Thinking Aloud: Why We Don’t Need Another Christian Video Game Site

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9 years ago I noticed that the Christian worldview was sadly lacking in the mainstream video game press. I wanted to find a web site that discussed the theological impact of the games that I played. A web site written by actual gamers that attempted to go beyond discussing the surface elements of video games (violence, language, etc.). My questions all revolved around:

  • What thoughts, ideas, and experiences am I being exposed to by video game developers?
  • How do these worldviews differ from my own?
  • As a Christian, what should my response be?

I envisioned a web site that could compete with the big boys at the time, Gamespot and Gamespy. So I created JohnnyBGamer.com to go against the best. Quite quickly I learned that a large amount of time, talent, and money are needed to compete in any real way. In short, I couldn’t compete. Eventually I relaunched JBG as the personal blog it is today. I wasn’t defeated, just confronted with reality.

Almost a decade has gone by, and I now find myself questioning the need for a Christian video game web site. Why do we, as Christians, have to segregate ourselves from the world and form our own personal ghettos? Instead of having a Christian video game site, why can’t we have writers writing for major publications that are Christians?

The digital landscape has changed a lot since 2003. Sites such as GameChurch and The Cross and the Controller (which seems to have gone missing) now exist to plumb the depths of video games and the Christian worldview. I am in no way against such ministries, but I openly wonder at the audiences they reach. Would it not be better to influence the gaming culture from inside a major web site versus from outside in the ghetto?

What do you think?

Life After 9/11: The Avengers

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Living in a post-9/11 world, I view the world through a different lens. This past weekend I finally had a chance to sit down and watch The Avengers with my wife. As the movie raced towards its world-ending conclusion, with a portal opening above New York City, I found myself drawn out of the movie’s fantasy and into reality.

Helpless bystanders were running through the city streets, trying to evade the destruction going on around them. New York City was in havoc.  As taxi cabs were blasted through the air and skyscrapers were torn asunder, I became uncomfortable. I remembered scenes of people fleeing the dust cloud on 9/11; I remembered the repeated video footage of the planes that flew into the twin towers.

I don’t think I’ve ever realized just how much my perception of life has changed since 9/11. Even the movies that I used to think were fun, big budget action films, are tainted in messy reality.

Side Note: With all of the above being said, did anyone else notice that despite the falling debris from the skyscrapers, there was no dust in the air? The end scenes from The Avengers would have been almost unviewable had reality ruled. Hurray for viewable fantasy!

Worldview

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A recent run-in with a game developer got thinking me about game creators/ developers and the lens with which they view the world.

Worldview – “A worldview describes a consistent (to a varying degree) and integral sense of existence and provides a framework for generating, sustaining, and applying knowledge.”

As a Christian, I view the world through the lens of the Bible and the man Jesus Christ. Within this framework, I make judgement calls and live life. Everything I process and believe is tainted, per se, by my Christian worldview. What happens though when a game creator/ developer offers a rival lens with which to view the world? For example, say they view the world through a “patriot”-driven, anti-government, atheist lens. What then? Would all the games they potentially work on be flavored by their personal opinions? To some extent, yes.

I write this today in hopes of bringing about awareness. Christian or not, we should all be evaluating the things we take in, be it in books, movies, music, or video games.

20 Minutes in Rapture: Day 2

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“Altruism is the Root of all Wickedness.”

The nightmare that is Rapture continues. Today I was introduced to Little Sisters and Big Daddy’s. The Little Sister exists to harvest ADAM; the Big Daddy ensures that the Little Sister carries our her job. Whoever created this ecosystem from hell is surely mad. I have no doubt. Continuing past the theater, I wrap around some corridors only to find that the entrance way to Neptune’s Bounty (where Atlas’s family is) is blocked off. Atlas tells me to proceed to the Medical Wing. Figures.

Dispatching Plasmid junkies seems to be the order of the day in Rapture. A bolt of lightening from the hand here, a bonk on the head with the wrench there. Splicers electrocuted before they can ever touch me. I like what the Plasmids enable me to do. In fact, I find myself loving my new found powers. Whenever I run out of Plasmids, rendering me unable to shoot bolts of lightening from my hands, I find myself in a frenzy. I want power. I want to feel what it is to be a god. Perhaps that sentiment is why Rapture is eating itself alive. I don’t care. I crave the power of the Plasmid.

Heading toward the medical wing, I am treated to another video featuring the infamous Andrew Ryan. I think that the guy was paranoid. After witnessing Plasmid junkies trying to break through a window and kill me, I quickly make my way through vault-like doors to the Medical Wing.

Thoughts so far:

  • Interesting how the game makes the player crave power (aka the Plasmid).
  • Sound design is phenomenal!
  • Is BioShock the tale of the classic question of whether man is basically good or evil?

Join me next time as I continue to explore the depths of Rapture.

20 Minutes in Rapture: Day 1

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“They told me son your special, you were born to do great things…”

Recovering from a freak plane crash, I swam through the wreckage and fire. Screams of those drowning filled the night. Gathering my senses, I noticed that there is a lighthouse looming in the darkness. What luck! Climbing up the stairs that lead to the lighthouse, I am struck by the oddness of what I am seeing. Why is this 1920’s art deco style lighthouse out in the middle of the mid-Atlantic? Entering the lighthouse, the lights suddenly come on to reveal a huge banner.

The plaque below the banner contains a quote from a man named Andrew Ryan. Sounds like a nice guy. Further investigation of the lighthouse reveals a bathysphere. Inside, a shiny control switch. To flip or not to flip? Knowing that my adventure was at a standstill, I flipped the switch. Dive! Dive! Dive!

As the bathysphere dove deeper and deeper into the sea, I am treated to an in flight video. Andrew Ryan, as he introduces himself, tells of his wish to be alone. Seems he was teased in school. So, he created an underwater city named Rapture. Rapture, an under sea city of dreams; a utopia dedicated to the unbound man.

“All Good Things on this Earth Flow into the City.”

The above quote quickly turned out to be a lie as I arrived in Rapture. The bathysphere settled into what looked like was once an underwater transit hub. The hub station looked like a scene from a war movie. What has happened here? I didn’t have long to ponder. Suddenly, the bathysphere was attacked by what I am told is a Splicer (a love child of Edward Scissorhands). Atlas, speaking over a service radio tells me to take him along for the ride. Having almost died by splice, I see that I have no choice but to trust Atlas, for now.

Nightmares Come True

The plane crash was only the beginning. Slowly trekking through the decaying Rapture, I learn that Atlas wants me to help him rescue his family. Part of me doubts that such a family exists. Oh yeah, I have also been introduced to something call Plasmids. Plasmids are the preferred drug of Rapture. Atlas tells me that the Plasmids made everyone go mad. Great! I have no clue why I tried one…although shocking Rapture leftovers (citizens) has proven to be quite fun.

Thoughts so far:

  • The sound design and atmosphere of the game is incredible.
  • So what if I am a bit freaked out. Right? Right?!?

Join me next time as I continue to explore the depths of Rapture.