Retro Gaming and Old Time Religion

Well, I’ve been wandering around the blogosphere for the past few weeks reading blogs. In fact, I’ve probably read more blogs in the past week than I have in the past two years. One of the things that has piqued my interest have been some stories about Old School Gaming vs. New School Gaming over on the Grognardia Blog plus I’ve been talking with a friend who runs a gaming store about retro video games.

Well, most of my geek friends will have no problem understanding the Retro Gaming part of this post but what does all this have to do with Old Time Religion. It’s all one simple word: nostalgia.

Humanity loves to thing about the “good old days” whether it be about gaming or religion. I talk with gamer geeks who are always talking about the Golden Age of Roleplaying. For them this was the best time of their lives and this was when gaming was “at its best.” In their minds, no one can really duplicate those halcyon days of yesteryear when the dice always rolled Nat’ Twenties and everyone always tried to roleplay their character. There was always a game to be found that would run 24 hours a day, the Cheetos never ran out and there was always a fountain of Faygo that had your favorite flavor in it (which was, of course, Red….though I never knew how Red got to be a flavor.)

I also hear about that Old Time Religion. Wives stayed at home and husbands worked 9 to 5 Monday through Friday. Children knew their place and never spoke an unkind word to mom or dad. Everyone came to church and it was the center of the community. If there was an event to be had, it happened at the church. Revivals occurred monthly and if you didn’t arrive early you wouldn’t find a seat because it was always standing room only. Souls were saved almost on a daily basis and all was right with the world. Those were the days when the church was at its heyday!

The only problem with both of these scenarios is that they’re a fiction. They never occurred. Of course I’ve exaggerated a great deal to make my point but, in reality, the “good old days” were never as good as we think they were. Those early days of gaming for those of us who were in our teens in the 80s were times when parents would often cut off the game in the middle of the good part because they were tired of all the racket we were making. Most of the time, we had to sneak a few moments of “hack-n-slash” in during a recess break and, as kids, we never had the money to buy the game books we really wanted. The older gamers during that time had the same problem most adult gamers have today. How do we fit our hobby into our ever increasingly busy schedule? How do we find time to game while also playing the games our kids enjoy?

As to that church scenario, it’s a fiction that’s not even close to anything I remember. It’s just something I’ve seen on TV in reruns from the 1950s and 1960s. I’ve heard all kinds of wonderful stories from people that could have been my grandparents about how great those days were but, interestingly, in most cases neither their children or grandchildren attend church. I recently read a statistic by Brian McLaren that 90% of the converts during a Billy Graham crusade were among the 40% of the population that attended another church. Instead of those so-called church growth years blowing the world up for Jesus, we simply were shuffling pieces around on the chess board of our own religiosity.

Maybe I have a unique insight into both these areas because as a kid in the 80s I always wanted to game but the opportunities were rare for me. It seemed my friends could get together and play more often than was available to me so I know how scarce a good game of D&D was to find. It is the same way with the church. I remember being very interested in religion, faith and spirituality from my earliest years but my family hardly ever attended any type of formal religious service so, like my gaming, I had to find out a great deal of things on my own.

You see, spirituality is a lot like table top gaming. It’s no fun doing this thing alone. You can sit down and try and play a solo rpg but the fun runs out really quick. It’s the same way with the spiritual life….you can try and read all those great books, pray and practice all types of spiritual disciplines but when they’re done alone it really takes the joy out of it.

Gamers in the 21st century are realizing they constantly have to “rediscover” the game by going back to what they believe are their roots but, in a sense, they’re reinventing things to a certain degree. I’ve noticed there’s a movement among “grognards” for a return to the simpler rules systems for games. I think the same thing is happening among Jesus followers yearning for a real spirituality. These people are wanting to go back to their early days as well. They want to find their spiritual roots but, in doing so, they reinvent (or reform or revitalize) the Christian faith. There is also a minimalist approach among quite a few Christians. They just want to get back to OC (Original Christianity) just like some gamers want to get back to OD&D (Original Dungeons & Dragons) and both of these groups are looking for a rules light system.

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