Guest Post: Why Should Christians Play Video Games?

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A deep question, for sure, but one which I’m happy to discuss!

Shadow of the Colossus

1. Video games give us a sense of wonder and engagement. Video games became our new cultural medium for the exchange of unwritten, yet still felt, ideas of our time. People still long for the epics of old from Homer’s Odyssey to the Lord of the Rings; video games give us an opportunity to engage and enter those realms in a way that hasn’t been possible with any previous generation.
callofduty

2. Video games give us an insight into popular culture. Capitalism, at the very least, provides a quantifiable measure of “what people like”. Call of Duty is what people like. Why do they like it? That is a question that a Christian can find out themselves by playing it. If not playing it, than at least understanding the dominant narratives, themes, and leisure activities of our fellow citizens.

3. Video games provide a tiny microcosm of the real world and our own personalities. Structured play provides challenges; every person desires to work and contribute something in the world. Video games also show us the way we think about reality and what rewards we wish to gain from life (tangible and intangible). Sometimes, they show us more of ourselves then we’d care to admit! Yet this self-examination lets us appreciate the diversity of taste and personality.

pokemon

4. Video games present an opportunity for human interaction and shared experiences. Contrary to the standard stereotype of “reclusive gamer” so often foisted upon us, gamers socialize just as often as everyone else – only they find a shared vernacular on the subject of video games. I will admit, in my Christian school upbringing, that I made many friends from our shared love of these video games, even when no one else understood our childhood obsessions. I can remember vividly converting our playground to the wild avarice of Pokemon collecting, or the utter brilliance of Star Fox 64. We were no longer strangers but compatriots in a shared hobby that, more than any other entertainment I’ve seen, engender fierce love and devotion. Many of those Christians remain my friends to this day, all because of video games.

5. That was only the past – now, the Internet has given all the opportunity to create connections with people around the world. Online gaming made social interaction, both for good and ill, a genuine part of the video game community. It is through the Internet that I have made new friends, Christians and gamers alike, who share that common experience – the video game theology community. We come from all different denominations and different background, yet still find gaming as a grounding point for discussion of everything.

And isn’t that what Christianity wishes to do? Christ gives us new life and salvation from sin. He allows us to reveal our personalities to each other without barriers and without borders, to speak openly of everything. What a vehicle it is that our human creations ultimately lead back to the Creator!

Written by Zachery Oliver

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Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.

Author’s Website | Follow this author on Twitter

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9 thoughts on “Guest Post: Why Should Christians Play Video Games?

  1. I think games are generally aimed at those who have no pronounced religious belief. And in my experience, Christians have no time or need to indulge in fantasy.

    Food for thought: Shadow of the Colossus makes no reference to anything biblical, yet still feels very much like a spiritual experience. If there is a religious aspect to it, it’s certainly not Christian but probably more like a made-up religion that only exists in that created world. Do you think a gamers religious beliefs might pose a conflict to enjoying the game’s story? Or are Christians fine with it as long as the idea of a supreme is still prevalent?

    • Of course I would disagree with the notion that we need to avoid “fantasy”, given my background, but isn’t that a bit of a generalization?

      There’s been a need for stories and myths within nearly every culture on the planet. They’ve used these to represent the values of their culture, and inadvertently communicate it to us. I think any writer hopes that their fiction, in some sense, reflect the inner consistency of our reality; otherwise, it wouldn’t affect us at all. It would be otherworldly, and we could not relate to it.

      All I can think about on this point in Tolkien’s Essay “On Fairy-Stories”:

      I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: “mythical” in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the “inner consistency of reality.” There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.

  2. First, thanks for stopping by jryanm! I checked out your site. I love graphic design! Best of luck man.

    I agree that video games are aimed at a wide audience. I think that is one of the reasons they are so popular.

    Why don’t you think that Christians have no time or need for fantasy? Do you think that fantasy is distracting or that Christians are already delusional? 🙂

    Shadow of the Colossus (a game which I kind of suck at) definitely feels spiritual in a sense. The way I have viewed the game is that it is much like The Neverending Story. Boy sets out on his trusty steed to save the girl he loves. Confession: I still haven’t finished the game. I have heard though that the boy, perhaps the world itself, pays a price for the falling of the colossi. Can’t wait to finish it.

  3. I enjoyed this post. I appreciate you making room for the discussion of this subject. I think game designers, writers, and directors can’t help but to include a world view in their games. In the same way, novelists or movie screenwriters/directors include their own views – however subtle. I don’t think Journey or Assassin’s Creed (despite the disclaimer) are neutral in their perspectives. For me, that’s the truly fun part about being a Christian and a gamer – trying to understand where the concept or story “came from”. Of course, there are many games that are truly neutral. I haven’t been able to find any deep meaning in Tetris!

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