A: Great question. I feel like a mosquito at a nudist colony wondering where to begin. There’s a lot to unpack here, so I’ll try to start from a bird’s-eye view and then try to land it in the most relevant spot I can. There are many great perspectives to consider here, so I’ll try to just cut through the middle.
First of all, each argument you present on a practical, logical level is a narrow, naïve, and classist (“I’m better than you because I have/do/belong to/don’t [insert anything here]”) opinion. We all have them whether we admit it or even know it or not. Religion can sadly be a prime example, but the heart of the matter is our worldview, however wide and open or closed and narrow that may be. I liken it to the classic “you must change your path to mine because mine is right, so yours must be wrong” bit. Before I go too deep, I want to assure everyone that, in many cases, I believe most well-intentioned folks are good in their desire to help guide others. But it’s people’s narrow, classist delivery and a lot of slick con-artists that have turned us into skeptics of change, especially when there’s a demand to change our worldview, which is very precious and sacred to each of us.
To try and short-circuit what could be written out in volumes is: what one proclaims as God’s Truth, however tinged in real Truth, may not be the fullness of God’s Truth and therefore does not stand as the representative of Truth. For example, as a self-proclaimed tech junkie, I could argue that Apple is a cult, and its Apple-ites are brain-washed sheep. To me, that is Truth, and right now other narrow-minded Android-lovers are raising their Samsung phones and cheering. Our self-aggrandizing condemnation for you to “not be sucked into the brain-washing of a corporate tub-thumper” and “find our path of cellular enjoyment” become mantras of the ignorant. So goes the examples you quoted.
Secondly, we’re dealing with a critically important concept married to a completely innocuous one: spiritual salvation… and games (there are countless combinations people will stand on pedestals to wield fire and brimstone with such trivialities, but we’ll stick to the question at hand). People can speak of the all-important theme of eternal salvation and strike it for or against nearly everything. And I believe they all have their merits, whether I agree or not. Which leads back to the above point that there may be some Truth in all of them, but that does not make any of them The Truth.
Will God judge our salvation on the games we did or did not play or create for amusement? Does God require certain games to be labeled, categorized on shelves, and some to become required material for your salvation while others forbidden? I think that is as ridiculous as my plea to save yourself from becoming an Apple-ite. It’s not my place to make that judgment. I think we must step off that soapbox and let people be free to find their enjoyment where their worldview allows, which is often the best places to share God’s love for others. I believe that by doing so God will use those who love Him to share important bonding moments, regardless of the game around which they are bonding, where God’s love becomes a message of love from a friend, not from a classist dogmatic judge who cares not, or perceivably cares not, for anything but his own self-glorification. The difference between the two could be eternally important.
Finally, I feel it is important to address the distillation of my convictions, so everyone may know that I do not pretend to be impartial. Holy Lands RPG was created as an attempt to be the answer to the entirety of your question. Regardless of how I may have trivialized the danger, role-playing games are unique in their form and execution as “games”, in the traditional sense of the word. I would go so far as to reclassify them outside of the “game” category because a game has a finite outcome or goal, in all matter of thinking, that is to eventually win or lose. The attraction to RPGs, to their detriment some might say, is the opposite, where the “sport” of RPGs is designed for all involved to devise ways of building continuity, permanence, and an evolving dominance for their “pieces”; to unendingly grow a story of an adventure-filled parallel to real life. This level of mental depth and acumen requires every corner of the imagination to pour out onto the gaming table and allow others to immerse their own imaginative outpouring into this wondrous theater of the mind where everyone’s pieces must survive and thrive in an alternate, and to us, an opposing reality that is more often a magical, fantasy worldview. And the rules confine them there. For many of us, therein lies the snares of danger.
We Christians exercise our minds to find a more focused view of the God of the Bible and His message of forgiveness and selflessness, which is already an opposing worldview from what our culture without end bombards us with. So, we happily struggle to filter out the ways of our culture that does not fit with the worldview that we feel is implored upon us by our God. Given the gravity of importance we place on this worldview, entangling our minds in such a wondrous game of make-believe can, and has, steered us from reality into what we believe to be evil. And so, the mantras begin:
With the massively immersive aspects of RPGs, those who are more susceptible to being swayed to fantasy magic, by playing in a world that encourages evil as we know it, as dramatic as it may seem, ideas glorifying evil permeate into people’s real worldview and, however rare can be argued, have a stranglehold on some’s ability to separate fact from fiction. Especially in the exploding imagination of children, folks are given two opposing invisible paths and they must choose the one that they will plunge their innocent mind into; a choice that will leave an indelible mark on their current and future worldview and can even shape their future. That is not the game’s fault, nor the game designers’ problem, but it is true. I would be remiss to even estimate who can and cannot come out of a game and continue to follow their Christian tenets in the same way they did before they dove into a fantastic RPG story, nor could I guess what game or event triggered any conversion in either direction. And what a bigger fool I would be to even attempt to imply that this danger applies to everyone. But I’ve seen it firsthand, and I’ve seen that you cannot know by simply looking at a person who will find themselves in the grips of what many, even they, find evil. I’ve lived it firsthand and so have many who I’ve spoken to about the subject. Some of us wept as we threw out our stacks of maps and our books and our dice and the whole worlds of imagination that were so precious to us, because that’s what we believed we had to do. Previously there were arguably no other options, so we either lost ourselves in a world where sorcery and theft and murder are normalized and even encouraged, or we didn’t play at all.
Then came Holy Lands RPG. By transcending the fork in the road of whether or not it is possible to play tabletop RPGs as a Christian, without grating our souls, it gives everyone a platform to play out the fantastic, the wonderful, the awesome, but play it in a decidedly Christian setting.
So, in a word, the answer to your question is Holy Lands RPG.