Episode 75: Religion and gaming

Hosts: Timo, Scott, Lexx, Todd, Reek

Religion is a serious part of peoples lives. A system of belief and faith is one of the pillars of strength that we rely on to be at peace with our world. So what better than to have some atheists, non-believers, and non-practicers talk about it for an hour as if they have any fucking idea what they’re talking about? Am I right?

We indulge in a discussion of the unknown. Between Lexx and Timo, some offensive things might get said if you are a person of faith. You have been warned.

Banter: Disclaimer, How Timo taught himself not to laugh (and is a giant weepy ball of emo), Community plays D&D, D&D isn’t as nerdy as we think it is, Lexx is worried about the age of the Nerd will end badly, beard beard beard.

Main topic: Religion and Gaming (4:40)
Disclaimer part 2 (5:17)
Atheism as an excuse (Lexx hates intellectual laziness) (7:40)
Do gamers tend to be secular? (8:50)
Gaming when those around you are concerned/upset about it (9:40)
Why gaming gets seen as religiously acceptable (15:00)
Timo gets real offensive despite trying REALLY HARD not to be (he’s just that good) (17:00)
Gaming with a religious/cultural agenda (18:40)
Religion in gaming: Testament, Second Sight (Timo actually meant (Seventh Seal), Dogs in the Vineyard (20:50)
Religion in games as fear (25:05)
Reek says: Fanaticism (26:05)
Clerics without religion: making religion important in a game (27:05)
The absence of complex motivation (Morally Therapeutic Deism) (34:00)
The structure of belief (36:00)
Individuals and the structures (40:00)
PCs and mutual reinforcement (44:25)
This conversation makes for good game (45:11)
Gray games vs Black and White. See also character drama vs adventure (46:30)
Problems with players beliefs in game (50:20)
Belief in imagined space (Timo offensiveness part 2) (51:20)
Culture more than religion: passing all experience through a religious filter (53:15)
Dragons without magic from the Podge Cast vs Star Wars (56:45)
Final points (57:30)

Rants (58:38)
Todd: Fortune Cookie
Timo: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
Scott: City folk amaze me
Lexx: Gamer diets
Reek: Bicycles, sobering up, the clothes rack, I want my broom back, Allure magazine, you’ll go deaf like you did. WWJD?

You have been listening to The Jank Cast, copyright 2010 under the creative commons license. You can find out more about us at jankcast.com. All the music in the show is from the song, “Jank is a Dork Word” written and recorded by Todd and is used with his permission. You can send comments and feedback to feedback@jankcast.com Again, we are sponsored by Chicagoland Games, and

this is JOHNKELLY reminding you to support your local gaming store. Now go out and roll some dice.

4 thoughts on “Episode 75: Religion and gaming

  1. It was brave of you guys to take on this subject; a tip of the hat to ya.

    I think Timo hit it right on the head (cautiously) when he said that a lot of the time, certain religious folk will protest a game or movie, etc. because they see that fiction as a competition of sorts to the fables in their religion. It may be offensive to some, but it’s the truth. What’s strange to me is the seemingly randomness of what’s attacked. The story of Snow White has been around a long time and has lots of magic in it, but it’s left alone while Harry Potter is somehow promoting evil witchcraft. The Force in Star Wars is fine, as you say, but D&D and heavy metal supposedly has to go.

    It’s been to my experience that gamers tend to be familiar with things like astrology and Tarot cards (2 things that I’ve also heard attacked as demonic or blasphemous or whatever by the shall we say, overly-devout), but are more likely to recognize them as being bunk. In other words, they’re better able to distinguish reality from fantasy, and therefore have more fun with the fantasy. Of course, that’s just from a sampling of the folks I’ve gamed with and not necessarily representative of the whole community; I’d be interested to see the results if anybody actually bothered to do some polling on the subject, especially by region.

    In game, the most fun I’ve had playing a “religious” character was using the old 2nd edition D&D “Priest’s Handbook”. It had a whole list of faiths, based not on any specific gods or goddesses, but on concepts like Good, Healing, Community, Hunting, etc., that your priest could choose from, each with their own little benefits and drawbacks and often a unique power. I was so glad to have a chance to play something other than a cookie-cutter cleric at the time that I created Naldo, the dwarven Priest of Strength, who would wake his party up at the crack of dawn to do push-ups and promote physical fitness (yeah, they really LOVED that). Not very challenging roleplay, but good for some laughs.

    And yes Lexx, “Payback” was awesome.

