Tuesday, April 30, 2013

[Let's Read] Playing With Fire, Part 12: Chapter 4 Black, White, or a Mixture of Grays?

Chapter 4: Black, White, or a Mixture of Grays? continues from Part 11.

Three items of Note:
1) direct quotes from the text will be italicized,
2) my analysis of this text is not an attack on individual Christians or to paint Christians as a whole in a broad brush, and
3) the authors' ideas will be critically examined, especially when they present a Christian idea without using the same rigor that they have used on RPGs.

Chapter 4 concludes with four pages about Escapism. The "predominant way of escape from reality is through fantasy and imagination" (Pg 59) and, despite proponents' claim that it's a good thing "one of the complaints most frequently voiced by critics is that players have taken advantage of this form of escape and abused it" (Pg 59) by spending a lot of time on it, as "(f)or many (if not most) players, FRP games typically steal valuable time from other activities that are far more important to the lives of the players" (Pg 59-60).

Excuse me, J. Weldon and J. Bjornstad, what valuable time from other activities do you mean? Specifics, please, but none are forthcoming. Well, folks, time is one of those things that we are often short of. We cut corners with family, friends and work, because, as it turns out, it boils down to what we want to do is not always what we have to do. Most of us would love to spend more time having fun than doing hard work or being stuck in boring meetings. One of the marks of adulthood is the ability to determine how much time we're willing to spend on entertainment. If we don't do that successfully, then we're responsible for the outcome, whether it's pissed-off family or a pissed-off boss. But I'm responsible for it, not two no-name hacks who can't even be bothered to read any of the material they're citing.

Then they go back to the canard of "one usually becomes a character in a fantasy" (Pg 60), which becomes a problem "when a player takes his fantasy role too seriously" (Pg 60), with some players "'literally go into fits because a character was killed or injured'" (Pg 60), according to one player. A mother said "'I've seen people have fits, yell for fifteen minutes, hurl dice at a grand piano when their character dies'" (Pg 60). Another "potential danger is over identification with the character–the player actually becomes the character" (Pg 60) and "(t)he desire to become part of that fantasy has led some to make the imaginary world their 'reality.' As a result, the real world becomes less and less real" (Pg 61)

They keep repeating themselves, thinking that their assertions that people can become an imagined character is valid without any evidence to support it. Well, I don't believe them because they present no evidence. As for people having fits when something bad happens to their character, I've seen that. I've also seen family members have fits when watching the big game on television, jumping up and down, swearing and throwing things at the set, all in anger because their team lost or missed a point or whatnot. People get excited in their entertainment, that's not a stretch, and usually react badly to things not going their way. This isn't a unique event for RPGs–it occurs all across the spectrum of entertainment.

The section ends with "(t)here may be other areas of misuse and abuse in escape fantasy, but time, identification and reality are the ones most frequently mentioned .... there is nothing evil or wrong with escape per se" (Pg 61), but "(i)n guarding against the misuse of time and reality, we need to 'be careful how (we) walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of (our) time, because the days are evil' (Ephesians 5:15-16)" (Pg 62).

Yes, abusing things is bad, time is something we all have to deal with, but the other two, identification and reality, the authors have failed to adequately evidence. And, again, I do not recognize the authority of either of these authors to tell me how much time I spend on things. It's not in their CV.

The Bible quote at the end was cute, though. Too bad the whole 'days are evil' quote wasn't taken seriously by the authors because their analysis in Chapter 4 was complete crap. Logical fallacies everywhere I read. Circular reasoning, red herrings, assertions without evidence, sloppy research and more. C'mon, guys. Do your job, critically examine RPGs. I dare you!

Bah! I'm going to waste some time on something that's enjoyable. This book so far is suck.


  1. You're a better man than I, sir, because I would not have made it past the first page of this crappy book! Kudos to you! I had enough of this sort of dross when I was a kid in the Baptist Church. Luckily I escaped!

  2. I admire your ability to slog through this. I would have thrown it out by now.


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