From Across the Net – “Video games studied in new theological framework”

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Via the Baptist Press:

So what’s the point? Millsap is not saying that mashing buttons is a path to a deeper understanding of God or defeating the next game’s challenge is a discipleship tool. The idea is just that it’s worth considering the stories and scenarios that gamers encounter from a theological perspective.

“But because so many video games now go in a narrative direction and tell a story, it makes sense that we would want to consider them from that perspective. I need to ask myself important questions, and think about whether I believe what it’s saying is true. If a video game is intending to tell a serious narrative and I don’t approach it seriously, thoughtfully and from a Christian perspective, then I’m not doing it justice.”

You can read more here

Kickstarting ReElise

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Justin Fox is a longtime friend I met through Theology Gaming University (TGU). He just launched a Kickstarter for his game, ReElise, a Hip-Hop RPG. Justin hopes to not only fund his dream but start a movement.

How did your values influence your game, ReElise?

The game started out about race. Mostly a coming of age story. Just exploring culture and how people deal with them. When I got saved (gave my life to Christ) the story completely changed. It became a story about how God can make dry bones live again. However the theme of race still plays a role in that it serves no real role in the story. The main character is a black female…. that is all. Sometimes, it’s just not important in contrast to the big plot, and it shouldn’t always be a plot to insert a person’s views on an almost ageless problem so they can be the guy who “figured out how we can get along”. It’s a problem of classifying people as ” those people ” and that’s not going away. Ever.

ReElise

What exactly is a Hip-Hop RPG?

There’s a lot more to the culture of Hip-Hop than violence, money and abuse of women. There’s dancing, style, language, AMAZING art, and some would even say theology that’s not focused on quite as much. It was supposed to be fun in the early days. I like fun things. A Hip-Hop RPG is a game that  leans into the dopeness that is Hip-Hop. I love it. I wanted it in there. I’m indie… so I do what I want I’m grown and sexy.

How long have you been working on the game and what have you learned?

Steadily for 4 years. I’ve been tinkering with it for roughly 7, but those were entirely different builds.

For me, it’s been the power of belief. Believing that something good can come out of an idea that’s not really been done before, and seeing how the power of that belief carried me through for 4 years. It’s a crazy thing. Not to mention how drastically my belief in Jesus changed the core of the game. Belief is really something else.

ReElise-Hip-Hop-Battles

Engage in epic rap battles.

What would you like to say to anybody thinking about backing ReElise on Kickstarter?

This is more of a movement than it is about just one game. Traditional gameplay but with very non-traditional stories as well as concepts (I mean this is a 2D, hand-animated, Hip-Hop, turned-based, Mature Christian RPG… with sprinkles… definitely unconventional). I’d like to subtly offer deeper things to my audience. I’m giving my audience the chance to simply play a great game, and offer them a deeper story that I truly hope will be beneficial to their lives if they care to look. We’ve just gotta get the colorists, programmers, editors, travel expenses, and advertisements out of the way for this project first. That way we can make this first project everything it needs to be!  There’ll be much much more to come with the support of backers.

Thanks, Justin, for giving us a slice of ReElise pie. We can’t wait to get a taste of your Hip-Hop RPG goodness.

If you’d like to back Justin’s work, check out his Kickstarter page.

Off Campus: Best Theology Video Games of 2015

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tgu-hex

Helped work on a Best Theology Video Games of 2015 list with the guys over at Theology Gaming. Want to invite you to check it out. It’s good. Made me want to play Metal Gear Solid V.

I even make the bold claim that Destiny: Taken King is the Best Mirror Of Our Faith Journey. Read to the end.

Not Alone

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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!

Tempus Fugit Thursday – Preoccupation

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Bryan Note: Sometimes I just need to follow my own advice and also remember what God has taught me/ is continuing to teach me. 

During my morning devotional I read this:

 1 After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. 2 All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.

3 Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” 4 Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.

5 When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. 6 Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes. – Esther 3: 1-6 (NIV)

Notice how distracted Haman is with Mordecai. Instead of focusing on what he had been given, Haman became preoccupied with a single man. This preoccupation with Mordecai and the annihilation of the Jews would eventually lead to Haman’s downfall.

In the age of social media and instant/constant communication, I find it easy to get preoccupied with other peoples lives. I end up wondering why I can’t:

  • Buy a new house, car, toy, etc.
  • Travel with all expenses paid by parents or relatives
  • Eat out five times a week (not that I’d want to)
In looking at everyone else, I fail to realize that God created something special in me. I am not like everyone else nor meant to be.
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Interesting thought: The word preoccupation has the word “occupation” in it. Now, we all work different occupations, there is certainly that definition of the word. But the use of occupation related to Haman’s preoccupation makes me think of this dictionary definition:
possession, settlement, or use of land or property.

When we become preoccupied with something not of God (like lust or greed), we are giving up pieces of our very hearts and souls to things that shouldn’t be entrenched in our lives. We end up becoming occupied territory; slaves to our conquerors.

Morning Reading: Judges 17-21

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“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” – Judges 21:25

The last few chapters of the Book of Judges show the nation of Israel relying on instinct and their own personal morals rather than following God. Sin has heavily infected their worship and everyday life. The end of chapter 19 even has an incident that is similar to that of Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. Homosexuality and rape are a societal norm. Everyone did as he saw fit.

This mornings reading has me questioning if I am doing as I see fit; if I am walking alone in this world versus walking with God. This morning I have prayed that I would be obedient and follow God, not doing as I see fit but as He sees fit. Think of it as a realignment of the heart.

Where are you today?

For The Win: An Interview With Zachery Oliver

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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. 

Zachery Oliver

Mickey looks angry. Watch out, Zachery!

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.