Arcane Game Lore

Game continuity is key.

The Evils of Role Playing Games

Part 1: the Dark Dungeon of Jack Chick

With the advent of the new Kickstarter campaign to fund a movie based on the 1980’s gospel tract by Jack Chick called Dark Dungeons (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/295102457/rpgs-are-evil-dark-dungeons-the-movie )I’ve been thinking about the controversies that have reared their head to plague role players from time to time. Pat Robertson, Jack Chick,  the Mazes and Monsters  movie,  James Dallas Egbert, Patricia Pulling and Chris Pritchard are names that define the controversy over Dungeons and Dragons (and by extension all role playing games) but these names and controversies date back to the 80’s. For twenty years things have been fairly quiet with only sound bites from the likes of Robertson pandering to his audience.

The seminal anti role playing game document to come out of the 80’s was Jack Chick’s  gospel track, Dark Dungeons http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0046/0046_01.ASP . It promoted the ideas that people playing role playing games became unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy, that they were in risk of suicide if their character died in game, that when they reached a high enough level they would be invited to join a satanic coven and be taught how to cast real magic spells in the real world. It is a pure work of fantasy spawned by the moral panic of the 80’s over changing standards in society.

So why now is there an initiative to make Dark Dungeons into a movie? There is coverage of this that would make you think that it’s for real but just watching JR Ralls talk about the project makes it clear that it’s for satire.  Ralls is playing it straight it seems, because he legitimately obtained the rights to produce the movie from Chick. As of this writing the kickstarter campaign is fully funded so Ralls can go ahead with this project.

There is not one shred of evidence to back up anything in the Chick tract. It’s pure fantasy made up to scare Christian youth and possible non-Christian youth away from playing Dungeons and Dragons. It was an attempt to make Dungeons and Dragons look as bad as possible because people who knew very little about it decided it was bad based on a snap judgment. The problem with that is that when you make up reasons for something to be evil and it turns out that those reasons are false then you lose credibility. It would have been far better for the anti D&D argument to have been based on purely Biblical argument like 1 Thessalonians 5:22 “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” It doesn’t come off as strong as the Chick track but it is on a better foundation. That would have required a reasoned moral argument and allowed for Christian youth to make the decision for themselves. Some Christian youth would be swayed by this but not all. Instead the argument simply boiled down to this is evil, you’ll go to hell and you better not do it.

Chick’s attempt to go beyond the real facts and scare people can be compared to a famous incident in the Bible: the tempting of Eve by the serpent. When God placed Adam and Eve in the garden he told them that they could eat of any tree except the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil lest they die.  When the serpent tempted Eve he first said, “God won’t let you eat of all the trees in the garden” which was an exaggeration of the facts because they were allowed to eat of all the trees save one. Then he outright contradicted the truth by saying, “You will not die, you will be as God knowing good and evil.”  There serpent’s campaign with Eve was about manipulating her behavior. In much the same way Chick has exaggerated and lied (lied is the proper word be it knowingly or unknowingly) about the dangers of role playing games. He has no credibility and now his earnest assertions in this tract will be the subject of a satirical movie by Ralls (the kickstarter campaign is funded).

When I first heard that Ralls was trying to fund this project I was unhappy. As a Christian and a role player I hate to see anything give Jack Chick some publicity. I’d rather see his Chick tracts just go away since you can’t trust him to be accurate. It’s very likely that this movie will stir up some interest in his tracts and that can’t be helped. It’s also likely that there will be some splash back from it on Christians because of the extremism of Chick’s view and that can’t be helped. None of this makes me happy. However, any embarrassment Chick suffers from having his tract satired is just. He exaggerated and misrepresented the truth and now one of these role players that had to put up with this crap has grown up and is bringing the chickens home to roost with this satire. Any Christians that get a negative splash back from this will be the result of Christians not standing up in the 80’s and 90’s and decrying such fast and loose handling of the truth. The very people who should have decried Chick’s activities were other Christians.  So while I’m not happy about what Ralls is doing it seems to me that it’s a verification of the Biblical principle of sowing and reaping. Chick has sowed untruth and will reap satirical treatment of his life’s work. Christian’s in general will reap lost credibility because they did not stand for what was true.  Eve learned the hard way that you could not trust the serpent and non-Christian role players have a reason to think Christianity is nuts (Dark Dungeons is not the Christian authority you want out there on role playing).

I suppose I should conclude this article by coming full circle on the title and address the evil of role playing games. I could say that the evil of role playing games is that they have demonstrated to me the truth of a Biblical principle. Therefore they are evidence, to me, of the Bible being true. Cue the atheist decrying role playing games.


Categorised as: General


3 Comments

  1. neoproxy says:

    I can’t help but imagine this as a satire no matter how this is produced. I’ve shown the strips to some religious non-gamers and religious gamers alike. They all just shook their head. I do like the inclusion of the Dark Dungeons RPG. Classic.

  2. jedion357 says:

    There were a lot of clues in his kickstarter video that he was insincere: 1. conservative Christians who would appreciate Jack Chick dont play the lottery 2. the role playing games are evil role playing game thing, 3. the way he crafted the stretch goals as “levels” in a RPG was tongue in cheek.

  3. [...] Arcane Game Lore has some thoughts on Jack Chick and his infamous Dark Dungeons anti-DnD comic. [...]

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