Is Gaming Compatible with my Faith?

Buddy JesusI am a Christian.

It took me a long time to say that on this blog. Not because I’m ashamed of the fact, nor that I’m unsure of it, but because I was worried about being perceived as something I’m not. Afraid of being improperly categorized due to someone’s preconceived notions of what that label means.  And let’s not pretend that it doesn’t happen. Simply by saying the word “Christian” I’ve placed a picture in your mind of someone, or an idea of someone, based on your past experiences or education. Same as if I were to say “Cowboy” or “Blue Collar” or “Politician”. Those words carry with them pictures, attitudes, and the temptation to reach down into the toolbox, pull out the broad brush, and paint an entire landscape of individuals with the same color. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s how the human brain makes sense of the world. The problem is, even within our own specific category, we’re not all the same, are we? There are some Cowboys that even other Cowboys, true Cowboys, don’t want to be associated with.  Like Roy Rogers.

As one who believes what Jesus taught about morality and love, I do my best to treat everyone with the same respect afforded to any of God’s creation. Over the last 15-20 years, I do feel much more compassion towards people than I did as a cynical, jaded Gen-X teenager. I think that speaks to a softening of my heart as well as an accumulation of wisdom. Doing so has led me to open up and interact with many, many gamers with whom I disagree on a great many issues, and I value those friendships that I’ve forged. But when I see another gamer who is also a Christian, especially one who walks the talk, I gravitate towards that individual. Sharing a worldview as well as a preferred hobby results in an instant brother/sisterhood that is difficult to explain. It’s not just what we do, but who we are that is relatable.

Another reason I pay close attention to other Christians in the gaming community is that I’m interested in how they do it. By “it” I mean, how do they balance an incredibly time-consuming hobby not only with normal, everyday responsibilities, but also with a lifestyle that is supposed to put our relationship with God above everything else. Many gamers struggle just with the former! I’m in that category, as well. In all honesty, I’m embarrassed to say that my time gaming far outweighs the time I set aside for prayer and study. And by “outweighs”, I mean like, hours a day. And it’s not ok. Even within the Christian community, we don’t usually talk about how much time we actually devote to deepening our relationship with Christ. I suspect that with my generation, the numbers are strikingly low. If a fellow gamer has been able to crack that particular nut, maybe that person has a few pearls of wisdom for those of us who struggle to put aside the distractions. And so, I observe. The truth is, the Christians in the gaming community are pretty quiet (more on this later). So when I came across the cleverly named Waiting for Rez blog, which includes the bold tagline “A peculiar mix of MMO gaming and Christianity”, I was intrigued.

Over the several months that I followed WFR’s author Ironweakness on Twitter, and through occasional visits to his blog, I developed a fondness for both his intelligent writing style and his frankness about life, both spiritual and non. While our taste in games didn’t overlap tremendously, Ironweakness was incredibly diligent about publishing posts and seemed able to balance content creation with other aspects of his life – something with which I have also struggled lately. Then a few days ago, a post appeared on Waiting for Rez that left me with mixed emotions. Ironweakness, upon taking stock in his current life situation, had discovered that he was neglecting several aspects of his life in favor of gaming and blogging. In particular, two sentences caught my attention:

My relationship with Jesus Christ has also suffered as I’ve worshiped at the altar of my Steam account rather than at the foot of the cross. This more than anything else has crippled me spiritually, mentally, and socially. – Ironweakness

 

Sadly, none of this comes as a surprise to me, and shamefully, I can relate to it pretty well. But, it causes me to pause and reflect on the difficulty of dedicating your life to your faith while participating in a hobby that’s very design is to pull you in and keep you engaged for large chunks of time. The more I try to reconcile the two and find examples of success, the more I wonder how compatible they truly are.

1836040969_de76de46b1_b

It’s not just the immense time commitment and temptation to push more important things aside, either. Over the last few years, I’ve suppressed several red flags that, individually don’t seem like much of a problem, but collectively, could point to a larger issue. For example, I’m occasionally bothered by Paul’s warning in I Corinthians 13: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” I don’t think that video games are inherently childish – well, no more than most other forms of entertainment, anyway – but there certainly is a lot of childish behavior associated with them. One needs to go no further than the mind numbing “real gamer” debates that pepper YouTube comments and Reddit threads to concede this. Gamergate, outcries for social justice and equal representation, gender superiority/inferiority, journalism/company bashing…it all begins to remind me of driving my four kids around in the back of the minivan. The constant snipping and fighting serves as an annoying distraction to the actual goal: watching the road. If the two sides to #gamergate were my kids, I would have sent them both to their rooms. Is this how I should be spending my free time? Watching groups of cyber-ites getting whipped up into a frenzy over words? Even without the biblical nudge it can be enough to erode my interest. On the other hand, JRR Tolkien, a Christian and a much smarter man than I, was famous for extolling the virtues of fantasy for adults:

…I do not assent to the depreciative tone. That the images are of things not in the primary world (if that indeed is possible) is a virtue, not a vice. Fantasy (in this sense) is, I think, not a lower but a higher form of Art, indeed the most nearly pure form, and so (when achieved) the most potent. – JRR Tolkien

 

And, in fact, if we are the sub-creators that Tolkien thinks, then isn’t our desire to create a story, a struggle between good and evil, simply a reflection of us being made in the image of God, the only true creator? This would seem to support my earlier musing that it’s not the games that are childish, but the players.

