacking into computer networks ran by evil corporations, we were gunning down aliens and daydreaming about the impartial slaying of dragons of every size, shape color, and type.
This continued until about the ripe, old age of sixteen, when I put this love to death. I was becoming a man and men do not sit around and play games such as these. I was determined to be a “teenager”. Teenagers play sports, have lots of friends, go to parties, and try to get girls. And, everyone knows, girls do not like gamers. I did my best to kill my desire for this silly hobby. Every now and then I would find myself playing a game of Magic: The Gathering or something but my heart was turned to other things.
I finally graduated high school and went to a Tech School to continue my education where I found myself surrounded by “artsy” types who loved to do the very thing I had worked so hard to kill. I suppose, “when in Rome…” Before I knew it, in between school, the parties, and work; I was once again murdering kobolds, wondering which body modifications my street samurai should get next, and glorying in weird, transdimensional werewolves.
As an adult, I have gone both hot and cold in my games-playing. When I was 29, I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. A few years after, I found myself in a church, where, I was basically taught that this huge part of my life was evil. “Dungeons and Dragons is of the devil.” “It’s witchcraft.” And as a good ignorant Christian, I accepted this and once again, I started to kill my love. After all, if it displeased my savior, I must forsake it.
A lot has happened since then. My wife and I stopped attending there and moved on to another church. I acquired some chronic health issues and had to quit working. I soon grew restless and I decided I should try to get a hobby. So, I figured, why not board games? At least it is not role-playing games. And soon a new love had bloomed and started to make me question some things that I had taken for granted. They say hindsight is 20/20. I’m not so sure of that but I believe I have been afforded some insight that I would like to share. I have two points.
- Games are not childish.
Who are the ones that think adulthood is the time you stop doing everything you did as a child? Children are the ones that think this way. When you are five, you cannot wait until you are ten. When you are ten, you cannot wait until you are thirteen; then you will be done with all this “baby stuff”. When you are thirteen, you cannot wait until you are sixteen; by that time you will have outgrown all this immaturity and you will practically be an adult. When you are sixteen, you cannot wait until you are eighteen. That is when you will truly have it made; you will stretch your wings and fly when you are eighteen. And, who is it that cannot wait to be twenty-one? That’s the big one; when you will finally throw off all the shackles of childhood and be truly “adult”. Anyone who has reached these mystical numbers will tell you: that’s not what makes an adult. The things to put away are: childish speaking, childish understanding, and childish thinking. When you become an adult you do not put away all the things you loved as a child. Or else, there would be very few hunters and fishermen. Not only would our sports arenas and stadiums be empty of fans but there wouldn’t be anyone to play. I suppose I could go on but I trust you understand the point.
- Using your imagination is not evil
There are plenty of evil things that we can use our imagination for. The time would fail to tell them all. I don’t believe playing games, role-playing games in particular, is one of them. C.S, Lewis called the imagination “the organ of meaning.” Our reason rests upon it. If you cannot be imaginative, you have nothing to reason about. If we can train our imaginations to serve us better, we should do so. I am convinced that two of the better ways to do this is by: reading good fiction and playing tabletop games. God gave us our imaginations. It has a purpose. The idea that a game or a novel is evil just because it has fantasy elements in it is repugnant to me. The same Christians that condemn Dungeons and Dragons often have no problem reading Pilgrim’s Progress. Just because a book or a game features a dragon in it, does not mean it is evil. The Bible itself has demons, dragons, and evil sorcerors figuring into it. Just because role-playing games are shared storytelling should not condemn them either. Jesus is the ultimate storyteller. His is the ultimate story.
In closing, I would like to mention that there are games that might be too childish for you. There might be games that seem “evil” but usually they are not evil in and of themselves. It is usually the people playing them that make them that way. Games have enriched my life and given me joy in ways that few things can. I exhort everyone that reads this to keep playing games and let God be your guide as you judge what might be right and wrong for you to play or do. Not some man (or yourself) who has no idea what he’s talking about. Much love!