Follow and Engage is relatively new to the conversation over the intersection of faith and games, and when we started, our original purpose was to bring more attention to the ways that other Christians were already engaging the world of video games. One website that has been bringing it’s own unique point of view to the conversation is The Cross and The Controller, run by Editor-in-Chief, Joshua Wise. TCaTC is a “video game review site where professional theologians and seminarians dissect games both on theological and gameplay grounds.” What makes TCaTC really stand out among other Christian-ish gaming sites is the way Josh and his team are able to look at AAA gaming titles and analyze the heavy philosophical and theological themes that are lurking just below the surface. In this first part of the feature, I asked Josh to recommend a few of his favorite articles from the site so that you can see for yourself the type of thinking that marks their work.
First, one of my favorite articles ever was written by Joshua Wise himself on the subject of “The Dark Knight and the Cloud of Unknowing.” I really don’t want to ruin this for you, so let me just tease you with a quote: “The Darkness that shrouds God is a deeper and mightier darkness than that of Sin and Death, for its true form is light. It is to us darkness because we are too weak to see it. It goes into the lesser darkness of Sin and Death, and destroys them.” Seriously, go read it.
Next, editor Ben Wallis takes a look at the psychology of play as expounded by D.W. Winnicott in his research on “transitionary phenomenon.” If that sounds interesting to you, you won’t want to miss “Team Fortress 2 and Reality,” particularly his conclusion where he postulates “Transitionary phenomenon is all about exploring the universe and building meaning out of what we find in our exploration. That search for meaning inevitably involves the biggest questions of why the universe exists and what life is all about. It is no wonder that some of humanity’s most spectacular works of art are religious.”
The site has an interesting dichotomy, in that regular contributor Michael Elliot is an athiest. However, his contribution are always thoughtful and respectful looks at religion in games. I was particularly intrigued by one such entry, “Dragon Age Origins: Fantasy and Atheism,” where he mused about encountering an athiestic character, “Now, being an atheist one would assume that I would be completely receptive of this stance. But while this kind of tired and ancient complaint was certainly familiar, I found it completely baffling. How could anyone doubt the existence of the Maker? What sense can this world make without God? Wait… what the hell am I saying?”
Also, Michael Elliot briefly explored the history of depictions of “Islam in Western Games.”He chronicles the several instances where “parts of Islam have been included in video games, only to be edited out at the eleventh hour, or sometimes even after the game was released,” in order to appease certain adherents who were offended by the fact that their sacred religion was being used in a medium that many see as both flippant and secular.
Joshua Wise also reviewed Bastion, one of last year’s indie darlings. He pointed out some interesting things about it’s depiction of deities. “Of the two cultures portrayed in the game, one has turned the gods into decoration, while the other continues to worship. This dichotomy of two cultures is fascinating, and not one we see often in gaming.”
(Editorial Aside: I also just wrote an article entitled “Redemption and Restoration in Bastion” for Gamechurch. Read it here if you missed it. -Jordan)
Finally, Drew Walden wrote a very personal and challenging reflection on whether or not he was completely wasting his time by using it to play games. “My next 100 Xbox achievements are not going to help the homeless on the street get their next meal. The engrossing story of Jade Empire is not going to sooth the sorrow of little girls sold into slavery in Mumbai’s red light district. My meandering pontifications on free will and video games seem trivial compared to the harsh realities plaguing our modern world.” The thought really hit home with me, as I wrote recently on the same subject.
If you enjoyed these articles, check back soon for an interview with the man behind the site, Joshua Wise, as well as for an exciting announcement about something new they plan on starting soon.