To play videogames as a Christian, however, requires being honest and discerning not just about their content, but about their value. The entertainment games provide is just one of the many values intrinsic to interactive media. Let’s play games responsibly, with discernment and moderation, but let’s dig deeper. Let’s tap into the many values of games, and ask the Lord to open our eyes to values we’ve failed to see. In playing games Christianly, we may just become more self aware, more mindful of our neighbor, and more in love with our God.
Best Mirror Of Our Faith Journey
Destiny: Taken King
Sin. Repentance. Redemption. Destiny mirrors the faith journey of the Christian. Made in the console shooter creator’s image, this 2014 title launched with solid mechanics and an uneven tale. Broken from a story perspective, mired in sin, Destiny was yet embraced by the gaming populace.The Dark Below and House of Wolves expansions launched the game into an orbit of repentance. Redemption found in the Taken King. Sin, downfall, always but a step away. Developer Bungie continues the journey through the valleys and mountain-top experiences of game development.
For years I thought I was alone in writing about videogames from a Christian perspective. I was wrong. On January 23, 2013, Zachery Oliver contacted me. His initial correspondence sparked what has become a collaborative friendship. Zach and I have since launched Theology Gaming University (TGU). A Facebook group dedicated to open discussions on faith, life, and videogames.
I want to take a moment to invite you to join our growing community. Come ready to be challenged in your faith and your perspective on gaming. 2015 is going to be a great year for TGU, so come join us!
Ever since its release at the end of September 2011, I have found myself interested in Team Meat’s The Binding of Isaac. What has interested me about this game is not the gameplay but the unconventional world in which the game takes place. Take a moment and read about the game’s story from the wikipedia entry below:
The Binding of Isaac’s plot is a spinoff of the bible story with the same name. Isaac, a child, and his Mother live in a small house on a hill, both happily keeping to themselves, with Isaac drawing pictures and playing with his toys, and his mother watching Christian Broadcasts on the Television. Isaac’s mother then hears “a voice from above”, stating her son is corrupted with sin, and needs to be saved. It asks her to remove all that was evil from Isaac, in an attempt to save him. His mother obliges, taking away his toys, pictures, game console and even his clothes.
The voice once again speaks to Isaac’s mother, stating he must be cut off from all that is evil in the world. Once again, his mother obliges, and locks Isaac inside his room.
Once more, the voice speaks to Isaac’s mother. It states she has done well, but it still questions her devotion, and requests she sacrifice her son. She obliges, grabbing a kitchen knife, and walking to Isaac’s room. Isaac, watching through a sizeable crack in his door, starts to panic. He finds and enters a trapdoor, just before his mother opens his bedroom door. Isaac then puts the paper he was drawing on onto his wall, which becomes the title screen.
In every culture or community there are extremes, fringe groups that display a hardcore devotion to their cause. Growing up, I lived in a small middle class community. I remember coming into contact with those who were a bit extreme in their ideals. Whether it was the Mormon family who disciplined to the point of abuse or the Christian family who would literally take all their kids things away as punishment, I have heard and seen much. Which is why it is not too surprising to read about the “mother” in The Binding of Isaac. I think at some point or another, we have all come in contact with a parent of this nature and perhaps haven’t even realized it.
Game review site Gamespot calls the The Binding of Isaac “dark”, “twisted”, “demented”, and yet “enjoyable”. In the midst of it’s dark nature, I openly wonder if the game’s scenario is inspired off of an actual person or situation in one of the developer’s lives. Something I’ll never know.
What I do know, is that Team Meat’s “spinoff” in no way reflects the Biblical account of God testing Abraham, besides “Isaac’s mother’s” devotion being tested. Genesis 22 recounts the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice his only son. If you read it you’ll notice that the point of the story is not only that Abraham trusted God (by his willingness to sacrifice his only son) but that God provides the sacrifice. This story is a mirror to the greater story coursing through our history, that God seeks to redeem us through the death and resurrection of his son.
Focusing on the fringes of Christianity, on someone as crazy as “Isaac’s mother”, may help make a great game world. However, Team Meat missing the entire point of God testing Abraham is a bit sad in that the many who play this game will walk away with a false understanding of the binding of Isaac and history.
In the years that Jesus Christ ministered on Earth, he only loved on those that had pink hair. He specifically sought out the pink-headed ones in order to:
- Heal them
- Drive demons out of them
- Love them unconditionally
To the others, to those that lacked pink hair, he intentionally ignored them. *Just ignore John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world…) and the entire Bible for the above to be true. 🙂
For at the least the past month, maybe longer, I have stopped going to the Highway 80 Bible Study my church leads every Sunday afternoon. Part of the reason I have quit going is simply a matter of convenience. I have had too many family gatherings, medical issues, and other excuses come up during the 4-5pm Bible study time. Sometimes it is nice to just relax and enjoy a Sunday afternoon nap with my wife. Who can argue with that?
