8 Questions to Thoughtfully Engage Video Games and Faith

May 23, 2012 — 6 Comments

Too often I don’t feel the same sense of satisfaction after playing a video game as I do when reading a novel. This usually leads me to feel guilty for spending time playing video games. Like they don’t have anything of value to offer. This thoughtful TEDx presentation, by Andy Robertson, suggests otherwise.

Screen Shot 2012 05 23 at 2.53.23 AM 8 Questions to Thoughtfully Engage Video Games and Faith

Click on the Screenshot to go view the Youtube video

I noticed a few things about this video.

1. Andy is engaging this topic very thoughtfully. It’s clear that Andy has put a lot of preparation into his discussion. This alone confounds many of us. There is a popular assumption that video games are for kids or for slackers, but certainly not for thoughtful, dedicated, hard-working adults.

2. Speaking from a faith perspective, Andy presents a case for embracing violent video games. This also rails against common convention.

3. The main point of Andy’s presentation is that games hold inherent value as a medium because they can profoundly influence, us similar to other forms of art. However, they also are a unique medium because they invite the consumer of the medium to participate in it in a way that other media cannot.

 

We need more conversations like this about video games and our faith. Too often people make blanket statements, completely writing off the validity of video games, or they accept all video games without considering their potential impact at all.

Simply stated, I believe God can speak through video games.

If God can speak through the prophet Balaam’s donkey in Numbers 22, and he can speak through literature and film, then he can certainly speak through video games. That does not imply that God speaks through all video games, though.

I’d like to suggest a few questions we can ask to help us engage video games more thoughtfully through the lens of faith.

 

1. Does this game present a coherent story in which the characters act in ways that are consistent with who they are? Does the story succeed in what you think it intended to accomplish?

2. What type of player behavior is rewarded in gameplay? Is the player encouraged to be dishonest or violent in order to progress through the game? Do these requirements seem consistent with the motivations of the main character or do they simply exist to make the game more fun?

3. In what ways does the game inspire a sense of creativity in the player?

4. What emotions does the game conjure within you? Why does it move you that way?

5. If the game has a mature rating, what do you think the mature content adds to the experience? Would the game benefit from it?

6. Does this game offer a particular moral, social commentary, or warning for the player? How effectively is it communicated?

7. Which elements of the game were the most memorable to you? Why?

8.  What parts of the game will younger players be tempted to emulate in their real lives? What would be the consequences of that?

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list. These questions are intended to get us thinking about what we play and why. This discussion could easily fill up more space than what’s available in this one post.

I’m curious. What do you think should be on this list? Should any questions not make the list? Let me know in the comments below.

Austin

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I'm a pastor, writer, speaker, husband, father, and follower of Christ, to name a few titles. You can find my contact information in my About page.
  • davro

    Please, please, please watch a series called “Extra Credits” hosted currently at penny-arcade.com. So much good, thoughtful exploration of the medium; both its merits and its flaws.

    • http://austindhill.com/ Austin Hill

       Thanks for the link. Bookmarking it now.

  • Sara

    I know how much you enjoy playing video games and this gives me a new perspective. Thanks!

  • scrhill

    If God can speak through blockbuster movies, certainly God can speak through blockbuster video games.

  • http://virtualstowaway.wordpress.com/ Jonah Stowe

    Item 8 on your list is the trickiest. The question of emulation can be a red herring, because the plausibility of emulation is dependent on many external factors. Kids whose parents have instilled a strong moral and ethical foundation will have a better mindset on how certain behaviors should or should not be repeated in their lives.

    • http://austindhill.com/ Austin Hill

      Jonah, very good point about emulation. I think the responsibility is totally on us as parents to teach our kids how to engage media. This goes for much more than just video games. Too often people blame violent video games for the ills of society, but these same parents aren’t talking to their kids about faith or much of anything.