Healthy Christian Criticism

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darksiderswar

Have you ever wondered what healthy Christian criticism looks like in regards to video games? I know that often I have been guilty of intentionally writing a negative review from the outset. I am guilty of making blanket statements just because I have been offended by a gameplay mechanic or content found in a game. Just because I am/was offended, I have illogically reasoned, all Christians must flock to my side and be offended as well. As I have grown and matured in my walk with Christ, I have found that criticism is a much more nuanced creature.

Of Games & God

Kevin Schut, in his Of Games & God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games, talks about what healthy Christian criticism looks like:

To start with, good criticism is not automatically positive or negative. If we want to judge something fairly, we can’t prejudge it (although it’s impossible to completely avoid this). We also can’t judge something without examining it. p.175

Schut continues by saying that context is the key in:

…understanding where a game fits in gaming culture, in the gaming industry, and in relation to other games. p.175

Just as when we study the Bible, we must also examine the cultural and historical context of what we are reading. Asking questions such as:

  1. What is the developer/author/writer trying to communicate?
  2. What does this mean in light of the overall video game industry and it’s history?

7674.Pong

The book continues:

…good criticism draws on or at least considers as many different critical perspectives as possible, even if we ultimately reject some of those ideologies.

Carefully considering non-Christian perspectives is, in my opinion, a healthy thing to do. Healthy Christian criticism is not defensive or prickly. p.175

In dealing with non-Christians online, I often find myself getting defensive (even with fellow Christians). This is not how Jesus would have responded. I have found that when I start growling that this is a signal to take a breather and step away from the situation. We don’t always have to have the answer or the last word, right? Right?

Fourth, my faith, the teachings of Christian tradition, and the words of Scripture are by far the greatest motivator in my criticism.

My worldview is based on my belief in Jesus… p.176

And finally:

…good criticism leaves the door open to the possibility of a change in perspective. p.176

Again, how often do we come to the virtual table with prejudged notions. I have noticed a disturbing trend in some online Christian communities where anyone that thinks differently than the group norm is quickly shutout and shutdown. Open communication and a lack of fear of where a conversation might head are needed with good criticism, period.

Healthy Christian criticism comes from a non-reactionary place filled with grace. In light of Scripture, we are able to take that which we consume and weigh it accordingly.

Darksiders Revisited

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I have been receiving a lot of web traffic (at least for JBG) over my Darksiders review lately. So, I thought I’d re-post it. Also, I’ve been thinking about how Christians review/ talk about things in light of Romans 14. Expect a post on Christians and Game Reviews soon. – Bryan

Press Start:
War, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, has been accused of somehow beginning the end of the world early. Stripped of his powers as punishment, War must traverse what is left of the Kingdom of Men in order to seek out and eliminate The Destroyer.
Ideology/ Worldview:
Darksiders envelopes itself in a world of distorted Biblical allusions. No where is God mentioned, even though the entire story is loosely based on the book of Revelation. Instead of God ruling supreme in the game’s world, the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse act as some sort of cosmic referees between the forces of Heaven and Hell. Which come to think of it, this game also exhibits a mixture of Eastern mysticism with focus on balance, and yin and yang. Also present are altars which require blood offerings.
Interaction/Gameplay:
Slaughter monsters and collect their souls to feed to demons. Beyond that, lots of flashy swordplay which evokes games such as God of War or Devil May Cry.
In the End:
As a Christian, I feel personally convicted over playing this game. The flippancy with which demons are interacted with and treated (as if it were a normal thing to interact with demonic creatures) sickens me. I also dislike having to feed “souls” to demons in an effort to buy them off/ obtain information. Darksiders is a dark game – surprise! – based on a pseudo spiritual mythology. While I am willing to overlook certain aspects due to their fictional nature, I am unwilling to treat Hell and demons with such a non-serious attitude. I really wanted to like this game (graphics and gameplay are fun) but in the end find that I cannot recommend it for myself or others.
Due to Darksiders intense spiritual nature, avoid at all costs!

– Level of Impact Rating –
Medium: Casual play. Does not require large chunks of time.

Echolocation – 7/15/11

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People come across JohnnyBGamer by searching for some of the strangest things. For instance, this week the top searches that have brought people to the site have been:

  • Darksiders
  • Portal
  • Band of Brothers fantasy
  • Personal Conviction Examples

Darksiders: For those of you that have read my review of the game, you’d probably find it a little surprising that I even get hits on it.

 I am unwilling to treat Hell and demons with such a non-serious attitude.

Portal: One of the most clever games I have ever played.

