Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Help Needed

Alright, I am going to see if I can put social networking to use for me. You are here because someone shared the link with you, and if you got the link, then I think you can help me. I am in need of opinions about Christianity and violent video games. I am looking for the responses of people who

1. Self identify themselves as a Christian

2. Play Violent Video Games

If that is you, then please consider answering the following questions in the comment section, please note that by answering questions you are giving me permission to possibly quote you in my masters thesis.

1. Do violent acts in video games bother you spiritually? If so, how? If not, why do you think they don't?

2. How do you reconcile the violent acts in the games you play with the nonviolence emphasis that exist in Christianity?

3. Do you consider it hypocritical where you virtually engage in killing, but proclaim belief in the ten commandments which declares "thou shall not kill."? If you do not consider it hypocritical why?

4. Are there any violent video games that you will not play because you find them offensive? How do you decide which violent games are acceptable and which are not?

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Playing violent video games does bother me spiritually on several different levels. And yet, I do play occasionally and live with two males who play often.

First, the primary idea of killing is wrong. I do not believe in war. Some days the constant sounds of weapons and physical reactions becomes painful.

Second, the primary idea of killing for killing sake is disturbing, ie making checkpoints in the game based on the number of kills. Their is a complete dehumanization at this point.

Third, it bothers me that it some ways it seems "acceptable" to kill something if it doesn't look human, ie in "Halo" series, sometimes the bad guy doesn't look like you - they're aliens. The game sets up an "us" v. "them" situation which isn't Christian.

On another level, I have listened to some conversation during gamers online, and often there is a large amount of cursing that takes place, generally amongst teens. There are also several games with language issues. I have not purchased games because of that issue. I don't find it useful to the game itself.

Some games have so much "realistic" violence that I will not purchase the game for my son. Games such as "Halo" to me are not as such realistic - it takes place in a world which doesn't exist, in a situation that doesn't exist, mostly with weapons which aren't available, or don't exist. The games such as "Grand Theft Auto" are reprehensible. It glorifies behavior which is criminal and readily acted.

When my son was young, about 3 years old, I stopped him from watching "Power Rangers" because he would act out the scenes. Yet when he watched "Pokemon" and witnessed the same violence in animation - not real life characters in Power Rangers - he would not act out the same violence. There was a disconnect for him somewhere. I'm not sure that's the same for all children, but for him, it seems the less like real life for him, the less he is affected.

How does gaming affect me spiritually? I don't think it helps me grow spiritually, except that I question the worth of it every time I play.

Would using violent video games as a tool to reach youth at church be valid? I think so. I think there are enough questions that can be asked about spirituality that playing games together could be valid. It might also be a good way to teach healthy game playing, ie how much time is acceptable to play v. school work, home, church. Youth need guidance in this area besides parents who might be ambivalent or uninformed.

4:04 AM  
Blogger Shaun said...

1. Violent acts in video games does not bother me as a Christian any more than reading about the violent acts in God's Word. The way God's chosen (with help from God) invaded and slaughtered entire populations of people following orders from God. There is a great deal of violence in the book that us Christians are supposed to be learning from.

2. We are to Love each other and pray for out enemy's. However, if our enemy's are for example invading our planet from another world such as Halo or Gears of War. Then I believe it is perfectly acceptable to defend our planet. The fantasy that comes with fighting against the enemy to be the hero in the game is no different (to me) than King David (a hero).

3. I think I may have answered this question already.

4. I won't play any games that involves a satanic nature or seems to try to take advantage of our youths open minded nature to seek out themselves and search for the meaning of life through a dark or black magic. Especially when it is clear they are sacrificing their soul to gain powers.

I'm not sure if my opinions are worth a hill of beans. But since you asked. There you go.

Shaun Sallee
a.k.a. Kentucky Dawg

7:56 AM  
Blogger Z said...

1 - It's interesting to ask if video game violence is bothersome in the spiritual sense... worded as such I would think that any recoil I have would be thought out, reasoned, rationalized, or at least voluntary. Instead, I think there's a threshold and those games that bother me trigger an involuntary spiritual gag reflex. The threshold is grey and fuzzy undoubtedly due to the fact that we were raised on unrealistic violence like Double Dragon and Contra, and slow-boiled like frogs in a pot up to realistic games like Call of Duty, or more immoral games like GTA.

So to answer the first question: sometimes. I find that most game violence does not bother me, and the gag reflex is relegated only to the games based on wholly immoral behavior, like GTA. It's easy enough in most other games to separate the game environment from reality, even those that are graphically 'realistic' like the newer war-based first person shooters.

2 - Reconciliation works mostly by separating reality from the game. It's like sitting in a theater and suspending your disbelief for the environment created on screen in order to enjoy a highly improbably plot, which is true of all genres, from action (violent) films on through to romantic comedies. Enough elements resonate with you to identify with or learn from the story, but it's hypothetical, allegorical.

Ignore the separation of reality from simulated environment, and you see that violence measured by Christian values alone isn't wholly illuminating. While Jesus' principles are centered on non-violence, a lot of Christian history and even Biblical allegory sits on a solid foundation of violent acts.

Biblical historians rationalize that life was a lot harder in the old testament and survival was not taken for granted as it is today. Survival was more animalian - eat or be eaten. Maybe that's why gaming violence isn't so bothersome - survival is inevitable for both the onscreen character (who gets another try) and the player (in no real physical harm, barring neglected hygiene or fitness for the sake of gaming).

But I guess the real issue is not the damage of physical violence, but the social/psychological/spiritual effects. Socially speaking, and in difference with your first commenter, the Bible is very much an 'us' versus 'them' environment in light of the constant division of believers and non-believers. So the competitive pairing of two entities against each other (social/psychological) to establish dominance (animalian survival/physical violence) isn't much of a Christian impasse. If it was, then we wouldn't condone athletics of any kind while trying to be "Christ-like."

The only issue that remains is whether spiritual damage is done, and more succinctly, if it IS whether video game violence provides a greater rate of erosion than any other form of entertainment. If so, then resisting it is as good as trying to hold back the tide. Would ours be a compassionate God if his design of Christian duty was to stem the inevitable tide? Perhaps. Or perhaps the design is just for us to ponder these things.

3 - Virtual killing is not really killing. The directive may not be as far removed as wrestling a ball to the end of a field, but in the end it is a redirection of our instinctive animal energy, it is sport, and it is entertainment.

4 - As mentioned above, there are games that trigger a spiritual gag reflex. For me it's an issue of moral compass which is relative and based on context. Collateral damage incurred while hijacking a vehicle seems justifiable if the collateral damage is a zombie nazi, but not so justifiable when it's an innocent bystander. Grand Theft Auto is one offender that comes to mind as the environment and directives are based on glorified societal sewage. I see no point or good to glorifying the worst of our society. It is a decisive and intentional step way over the fuzzy boundary, past the grey area and into the cess pit of the unacceptable. While it too is virtual, the necessary separation from reality isn't enough by my standards. Which is to say the issue is still relative.

-'Zaedrus'

8:24 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

1. It depends on the act and why you are doing it. (ie kill to survive) What makes video games different from movies is that you are the one causing the violence to unfold by pressing buttons, vs watching someone else do it, such as in a movie. Often times, if you are playing evil characters, there is a point of reconsiliation where your character renounces what they have done. In a spiritual sense, the experience of right vs wrong can be stronger for the player because they played an active roll in the earler violence.

2. First of all, I don't agree with the statement. Violent acts are sometimes viewed as rightiousness in the bible, (ie Christs scurging of the temple) Christ never killed, however killing in war is not condemed in the bible either. As earlier posters stated, games where the only point to the killing is to kill is disturbing. If however, you are killing an evil for the greater good, then I see no problem with this in a video game.

3. As real as video games are getting, they are not the real thing. In a spiritual sense, you have to be carefull about hardening yourself to violence, and those that have trouble seperating reality from a vertual world should avoid such games. When it comes down to it, your vertual acts are simply combining different inputs into a computer system that then analizes the data and spits back the results based on mathmatical formulas placed there by the game designers. You are not damaging a temple of God to the point that a unique human spirit can no longer dwell in that body. The real thing is much much differnt on every level.

4. Of the video games that I play, I have only run into one series that I will not play. That is Grand Theft Auto. My understanding of the point of this game is to kill, steal, and distroy. I do not play this game because I don't see the point, nor does there seem to be any level of reconsiliation for those actions. In other words, a video game is just another way to tell a story. Some stories are offensive and some are not. The same can be said about violent movies. So when I play a violent game, I ask myself how and why. How am I killing and why am I doing it. If it lends itself to a great story, then I'll play it. If its simply violence for violence sake and has no redeming quality, then I do not.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Trevor said...

1. Violent video games don't affect me spiritually as would seeing a real body lying in the street would. I see video games as a fictional story that probably is never going to happen. Eventually, I just learned to block each headshot or killing spree I got out of my head.

