Like many Christians gamers, I feel a twinge of guilty when severing heads in Skyrim, or unleashing destructive magic from my palms. It's easy to think we're just having meaningless fun, but this anxiety is proof enough for me that we should start to take games more seriously.
However, I don't feel called to quit gaming, so how does a Christian proceed? We all believe games have such potential in telling stories yet we're left to live with tug-of-war raging inside us: one between questionable morality and edifying messages.
By morality I of course mean the stuff you don't want your grandmother to see: violence, sex, swearing etc.
And by quality I mean excellent production values and thoughtfully crafted messages that ask big questions of the world.
So the question becomes, can graphic violence and questionable morality still be waded through for quality story telling and thought-provoking themes?
I like to use the Bible as a guide when navigating entertainment because it is full of graphic violence, sex, cursing and spiritual forces, both good and evil. But in everything is a good and trustworthy message: Sin will bring destruction while God offers redemption.
Some might argue it might even border on hypocrisy when Christians condemn a potentially thought-provoking entertainment based on violence or sex, and there are strong redemptive themes throughout.
So, here are four questions I found helpful to start thinking more critically about games:
1. What are video games to you?
Are they mere entertainment? Escapism? Or do you find a deeper meaning or connection? Do you find yourself admiring the heroism of Link, descending the depths of darkness to purify and bring light? Do you suddenly feel like championing the cause of the down-trodden, just as your character goes out of their way to help the innocent?
2. What affect do videogames have on your soul?
Do you feel spiritually uplifted after the credits roll, or do you feel sick to your stomach? What did the game teach you? That living by your own rules makes life easier? Killing and stealing is the quickest way to victory? Or that the most meaningful side quests were done to help out a stranger?
3. Does God care what we play?
Have you every prayed and asked God to show you something through a videogame? Do you think God can use games to reach others? If so, have you ever considered that God may have a heart for gamers?
4. Where should we draw the line?
Is there a danger in pushing through too much garbage to get a small nugget of goodness?A guiding verse might be Philippians 4:8 Whatever is true, noble, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy... think about these things.
I believe we have been called to love videogames because it uniquely qualifies us to speak the language of a growing digital generation.
And there are millions of gamers out there who will never seek Jesus out in a Church. But they are captives in darkness, without hope. And every night they bring their tired souls to the computer screen or Xbox and find some solace there. We are the soldiers tasked with the rescue of this digital generation. God has put the passion of gaming in our hearts to reach these people, and it is a high calling.
Our battlefield is here on the internet, using our love of games to connect with this lost generation. Let's point them to Christ with thought-provoking discussions on sites like Christ and Pop Culture and CCGR. Let's train other Christian gamers to discern the truth in the games we play, and reveal how Christ is at work in all our Red Dead Redemptions.