Wednesday, October 10, 2007

God and Randomness

The big difference between RPGs and other games is that RPGs are immersively interactive: you aren't just moving a token on a gameboard; you are a character in a gameworld. So a problem arises that doesn't occur in chess or Monopoly: Where is God?

Option 1: Ignore the problem. Since God seldom commits miracles, to some extent whether Ugg the Barbarian will connect using his club works the same in a Christian or agnostic universe. (We'll not go into the problem that some gameworlds are inherently non-Christian.)

Objection: If Christ is at the center of your life, he will naturally affect everything else. At the very least he should be allowed, and I would think a Christian would prefer to play as close to a Christian as possible. (Even Plato knew, as mentioned in the Republic, that role-playing a bad guy--in our case, a pagan--will have negative effects.)

Option 2: Christianize the game. This is harder, because spiritual phenomena don't lend themselves to simulation. Many attempts have been made, and we'll look at one tomorrow.

But this leads to the second problem: randomness. You see, there must be rules of some kind, and most RPGs resolve conflicts (the player wants to do one thing, the GM another) by randoming, usually involving dice. From a modern standpoint, this is reasonable, since we are supposed to live in a mechanistic, rule-based world.

But God is personal, not mechanistic, and the rules are less important than the Ruler. So the mechanics of most RPGs reinforce a secular mindset, not a spiritual one. Is there a way to Christianize RPGs even on the philosophical level? I think there is. We'll get to that post after next.

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