A thought I had reached a comfortable level with but after talking with a fellow Catholic this weekend, I wanted to offer up for discussion.
Role-playing games, and I mean everything from D&D to Mass Effect to the parish Murder Mystery Dinner fundraiser. Is it intrinsically sinful to play them or participate in them?
I ask because I took an interest last year in a game with the very ominous-sounding title of “Serpent’s Tongue”. Hear me out before you hit reply with “Just the name … STAY AWAY!” It is a spell-casting simulation, you actually speak (in a made-up language) a “spell”. I liked the concept, loved the art, but was nervous at the idea of simulating something that is intrinsically sinful, even knowing that this is a made-up language and pretending to be a magician doesn’t make me one (any more than playing Settlers of Catan makes me a pioneer or playing Monopoly makes me a robber-baron). So I did what I do with matters about which I’m unclear, and I took it up in prayer.
Two things happened that made me comfortable with it. One is that, our parish announced it was hosting a “Murder Mystery Dinner” as a fundraiser and encouraged attendees to dress up and act in character for the evening. To me, this is LARPing (Live Action Roleplay), playing out a murder, simulating a gravely sinful action and its aftermath.
The other is that, while I was praying, the idea occurred to me - “Your character is a Christian. How would he react to suddenly finding out he has magical powers? How would he use them? What would his priest say?” and the idea stuck with me to the point that I spent some time writing this story of a Catholic who finds this power, goes to his priest, asks what to do with it, and through that story in sort of a choose-your-own-adventure way he continually makes moral choices; should he fight or not, should he heal injured adversaries, should he forswear the magic altogether or use it to heal injured people in the ER? I also took advantage of the resources on the game’s website and wrote up the Our Father in the game’s language (something that was widely noted and circulated in the game’s community). And when I met up with some local players to play, I talked about my faith openly, something I don’t think is often done in RPGs.
I ask this now, though, after telling the same to a friend over the weekend who was very much uncomfortable with the game’s premise, the darker themes within (players are free to behave evilly too), and the occult imagery. I think of myself as mature enough to know when a game is a game, when it’s not, and that symbols only hold power if you allow them to. But I also know that this isn’t the best example to set for a teen, not that I’d share this with them. So… to the questions:
Are role-playing games intrinsically evil?
Are any games with dark, evil, occult or magic-related themes intrinsically evil (even if you’re the one fighting the evil)?
Is game-playing of any kind intrinsically evil?
Now hit reply.