I’ll freely admit that I’m a bit of a nerd. Actually… a lot of a nerd. And what do nerds do to have fun with friends? Game. I’m what you would call a casual gamer – I don’t really play computer games all that often by myself, but will generally try to get to a LAN at least once a month with a few mates to have a gaming session. What we play at these nights are often an RTS – Real Time Simulator – such as Supreme Commander, Red Alert, or Warcraft 3 (if we’re feeling old school) and a FPS – first person shooter – such as Unreal Tournament 3, Left 4 Dead, Call of Duty, etc. We’re all mature gamers – I’m the youngest at 23 – and I don’t think that any of us would be affected by the violence of such games.
However, I’ve been challenged in my thinking just recently. It was all sparked by the refusing of classification in Australia of Left 4 Dead 2. I was discussing this with my mum, arguing that I felt we needed an R18+ rating for games, especially considering that the average age of gamers in Australia is towards the mid-20’s and growing older all the time. I was saying that the people of are affected badly by violence in video games are in the minority, and generally have some underlying mental illness. My mum then used an argument on me that I had used to help me understand some new commitments in my faith.
I’ve recently become a salvo, and will become a soldier in February. As part of that decision, I have given up drinking Alcohol. Personally, having been drinking for a number of years now, I do believe that if used in moderation, alcohol can be fine, and can actually improve health. So for me, I needed a good reason to help me justify this decision – even if I didn’t find that reason for a little while after I had stopped drinking. The reason I found that responded with me the most was one of solidarity. I went to a lecture by a Lt.-Col from England who was saying that the reason Salvos don’t drink is as a stand – while people are harmed from it, then as a stand against it, we won’t partake in it. Likewise with Cigarettes, Drugs and Gambling – while there are people being harmed by it, we won’t take part in it. He postulated that if society came to such a place where people weren’t harmed by such things, then the salvos might review their decision, but in today’s society, that doesn’t look likely.
So how does that relate to games? Like with alcohol, many people are not harmed by it. Just like many people will drink responsibly, and only have one or two drinks, many gamers game responsibly, knowing the difference between games and real life, and many of them would never harm anyone in the same way that they do in the game. However, just like there are a minority of people who cannot handle alcohol responsibly, there is a minority of people who can’t determine the difference between gaming and reality. So as a Christian, do I take the same stand with my gaming as with my alcohol? The founder, General William Booth didn’t mention anything about gaming, because it wasn’t around back then. Like so many issues in today’s modern world, the bible isn’t specifically clear. When God said “Thou shalt not kill” did that apply to digitally created computer characters as well?
In doing a quick search for articles that might be able to help me, I found a site that did Christian game reviews. Great, I thought, until I started reading them. The only games that got positive reviews were games that were outwardly Christian. Obviously games such as Call of Duty and Left 4 Dead got reviews of 0 stars, but what drew the line for me was when it gave one of the world’s most popular games a 0 rating. What was this game? Tetris. It claimed that the game was designed to diminish the trinity, by having all the pieces having 4 blocks each, and it was designed to be impossible to finish. This makes it unsuitable for Christians? I don’t think so. Are Christian gamers relegated to playing games that are biblical based, and often with production standards far below the more popular games?
I don’t know the answer, and I’d love to hear some comments. For the moment, because I’m gaming for fun, and I know the difference between gaming and reality, in my mind my gaming is fine. I am open to hearing other opinions, and would love for this to stir some good discussion.
I’ve since published an update to my thinking. Check out “A Christian Gamer’s Guidelines”