Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Gary Gygax and Christianity: Dungeons & Dragons creator was a believer

Yesterday I posted about the death of Gary Gygax, who co-created Dungeons & Dragons and is regarded as the founder of the role-playing game genre. Lots of people who are around my age will probably remember that Dungeons & Dragons aroused considerable controversy in the early Eighties because a lot of Christians claimed that the game promoted witchcraft, demonic worship, suicide, and pretty much every other undesirable practice that you can think of. Many of these people wanted the game to be banned completely.

It wasn't enough to stop publication of Dungeons & Dragons but the game has never completely shaken-off the stigma that it is somehow a breeding ground for followers of Satan.

This afternoon I received an e-mail from a reader of this blog, and I learned something quite fascinating: that Gary Gygax, the mind behind Dungeons & Dragons, was a born-again Christian. That link takes you to a discussion that Gygax took part in with the Christian Gamer's Guild in 2007.

And then there is this e-mail that Gygax sent to a fan a month and a half before his passing...

Thank You, Michael,

All I am is another fellow human that has at last, after many wrong paths and failed attenpts, found Jesus Christ.

Via con dios,

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

I thought this was worth making a whole separate post about, because Gygax and his work did suffer a lot of unfair criticism over the years. It's said that the Christian army is the only one that shoots its own wounded. Well, looks like that happened here too.

And so far as some of the more tragic situations involving Dungeons & Dragons that have happened since the game's inception go: yes, this game unfortunately became an idol to some and in their minds more than it was supposed to be. But that same dark potential can be found in practically everything else in life too, whether it be sex or sports or television or whatever. Anything taken to excess becomes a thing that diminishes us and hurts our relationship with God, before it invariably destroys us. In that regard, Gary Gygax certainly did not add anything new to the equation.

And after the past month's sabbatical, some of which I used to study and contemplate what it is to seek after Christ, I now have to wonder if much of the so-called "Christian counter-culture" that I see around us is doing far more damage to the cause of Christ than rolling some dice in a basement ever accomplished. And I'm absolutely serious about that.

But really, this is all still seeing through the glass darkly. The thing that matters most is that yesterday morning, Gary Gygax did "miss his saving throw" as some have joked... but he still won the game before going Home.


Anonymous said...

"but he still won the game before going Home."

Stumbled across your article today and thought I would lend some creedence. Gary was part of a Christian discussion group with me, and I saw first hand his Christ-like love for the lost. He was an inspiration and is missed.

Anonymous said...

Why would he create a game that's focus is on several different types of demons with different levels of power? Where's Jesus Christ? Where's the Holy Spirit? Are these demons having to give an account or plead to the Almighty Father? Where is Micheal the Arch Angel? Where are the chariots and angels of God? Nothing in this game but demons and seeds of witchcraft and glorification of the hordes of the enemy. As far as your comment of another example of Christians shooting the wounded, I doubt this applies to him as he got wealthy off the game, not someone who was repentant and seeking God. As to whether this guy found Christ...I really hope so. But if he was supposedly a Christian when developing this game, I would say he taped into something other than Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

Those demons are the enemy, to be fought and defeated, not glorified.

Open your mind; it doesn't hurt nearly as much as you fear...

Curt said...

I would have to say to the person who posted the comment on April 10th, what you seem to be forgetting is that you can you can worship God and still be using your imagination. For example, J.R.R. Tolkien was very much a Christian but his books did not have all of those things you mentioned. They might have been alluded to, but they were not there. There was still magic in the "Lord of the Rings", but he still did it praising Christ. Same with C.S. Lewis's "The Chronicles of Narnia" but they did not go against God even though they had magic. Is D&D a specific Christian game? No. Do some people take it to far? Yes. Can you play it and not practice witchcraft, use your imagination, and still love and worship Christ? Yes. Is it still a great way to get together and even SHARE THE GOSPEL TO OTHERS? Absolutely. Most people forget that it was Paul that said that he will go to the places of sin in order to help those sinners find Christ. If D&D makes you want to practice witchcraft, then you shouldn't play it. But D&D does not stop you from having a relationship with Christ. Your comment probably hurts the face of Christ more than the game does, my friend.

Reason said...

I guess I'm a bit late in finding this, but anyway...

The "focus" of the game was not on demons or devils at all. They were possible enemies and were not required to be part of any campaign. Is every document that mentions devils or demons part of something evil? Be careful with your answer.

Let's say that he did include the Holy Spirit, Christ, and God the Father in the game. Should They be assigned hit points and stats? I can only imagine the outcry if he did so. So he couldn't win either way.

Oh, but he could have opted not to create the game, right? The same would apply to Pacman. The Trinity is not mentioned in that game, either, yet ghosts are. Evil? I guess so.

Games are basically micro-universes. Chess does not focus on Christianity and it "glorifies" violence inasmuch that it is the only solution to winning. Should we assign a new rule to chess to make it more pious? If not, then is it an evil game because there is no mention of salvation? Because there is no Christian theology integrally bound to it?

Am I going to far? Being ridiculous? Now you have a hint about how Christian gamers feel when confronted with an alarmist opinion based upon no real experience with the game...

Friend said...

Hey I just read your post after looking for some DnD comics (long story short) I stumbled onto your site, and I must say that it gives me great joy (as a Christian and a Gamer) to hear that Gary is in heaven and that when I die I'll be able to meet him and hopefully play a game or two with him.

I agree with alot of what you have written here and I just wanted to say keep up the good work, God Bless.

Lance said...

Matthew 7:1-5 KJV Judge not, that ye be not judged. (2) For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (3) And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (4) Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? (5) Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

Nerzenjäger said...

So what you're basically saying, is, that Dave Arneson rots in hell? How christly.

Jesse said...

Actually, I learned today that Dave Arneson was a Christian, too. He even served as an elder in his church.