It’s been awhile since we’ve had any links on here featuring articles by Christians (besides myself) commenting on the ever shifting and changing world of videogames. Today I want to get you all caught up, because there have truly been some GEMS published in the past couple weeks. I don’t expect you to make it through this all in a day, so perhaps you might just keep this page open for a few days, coming back to it at your leisure. Perhaps you might also take a moment to click the Facebook “Like” button on the right of this post. That would be splendid.
Anyways; no time to waste.
First, you may have already seen this article, as it’s been making the rounds on the net, being featured on Critical Distance as well as Rock Paper Shotgun, but Drew Dixon wrote an article for Gamechurch on “The Idealist World of Videogame Pacifists.” In it he looks at a trend that has been getting some attention recently, virtual pacifism. Said Dixon, “Certainly the way in which games tend to portray violence is conveniently consequence free and far too productive in terms of solving problems. In the real world violence lends itself to lasting consequences, it rarely solves problems and more often compounds them. So perhaps the noble course is to traverse the frozen tundra of Skyrim in peace.” But as he goes on he notes:
“I saw the selfishness inherent to Mullin’s pacifism. Playing the game this way would require running from dragons while they ravaged Skyrim’s villages literally killing hundreds of people. It would involve regularly turning a blind eye to injustice and allowing bandits and ruffians to continue to terrorize the innocent when I could do something about it were it not for my “convictions” against violence.”
Rich Clark also just wrote a tremendous article about Journey for Gamechurch. He draws comparisons between the videogame and the spiritual journey that all Christians go through.
“It’s not a story about a man on a Journey. It’s our story. It’s your story.
And so, most of the time we press forward. We walk to the nearest landmark, just to find some purpose. And we think: maybe we’ve found it. A kind of altar exists, and our avatar bows and prays. In return, it provides guidance – but not nearly enough to satisfy our curiosity. We begin to realize that these landmarks provide us with a kind of foreshadowing that prepares us for our part in the story. Through a glass darkly, we see what awaits us, but only barely. It’s not enough to convince us, but it’s enough to keep us going.
It’s my story.”
We’re definitely going to miss The Cross and The Controller, but one of the last articles that Joshua Wise wrote before announcing the site’s close was a piece called “Kara, The Garden, and Gaming“. In it, he talks about a tech demo that was shown off at the recent Game Developers Conference, the parallels which that demo shares with the Garden of Eden story, and the consequences that advanced game technology are going to hold for our playing experiences. This was something that really resonated with me, and definitely provided some great food for thought.
“Gamers have been accused of being desensitized to violence because of video games, but I think the opposite is true. We have not yet, because of the abstraction of game characters from real life people, been faced deeply with these issues on a broad scale. Certainly there are characters who die in games that leave us hurting as much as any character in a novel or movie. But when the people who are manufactured just for our titillation seem like real people, will we be able to maintain the same bravado that we have so far? Can the guy who can’t talk to girls in real life manage to talk to the girl who seems just as real, just as beautiful, and just as unattainable, in a video game? Or will we have to restrain the characters (by way of our writing and acting and coding) to the same two dimensional existence that the product tester does in Kara?”
Also worth noting, by Steven Sukkau, is “Why Side Quests Matter“, written for Gamechurch (Have I mentioned that I’m a fan of Gamechurch?) He points out that even though “side quests” can seem pointless in games, they’re a great illustration of life, especially for believer. “It’s moments like these, not saving humanity as a whole (leave that to Jesus) but loving another human being, that make us heroes. It’s the small self-sacrificial acts like doing the dishes without complaining or sweeping the floor before my wife asks that makes a difference.Though they may seem less potent, actions like Listening to a neighbour in an attempt to understand their heart and speaking a prayer into their life–those are true words of power.”
Finally let me share one little blurb that I really happen to agree with, from Bryan Hall at his blog, in a post about the pitfalls of having influence:
“I do not want to be a stumbling block to anyone. I do not want to destroy the work of God over something as petty as what I consume media-wise. With this in mind, anytime I write about a certain game or a game review on this site, I am writing about it just to share my experience. I am not writing about it to brag or to cause someone to stumble (“Hey look, Bryan is doing it, we can too!”). Just because I can guilt-free, without conviction, play a first person shooter doesn’t mean that you necessarily can. God may convict you over things that I am not convicted over. That is cool.
I now know that being in a leadership position, a position or platform in the open, automatically holds me to a higher standard. As a blogger, that is something that is constantly running through the back of my mind. I have a responsibility for what I write and say. Words can bring either life or death.”
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! I still have more links I want to share, so look for another post like this over the weekend!
The idea of prayer fascinates me. I can’t say that I have an endless list of specifically answered ones yet, but the way the Bible talks about this idea of asking God for things that are in line with his will and seeing our faith activate those things… it intrigues me to no end.
For instance when Jesus’ disciples asked him how they should pray, he drops this little nugget on them, telling them to say: “Your kingdom come, your will be done…” This being before the cross, the implication is that anyone who would turn to God and pray has the authority to ask that earth would become like heaven. According to their faith let it be done to them. I heard once that the greatest way God can answer the prayers of his saints is when he makes us all into the answer for each other’s prayers.
God’s plan is to establish the kingdom of heaven through his church. The kingdom, that upside-down paradise where wrongs are made right and self-righteousness is turned on its head. The kingdom where beggars are invited to the table reserved for royalty and where those comfortable insiders start getting uncomfortable. We can play a part in establishing it on the earth.
So I always wondered what my part in it was. Because obviously the values of this current world and that soon and coming kingdom are incompatible.