Justifications aside, I had a friend send me an email the other day in which he talked about loving on other people. The email made me realize that I am selectively sharing my love, Christ’s love, for other people. In a way, I am prohibiting the work that Christ can do through me. I have become an ambassador of Christ that likes to hide away in the Christian embassy.
I am not proud of my sudden isolation. I dislike knowing that I am prohibiting potential blessings on others due to my lack of faithfulness. Just need to figure out how to get back on the horse. Regardless of my Bible study attendance, I need to be actively sharing Christ’s love outside of my comfort zone.
The machine guns blazed with a deafening sound, as a small band of Christians advanced upon Ignition Entertainment. Chanting the video game directors name, Sawaki Takeyasu, the blood thirsty band leveled all who stood in their way.
Weeks earlier, upon hearing about the game El Shaddai’s development and eventual release, this small band of Christians had threatened the games director with death. For you see, to even utter one of the names of God is punishable by death….err wait. Wouldn’t this be shocking if it were true? Imagine Christians militantly defending the name of God.
The announcement of El Shaddai got me thinking about how the Muslim community would react if the game was titled The Prophet Muhammad. Below is a case study from a recent headline.
Back in the beginning of April, the TV show South Park aired its 200th episode (recap here). The episode, which was all about not angering Muslims by physically depicting the Prophet Muhammad, stirred up anger within the Muslim community. One Muslim group even threatened “violent retribution” against the creators of the show. Meanwhile other religious figures which include Jesus, Buddha, and Krishna were depicted with little outcry from their followers. Comedy Central, fearing a backlash from the Muslim community, ended up heavily editing the episode.
Commit a series of terrorist acts and suddenly entire nations cower before you in fear.
As per my opening to this article, I am not insinuating that Christians should become militaristic and take up arms against those that offend us. That goes against the very person of who Jesus Christ was/ is. What I am trying to say is two things:
- Our modern media needs to treat all religious groups equally and with respect. Christ should be treated just as respectfully as Muhammad if not more so — hey, I’m biased!–. To cater/cower to only one religious group shows favoritism. Not only favoritism…but fear.
- Video game developers need to be respectful when telling stories/ making statements religious in nature. Take for instance the game Assassin’s Creed. SPOILER ALERT!!! The end of the game reveals that the object you’ve hunted for the entire game is what caused people to believe that Moses parted the Red Sea; that Jesus did miracles. I find such thought to be totally offensive. Furthermore, this makes me think that the developers of Assassin’s Creed believe that Christianity is a sham. Whatever happened to tolerance?
Tolerance: a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.
In closing, the video game El Shaddai will not incite acts of violence on an epic scale. No death threats will be reported due to its development/ launch. The wrath of the Christians will not be experienced. Consider that cancelled if not non-existent.
Things to think about:
- Why are Christians openly mocked in media and Muslims feared?
- What are the developers trying to tell us in their use of names like Enoch and a story about Satan and his fallen angels?
- What is their worldview?
Recently, I started reading through the book of Jeremiah. Today I was reading through chapter 3 and was struck by a theme that has been carried over from chapter 2, that of the nation of Israel acting like a whore.
20-22“A long time ago you broke out of the harness.
You shook off all restraints.
You said, ‘I will not serve!’
and off you went,
Visiting every sex-and-religion shrine on the way,
like a common whore.
You were a select vine when I planted you
from completely reliable stock.
And look how you’ve turned out—
a tangle of rancid growth, a poor excuse for a vine.
Notice that Israel was whoring themselves out to both physical and spiritual things (“Visiting every sex-and-religion shrine on the way”). This has got me thinking, what things am I prostituting myself to daily? Is it something physical like a hobby? Is it a thought or an idea that is not Biblical (thus not of God)?
Perhaps this is a shock to you, especially if you came to this site looking for video game related material. Trust me, the content is here. One of the other purposes of this site is to stir conversation. So let’s stir the pot!
- Are you, someone who has been made clean by acceptance in Christ’s death on the cross, whoring yourself out to physical things and thoughts that are not of God? If so, there is no time like the present to make things right.
- Are you someone who does not know Christ but still feels like you are whoring yourself out to something? Perhaps its time to evaluate what your intaking on a daily basis.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be known as a whore to that which is evil and not of God.
*Please note that the word “whore” is used due to the overarching marriage analogy found in the passages.