Probably around a year ago, Izlain put out an episode of Couch Podtatoes about religion in gaming. He specifically tweeted at me looking for guest volunteers. Likewise, not long after my Beyond Bossfights episode with Murf, he also sent me a message wondering if I’d like to talk about religion in games. I declined both times, for a couple of reasons. First of all, while I’ve been a Christian for a long time, I don’t feel qualified to be the voice of Christianity within the gaming community. I’m not sure that anyone would see me that way, but in the absence of other voices it seemed a possibility to me. I simply don’t have it all figured out. Secondly, while I’m pretty good at taking a high-level, academic view of some things, my faith is not one of them. Atheists, while highly principled and very passionate about their unbelief, are not necessarily defined by their atheism, and therefore can take a more distant and academic stance. As a Christian, my faith doesn’t just define me, it is me. It’s hard to not take attacks on my faith personally because my faith is, in fact, personal. I don’t mean to say that Izzy and Murf were planning to ambush me – in fact I’ve found them both to be very gracious and respectful human beings. Instead, I don’t trust myself to remain calm and impartial while discussing a subject with so many potential hot buttons. And then, what kind of representative would I be? The last thing I want to do is inadvertently feed into one of those stereotypes I alluded to at the start of the post.

Creepy Bioshock Infinite Baptism
Creepy Bioshock Infinite Baptism

During Izzy’s Couch Podtatoes show, I remember them talking about how religion is represented within games. For the most part, the panel on the show, none of whom described themselves as traditional Christians, had difficulty bringing to mind many examples of this. I remember my head exploding with examples while listening to the conversation. Perhaps it’s selective attention (when you notice something more often than others because you’re unconsciously looking for it), but I find examples of, or allusions to religion in gaming all the time. Most often, the depictions are that of either wacko naïve cult followers, or those with evil and power-grabbing intentions. For example, I stopped playing Bioshock Infinite because of religious imagery that didn’t sit well with me. At the beginning of the game, the player is forced into baptism by a group of creepy robed cult-like followers. It’s an obvious imitation of the Christian sacrament. The plot of The Binding of Isaac is that of a little boy trying to escape from his over-zealous, religious, murderous mother. Assassins Creed posits that Adam and Eve were visited by a spaceship in the Garden of Eden instead of God, and features as antagonists the Knights Templar, who represent leadership based on faith. The Children of Atom in Fallout literally worship the radiation that is killing them. Heck, even Civilization V insinuates that the genesis of a faith is rooted in man (and used as a means of crowd control) and not a direct connection with and attempt to understand our relationship with God. While I still play and enjoy several of these games, the undercurrent is always there. I struggle to think of an example of when a religion, especially Christianity, is depicted as a peaceful and positive influence. Honestly, I’m not as offended by this as I am wary of how others will perceive Christianity in light of the overwhelming “evidence” that religion is filled with power-hungry psychopaths. We’re bombarded with such a humanist-centric viewpoint from all angles, from academia to entertainment. And, the more we’re presented with viewpoints, even subtle ones, that align with a specific worldview, the more we accept that worldview as correct. Just as importantly, what are these repeatedly reinforced stereotypes doing to me? Are they helping my faith, or hurting it?

Lastly, I wonder if the gaming community is compatible with my faith. This is a bit tricky, because I realize that my “community” is somewhat curated and not fully representative. Even so, I’ve always thought that it was healthy to look at other viewpoints that don’t necessarily align with your own, so my feed is not limited to those who openly agree with me on Twitter. In fact, with only some exceptions, I’d venture to say that a majority of gamers I follow disagree with me on some fundamental issues. The only instance of somebody blocking me (that I know of) happened after exchanging a string of tweets with someone I disagreed with on a matter of faith. I had felt that the discussion was fairly measured, but I guess he didn’t feel the same. While some of the Christians on twitter are fairly transparent about it, many choose not to address their faith in an open forum. I’m not being critical; as you remember from my podcast opportunities, I’ve had times where I’ve chosen silence, also. I’m sure there are varying reasons for making this choice, but I’ve got to think that at least one of those reasons is the pressure to remain non-confrontational and inoffensive. It’s very easy to offend people nowadays with the most mundane statement, let alone a tweet that mentions God or Jesus Christ. Wait, you’re offended right now, aren’t you? Great, now I’m offended! But I do know they’re out there. I know because I’ve had private messages from them. I think it says something that the world’s largest religion feels forced into silence within the gaming community.

Assassin's Creed

While I don’t encounter a lot of direct disagreement on social media, casual, sarcastic, and disparaging messages about religion or Christianity are a daily occurrence. Even more common are the tweets with the well-intentioned messages that reveal the fact that for most of us, God is completely removed from the picture. Believe in your friends. Believe in science. Believe in the goodness of humanity. Believe in yourself. While superficially encouraging, is it truth? Is it where I should be placing my faith? As with the repeated religious messages in games, how many times do I have to see the implication that God is dead before I start accepting it as normal? Again, I’m not offended by any of this, nor am I calling on anyone to change their behavior online or anywhere else. I’m simply wondering out loud if, as a Christian, I’m being responsible with my own time and talents.

