About a year ago I started my Blog called NeveroddoreveN. My main reason for doing this was to find a way to integrate two of the most powerful identity roles I played in life which seem so separated from each other as to be complete and total opposites. The Sacred me, a minister of religion in a mainstream Australian denomination and the secular me, an online and tabletop gamer with a passion for roleplaying games, digital adventure, sci-fi and fan fiction.
As I explored this very personal identity question, I realised that for me the sacred and the secular were two sides of one coin. Perhaps in a more 3-dimensional image, the sides of a dice that had not yet come to rest. In so many ways I have always felt that I was neither odd or even, that is, neither completely able to be my whole self in either the sacred church world or that of the secular gamer world.
The separation between the playful me and faithful me began in my early teens. It was the 80’s and the image of role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons was already being linked to mental illness and cultic behaviour. During this time my imagination was captured equally by eschatological questions of religion as well as the possibilities of role-playing games.
The palindrome “Never Odd or Even” seemed to reflect this for me not only in meaning but in form as the same forwards hidden in reverse seems to reflect my own secret imaginative world.
Publications such as The Devil’s Web (Pulling and Cawthon, 1989) and Jack Chick’s comics strips known as Chicks Tracts (Chick, 2019) became popular handouts at the church and youth groups I was attending, while at the same time I was secretly playing Dungeons and Dragons at sleep overs and after school.
At the same time as my parents and school put a ban on books and materials relating to tabletop and role playing games the world was beginning to turn digital. I got my first computer, a Commodore 16 in 1984 and quickly set about hiding all my gaming material within its files. Soon after I discovered digital role-playing games, my secret life as a gamer had begun. As the years passed the distance between faith and fun grew wider and wider, with reverent sacredness becoming serious and secular play time growing into the technical and digital world.
Flash forward to about a year ago. I have now been a minister of religion for 20 years and kept the secret of my digital secular life completely separated from that of my analogue sacredness. I find myself in a new placement where the service is recorded and uploaded to YouTube, social media becomes part of our community strategy and live broadcasts and digital bible studies become central to my new work. Here was an opportunity for integration and the digital space was the ideal canvas.
I found the questions raised in the “Virtually Me: A toolbox about online self-presentation” (Smith and Watson, 2014) to be very useful in engaging in this new identity I was forging. Terms such as audience and branding seemed disingenuous to the sacred self and simply logical to the secular. I found that I was certainly situating myself discursively with the divergent social norms I experienced, switching avatars and roles from one performance to the next.
The idea that as a minister of religion I might be performing a role and that this public role might be considered in terms of celebrity seemed absurd to the point of offensive and yet as I read further and found “The promotion and presentation of the self: celebrity as marker of presentational media“ (Marshall, 2010), the very fact that I felt the need to hide my gamer self from the church and make apology for the church to the gamers highlighted a staged presentation of self to different audiences.
For me this is where NeveroddoreveN and #oddrev take on the confession online (Smith and Watson, 2014) approach allowing me to use blog and social media to confess the passions of each role to both audiences. I will be interested to see what will result from this. Perhaps I will be shunned from both communities. My hope is that I may help other faith-filled gamers to work through their shame and embarrassment in their sacred and secular divide.
Chick, J. (2019). Chick.com: Dark Dungeons. [online] Chick.com. Available at: https://www.chick.com/products/tract?stk=0046 [Accessed 13 Dec. 2019].
Marshall, P. (2010). The promotion and presentation of the self: celebrity as marker of presentational media. Celebrity Studies, 1(1), pp.35-48.
Smith, S and Watson, J (2014). ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J, Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 70-95
Pulling, P. and Cawthon, K. (1989). The Devil’s web. Lafayette, La.: Huntington House.secular
I relate to having to separate “church” identity and other.
My hidden bits were feminism, sexuality and psychology.
The challenge of balancing these identities is real; my perceived need to hide my queerness and so much of my life from the church almost killed me and left many, many scars and traumas.