So, like usual, I’ve decided to mention that I’m religious to the internet, which is often a chance at taking my feelings into my own hands. In some cases it’s an awesome decision to open up religious discussions with people of Christian faith as well as other faiths from around the world. I’ve met some really interesting people of different faiths all over the world. I can even recall a pretty solid conversation with a Muslim I had years ago over almsgiving and a game of Halo 4. It goes to show the social links that gaming can help build. But I often wrestle with gaming and my faith for various reasons. They might not seem too big to you as I explain them, but for me, they’re a matter of living a virtuous life.
I remember reading a blog a while back that discussed a Christian gamer’s internal conflict with playing violent video games and something called, “The Kingdom of God.” The Kingdom of God essentially being the ideal that says yeah, heaven is mythologically God’s Kingdom but what we do in our time on earth helps bring a small example of that to us now. Rather than in the afterlife. So everything I do is supposed to be in service to my fellow man and making the world a better place. You can ask the question, what in the world does playing a video game have to do with all this? It’s just a video game. It has no bearing on my life.
Well, if I’m at home playing video games, I’m not doing my duty as a Christian, of going out and hoping to better my community. Not in the way the mainstream media would have you believe. Like standing on the street corner spouting some hateful rhetoric and carrying a picket sign that makes me lose a little more faith in humanity. Rather, I could be out helping at homeless shelters, volunteering at local community centers, or even taking steps to bolster my faith. I could be studying the Bible or the writing of C.S Lewis instead of mindlessly plowing through Covenant hordes in Halo. I could be donating my excess clothing and food instead of hording uranium in Civ 5. The argument could be made, like most people told me growing up, that my time would be spent better elsewhere.
Good points really! I believe going out and helping others is objectively a better moral good for the world. However, that’s not me. That’s not what I’m about. I play video games to help cope with crippling anxiety and depression, which often keeps me from doing a lot of different activities. So what I chose to do is bring my ideals of kindness, patience, and compassion with me into my gaming.
I do this in two aspects. The first of which is that I treat video games as a way to better myself like any other art form. While books and movies are linear in terms of storytelling, games like Fable or Mass Effect allows a person to be good or evil. I see this is a chance to not only practice benevolence but to experiment with evil in a way that doesn’t affect my moral character or those around me. Art exists as a way for us to cope with human emotions and the human psyche. In the case of video games, I’m given a unique opportunity to experiment with a side of my persona that otherwise lays dormant. It’s a chance to release the pressure of negative, intrusive thoughts much like releasing the brake pressure on a semi-truck. A long drawn out exhale that leaves me feeling less stressed.
Then there’s also the social aspect of gaming. When I play online and interact with other players, I tend to treat my comrades with patience when they can’t perform as well. I would prefer to stay positive and encourage my teammates and keep their minds at ease and focused. I defend the first time players in League of Legends from the toxic haters. I would rather tell the players at the bottom of a Titanfall 2 leaderboard to stay calm and regroup then start placing blame and shouting through my mic. I treat my competitors with respect and say “good game” even if I lose. Quite frankly, that’s just good sportsmanship but it’s also my attempt to take my Catholic ideals of loving my fellow man into my favorite hobby.
So yeah, it’s probably not what my gaming friends would think or my Catholic friends would approve. But that sort of crossbreed rarely shows up and I’m doing my best to reconcile the two.