[Let's Read] Playing With Fire, Part 4: Outlining My Bias
I have to admit my own biases when reading this text.
First, I'm a gamer. I started playing D&D in 1978 and enjoyed a variety of RPGs through the late 70s to the early 90s, specifically the ones outlined in the book. I still play to this day and write about games on this blog. I don't plan on stopping anytime soon.
Second, I was active in RPGs during "The Satanic Panic" and received my own fair share of "this game will send you to Hell" from a spectrum of religious folk. Yet, while I only got verbally hassled about playing the Devil's game, I did know some folks that had worse happen to them.
Third, I don't believe either author actually played any of the games they condemn. And there is no evidence in the text that would support that they did play. While one could argue that it's not necessary to have played baseball in order to understand it, one would hope that a deeper understanding of the game would be had by actually playing it, rather than simply being an armchair pitcher. It smacks of lazy journalism to me and looks more like a smear job rather than an honest critique.
Fourth, nearly all the evangelical writers and apologists that I have read have a tendency to quote-mine sources and not apply the same skeptical rigor to their own belief systems as they do to the subject that they are condemning. They also have a predilection to emphasize their own or their supporters academic credentials without explaining what those credentials are. Point in fact, John Weldon is listed as having a B.A. and M.A. and James Bjornstad is listed having a B.A., Th.B., M.R.E, and Ph.D. What fields are these degrees associated with? Are they valid to the subject matter? Unfortunately, nowhere does it even mention the fields of the authors. As a result, I usually start reading any text written by evangelicals with even more skepticism than other authors.
Fifth, the publisher, Moody Press. Besides journalists, who seemed to get the whole concept of RPGs wrong and sensationalized a bunch of nerds hanging out in their parents' basements as the start of a new evil cult, complete with twirling mustaches and baby sacrifices, no other class of publisher did more to promote "The Satanic Panic" than did religious publishers, and Moody is one such. And I'm sure they made a bit of coin on it from their credulous supporters while condemning TSR for the same.
The first two I can't do much about - I'm a gamer, writing a gaming blog, and my game experience in the 80s is germane to the topic. For the third, fourth and fifth, I'll focus on a critical review of the ideas presented and the research (or lack thereof) on gaming because I still hope to present a quality and honest perspective on this text. At least until my eyes start bleeding ....