A comment that I often hear when asking these types of probing questions about games is that they are no different than other forms of entertainment (I even used this comment above, see how common it is?). I think in some ways this is true. But video games have always felt…kind of different. They are designed to be addictive. While this is also true of television and fiction (leave them wanting to start the next chapter/episode), I don’t think of sports or music or stamp collecting as being specifically designed to “hook you in and keep you playing”. Video games are also designed to be social – multiplayer games specifically. Even single-player games have been made more social in the form of enthusiast websites, forums, and podcasts. The added social pressure to continue playing is sometimes strong enough to keep players coming back long after the game itself has lost its entertainment value. So, no, I don’t think that gaming is exactly like every other hobby in how it relates to my faith. I think it’s inherently more tempting to spend hours upon weeks upon years neglecting more noble pursuits while escaping into the immersive virtual worlds of gaming. Granted, the choice to do so is ultimately mine, which brings us full circle to the title of this post.

And the answer is: I don’t know. But the fact that I’m even asking does concern me.


To All of My Friends… by  Viewminder on Flickr Creative Commons 

Prayer by Ryan Wiedmaier on Flickr Creative Commons 

 

Advertisements

42 thoughts on “Is Gaming Compatible with my Faith?

  1. Steve May 18, 2016 / 8:17 am

    Wow. You’ve described so many thoughts that have been circling my own mind lately. Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Fredelas May 18, 2016 / 8:32 am

    After reading this, I get the impression that you might be worried about “compartmentalizing” your Christian faith when you’re playing games, or when you’re writing and talking about them.

    I want to reassure you–and this is not at all condescending–that after knowing you for several years, I never forget you’re a Christian. It’s not something I see you turning off when you sit down to play or write or talk. From my perspective, it’s an intrinsic part of who you are, not what you happen to be doing at any given moment. And I happen to think you represent it exceptionally well.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Jaedia May 19, 2016 / 1:03 pm

      I agree with this. To me, Braxwolf is a Christian gamer. Those two things are not separate, but a part of him.

      And Brax, I’ve always respected the way you present yourself as a human being. In fact, you’re one of my role models on Twitter for that. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Braxwolf May 22, 2016 / 6:03 pm

        This is very flattering, J – you’re very sweet to say so

        Like

  3. indocron May 18, 2016 / 8:48 am

    You ask a lot of good questions. The main one to ask is: “Is gaming an idol in my life?” From your post it seems like you already know the answer. Get out while you still can, bro.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Talarian May 18, 2016 / 9:12 am

    Interesting post, thank you for writing and sharing it 🙂

    First, I agree with you entirely that anyone who doesn’t think religion plays a large part in gaming is not paying attention. Especially Christianity. Historically, anglo-cultural pieces–books, music, movies–pay homage to and spin ideas from the Bible and the Christian faiths (and subsects). I’ve done enough literature studies to note the sheer amount of influence culturally the Bible and co. have had on all media. Video Games are no exception.

    Secondly, I think we all consume media and interpret it through the lens of our experiences and views. As you mentioned multiple times, your consumption of video games is done through the lens of your faith. It colors your emotions, perceptions, and experiences. Whether that alone is enough to satisfy your relationship with your faith is something only you can answer, but not passively consuming your video games and instead, framing your exploration within them via your views is a good approach regardless of your background, in my humble opinion.

    I’ll be honest, as an agnostic gay man, many religions are actively hostile towards me. My sister telling me calmly that what I do is a sin and I’m going to hell for it, but she loves me anyway, is not a pleasant experience. But at the same time, I can play video games and deconstruct them using my own experiences and sense of self as a touchstone. And doing that–using who and what I am as a basis of my exploration–is precisely why I join the outcry for diversity and better gender representation.

    You’re a Christian, you experience the world around you–including your media–through that lens. I don’t think gaming is necessarily incompatible with that lens; perhaps you just need to ask for more positive representation and thought in gaming, so that you don’t need to necessarily feel uncomfortable with how gaming fits with your life. Maybe there should be more games that positively explore and represent your religion.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Braxwolf May 18, 2016 / 10:19 pm

      Thanks, Joey. I always value your thoughts and appreciate that you took the time to read my post. I know I’ve done something right when I’m eliciting comments from the smart guys 🙂

      Like

  5. Chrissy The Blesser May 18, 2016 / 9:32 am

    Really well thought out and beyond well written. You really hit many of the things I struggle with. As a shut in, gaming is my one way to stay connected with a community and my last way to feel productive as I help and bless others in any way I can. All that know me and my gaming persona know I am a Christian and every word I type or gaming action I do, I know it reflects who I am and what I am. I have to be careful, it is ridiculously easy to fall into the wrong type of humor and I try to avoid that or to remember not to rage at the furstunkin lag lol. I know I am doing something right when someone rages about something and without my saying a word, they say “Oh sorry Chrissy”. They KNOW who I serve and I try to make my actions reflect that. I am not perfect, I slip and fall but I always apologize and continue on with the fun and this creative way to let my faith and what it has made me shine.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. wolfyseyes May 18, 2016 / 9:39 am

    For what little my opinion is worth as a gay dood who follows an alternative spiritual path, I find you being Christian as just a part of you instead of being the only thing or primary thing that defines you. It seems to me like you’ve integrated being Christian as part of your everyday.

