Culture At Large

D&D, Culture and Christians

Chris Salzman

A very insightful reflection from The Suburban Christian, Albert Hsu, about Gary Gygax's (co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons who died on March 4) effect on culture.

Mr. Hsu used to role play himself until a Bill Gothard rally convinced him to rid himself of his D&D paraphernalia. Reading this post makes me think that he doesn't quite think the same way now:

It occurs to me now that in the Gygax vs. Gothard smackdown, Gygax ultimately triumphed. Why? I think because whereas Gothard and other conservative Christians defensively attacked D&D out of fears of Satan worship, Gygax and D&D created an appealing world and fascinating narrative that people could enter into. It was participatory, and it also created community. Rogers notes, "You needed at least three people to play — two adventurers and one Dungeon Master to guide the game — so Dungeons & Dragons was social. Demented and sad, but social."
In short, Gygax created culture, whereas Gothard merely condemned culture. Gothard did not create a compelling alternative to D&D - he merely argued that it was evil. Whatever one might think about his perspective, the larger issue for Christians is whether we will create compelling, dramatic narratives and stories for people to participate in, or if we only react against what other people create

Moderate googling will net you with both positive and negative Christian stances on Dungeons and Dragons. The two have an interesting history to say the least. Here are two of the more well-known negative views:

The infamous Chick tract

Patricia Pulling and BADD

Back to Mr. Hsu's point though: like it or not Gygax has done quite a bit to shape our current culture. Science Fiction and Fantasy books, videogames and movies are indebted to the mythology of D&D. Take The Lord of the Rings trilogy, much of the imagery is borrowed heavily from the D&D universe.

Take this quotation from the New York Times:

We live in Gary Gygax’s world. The most popular books on earth are fantasy novels about wizards and magic swords. The most popular movies are about characters from superhero comic books. The most popular TV shows look like elaborate role-playing games: intricate, hidden-clue-laden science fiction stories connected to impossibly mathematical games that live both online and in the real world.

Are Christians creating "compelling, dramatic narratives and stories for people to participate in?" Or should this even be a goal of Christians? Any of you have kept your Dungeons and Dragons characters secret for fear of what your church leaders might think? Other thoughts?

Topics: Culture At Large, News & Politics, Social Trends, North America