Some of you might not know this but I love video games. I really love video games. It probably all started when my mum and dad owned a Sega (not sure which) and we’d play Alex the Kid. Next, came the Super Nintendo where we played Yoshi’s Island and Mario is Missing then finally the console that probably defined my gaming experience the Nintendo 64. This console was one of a kind, a classic. Amazing games such a James Bond: Golden Eye, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Mario 64, Lylat Wars, Pokemon Stadium, and of course (probably my favourite game of all time), The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Since then gaming has come such a long way. From the 8 bit Pong to amazing graphically built games like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and even into virtual reality (VR), gaming has radically shaped the way humanity experiences the world around them and even God and spirituality.
I remember not long ago reading a book called “You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit” by James K. A. Smith. The title is pretty self-explanatory but essentially Smith writes about how what we do actually forms us into who we are. For example, if all you do is hate on people then inwardly you will become a hate-filled chaotic person. But, if you go around loving others as you would yourself then slowly but surely you become a love-filled Shalom (whole) kind of person. That’s fairly simplistic but this got me thinking… I’ve put a lot of hours into gaming but what has it put back into me? How have the games I’ve played shaped the person I am today? What stories have they told that I’ve retained? Are video games good for me or are they bad for me? Now I can imagine the typical average Christian probably thinking “video games are bad for you, so don’t play them.” You’re probably right. I’ve had some very negative experiences with games before… mostly me rage quitting when I don’t get my way on Halo or now on Fortnite (I hate when scrubs kill me). Also, the toxicity in some games like Overwatch just gets to you and makes you feel terrible. People spit poison and genuinely hate you if you don’t play up to a certain standard. Gaming can create a really negative culture that isn’t good for you and you have to be aware of those cultures and experiences and stay away from them. However, I’ve also had some of the most positive moments of my life while gaming as well. Again, I think back to Zelda tracking through Hyrule slaying monsters and being in genuine awe of the world around me as I strived to save the princess.
The narratives Zelda told of good versus evil, of heroes versus villains, of the underdog, rising up and often sacrificing himself for the greater good and winning, of gods and demons, of the transcendent, feels all very Biblical. Turn almost anywhere in Scripture and you see the cry out for evil to be defeated, for people to be rescued, for the hero to win, and to bring peace and liberty to the world It is these sort of narratives that seem to permeate almost every form of entertainment, but in video games, you get to be apart of that story. You get to live out their experience and make it your own. How then does this perhaps shape who I am in reality?
… To be continued