  2. Interesting episode, guys. As a pastor and gamer, I was smacking my forehead when you said you couldn’t find any “people of faith” to include in the discussion. Let me know if you ever want to do a follow-up.
    Personally, my only “horror” story was that my mom made me cut out the Magic chapter from my GURPS book, and was more comfortable with us playing Heroes Unlimited and TMNT than D&D. For her, this was more a better safe than sorry approach than an actual opinion on fictional magic. As a side note, my parents love Lord of the Rings, and used to be huge Monty Python fans, so their isolation from fantasy was never particularly hardcore.

  3. First off, I agree with Josh, if you guys do a follow up, let us know it is coming, as a “person of faith” I would be more than happy to give my two cents.

    Second I would have to disagree with the good Doctor rather strongly. I’ll preface my argument by saying that I am a staunch Christian, though I have moved away from conventional Christianity (I tend not to go to churches because I think most of them (in my experience) are focusing on the wrong things) I grew up in a family which was fairly religious. I personally, and most of the people I gamed with in my years as a fledgling gamer, never had any thought that I might be doing something wrong or that God would smite me for playing D&D. The majority of my first gaming group were guys I went to school and church with, and we always knew that there was nothing real about what we were doing, in fact the kid who played our spellslinger in most of the campaigns we ran was the son of a Baptist Minister. None of our parents had any issues with it, they simply looked through the books to make sure that there was A) nothing which was inappropriate for young people and B) to reassure themselves as thinking adults that there was not anything sinister within them and that their children were just hooked on pretending. In fact, after my mother read it she said something along the lines of what Todd’s mother had said, then said I could only play D&D on the weekends after my homework was done.

    I think that the majority of the conflict between religion and gaming as a whole is people who do not understand the genre and do not care to look outside of their own sphere of understanding, thus gaming is bad because in their view “normal” kids go outside and play sports, not sit in the basement throwing dice. Their objections that it is evil stems from their attempt to find something to object to and the imagery of and association to demons without taking any time to look and see that when a demon is involved, it is primarily there to have it’s throat stomped to pulp and skin removed to make a new jacket for one of the PCs. They are making value based judgments without bothering to investigate what it is that is going on.

    I also think that in the question of religion and gaming that it is a bad idea to bring up the clashes between religion and metal, or religious groups and the Harry Potter series. I’m not going to go into the conflicts between metal and religion, if you want to see that talked about in detail I would recommend a documentary by Sam Dunn called “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey.”

    Some of the arguments I have heard against Harry Potter are related specifically towards the use of the term Witch. This is a term that has been within the crosshairs of religion for centuries, and it is no surprise to me that one of the organizations which cried out the loudest is Catholic in base, the relationship between Catholicism and Witchcraft of any sort is well known and anyone who was not shocked that there would be a response of one sort or another, in my opinion, was not really paying attention.

    As far as Tarot cards go, I don’t think they are tools of the devil. I think (And Todd feel free to correct me if I am off base) that they are the remains of a now defunct folk religion which was heavily influenced by the superstitions and fears of people who did not have an understanding of the world that was nearly as expansive as our own.

    With respect to religious characters within games, I think one of my favorite characters I’ve ever seen was a paladin or St. Cuthbert my friend played. He of course was Lawful Good, but by no means was he Lawful Nice and it made him interesting because at times the party was having to deal with the fact that this paladin was doing things which might be considered evil, except that he was doing them to NPCs who were very obviously evil and deserving of what he gave them, it created an interesting tension within the party as the sorcerer, who though listed as Neutral Good and acted more Lawful Evil started suggesting that maybe the evil villager didn’t deserve to be crucified upside down to teach him to be a better person.

  4. Good comments, everyone. I’m glad to hear we have some “people of faith” (sorry, again) who enjoyed the episode despite our (mostly) unintentionally being offensive.

    I don’t really know much about Tarot cards. Actually, Megan may have more insight into that because she does Tarot readings. One thing I will say as someone who studies religion is that the defining understanding of religion from a soc. of religion standpoint was the “secularization thesis” which basically said that societies become less religious as they become more rational/scientific. This is, obviously, largely incorrect, and America is exhibit A, which has become MORE religious over the long arc of history. Religion, therefore, is more flexible and means more things than most people give it credit for.

    I think that’s what some of the above comments are saying. I think this is something we can think about in gaming- religion isn’t just texts and beliefs, or whatever, but is also a hundred little things in people’s lives, or even just something as simple as appreciating the majesty of the world in a certain way. It’s a great way to flesh out a character, it would seem to me.

    Hopefully we’ll come back to this topic and get some of you to participate. Thanks, all!

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