A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of being interviewed while playing Move or Die with Jeremy Smith. Give it a watch/listen.
Hey guys, I’ve been enjoying your book, 42: Discovering Faith Through Fandom. How did you arrive at making a devotional? Do you really think faith and fandom mix?
Eric: I definitely think they mix. I am constantly finding things in TV, movies, comics, etc. that remind me of Biblical principles or seem to parallel stories from the Bible. One time I even felt like God was really using a scene in a movie to speak to me. I was watching The Amazing Spiderman 2 and it was that scene toward the end where the kid, still in elementary school, runs out into the street in his Spiderman costume all ready to take on this crazy guy in a mechanical Rhino suit. Just at the right time Spiderman comes in and says “thanks kid, I’ll take it from here.” At that moment I felt like God spoke directly to me: “It doesn’t matter what is going on, you step out to face something huge in my Name and I’ll be there! I’ll take on the battle for you.” I even teared up as I was sitting in the theater watching it.
After I started the blog portion of Nerd Chapel, I realized that there was a lack of a daily devotional for nerds/geeks/gamers. You see them out there for hunters, sports enthusiasts and many that are gender-focused, but none for this crowd. I felt like it was something I really wanted to take on and could really fill a notch in our niche community that has not been filled previously. There are more online blogs like mine, but no one had really taken on a planned journey in the form of a book. I asked Nathan to join me because I knew he would be able to figure out things I could not figure out and that he also has a heart for this same audience.
Nathan: It was originally Eric who came to me to write this devotional. He called me and said, “You ever notice how there’s a devotional for just about every subculture you can think of but not one for geeks and nerds?”
“Let’s make one!”
It was as simple as that…initially. We spent many hours figuring out how to structure the book. Eric initially wanted it to be read over the course of 40 days, but when seeking ideas from the Fans For Christ Facebook group, it was suggested we make it 42 days long in reference to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy since “42” is the “Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.” It was a great place to start and entrenched the book in geek culture.
Eric and I split the writing duties in half–i.e. we each wrote 21 entries–and made sure we didn’t repeat too many of the illustrations. Eric wanted it structured so readers would progress through the spiritual disciplines without making it obvious they were. While the book was his vision, I did most of the editing and handled the publishing end. We initially tried to submit it to a small Christian publishing house, but they were swamped with submissions, so we decided to go the self-publishing route because we didn’t want to wait. It was smart in the long run because that publisher went out of business.
To answer your second question, I do think faith and fandom can mingle. As I say in the book, God has imprinted Himself in everything, and that includes the stories and activities nerds and geeks love. Superman is a Christ-figure. Jedi live by arguably Christian principles (though their philosophies are bit more Buddhist in nature), and both Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings were written by devout Christians. Not to mention, as humorously pointed out in a College Humor video, religion and nerd-dom have much in common. Perhaps those connections weren’t intended (even by Lewis and Tolkien), but they can nonetheless be mined from those things.
Read the rest of the interview over at TheologyGaming.com.
Zachery Oliver is the Agent Paulson/Nick Fury of the video game world. Which is to say that he recruited me for the Avengers Initiative…I mean to TheologyGaming.com. In an effort to pick his brain and figure out exactly where he comes from, I thought it best to interview the recruiter himself.
Q: Tell us more about yourself and the site.
Zachery: I owned and created the site. I’ve got a Master’s of Theological Studies from Boston University’s School of Theology, as well as a BA from Merrimack College in Theological Studies and Philosophy. Did any of this help me in forming the blog? In a way, I suppose.
I’ve been playing video games since I was 3-4 years old, and can’t remember I time I wasn’t playing them. Probably a more formative experience was playing Secret of Mana with my brother and my father over a Christmas break, as the Sprite, without a guide or anything. The game clock on the cartridge (which I still have) is somewhere in the hundreds of hours. There’s just something about video games that works for me, entertains me, and really helped me out in life to sort ideas out (weirdly enough). And there’s so many of them!
But what I really love is that there’s so much theological exploration. I’ve got a wealth of knowledge of Christianity and video games…a weird combo, to say the least. There’s a dearth of substantive content regarding both, and thus we have Theology Gaming. I just started writing stuff that I wanted to read, and so far it’s been going well! Also, I didn’t get into any Ph.D. programs for theology, so probably that too! I needed a change from the rigors of academic study, all said, and I guess it just wasn’t for me (or God’s will).
Bryan: Hold up, your Dad plays/played video games? I’m trying to think if my Dad ever picked up a controller…
Sounds like you were a man of the Super Nintendo. I see now where your loyalties lied…with the Dark Side. While you were playing Secret of Mana, I was over on the USS SEGA Genesis cruising with Sonic, Ecco, and Vectorman. I had no clue of all the awesome RPG’s I was missing out on by not owning a SNES.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish with Theology Gaming? How can you differentiate the site from the thousands of other enthusiast blogs?
Zachery: These are difficult questions to answer for a few reasons.
First, I hadn’t had the intention to compete with anyone; I honestly (and naively) figured that I discovered some untapped area of theological discussion. To my surprise, sites like GameChurch, JohnnyBGamer, and others already existed. Silly me, apparently, for not checking the demographics!
In all seriousness, though, my real goal was simply to express a long-held conviction that Christians can use anything they do for the glory of God. Combining my primary hobby with my God-given talents and developed skills, I decided to start a blog about my sometimes cogent, sometimes rambling thoughts about all things theology and video games.
As you may notice from reading, I focus greatly on the mechanical elements of games and that is where I find the theological exposition in most areas. There’s a reason for this: I don’t think video games differentiate themselves from other forms of entertainment through their story-telling quality. Also, that would be rather droll and place them into undesirable categories. Rather, I see them as a uniquely engaging entertainment form that, in my experience, creates human connections across all kinds of divisions simply through our common experience of playing video games. The same goes for regular games played throughout human history, but video games make it possible to communicate with lots and lots of different people with the power of the Internet – sometimes positively, sometimes negatively, but that’s human nature I suppose.
It’s in making human connections that I find validity, and it gives a common ground for discussion that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Would you and I be talking right now if not for video games? Probably not; we live in disparate places, and find ourselves in completely different age demographics, yet here we are talking about video games and theology. God’s will is a whirlwind sometimes, let me tell you.
For more from Zachery Oliver, head on over to TheologyGaming.com and check out the site.
The Theology Gaming Sessions: M. Joshua Cauller
Q: Tell us about yourself and how you were first introduced to video games.
Josh: Christmas 1989, my cousins got a Nintendo Entertainment System with two controllers, the gray light gun, and Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt. Suddenly, the Nintendo officially became the coolest thing in the universe. I mean that thing even beat Transformers. And nothing was cooler than Transformers in first grade. Instantly, I learned what the word jealousy meant. My family certainly wasn’t the poorest in West Philly. But a $100 game system was an unheard of luxury at the time. Plus, my mom was pretty opposed to me owning something I could get addicted to. She said she heard stories of kids at the handicapped kids’ school who literally couldn’t do life without those things. So for most of my childhood, video games represented envy. .: Continue :.