    Of course, this doesn’t answer the point of whether you think you’re practicing or living the faith in its fullest. In my personal experience, I haven’t totally lived my spiritual life either, but I try to find comfort in the fact that I believe. If nothing else, I hope that helps.

    Also, hugs.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Braxwolf May 18, 2016 / 10:21 pm

      You’re always good for a hug, wolfy! Thanks for stopping by. Your opinion always matters.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Syp May 18, 2016 / 10:24 am

    In my experience, if you’re not asking these questions and evaluating your life every so often, then you’ve probably fallen into a deep rut that’s full of the problems that you fear. In other words, if you’re aware of and concerned about your priorities and your integration of faith into your life… good! God should keep us a little uncomfortable at all times so that we don’t get lulled into false security. We should be vigilant that we aren’t putting games above all else, or that we’re compartmentalizing, or that we are somehow ashamed of our faith.

    Personally, I believe that the most important ministry is done through relationships, and whether or not I’m spouting Bible verses to the masses, I want people to know I love them. That they have worth in my eyes because they are the image-bearers of the God I worship. I want people to get to know me so that they can see that my faith isn’t a hypocritical layer on top of unrepentant wickedness, but is something that hopefully flows through all aspects of my life.

    And when it comes to online, whether it be blogging, tweeting, or gaming, these relationships are everywhere and are best served at the interpersonal level rather than getting up on a soapbox and preaching to a crowd that may not want to hear forward evangelical messages.

    We can’t let games be our master, I agree, and the best step to keep that from happening is to do these sorts of evaluations and look critically at how we game, how often we game, what we put aside for gaming, and how gaming affects us. As with any hobby, there’s a line that can be different depending on your convictions and personality, but it’s always there.

    Great post. Props for putting it out there!

    Liked by 9 people

    • Braxwolf May 18, 2016 / 10:31 pm

      Y’know, Syp – I got an email from a friend (who read this but is supposed to be taking an internet break so he didn’t comment here *cough* DJPimpdaddy *cough*) that made me realize how ironically self-centered my post is. Like you said, it’s good to continue to evaluate our relationship with God, but I completely missed the fact that my presence in/around games might be a blessing to others. I really do hope this is the case. I need to consider not just my relationship with God, but my relationship with other gamers and community members.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      Liked by 3 people

  8. Isey May 18, 2016 / 10:31 am

    I appreciate this post – it was articulate, honest, and helps people to understand who you are. That can take courage to do.

    To quote an old movie regarding religion and churches – “It fascinates me how a single place can join so much pain and happiness” (Before Sunrise – 1995).

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Chestnut May 18, 2016 / 11:23 am

    Thank you for such a thoughtful and well-written post about a topic that many people are too scared to touch for many of the reasons you hinted at–especially the fact that the militant-Christian seems to be the stereotype that most people think of when they hear the word.

    I grew up Roman Catholic, very devout and spiritual, but as I grew in life, I realized my views of the world and myself didn’t line up with that of the church. My own views are negligent to this discussion overall, but I can empathize where you’re coming from. One of the reasons I started fading away from Catholocism is the views many of my church friends had on my hobbies–and I was told that there was no way to balance them with my faith, and devotion to God.

    As an adult, I realize that they were obviously wrong. And while I don’t think I’ll ever fully go back to being a Catholic, I do think it colors how I see religion in gaming to a degree.

    I agree with you that people making games skirt around how the vast majority of Christians celebrate and practice their faith–they twist it (not always in a bad or malicious way, mind), or revert back to stereotypes. However, I’ve found that any form of religion has been treated much the same. Not that this takes away from Christianity being “demonized” as a whole, but I think this is a larger issue that gaming companies need to take a good, hard, long look at.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Braxwolf May 18, 2016 / 10:40 pm

      I think religions carry around a big target, partially self-inflicted. However, I also think it’s become cool to hate on organized religion, and many of the shapers of future generations of thinkers (higher education) have outright rejected all religion and are teaching our children that they are intellectually inferior to lean on the crutch called faith. This is how you change culture, through education. Not by military force or by passing laws.

      Luckily, God is unchanging in the sifting sands of cultural shift.

      BTW, there are lots of other Christian denominations out there besides Catholicism. Just sayin’ 🙂

      Like

  10. Roger Edwards (@ModeratePeril) May 18, 2016 / 12:03 pm

    Gaming is one of many shared environments that can be potentially “difficult” for Christians and people of other faiths. There are many facets of gaming culture that are unedifying and problematic. However your introspective post shows that you are aware of the pitfalls and whether or not gaming per se is harming your relationship with God.

    I’ve been a member of several church communities over the years and have often seen families wrestle with those aspects of their life that take place in shared environments, such as work. Christian parents are often concerned about their children’s experiences outside of the church and home. However from my perspective those who have fared the best have been those that have embraced these situations as an opportunity to engage with the non-Christian world.

    Gaming is therefore another challenging “space” that Christians should embrace; a shared social environment where different people can interact and hopefully overcome prejudice and stereotypes. Sometimes living by your faith and simply going about your day to day life is the best way to evangelise. Deeds can speak louder than words.

