I first heard the Lord of the Rings read to me in 1965 by my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Lum, who read the entire trilogy every day for the school year. Since my attention span was not good back then, I decided in 1967 to read the trilogy for myself as a 7th grader. Since that time I have re-read the entire series about 20 times.
Indeed, God used the Lord of the Rings as stepping stone to Christ in my life. In 1973 He gave me a dream with the Silmarillion in it. At that time the book was yet to be published. He gave me the dream because I was reading the Bible for myself just to see what was in it. I was reading many Christian fantasy books at that time: George MacDonald’s “Curdie” books; C.S. Lewis’s “Perelandra” trilogy; and the many Frank L Baum “Oz” books. I had bought those from a Christian bookstore, although I was not aware of the religious significance. The store had all these great fantasies that Tolkien had enamored my heart towards. So when I told the book store owner of the dream, he told me that it was written by Tolkien and was going to be published in a few more years. That convinced me that my dream was from God.
The Silmarllion is Tolkien’s Middle Earth Bible. The Creator of Middle Earth (Tolkien) is called Illuvatar. Tolkien wanted to create a myth for the English. They had myths, of course, for the English were the Germanic Angles who conquered and intermarried with the Celts of Brittany. So the English actually have two sources of mythology: the Norse myths (the Scandinavian are Germanic peoples, too – i.e., Teutonic) and the Celtic myths of the Irish and Welsh. Tolkien saw England as the middle ground between these two lines, thus was Middle Earth.
Many people tried to make cinematic presentations of the Lord of the Rings, but fell way short of the grandeur of Tolkien’s opus. Not until Peter Jackson created his live action version was justice given to Tolkien’s grand work. In Jackson’s DVD of the Lord of the Rings, he makes a comment about how he and Fran Walsh were giving their contribution to Tolkien’s myth. That comment struck home with me. In my research of world religions and mythologies, I came to understand that the same story is retold and embellished again and again so the original is enhanced through those re-tellings. Jackson was following the desire of Tolkien to create a myth for the English people.
Recently Turbine made their online game, Lord of the Rings, which is a role playing game, free to the public. Because of my love for the Lord of the Rings, I was interested to find out what they have done. They succeeded in the same spirit that Tolkien and Jackson had done in developing the Middle Earth myth. I confess, I am hooked on the game. The world of Middle Earth is much more real and alive in my imagination now that I am playing the game.
Turbine has thought of everything. It is not just the Tolkien story, but it brings all of us into the saga in new and unique ways. The online game is alive with a multitude of actual players. There are stores (which is how Turbine makes a profit on the game: once in you see the need for things and are willing to buy them because the game is so engrossing); there are quests; there are virtue, power, focus, skills and other character development attributes; there are injuries and healings; food that needs to be eaten to sustain vigor; in short, they recreate all that would be needed if this were a real world and life.
To my surprise there is a large Christian community who play the game and form kinship fellowships to conquer monsters as a team. So the idea has come to me, why not create a Christian discipleship online game program like this one where players could learn how to walk in the life of Christ? The tool would be a tremendous resource for the body of Christ.
Sharing the gospel with unregenerate CG characters could be a simulation of missions. Injuries and sickness could be prayed for healings. Conflicts with other believers could be training in forgiveness, love and fellowship. Spiritual warfare with demons and crucifying the flesh in self denial could be the battle ground training. Biblical narrative could be woven in like John Bunyan had done in his classic, “Pilgrim’s Progress”.
If there are any Christian game programmers reading this blog, I challenge you to come up with one. The business model that Turbine is using would work for a Christian discipleship game, too, if you scratch your head and think about it. I would hate to see a religious version of church as usual, though. That would fail. So would begging for money. I think Christ is dishonored by all the sanctified begging that exists. So if you have the ability, ask the Lord. Who knows, perhaps you were led into the gaming career by the Lord for such a task as this.