Gary Gygax on gaming and faith

The web-wide gaming community buzzes today with tributes to the late Gary Gygax, author of the original Dungeons & Dragons game and more or less the “inventor” of the modern role-playing game industry. At GenCon Indy 2007, Gary sat on a panel discussion, hosted by the Christian Gamers’ Guild and treating the topic “Christianity and Gaming.”

A significant portion of Gary’s statement focuses on the old 1980s “D&D is satanic and leads to suicide” flap. I found his comments on make-believe magic (to paraphrase: if you thought magic was real, you wouldn’t publish it in a book, but would hoard your secrets) fairly amusing. Some of Gary’s lighthearted approach to “magic spells” still persists into the current edition (3.5) of D&D; for example, to cast Tasha’s hideous laughter, a wizard must wave a feather in the air (as if tickling the target).

Gary had the following to say about his own religiosity (this comes about 4:21 into the video above):

I was reticent to say the fact, you know, that I was a Christian, mainly because I was afraid that I would give Christianity a bad name because I did D&D. So I did, I kept my mouth shut. But I just decided no, I’m not going to do that any more.

Just the weekend before his death, Gary attended the D&D Experience mini-convention in Arlingon, Virginia, where he told one interviewer that Gygax family lore claims a genealogical link to Goliath.

Of course, the chances of any historical truth to this Gygax family legend remain miniscule, but it’s a fun story. By the way, although the usual D&D fantasy-world cosmologies differ greatly from a Christian view of the real world, biblical stories echo in many D&D concepts. Many D&D spells are transparent copies of biblical miracles, for example. For example, almost all of Elisha’s miracles find their way into the D&D spell lists, and to cast the tongues spell—which lets a character understand unknown languages—a character must shatter a small clay ziggurat.

The tributes to Gary will undoubtedly multiply over the next few days. Search YouTube for “Gary Gygax” and many video tributes will pop up. I’m pleased to offer the comments above as one more homage to a man who turned simple games of “let’s pretend” into a worldwide hobby that brought joy and fun to so many people, including me and my current D&D group—all friends from church.

3 Comments on Gary Gygax on gaming and faith

  1. Cool stuff, Chris. I hadn’t seen that before. Thanks for sharing. :)

    ~PS

  2. Well if Gary was a real ie, born again Christian who trusted in Jesus Christ and His finished work, His death on the cross alone for payment for his sins, then he was saved. But in heaven he will lose potential rewards he could have had because Satan used him horribly well to deceive an entire generation plus to think witchcraft is okay. You may say “its just a game” all you want, but that is also how some people view pornography and other evils.

    • Icosahedrophilia // August 22, 2014 at 9:06 pm // Reply

      Well, your premise is wrong insofar as it’s highly unlikely that playing D&D, Pathfinder, or any other fantasy role-playing game could lead someone to believe that “witchcraft is okay” in the real world. People who play these games run the entire gamut from devout Christian to rabid atheist, so if the game has the power to draw people into the occult, or worse yet was designed for that purpose (whether by humans or a supernatural power), it’s doing a pretty poor job of that.

      Beyond that, I’m not going to try to rehash old debates here. I’ll just footnote the Chaplain’s Corner of the Christian Gamers’ Guild website, where there are many articles on this and other topics. And I’ll footnote my own article on “Magic and Miracles in the Bible and Testament.”

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