    Gaming culture improves when more people participate. The broader it becomes, the better it gets in my view. Of course there are those who balk at such an idea and resist it. So in some respects it’s important that those of faith stand their ground. I appreciate that such a stance can be challenging but that’s the nature of faith.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Pasduil May 18, 2016 / 12:19 pm

    This post is deserving of a thoughtful and detailed response, but in an appropriately meta way I have to decide whether to spend my time on writing one, or instead get on with other things that I planned to do today that may or may not be more important.

    For now I’ll just jot down some quick thoughts…

    Firstly I doubt there’s anyone that does not know that you’re a Christian and that it’s important to you. In fact people have a pretty good idea what you’re all about, for example that you are the kind of Christian that endeavors to treat all people with respect.

    Secondly, you might want to ponder the question: “Does God want people to have fun?” When you put it like that, it sounds stupid and rhetorical, but there are plenty of strands in Christianity and other religions that act like fun is unimportant or even actually bad.

    Thirdly, it’s worth examining what is and is not a noble pursuit. In the darkest days of my life, there were comic writers who made me laugh uproariously who were lifesavers. Thankfully those days were long ago, but if they were now, there are podcasts in our community that would fit the bill even better. Hilarity, fun and friendship are not to be underestimated.

    As far as I can see, your contribution to the gaming community fulfills you and is a worthy contribution to the world. Not only that, I’d imagine that the way you conduct yourself leads people in the community to regards Christians and Christianity with more esteem and more interest than if they didn’t know you.

    So it looks to me as if you might be pretty much where you should be, with perhaps the only tweak required that you needn’t censor yourself so much.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Braxwolf May 18, 2016 / 10:44 pm

      Thank you – this is very encouraging!

      Like

  12. Belghast May 18, 2016 / 1:46 pm

    Firstly I want to thank you for this post. It is awesome to see someone talking about something like this in gaming context. That said… I am not a religious person at all, but at the same time I feel zero compulsion to somehow make you into less of one. We need different viewpoints in our community, and I think that it ultimately makes us stronger as a result. I was raise Roman Catholic and like many in my generation who share the same lineage I ultimately rebelled against everything in the faith.

    My wife however was raised Southern Baptist and after years of not attending church has recently found a congregation that she loves. We have a really interesting relationship, because I fully support her decision to find a church even though I have zero interest in attending. I’ve donated happily to the church and have started to develop a good relationship with her minister, and I am extremely thankful that no one has attempted to put the hard sell on me either.

    I grew up with a priest that would probably be considered heretical by any other scope. However he told me it was okay to question things, and to follow what I felt deep down inside was right. As a result I have studied so many different religions never really finding one that felt “right”. I would like to think I am a faithful person, just not one that ascribes to any one religion. The truth is after studying so many, they all follow so many of the same basic tenets. Which makes me all the more disappointed that so many people still manage to kill others in the name of those said faiths. Especially when I grew up in a small town that didn’t have individual church Bible School but one giant interfaith alliance one.

    Anyways as a result of my complex weave of thoughts and beliefs… Religion is also a subject that I avoid like the plague because I know for certain that very few folks here in the bible belt feel the way I do… or even worse would even understand what I am talking about. In fact this is probably the first time I have ever written about anything to do with faith… and it isn’t even on my own blog. Basically I applaud your courage to touch on a subject that is honestly frightening, because you never know what brush said words will end up painting you with.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Braxwolf May 18, 2016 / 10:46 pm

      Thanks, Bel. I’m always fascinated to learn how people ended up where they are, faith-wise. Even if I don’t agree 100%!

      Like

  13. Mechy McMechface (@mechakisc) May 18, 2016 / 7:01 pm

    Hey first time reader, fellow Christian, maybe a little older than you, definitely have wrestled these questions too.

    Someone once told me “be in the world but not of it”. It seems to be an old quote, maybe even from a passage of scripture that I can’t recall correctly. Anyway, that’s a big part of how I try to define what I do with my life. Video games are not inherently bad, like mostly everything else. I’ve always felt like how I include them in my life, what role they serve, and how I interact with other people – in game and out of game – as a result of my gaming, is the bigger issue.

    I have also speculated that asking the question isn’t a red flag. Asking the question is what you should do about everything one includes in their lives. HOWEVER, asking the question may also indicate that there’s something you are doing wrong that your subconscious mind (or the spirit of the lord?) is trying to point out. This might be as simple as spending too much time on the game and not enough playing catch with the boy, or it might mean, I don’t know, one is flirting too much with one of the mages, which for a married person could lead to a dark place. Examine your concerns, maybe try changing up your habits and schedule.

    I really don’t think gaming is inherently a bad thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Braxwolf May 18, 2016 / 10:53 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. And you’re right, that quote is from scripture 🙂

      Since you’re new here, I’ll fill you in quickly. I am married with four kids, two of them teenagers, and between my work life and my family life, there’s precious little time left to divide up between other activities I’m interested in. So, prioritization is probably the main thing I struggle with, less than my behavior online. This isn’t the first time I’ve pondered that subject, just the first time I’ve done so with a “twist of faith”

      Like

  14. C. T. Murphy May 18, 2016 / 8:47 pm

    “I don’t mean to say that Izzy and Murf were planning to ambush me – in fact I’ve found them both to be very gracious and respectful human beings.”

