Is Role-Play Gaming a Religious Exercise? Thoughts on Tolkien, Campbell and Role-Playing Games (pt. xvii)

            I don’t know that Kierkegaard really helps us understand role-playing games, except insofar as his distinction between “imagination’s way out” versus “religion’s way out” can help us remember that religious fantasy is still fantasy and not religion.  I saw an advertisement once for a visit to a local church by one of the authors of the Left Behind books.  This was said by the flyer to be “prophecy.”  Religious fiction is not prophecy; it is fiction, “religious poetry” in Kierkegaard’s terminology, presenting possibilities to the imagination but not truly inviting the individual to a personal relationship with God.  A religious role-playing game has the same limitations; and both “religious” and “non-religious” games can provide one of God’s secret agents the opportunity to work.  The “non-religious” one might have the advantage of providing cover, making the secrecy easier to maintain.  I think, though, that role-playing games throw more light on Kierkegaard than Kierkegaard throws on the games.  As Kierkegaard said, “boredom is the root of all evil;” and though he said this pseudonymously and ironically, it has truth.[1]  Boredom is the symptom showing that one’s life is meaningless.  The conditions that make a role-playing game boring are not entirely different than those that make real life boring:  pointlessness, lack of goals or values to make one’s striving be “for something,” a lack of coherence (or narrative structure), or a game/campaign that thwarts one’s individuality for the sake of some external agenda (either the group’s or the referee’s).  Likewise, the game is interesting when one has individual goals that are supported by also being part of group that affirms both individuality and participation; when one strives for goals that have a meaning beyond simply gaining levels; and when what happens in the game and in the character’s life has a coherence rather than being disjointed episodes unrelated to the past or future.


[1] Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, v. 1, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, with introduction and notes (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1987) p. 285

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: