I blame my husband. I played video games, but they mainly consisted of Mario and Tetris. It wasn’t until we moved to Dallas, Texas, and my husband Dan began attending Dallas Theological Seminary that I first had my taste of the gaming world.
One day, as he was taking a break from homework, I looked over his shoulder to find him playing Age of Mythology, an RTS (Real Time Strategy) computer game. I was intrigued. I started asking him questions. We traded spots, and he started showing me what each unit was and what the main goal was in the game. A couple days later, we linked our computers and became a gaming couple.
At first we started with RTS games. I would gather supplies and he would lead our armies. Then we worked up to some light shooter games like Star Wars Battleground. I usually would play the role of sniper and would cover Dan as he would run into hostile situations.
Eventually we made our way to MMORPGs (Massive multiplayer online role-playing games) and single player games on consoles like the Wii and Xbox. But our favorite games are those we can play together.
Early on in my gaming, I came to realize there needed to be boundaries in what I played. You can do almost anything in the gaming world (maybe everything). And a lot of it is stuff that has no place in my life. That conviction was reinforced when I read an article written by a Christian gamer. The main point he made in the article was never do anything in a game you would not do in real life.
Those are words I live by now in my own gaming. For example, one of my favorite games is the Elder Scrolls series (Oblivion and Skyrim are two of the titles). In those games, you can join the Thieves Guild and the Assassins Guild. Because of my convictions, I chose not to join either guild and therefore did not play those particular parts of the game. Why? I would not steal in real life, therefore I will not steal in a game. I would not choose to murder someone in real life, so I won’t in a game.
Now you might be pointing out that most games consist of killing. Yes and no. It depends on the role you are playing in the game. Are you a soldier? In a war? Well, in that case, there will be some death involved. But I never will be an assassin, killing innocents for money.
I have also made the choice not to play overly gory games. I don’t need to see that kind of stuff on the screen. I’m thankful that there are now options in the settings to remove the gore out of most games.
Another area I place boundaries around is the romantic storyline in a game. I choose not to follow amorous relationships to the bedroom (yes, you can now do that in games and watch the cut scenes). No thank you.
So with all the potential pitfalls and dark elements in the gaming world, why do I still play? After all, wouldn’t it be safer to just not play at all? Sure it would. And I know a lot of Christians who choose not to play video games. But for me, I like playing video games because I like adventure, I like the unique stories, and I like being the hero (or in my case, heroine ). It is also something my husband and I can do together and enjoy. And I like meeting other people.
The gaming world is a place full of real people with spouses and kids. It is also filled with people who have lost their jobs, struggling with suicide and looking for hope. In a time and age where front porches have disappeared and meeting people outside our own small circles becomes harder, games have become the new meeting place.
I have met people from all over the world and in every walk of life. I have been able to share my faith, encourage those going through hard times, and make new friends. I have been a part of both Christian guilds and regular guilds. The people on the screen are just as real as the ones you meet on the street.
But aren’t there dangerous people in the virtual world? Yes, there are stalkers and weirdoes and unsavory characters. Navigating through the gaming world requires good judgment and using your common sense. But as one person once pointed out to me, the gaming world is probably one of the least reached spheres of people. It is a dark place in need of light. Trust me, when you play with kindness and integrity, you tend to stand out, much like a candle does in a dark room. This uniqueness leads to opportunities to share the why behind your play style.
Christians and the gaming world do not need to be at odds with each other. Games can be a place to recharge the imagination, come together as a couple or a family, and meet people beyond your physical sphere of influence. And they can be fun too!
*I originally posted this article at speculativefaith.com.