    That’s fair. With atheists, you never know what kind you will get. Same with anyone with a particularly religious lean in their step. I’d be nervous as hell if you and Ironweakness wanted me on to talk religion. “Jesus Christ, I dunno if I can talk about Jesus Christ for an hour.”

    But I totally can. I tell people I am an atheist because I ENJOY the label. It keeps me from having to talk about what church I do or do not go to. What god I do or not believe in. From having to pretend about something deeply person.

    I am far more spiritually-inclined than you might think though. I grew up surrounded by Christians, and not a single one of them turned me off from the religion. I wasn’t touched by a Priest. I wasn’t threatened with hell-fire by a minister. I wasn’t denied any pleasure because of someone’s love of God. It just never answered the questions I had and it did not placate the worries that bothered me.

    I was still lost though. Still wandering. That’s why I have a Philosophy degree. I spent all of my money, not on an education, but on spiritual and metaphysical therapy. I studied ethics and morality. I studied God. I especially studied religion.

    In truth, I love all religions. Damn things fascinate me. It is all myth, but that does not remove their power. I think it started because of video games. Final Fantasy led me to Greek mythology, which led me to Norse and Aztec. From there I learned that every culture and religion has an extended universe in the form of myths. Even the Christian faith, whether you settle on the Bible as we know it, or expand to the apocrypha, is rich with so many stories and legends.

    Your mileage may vary from what you can draw from these stories, but with the right state of mind, you’d walk enough miles to wear you feet away to the shins in any one of them, let alone ALL of them.

    In that sense, YOUR religion interests me too. Not Christianity broadly, but your specific interpretation of it. “Why do you think this?” and “This affects you how?” Questions like that fascinate me. Not only are you different from me, but you have the convictions to show for it. You also have the guilt associated with it, which is a shame, but understandable.

    I have two close friends from high school. There as deep into the Christian faith as you can get without being a stereotypical, as seen on TV, bad kind of evangelical. They uprooted their family to move to an area of the country they thought they could better serve by founding a church with some similarly devout friends. I couldn’t be more proud. As insane as it sounded to me, I knew when they told me they were moving how deeply they felt the urge to do so. I even had a chance to go to their church when I visited them (it was in a rarely used movie theater in a mall on the seedy side of a town in North Carolina).

    I didn’t participate but I sure as hell observed. Definitely a group of Christians that I wouldn’t mind seeing again.

    It’s probably also important to note that, despite their convictions and my own, they still chose me to be the best man at their wedding. It even took place in a beautiful church and I was not struck down for not bending the neck at prayer time.

    It can be scary putting your faith on over the clothes you wear. It may lead to some troublesome encounters. It may also lead you to some interesting ones. I respect your point of view and I appreciate what you have shared today. I can only imagine the struggle of reconciling your relationship to God with a relationship to gaming. I have something similar in how much time I put toward experience frivolous entertainments when I should be busting my ass, digging my way out of debt, and creating a real career for myself.

    But god damn it, life isn’t so simple. God wouldn’t put so much in front of us if he did not wish us to experience it. Or would he? Whether it is all a trial or a triumph, well that depends on your point of view. I imagine it is both. If we only exist to lose ourselves in entertainment, then we might as well blink ourselves out of existence. We serve no one in that case: not ourselves, not our family, not our friends, and not any higher being.

    If we wake up from our dreams from time to time though, then we may be able to do something important, something powerful. To me, entertainment – video games especially – are a great glue that brings us closer together, despite our differences. You and I can argue until we are blue in the face about graphics cards. We can build a relationship where otherwise we may lack a common foundation to erect it on.

    Sometimes those arguments push us further apart, but reasonable people can have reasonable conversations, whether they disagree or not.

    If we do manage to construct a shared identity, then what else might we be able to achieve? World peace? End hunger? Maybe not. We can respect one another as fellow human beings though, which includes the things that may push us apart from one even when they define us individually.

    In other words, you walk your path and I will walk mine, and I promise WHEN the two paths meet, I will wave at you and smile and we will both be better for it.

    What this long-winded rant accomplishes or says, I really am not sure. I do apologize for a few choice phrases I intentionally used to poke some friendly fun at you. I hope you don’t mind too much.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Braxwolf May 18, 2016 / 11:06 pm

      I think we know each other well enough to poke fun back and forth. And I did notice that you capitalized God. See? respectful!

      I knew when I wrote that section referencing atheism that I was stepping right into the same territory of stereotyping that I’d bemoaned just paragraphs earlier. I just hoped nobody would notice!:) So, I officially apologize for that. It was presumptuous of me to insinuate that everybody approaches atheism from the same angle and for similar reasons. Of course this isn’t true.

      Really enjoyed your comment, Murf. I’m glad we can both hold on to our principles but still have a laugh about some little thing or other. It makes life so much more enjoyable!

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Doone May 18, 2016 / 11:32 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    I’ve never been religious. My experiences have been somewhat similar to Murf’s: religion never seemed to have any answers to problems or questions I had, nor comfort in the teachings — but it’s offered plenty of other valuable things that don’t require validation. They are good on their own merits and those things tend to focus on community building.

    The only experiences I’ve had with synagogues and cathedrals is fellowship type events. You know the kind: there’s a church in the neighborhood and they’re giving away food or having some community festival. I think that’s precisely the place for religion in our society. Community building and fellowship.

