Multi-player role-playing games (RPGs) can be played with pens and paper around a table with a group of friends or in an online world that exists 24/7, involving hundreds to thousands of other players around the globe. The goal is for each player to control a character that represents himself, interact with other players, and complete quests, missions, or tasks to gain various attributes, experience, or treasure.
Fantasy games in particular often include magic, murder, and general mayhem. In online games, female avatars (representations of characters) are often scantily dressed. Some RPGs allow players to flirt with each other or have sexual encounters. In general, many video games are structured in such a way that encourages obsessive or addictive behaviors as players attempt to reach certain levels. Of course, the same can be said of many other types of entertainment.
As the Bible was written before the internet or RPGs were even a twinkle on the horizon, there is nothing specific in Scripture that refers to playing RPGs or even engaging in the fantasy worlds presented today. However, there are plenty of principles God has laid out in the Bible for godly living. These principles can guide us in how to live our lives as believers—including how we occupy our minds for fun.
Games of any kind are a form of entertainment, whether you’re talking about Angry Birds and Farmville or Monopoly and Candy Land or World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons. Biblically, we have freedom to enjoy entertainment. God never says, “Thou shalt not have fun, nor shalt thou smile in all thy days.”
Enjoying a game with friends is not a sin. Games themselves, even RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, are not sin. Sin is an action or thought performed by a human being. What we do with what we have constitutes whether or not we have sinned. But how do we know if any given choice is a sin or not?
We must weigh our choices against biblical principles. Possibly the most important one to remember in regards to entertainment is stated in Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” When we are engaged in fun activities, we should always make sure those activities are pleasing God and that we are representing Christ well in our behavior toward other players.
RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons have an element of fantasy and magic about which it may be well to be wary. But we can still apply the same principles to determine if these games will or will not detract from your relationship with God or with others.
Is the theme appropriate?
Are you able to distinguish between reality and fantasy, right and wrong, or good and evil? Would exposure to the game’s themes and ideas leave you confused about God’s views on the occult or desensitize your mind to occult lifestyles? A mature Christian may not have any issues with separating a game from life, but someone who is already wrestling with his or her faith may find the messages confusing (Romans 12:2).
Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that even a mature Christian should be exposed to a game that may cause him or the ones he loves to stumble or struggle in their faith (1 Corinthians 8:9). First Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Is evil encouraged?
In some games, evil is the goal, or characters can take on malicious or licentious characteristics that allow players to do things that would not be allowed in real life; thus, an unhealthy fantasy unfolds in the players’ minds. First Thessalonians 5:21–22 says to “hold fast to what is good” and “abstain from every form of evil”—even in how we represent ourselves in game play.
Philippians 4:8 says to dwell only on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
How does this game affect my life and relationships?
If game play becomes more important than God, family, or work or school responsibilities, then it has become an idol or an obsession. Idols take our focus off of what is most important in life. The Bible instructs us to flee from anything on this earth that we might idolize (1 Corinthians 10:14).
Additionally, if interacting with online players begins to replace, damage, or hinder the relationships we have with other people, then the game is replacing our healthier communities. It would then be wise to draw back from these false friendships and cling to those which will be most beneficial. However, playing a game in person with close friends as a way to enjoy each other’s company can be a valuable and positive experience (Proverbs 18:24).
Whether or not you can personally, in good conscience, participate in a multi-player fantasy role-playing game is a matter to discuss between you and God. Philippians 4:6–7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
God is concerned about every aspect of our lives, including the ways we allow ourselves to be entertained, so we should give all of our worries and concerns to Him (1 Peter 5:7). After all, He knows what is best for you, and He knows exactly how a fantasy-based RPG will affect you and the people around you.