Charisma Magazine has just run their first ever web article dealing with video games! It’s entitled “Why Are Video Games Depicting Religion As Violent?”
They’ve featured the research of one Greg Perreault, whose studies of several AAA titles has led him to conclude, ”Not only was the violent side of religion emphasized, but in each of these games religion created a of problem that the main character must overcome, whether it is a direct confrontation with religious zealots or being haunted by religious guilt.”
He is also quick to add that he believes these games are less interested in making a statement about the nature of religion as much as they are interested in trying to create drama and excitement within their already-violent worlds. Whatever the case, it’s at least an interesting sign that a large Christian publication has started covering the more thoughtful side of games-research.
A good sign for us here at Follow and Engage, and all our friends around the web.
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.