I felt a growing frustration. Going through a difficult season, I increasingly began to believe that my position as a believer and a dreamer was to stand between the corruption of the old and the ideal of the new, grasping one in each hand, and mustering whatever strength I could to pull the two together. How else is it possible to spend time in troubling and confusing situations without losing your faith? I felt like a tendon, strained to the breaking by the pressure of my responsibility to pull heaven down to earth.
I managed for a season, but I am weak and do not have the strength to pull two kingdoms into alignment with my bare hands.
Out of necessity, I spent more time seeking God. Originally it was out of a desire to refuel, replenish; reload. But in his mercy, I think God helped me see something.
If this kingdom is a body, I’m not a tendon, I’m a vein. Though I’m easily pressured, lifeblood flows through me, and it’s not a matter of my strength, but of my affiliation, my connection, my direction. Recently I’ve been intentional about spending more time in prayer, meditation, reading scriptures, etc. When I spend time opening myself up to the kingdom of heaven, it comes into me. As I go through my days I spend less time worried about pulling it down into the earth and more time free to release the things that are stored up inside of me. I am a vein not a tendon, and love and justice and mercy flow through me.
Some thoughts on “spending time” with God:
Being with God doesn’t take effort, but it can take discipline.
It’s easier to discipline your schedule than it is to discipline your actions.
Rather than trying to change your behavior, simply change your source. (Less entertainment, more meditation, prayer, Bible, etc.) (Your input determines your output.)
Prayer isn’t just about “giving God your time,” it’s about giving him your attention. Considering him as you make decisions, think thoughts, etc.
Let me know how you’re enjoying these “Follow” posts, and share them if they resonate with you. I’m having a blast writing them, and more importantly, living them. (It’s challenging- I have to live it before I can “preach” it.)
In just over a week, industry insiders and professionals of all shapes and sizes will be flocking to San Francisco to partake in the annual Game Developers Conference. One of the people who will be attending will be Sherol Chen, who recently blogged about last year’s conference. She reported first of all on a session called “Bigger Than Jesus” wherein several leading voices gave examples of what it might look like to turn religion into a game or vice versa. (Patricia Hernandez recently spoke on the same subject for Kotaku. We reported on it here.) Sherol mused that it seemed to stand as an example of an industry searching for deeper meaning.
She also shared about a daily prayer meeting which takes place every year. A group of believers meet at 7:30 to share requests and to encourage each other in prayer.
It’s cool to hear the stories of believers finding each other to meet and seek God even as they’re in the midst of endeavoring to influence our culture by engaging the culture-makers at this “secular” event. If you’re planning on attending this year, be sure to get in touch with Sherol and her group.
Today on Engage we’re going to look at two articles that in my mind revolve around a similar topic, The Source of Evil. Earlier today at Gamechurch, Steven Sukkau had the epiphany that Skyrim may have been trying to teach him something about the nature of evil.
He first laments,
“Sometimes I wish evil had a face. I wish a Dark Lord sat in a dark tower looming over some forsaken waste, plotting the destruction of peace, love and clean socks. I wish all wars and pestilence could be directly attributed to his dark mind and his hordes of heartless minions… It sure beats donating money without knowing whether it will make a dent in poverty or hoping my facebook status will change people’s perspectives.”
Through the rest of the article, he tells the tale of a quest in Skyrim that perfectly illustrates the truth about the nature of evil. Evil is not that Dark Lord, it is something inside every one of us. He closes with the somber mediation,
“Evil doesn’t exist solely in foreign dictators or brooding demons, but in our own choices and attitudes. As a Christian I do not see myself as a doctor handing out the cure, but as a fellow patient on life saving dialysis. This moment in Skyrim reminded me that I can’t save the world by charging into haunted houses or assassinating tyrants. Before I attempt to save anyone, I realize I need to be rescued from the evil inside myself.”
Certainly we can get into talking about things like sanctification, the mind of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit, walking by faith and not by sight, and all the other things that the Bible says are the rightful property of children of God. But a revelation of our need for a savior, well, that’s as good a starting point as any. In my opinion, games are at their best not when they simply draw me deeper into their own experience, but when they make me pause and think about something bigger.
Another article I read today took a distinctly different look at humanity.
Patricia Hernandez wrote an article for Kotaku entitled “The Rules of Religion, and Why The Next One Just Might Be a Game“.
You can read the whole thing if you want, but it’s quite long. Essentially, Patricia shares about some of her experiences growing up in an environment where Christianity was associated with fear of punishment. She’s understandably distanced herself from that, and has now sought to know God for herself, not limited by the constraints of the Christianity she was taught. Following this introduction is a lengthy look at the failures of real and virtual cults, but accompanied by the thought that most cults do seek to address real needs in people’s psyches.
Anyways, she launches from there and begins to explore the thought of what it would look like for a religion to be created based on game principles. (A process referred to as gamification). It’s sort of an interesting idea, maybe one I’ll spend more time discussing. (First thoughts, Christianity, misunderstood, is already “gameified” enough, with rewards for good actions and punishments for misdeeds. Thank God that because of Jesus it’s no longer about our efforts.) Ultimately though, her thoughts seemed to carry less weight in light of what I had just read from Steven earlier about the real nature of humanity and the real source of the evils we see all around us.
Patricia was candid about the glimpses of religion she saw growing up and still sees to this day. Undoubtedly it shaped her outlook on God in a different way than my upbringing and experiences have shaped mine. Yet I can, as someone who believes that Jesus is God and the only solution for the myriad evils that beset mankind from within and every side, see that Patricia has herself been effected by that corruption of pure religion which was recently sort-of rhymed about. She longs for something more and better than she’s currently encountered, and as intriguing as her idea is, something tells me that it’s not the answer the world needs.