Behind the DM’s screen
Something ridiculous happened today. Before I get to that, though, I’m’a set some ground rules, because this is the kind of discussion that gets out of hand really, really fast.
1) I’m not interested in any anti-religion comments. What follows did not happen because people believe in God. This isn’t a discussion about belief versus fact, religion versus atheism, etc.. And specifically, please don’t post anti-Christian comments. Think them to yourself if you’d like.
2) I’m not interested in incendiary or antagonistic comments. I’ve heard them all, and they’re not helpful.
This morning, The Captain told me how much he and his friends are enjoying the D&D game I’m running for them. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned how wonderful it is to watch a bunch of 12-13yo kids (and one 8-yo kid) experience traditional tabletop D&D for the first time. I mean, they’re excited and they’re working together and they’re creative and they’re brilliant and I get to watch their own stories and adventures light up their faces and ignite their spirits. You can’t buy that.
It’s incredible when you get to share something you’re passionate about with your kids. His Nibs joined in too because the kids were all over the ranger, halfling rogues, wizard, and dwarf fighter, but nobody wanted to be the cleric. And everybody knows that 0-5th level parties kind of…flounder without a cleric. Here I’m using the word ‘flounder’ to mean ‘die horribly in writhing pits of fire and rotting wraith entrails’.
Most of The Captain’s friends are great. I like them. I like having them at the house (when they get loud, they get booted outside). There are one or two I’d rather not see on a regular basis, but for the most part, the majority of his friends are fly. Heh. I said ‘fly’. Anyhow, I feel a little guilty admitting that there are kids I don’t much like, but where is it written that you have to like every kid you meet? I think that’s ridiculous.
Anyway, so The Captain and his gaming friends are super into the game, which is wicked. And there are more kids in his peer group who are kind of curious and interested to try it out. There are a few who just aren’t interested, and that’s okay too. And there’s one kid who said he’s not allowed to play D&D because “he’s Christian and D&D is the devil’s game”.
So when I heard that I went a little ballistic. I don’t know where and when that stupid moniker was coined, but I suspect it was sometime in the 70s, in the bible belt down south, by people who were just generally uncomfortable at the idea of a bunch of men hanging out with each other and playing make-believe. But I don’t care. I don’t *care* where the rumours were started. I’m sure that every pastime out there that isn’t theological study or hymn sings have been called ‘the devil’s game’.
I used to just laugh at people who spouted crap like this, then I went through a phase where I figured they just didn’t understand the game and tried to explain it to them, in the mistaken view that if someone understands something, they will change their mind about it (this is so very rarely the case). Eventually, I just kind of resigned myself to swearing and muttering under my breath for a while. If in public and confronted with this kind of statement, I still laugh out loud. Because it’s ridiculous. It’s RIDICULOUS.
Trust me, if I was worshipping some dark and eldritch god or demon in my basement, I wouldn’t be chatting about it nonchalantly with my children’s friends.
…okay, I *might*…but that’s not the point.
So then The Captain said, “you know, I don’t know if he really believes that or not. I think he just doesn’t want to play and doesn’t really want to say it.”
And fine. Fair enough.
And really, ultimately, if you think a roleplaying game is against your religion, you probably misunderstand your own religion’s doctrines and liturgies. I’ve studied comparative religion, and for much of my life have followed established religion (not just Christianity, either). I’ve never really understood the fear that some people have of fiction and gaming, particularly as it refers to their religion, but I also don’t care very much. It is they who are missing out, not me. I’m certainly not going to call this kid’s family up and try to disavow them of their mistaken opinion. Particularly since this is the same kid who one day announced to me that, and I am quoting, “gay is wrong because the bible says it’s wrong.”
In that case, he was right in front of me, and I said, “well, I know there are some people who think that way, and that’s unfortunate, because gay is no more wrong than having blonde hair or liking sports. The bible also says it’s wrong to eat bacon, fish, and lobster, and to wear the clothes you’re wearing right now. I don’t want to be too heavy-handed, here, but I won’t have that kind of language in my house. If you choose to believe that homosexuality is wrong, that’s your prerogative, but spouting uninformed opinions like that in my house will simply not do.” I didn’t get a call from his parents. I thought I would, but I didn’t. I’d have been glad to tell them exactly why I’d said it, too.
This isn’t about Christianity being wrong or right, and I don’t want to hear that BS. This isn’t about religious people being bad or stupid, and I won’t hear that BS either. This is about what comes next, and it pertains just to this one family:
They have no problem letting their kids play über violent computer games and watch completely inappropriate horror movies. Zombie movies that scared the bejeezus out of 8 year old The Captain? No problem. Pornographic images on the iPod at school in grade 4? No problem. Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto for 9 year olds? While 4 year olds watch? Not a problem. D&D? CALL THE MORALITY POLICE!
Let’s be clear: I don’t care what you believe in or don’t believe in. I think you’re doing a huge disservice to the rest of the world when you teach your kids things like ‘homosexuality is wrong’, regardless of how you justify that belief. And honestly, I have friends who don’t let their kids play RPGs OR video games. Like, any video games. They also don’t let their kids watch TV. For a variety of reasons.
But this one really stuck in my craw. Just the blatant hypocrisy of it. It’s okay to objectify people as sex objects, and it’s okay to objectify people as targets for aggression and violence, and it’s okay to glorify violence and wanton murder, but it’s somehow amoral or wrong to play a goddamned tabletop roleplaying game?
I mean, I kind of want to ask where in the bible it says “thou shalt not roll polyhedral dice and pretend to be a different character”. Because then I think I’ll probably hear something about false idols and worshipping other gods, and then I’ll be all, “how many hours a day do your kids spend at church versus in front of a screen?” Yeah. That’s what I thought.