    I’ve never written or really thought much about traditional religion in games, though which is really fascinating to learn about myself 🙂 It’s not for not seeing it in games. But I think it does say something about the value of religion as a topic for me. Or perhaps, more fairly, my lack of interest says too little about the ways I might value religious contributions to society.

    I suspect there will be more conversation about this topic. There will be from me! One of these days 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Iogro Merrybelly May 19, 2016 / 11:13 am

    Brax, this was a wonderful post, as one it really shows your heart towards people, community, family and life! I’ve mulled around on these same thoughts before, and honestly if we aren’t asking ourselves these questions and making sure our priorities are in the right spot, it’s easy to let gaming / hobbies take over.

    My wife and I have been in ministry together now for almost 14 years and we’ve always found the most important “Ministry” is through relationships. This may be as simple as a cup of coffee with a friend, or a stranger you’ve just met to talk about life, but whatever the situation we want people to know we love them. Both my wife and I are big bloggers, writers, and gamers and at the heart of all this, really it comes down to relationships.

    Brax you have always been great at communicating, encouraging, and building others up and this post again just goes to show how big of a heart you really have sir!

    Great post, and really glad you dropped this our here!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Mr. Panda May 19, 2016 / 12:01 pm

    Great post! The struggle to balance gaming and faith is so difficult. We live in a world where we won’t always have free time, and it’s hard to put the disciplines of studying the word and praying over pure gaming. I want to make faith more of a part of my life regardless of what I’m doing which includes gaming and working, but it’s definitely hard as an adult in the year 2016. Thank you for your encouraging post and for sharing your story though. I appreciate when gamers can speak openly about their faiths and support others who may be struggling.

    Like

  18. Sandrian May 19, 2016 / 1:00 pm

    Hey Brax,

    First time reader here, stumbled here via mutual Twitter friends and very interested in reading this particular post.
    Although I am not a religious person myself, I see myself as an agnost, I can understand how faith colours your world and who you are as a person. Being a Christian is who you are, it may not be your defining feature, but it’s there.

    Although I attended a Christian school from a very early age (Protestant, which is more or less the majority here in the Netherlands) I have not been raised as a religious person. My parents weren’t religious either and more or less let me figure stuff out on my own. I can personally admire people who have a strong connection and devotion to God and I sometimes can feel a bit jealous of people that have their faith to pull them through the good times and the bad.
    I will never speak ill of religion, I think it’s a very helpful thing and in it’s core meant to soothe and help and guide people. I don’t necessarily agree with everything written or spoken though, but that’s probably also the reason I’m not religious myself 🙂

    As for the struggle you describe. I can see how having a time consuming hobby can take away not only from your family life but also from your devotion to God. I do believe however that for religious people God is in everything and aslong as you are a positive person and try to lead a positive life He will not judge on whether or not you conduct a lot of bible study or prayers.
    So to answer the question from my perspective: Is gaming compatible with my faith? I’d say yes. It may take some planning and time and stepping away from things every now and then, but I don’t see how gaming and faith are mutually exclusive.

    I’m sure the opinion of a random person on the internet isn’t the most valued one, but I felt the need to comment and commend you on your well written post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Braxwolf May 19, 2016 / 1:04 pm

      Really love hearing from first time readers – thanks for taking time out of your day to send me your thoughts!

      Like

  19. Ocho May 19, 2016 / 1:39 pm

    You are absolutely right that there are a metric ton of games that negatively use religion. It seems like it’s because the writers are being a little lazy. If they need a group of bad guys, want them all to have the same self-serving motivations, and have them all be driven so zealously that they would sacrifice themselves to their cause, it’s hard to picture anything *but* a religious reason. It’s because religion is so strong an urge and motivator that it’s used as often as it is.

    And oddly, the only real example I can think of a game that represents religion in a more positive light is the Ultima series. The whole point of Ultima 4 is about the protagonist becoming a sort of spiritual leader to the people by representing the embodiment of virtue. 5 is about how, in an extremist way, those same positive virtues can be taken to extreme and used for evil. 6 is about how there may be others with different virtues, but just because they’re different, that doesn’t mean they’re the enemy. They didn’t have an all-powerful all-knowing figure as the focus, but I still think they represent positive religious morality well.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. tyrannodorkus May 20, 2016 / 12:02 am

    Finally, got to this read. You made a big stir today, sir. I won’t use up a lot of your time, it looks a lot of good stuff was said and commented here, so I’ll just give you a hand shake and pat on the back. Hope you got what you needed from this post.

    Ironweakness receded from this genre for the time being, and it’s poorer now without his views and influence.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Jenny (@AraeElimraen) May 27, 2016 / 8:22 am

    Thanks for writing this. Brax. You ask important questions!

    I don’t hide that I’m a Christian, but I don’t talk about it much online either. I wouldn’t be surprised if people knew, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t. I completely agree about the ‘broad brush stroke’ thing, and I find it super depressing, but I am not sure how best to address it online. Online is generally a bad place for helpful discussion. I’d hope that people will see who I am, on Twitter and elsewhere, and that my faith would be there alongside everything else they see. None of us are one-dimensional 🙂

    (Ah look, Syp said it much better: ‘Personally, I believe that the most important ministry is done through relationships, and whether or not I’m spouting Bible verses to the masses, I want people to know I love them. That they have worth in my eyes because they are the image-bearers of the God I worship. I want people to get to know me so that they can see that my faith isn’t a hypocritical layer on top of unrepentant wickedness, but is something that hopefully flows through all aspects of my life.’)

