Pat Robertson is again making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Last week, when prompted to answer a question about whether or not it is “safe” for Christians to play videogames, Robertson replied:
“The idea is not how close can I get to danger but how far away can I stay from it. I don’t know what game you’re talking about. I know there’s one called Dungeons and Dragons that literally destroyed people’s lives. They got into this thing and it was like demonic.”
First it should be noted that Dungeons and Dragons is not a “video game” but a tabletop game. However, we’ll give Robertson the benefit of the doubt, for the real issue is whether or not fictional depictions of fantasy have actually “destroyed people’s lives.” Venture Beat reports:
“Dungeons & Dragons gained notoriety in 1980 when a player named James Dallas Egbert disappeared into the steam tunnels of Michigan State University. Many first claimed that his disappearance was due to his inability to tell reality from the fantasy world of the pen-and-paper role-playing game. Those claims were later proven false.”
There is a deep suspicion of videogames in Evangelical Christianity. First of all, the concept of condescending into a virtual world seems directly opposed to a belief structure that puts a premium on ultimately ascending to heaven. Second of all, there is no shortage of horror stories of individuals who have found their quality of life degraded by an inability to resist gaming compulsion.
I’ve played games since I was young. My parents had concerns about Dungeons and Dragons, and effectively shut that door for many years. Since then, I’ve spent plenty of time exploring similar fantasy universes. There is a sense of personal attack when a medium that I’m so invested in is so thoroughly written off, yet I can only conclude that Robertson’s remarks obviously come not from malice, but from ignorance.
The rule we must operate under is that of not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We at Gamechurch will be the first to confront games that promote “addictive” or damaging play, as well as the market that clamors for those games. But we will also stand by the medium and defend its inherent worth, not merely for what it is and has been, but what it is becoming. We must stay engaged, and we must not write off our detractors. They could become allies.
If you were able to sit down in a room with Robertson, what would you say to him to help him see the positive side of videogames?