This fictional narrative is meant as an introduction to the world of fantasy role-playing games (FRP's or RPG's). Brought about by the introduction of Dungeons & Dragons in the 1970s, this industry has grown to a frightening new level that encompasses several different entertainment media. Role-playing games can now be found in the form of dice, collectible card games, video games, computer games, and books which give gamers tips on how to master a particular game or effect. This article will concentrate primarily on video and computer games, and how they can introduce players to occult ideas and practices. It is important to note that not all RPG's are connected to the occult, and that parents should experience the game with the child before condemning it.
Video games have come a long way since Centipede and Asteroids ruled the arcade scene. Technology has continually improved the quality of game systems and games to make them more realistic and more challenging. For instance, the new Nintendo 64 system which came out in October 1996, provides incredible screen resolution and three-dimensional graphics which allow the player to feel as if he or she is actually part of the game. Personal computers have also advanced tremendously, and Internet access provides the opportunity to download free demos of games.
Many of the games designed for Nintendo, Sega Saturn, Sony PlayStation, 3DO, and PC CD-ROM are filled with indecent, immoral content, and should not be considered adequate entertainment for children or teen-agers. Most of these games are rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board using a rating system which is almost identical to the ratings used for movies. It is difficult to say, however, if the rating system can keep a young child or teen-ager from playing a game which contains mature situations. In the end, this responsibility falls upon the parent or caregiver, and such a duty must be taken seriously.
Sega has a game out now for its Saturn system called Nights into Dreams, with a Kids to Adults (K-A, ages 6+) rating. An advertisement for the game in the October 1996 issue of Next Generation, a magazine dedicated solely to computer and video games, promises that "Nights brings you face to face with both your guiding spirits and your innermost demons." Another section of the magazine gives a review for Final Fantasy VII, a game released in October 1996 for PlayStation. The authors compliment this game for its use of magic and role-playing. The setting for the game is called "Makotoshi (the city of bright magic)" and one of the characters is a good witch named Aerith.
Other games which include the use of magical arts or spiritism are: Afterlife (MacIntosh), Hexen (CD-ROM), Secret of Evermore and Warlock (Super Nintendo), Psychic World (Sega Game Gear), Guardian Heroes (Sega Saturn), Shannara (CD-ROM), Witchhaven (CD-ROM). This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it shows that the occurrence of magic is not limited to one game or a specific company. There are numerous games which encourage players to cast spells and play the part of a witch or warlock. A description of Warlock provided by one toy store gives an example: "Using the powerful spells and potions entrusted to you by your Druid ancestors, battle gargoyles, the Undead, fire-breathing dragons, and if you survive, the all-powerful Warlock! Combining strategy, intuition, and sorcery, you must be the first to locate six ancient runestones - and save all creation from unraveling." All this, and the game only sports a rating of Kids to Adult. The real danger to children and teen-agers, however, is games which have an even closer relationship to the occult.
Some games are more blatant than others concerning their involvement in the occult. One of the more obvious examples is PlayStation's Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. The advertisement alone is enough to see the occult elements included in this game. One picture taken from the game shows a character letting blood drip off his fingertips into his mouth, and the text reads: "Butcher villagers or turn them into festering pools of decaying flesh with one of 22 demented magics. It will take you more than 100 hours of adventure to destroy those who damned you, but you'll get them. Every last bloody one." This game does have a Mature rating (ages 17+), which might reassure some parents, but stores will sell these games to children of any age.
Another game which may open the door to occult activity is Ultima IX: Ascension (due out in spring '97 on CD-ROM). Next Generation provides a preview of this game that contains a picture of an Avatar (used here as a demon-like figure instead of the traditional definition: the incarnation of a Hindu deity) standing in a circle of protection. Condemning the game on the basis of one picture may seem a little harsh, but this kind of symbolism is often characteristic of strong occult tendencies. Many video and computer games have these types of characters and symbols, and so they can be said to introduce players to the realm of the occult.
An excellent, but dated source for understanding the dangers of role-playing games is Playing with Fire, by John Weldon and James Bjornstad (Moody Press, 1984). Weldon and Bjornstad's comments deal primarily with Dungeons & Dragons, but their analysis of the moral (or amoral) and occult aspects of RPG's give much insight to the dangers inherent in today's video and computer games. One serious problem with RPG's is the presentation of a world view which differs tremendously from that of Christianity. Many of these games contain gods and even encourage the player to assume the role of a deity or to worship a deity (Playing with Fire, p. 38). The Bible quite clearly affirms the existence of one true God who instructed his people: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3).
Another important issue which should be of concern to all parents and caregivers is the amount of time kids and teen-agers are spending playing these kinds of games. Time is a precious commodity, and childhood is a particularly special time which should be filled with wonder and a love for life. Role-playing games are notorious for taking up large amounts of time, and can often become an obsession which consumes every available moment. This can be the sign of a more serious problem - the desire to escape reality (Playing with Fire, p. 59). Escapism can become an issue for a variety of reasons: not fitting in at school, attempting to avoid abuse, or simply the evidence of an overactive imagination. Whatever the reason for the behavior, it is clear that RPG's do provide an unchecked opportunity to escape reality, and that is not healthy for a child or teen.
Perhaps the most harmful aspect of video and computer RPG's is the possibility that they will lead the player into the occult - not just as a game, but in real life. Casting spells, summoning creatures, and seeking the guidance of spirits are characteristics of the occult (Playing with Fire, p. 65-7). All these activities are part of numerous games on the market today. The newest technology of systems like Nintendo 64 and powerful personal computers can give these games such gripping "realism" that normal life can seem dull by comparison. Carrying the role playing into real life may seem like an innocent way of "having fun," but it could lead to genuine involvement with the occult. Parents should understand the real danger these games present to their children in the area of occult activity. Fortunately, there are measures parents and caregivers can take to protect kids from the influence of these games.
Before parents can help kids decide which kinds of entertainment are appropriate, they must first be aware of what is available on the market. One of the primary goals of this article is to generate a concern on the part of adults as to the forms of entertainment which are easily accessible to children and teens. Communication between parent and child is probably the best way to discover which games the kids prefer, but the parent should also consult other sources as to the content of these games. Stores like Toys 'R Us provide a small card which contains a description, including the rating, of most video and computer games. Once a parent has researched the product, mom or dad should be directly involved in the purchasing and playing process.
Encouraging Christian retailers to develop alternative forms of entertainment is another action which concerned parents can take to improve their children's selection of amusements. There are very few games containing Christian themes, and they are quite outdated in the area of technology and level of interest. Surely Christians can focus their creative energies toward the production of distinctive video and computer games for the purpose of entertaining children in positive ways. Kids love to play video games, and if there are no quality Christian products available, they will have no other choice than to play games with questionable and perhaps even dangerous content. What will happen in the future of the gaming industry? Well,that just may be your move!