    For the question in the title, I *think* that’s an easy ‘yes’, though I’ve appreciated having to think through the points you make! Gaming and other hobbies are what you make of them, really. Because, technically, you do have control over enough elements – like who you play with, how much time you spend on it, what kinds of games you play. Maybe it’s the sort of people these games so often attract that can be the cause of problems there – I mean the addictive-personality sorts, of which I am one, probably unsurprisingly. When it gets turned around and the thing gets control over you instead, that’s definitely a danger sign, and that’s when we should pull ourselves back and assess stuff. (Though that’s easier said than done. And I didn’t realise that games were specifically designed to be addictive. Welp, good job, those people.)

    As to the content of the games – you know I only really play LotRO, along with a bit of Skyrim on the side. There’s religion of a sort in both of those universes for sure. Not that any of the quests particularly revolve around that side of things in LotRO. I’ve been realising lately, especially in church, that a message has to engage my imagination for it to go to my heart from my head. So ingame, the stories, plots or quest arcs around the ideas of redemption, forgiveness, reconciliation, heroism, self-sacrifice and fighting for good in the midst of overwhelming odds, etc, are the ones that give me that heart-soaring feeling because, I believe, those are the ones that are meant to 🙂 I was made for these sorts of stories, and they are everywhere in Tolkien of course! Other games are not as ‘you’re the hero who never does anything wrong and of course you’re fighting on the side of good and never make bad choices’ as LotRO is, I know. There are games I’ve looked at and decided against buying because of some iffy content or other. I imagine very many games out there would be unhelpful for a myriad of reasons.

    Obviously this is a different issue than whether or not gaming is an idol for any one of us. I’ve known for years that I do have one of those addictive personalities – various TV shows, book series, franchises and games have all thoroughly taken over my imagination and attention at different times while I was growing up. And along with that, there was always this vague sense of guilt over how much time I was spending reading, watching, playing, researching or even just thinking about whatever it was. I’ve always loved getting lost in these worlds – I feel like it partly makes me who I am. In Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods book he talks about idols being linked with our identity. I found that a really interesting idea and I need to think through what it means for my identity now as a ‘gamer’ or whatever else.

    I’ve said it before, but I love our online community. It’s added to my life a lot. And yes, you’re such a blessing to many and I’m glad we’re family! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Chris May 29, 2016 / 11:31 pm

    I sat down and read this after we talked. You did a wonderful job of raising questions and explaining the complex relationship many of us have with games and gaming as a hobby. Look at these responses and pingbacks. You’ve started a conversation in the blogging world, and one with Christ at the center of it, even with those who don’t share our Christian faith.

    For me, gaming has become a stress reliever and a way for me to enjoy interactive stories; it is honestly more escapist than it has ever been, which demands reflection. Like you, I have questioned whether this is healthy and how much time I am spending on engaged in self rather than with my family or doing something as simple as spending some time in scripture. I have also questioned the content of what I’m playing and the impact that has on my spiritual welfare; if eyes are windows to the world, I should be conscious of what I’m allowing in. I think these are concerns many of us have as God calls us into different seasons of life and they are questions we should all be asking.

    The conclusion I have come to is that my priority system must always be God, Family, and Everything Else, in that order. Gaming, and every other hobby, will always be the thing that gets cut down to make sure I’m honoring the sacrifice that was made to give me the life I have and the absolute blessing to be a husband and father today. I do not often share this, but four years ago, I was certain that my life was over. I was so ravaged with alcohol and substance abuse that I got to me knees and begged the Lord to save me from myself. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if God didn’t come down and save me, take the reigns from my life, that I would be dead or in jail or, worse, neither. God met me there where I was at, and it was the beginning of something incredible, leading up to my first real experience I consider my “born again” moment.

    Since then, I pray every morning to let go of my will and stay in that position of surrender; that even when I can’t see it in the moment, that His path for me is always better than my own. How that relates to my gaming life is simply this: God wants me to be free and healthy, but also to use discretion, and if he isn’t first in my heart, then there is a problem. I’ve found that the small voice inside of me is really Him pointing me in the right direction. If that voice says, “hey, you might want to look at the time you’re spending here,” then I do (and usually talk with my wife about it also as a partner in life and faith).

    Those little bits of stress relief are valuable, as are the relationships we build online, and as I think is clear from the comments here, can help to plant good seeds for what a follower of Christ actually is. But gaming, like all things, can be taken to an unhealthy place. We just have to be aware of where we’re actually at, what our reasons are, and make sure that no matter what else, he is at the forefront of our heart so we don’t become negligent of the things that matter most.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Braxwolf May 30, 2016 / 9:56 am

      You have an amazing story. Thanks for the inspiration!

      Like

  23. edwardurbano October 15, 2016 / 10:33 pm

    Gaming is not bad as long as you do not put games before God. Its the same as money. It is bad if you put money first. Games are for recreation. Nothing more nothing less.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s