Desert Kris wrote:RPGs are just another way to tell a story, with a game framework for structure. Most human beings have the capacity to enjoy a story, or tell a story, without getting confused about reality!
Your focus is going effect how you view reality. What's bad about RPGs? How about, what's been refuted about claims that RPGs are bad?
If you've every seen Tom Hanks in "Mazes and Monsters", you know exactly what it is people are afraid will happen when rampant RPG playing occurs - gamers will lose touch with reality in a way that is unhealthy. If you've ever seen the documentary "Second Skin", you understand that this phenomenon is not confined to pen and paper RPGs, and is in fact fairly common to one extent or another among serious gamers (those who play for multiple hours a day on a regular basis). Shows like "The Guild" make much of this stereotype.
I am a pen-and-paper Gamer. I have a huge library of RPG products that run the gamut from AD&D (first edition orange books) through modern Savage Worlds imprints. This includes GURPS books bought specifically for (and cited in college papers as) reference material vis-a-vis the "real world", and White Wolf books with an unabashedly post-modern perspective.
These two represent opposite extremes of a spectrum, where most books fall squarely in the middle - the kind of structured storytelling experience that Kris described above. The middle ground books seldom make people nervous; they emphasize the story as the point of the exercise. It's the extreme ends that people get squirrely about, and here's why: simulators like GURPS treat everything as grounded in reality, when this treatment is applied to unobservable phenomenon like magic and ghosts, the implication is that these things are real; immersives like White Wolf emphasize adoption of character perspective over observance of rules, which leads to behavior more like Tom Hanks than any gamer will readily admit, and which unconsciously colors the gamer's "real world" perspective regardless of how much he attempts to separate them.
Acknowledging something as "real" means dealing with that phenomenon as a legitimate entity. While Christians nominally acknowledge that magic and spirit beings are "real", mainstream Christian culture denies the right of man to deal with these phenomenon in any way other than condemnation by the church. When an RPG presents a framework that does exactly that - with the same detail and authority as it describes ballistics - mainstream Christian culture gets nervous that these things will not be seen as worthy of condemnation. This is the place to apply Paeter's two-part article on Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 8.
Immersive behavior is a bit different, and has a different impact. I am a Christian. I played White Wolf Mage: the Awakening on a regular basis. The premise of this book is unashamedly post-modern - it posits that reality is a function of group perception and magic a function of individual perception. It says that God created the world, and then desired companionship within it. Consequently, He created mankind and placed within them the desire to seek out reciprocating divine companionship. Men who awaken to this knowledge can see past the physical world to the spiritual reality underneath and eventually become enlightened enough to achieve transcendence - companionship with God. The emphasis on White Wolf is one of adopting a character's viewpoint in order to play that character. This kind of philosophy is *so* close to pre-reformation orthodoxy that it becomes very seductive indeed. Add to this the draw that the concept of the supernatural has on humanity and you echo Chesterton's question, "Why cannot these things be?" beginning a chain of reasoning that may not result in "This is harmless entertainment" but rather in "Did God really say we would die?"
Are RPGs inherently evil and damaging? You might as well ask if any other form of art is evil. It is all an expression of human reason and emotion, and humanity's underlying nature is selfish, sinful, and entirely separate from God.
We are given two Biblical commands in this regard:
1) Study the scriptures to show ourselves approved of God, workmen who rightly divide the words of truth.
2) Think on those things that are good, true, worthy of high regard, honest, and pure.