2. Two words: I don't.

3. Like I said in question 1, video games are virtual reality. They're probably never going to happen. But games that present a realistic situation, say, for instance, GTA IV, I like, but still try to stray from those crowds.

4. I own an Xbox 360. As in I bought it myself and most of the games myself and everything. Some games I will play, but only because of their storytelling aspects, such as Grand Theft Auto IV. That game is incredibly violent, but the story is incredibly amazing, something you would find in a big-name movie straight from Hollywood. Other games, like Halo 3 and Killzone 2, are incredibly unrealsitic as they portray humanity fighting back aliens that have declared a vendettat against our race. Both of these take place on fictional planets against fictional races with fictional weaponry. The main reasons I won't play a few games is because either a) I find the story uninteresting or b) I just don't like the core gameplay aspects. When I am on Xbox LIVE, I usually go into a party by myself, or with my friends, because we have what I like to call a "braggermeister." The one that always says that they're on an MLG (Major League Gaming) Pro team or MLG Semi-Pro team. They always brag every kill they get, but they usually end up coming in last on our time, because as they are bragging, they end up getting killed themselves. I extremely dislike these people. There are also the ones that "drop the f-bomb" every other word. These people get extremely annoying. This is also why I warn my friends that if they cuss, at all, when we are playing together, I'll boot them from that game. It's worked so far.

3:43 PM  
Blogger ButlerBowldog said...

1. Video game violence does not bother me. I view video games as fantasy, that is, not of the real world. Much like watching a movie or reading a book, the violence takes place in a fictional setting. Once I turn off my console, that world ceases to exist.

2. As hinted in the answer to number one, I reconcile the violence as a fictional setting. If I were to avoid all violence (and other questionable content) in my life, I would watch little TV and no movies, and video games would primarily be relegated to sports or puzzle games.

3. If I were to use video games to encourage violence or spread hate (via bad degrading language and insults), then yes I would be hypocritical. However, I believe that my behavior in video games can actually be an example. For example, standing up for people who are being insulted, simply not participating in rooms where that behavior is on-going, and even pointing out the actions to the appropriate authorities (citing their actions).

4. I do not consider violence when I decide whether to play to a video game. It really comes down to gameplay and story that controls my enjoyment of a game. That being said, violence for the sake of violence can rub me the wrong way, but does not ultimately determine whether or not I play a game.

There you have some of my thoughts...if anything else pops up, I'll add to my comment.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

Sean, I hope you don’t mind me posting here. This is Joshua Love, a blast from the past. Enjoy and good luck at your thesis.

1. Do violent acts in video games bother you spiritually? If so, how? If not, why do you think they don't?

Violent acts in games don’t bother me spiritually because they are a game. There are many games out there for people who do not enjoy violence, such as Sims. For those who are entertained by struggle and challenges met, violence easily fills that category. Because games are different from reality, I have no problems fighting someone in a game. I also have no problem watching Chuck Norris on TV, besides the bad acting. To me, real life and game/TV life are completely different things.

2. How do you reconcile the violent acts in the games you play with the nonviolence emphasis that exist in Christianity?

Playing violent video games have never made me consider being a violent person. On the contrary, after a hard day of work, they are very therapeutic. Like it or not, humans have thoughts of both peace and violence. By acting out that violent nature in a non-realistic sort of way, I can have release. When I log off, or shut down the game console, I bring no aggression from the game into my real life. If anything, I leave some of the real life aggression behind.

3. Do you consider it hypocritical where you virtually engage in killing, but proclaim belief in the ten commandments which declares "thou shall not kill."? If you do not consider it hypocritical why?

I would consider killing pixels on a computer or TV screen no more hypocritical than killing viruses and germs by taking medicine or washing my hands. While I believe that it is immoral to kill humans, and immoral to needlessly kill animals or plants, I do not have any moral or religious qualms about erasing a computer virus or killing pixels in a game. Besides, those pixels probably had it coming…

4. Are there any violent video games that you will not play because you find them offensive? How do you decide which violent games are acceptable and which are not?

I have not found a video game I will not play. As stated before, I believe that games are games, and real life is real life. Especially with video games, you are not required to act in real life upon any consequence in the game. For example, one of most morally terrible video games I can think of is Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain. In this game, you assume a newly recruited vampire seeking vengeance upon those who killed you. Throughout this game, you kill innocent people and fight against an entire host of different enemies. Does it make me sad to swing a sword and a pixilated bar maid? No more than washing my hands and killing thousands upon thousands of bacteria, many of which are beneficial.

7:00 PM  

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