As I pulled my car into the driveway of my home on that spring morning in 1997 I immediately became suspicious that something was amiss. There was a stack of full garbage bags piled up on the walkway and a small fire burning in the backyard. I didn’t need Sherlock Holmes to figure out that my girlfriend (at the time) was “spring cleaning” my house. If she had just been doing a “normal” cleaning job, I would have been surprised and pleased by her efforts for looking after my personal well being and cleaning up my home. But, you must understand that “spring cleaning” for my girlfriend means throwing away anything that is not considered “valuable or useful” in her opinion.
I had already been a victim of her spring-cleaning tours in the past and figured that I needed to conduct a casual inspection of the items that I would be losing this year. About 95 percent of the time my girlfriend is correct and I don’t need the item. The other 5 percent is usually things that appear to be junk, thus useless to her, but have some sort of sentimental value to me. I opened up the first garbage bag for a cursory look and low and behold I find my original Diablo cd and half a dozen books from the original DragonLance series. I proceeded to open the jewel case of the game and find that the data access side of the game disk had been defiled in order to make it un-playable.
My initial reaction was to say to myself “Houston, we have a problem.” I then started walking towards the house to find out why she had tossed the game out and why she went to the extra effort to destroy it. Already, possible reasons were racing threw my mind that would give me some indication behind why this happened. I knew that she could not possibly think that I spent too much time playing the game because I only play when she isn’t around (I’ve always had the opinion that playing PC games while my significant other was around is rude behavior). As I walked through the front door I didn’t say anything and just held up the CD. I immediately received my answer – “All that fantasy crap is evil and you don’t need to be around such trash”. This reaction then led to an evening of theological debates, grass roots good vs evil, and other interesting and amusing revelations.
Whether it has happened to you or not, you probably know somebody who has had a similar experience. Usually, the conflict occurs when a fantasy fan crosses paths with a devoted religious person who sees a few “red flag” indicators and condemns the fantasy fan’s choice of literature or games. I believe that the general differences in opinion have to deal with ignorance and perception. The ignorance part of the equation can be solved if the person is open minded enough to at least consider alternative points of view. But, then again, being closed-minded may be the cause of the ignorance to begin with, and in that case, I can’t offer much assistance. Personally, I believe that it isn’t even a matter of “right” vs. “wrong” but rather just a difference in opinion or core values. Whether you consider yourself religious, spiritual, or totally agnostic isn’t important. What is important, is understanding how all these different viewpoints are perceived and interpreted by other groups.
Why do I think that I can offer a plausible justification for supporting fantasy games and literature regardless of whether there is any religious affiliation or not? Well, I grew up enjoying fantasy literature, and fantasy based video games, and yet at the same time my father was (still is) a non-denominational, Christian pastor. Toss in the fact that my best friend is an atheist, and I believe that I have a well-grounded understanding of where both sides are coming from. I believe that there is no doubt that the fantasy genre and games like Diablo have some religious overtones, and at the same time they contain elements of “evil” (for lack of a better word since the term “evil” is so subjective to interpretation). Therefore, the purpose of this series of columns will NOT be to change your personal opinion, but to compare and contrast the opposing viewpoints.
Before I start to compare and contrast the various elements of religious overtones in the fantasy genre (which will start with the next column), I want to setup the basic framework so that I am comparing “apples to apples” and not “apples to oranges”. Will my framework and definitions agree with your own opinions? Probably not, but at least you will understand the basis of the comparison.
Let’s start with why religion is found in the fantasy genre to begin with. The easy answer would be that religious conflict makes for good drama and drama makes for a good storyline whether is be in literature or a video game. Religion in itself tends to be something that people feel very strongly about so it can easily be used as a catalyst to get peoples blood pumping. Whether you are a die-hard believer in a particular faith, or you think that anyone one who is religious is a “nut ball” who has no sense of logic in their brain, or you fall somewhere in the middle, chances are that your basic beliefs about religion affect how you live your life and influence your decision making.
Religions, in basic form, strive to answer mans questions concerning his place in the universe and provide guidelines to living a fulfilling life. It doesn’t matter what faith that you adhere to, whether it be Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Brahmanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Muslim, Zoroastrianism, or some other; they basically contain some version of the “golden rule” that lets you judge what is “good” behavior and what is “bad” behavior. The “golden rule” is loosely interpreted as being nice to your fellow man and treating them like you would like to be treated.
Obviously the guidelines of any religion contain an aspect of control. Those members of the population that conform to the guidelines of a given religion are considered “believers” and by their interpretation think of themselves as being “good” and will receive whatever rewards are associated with believing. Pretty much by default, anyone who is a nonconformist of the religions guidelines is considered an unbeliever, or infidel, and therefore must be considered “evil” by the believers even though the nonconformists don’t view themselves as “evil” because they don’t buy into the guidelines to begin with. Thus, creating a world in which diametrically opposed people or beings exist is like tossing two rival predators into the same living environment—it is only a matter of time before one makes a move against the other. Conflict occurs (or does it happen?) and heroes must arise from the ensuing chaos. So, a prime table is set for the fantasy drama to create a storyline for good vs. evil.
My next column will start comparing and contrasting “Why you may think that Diablo is evil” and “Why you may think that Diablo is good”. Reader comments are more than welcome for the comparison!
Disclaimer: Fortuitous Ephiphaneia is written by Drandimere (Paul J. Darling) and hosted by Diii.net. The views expressed in this column are those of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of Diii.net.