Band of Brothers fantasy: My wife and I have never finished this much talked about series. We personally found it a tad depressing with it’s frequent deaths and sometimes hopeless situations. Yeah, I know war is supposed to be like that but who seriously wants to live in that if they don’t have to?

As to people searching for Band of Brothers fantasy? I’m not sure I even want to touch that. Maybe this search term relates to fan-fiction?

Personal Conviction Examples: Awhile back I wrote something about getting rid of things in my life that God had convicted me over. Here is the article.

Personal Conviction

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8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.- Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

I got into an interesting conversation yesterday with a good friend. He has been recently convicted by God to get rid of the things in his life that do not necessarily praise Him. For my friend, this looks like getting rid of some movies, books, and even music.

21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent [emphasis added] and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. – James 1:21 (NIV)

Kratos wants blood...

After talking to him, I got thinking about the stuff in my own life I have walked away from due to personal conviction. For example, I played through the original God of War on the PS2. I loved this game! In playing it though, I noticed that it brought out a thirst for what I would call “blood lust” within me. I just wanted to kill, kill, kill. Not only that, but the cut scenes in the game featured what might as well have been soft core porn. There was one time when I was playing that my wife saw one of these cut scenes, she was appalled…I was embarrassed. Soon after I beat the game. I made my wife promise me to never let me play another game in the series again. I simply did not like the all encompassing worldview found in the game. The gameplay was another matter…

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world [emphasis added]. – James 1:27 (NIV)

More recently I have walked away from playing through the game Darksiders on the PS3. The game had everything going for it minus a highly spiritually convoluted storyline. Heck, I could have even looked past that! What really killed it for me was that the game forced you to offer blood sacrifices to demons. It was then that I ejected the disc and never looked back. I know, as a Christian, that God would never consider such acts, even done virtually, to be honoring of Him.

5 You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God… Exodus 20:5a (HCSB)

Beyond the realm of video games, I have also dealt with conviction over books I have read. The best example I can think of is George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series. A few months ago, I rushed through the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones. I loved how Martin was able to weave political intrigue with such a rich cast of characters. What started to bug me though, as I moved through the 1000 pages of the book, were the explicit sex scenes found therein. In the end, I concluded that Martin’s brutal fantasy world was not one I needed to be a part of. Reading what amounted to bits of pornography was not good for my mind nor my soul; Nor was it honoring to my wife and my God.

Being a Christian is tough. The price for following Christ often means making choices that you don’t want to make but know you need to. I have not always followed the Holy Spirit’s prompting when it comes to things I need to walk away from. But the times I have listened to that prompting have lead to an even closer walk with the Lord. So I encourage you to put down that which you know you shouldn’t be touching. God will give you the strength to walk away.

13 No temptation[a] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

In conclusion, the conversation I had with my friend has bought me to prayer. I am now praying that God would help me figure out what “moral filth” I have allowed into my life. I know that removing it will not be easy but am reassured that God will see me through.

Darksiders

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Update: Looking back, I don’t think my criticism of this game was healthy. Read this.
Press Start:
War, one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, has been accused of somehow beginning the end of the world early. Stripped of his powers as punishment, War must traverse what is left of the Kingdom of Men in order to seek out and eliminate The Destroyer.
Ideology/ Worldview:
Darksiders envelopes itself in a world of distorted Biblical allusions. No where is God mentioned, even though the entire story is loosely based on the book of Revelation. Instead of God ruling supreme in the game’s world, the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse act as some sort of cosmic referees between the forces of Heaven and Hell. Which come to think of it, this game also exhibits a mixture of Eastern mysticism with focus on balance, and yin and yang. Also present are altars which require blood offerings.
Interaction/Gameplay:
Slaughter monsters and collect their souls to feed to demons. Beyond that, lots of flashy swordplay which evokes games such as God of War or Devil May Cry.
In the End:
As a Christian, I feel personally convicted over playing this game. The flippancy with which demons are interacted with and treated (as if it were a normal thing to interact with demonic creatures) sickens me. I also dislike having to feed “souls” to demons in an effort to buy them off/ obtain information. Darksiders is a dark game – surprise! – based on a pseudo spiritual mythology. While I am willing to overlook certain aspects due to their fictional nature, I am unwilling to treat Hell and demons with such a non-serious attitude. I really wanted to like this game (graphics and gameplay are fun) but in the end find that I cannot recommend it for myself or others.
Due to Darksiders intense spiritual nature, avoid at all costs!

– Level of Impact Rating –
Medium: Casual play. Does not require large chunks of time.