I'm a Christian. You know, one of those Bible-believing "born again" folks who believe it's their purpose to bring glory and honor to God in all that they do. My faith in and relationship with my Creator is not only the most important thing in my life—it is at the very center of who I am and what I do.
Now before you write me off as some sort of self-righteous hypocrite, know that I am not here to judge, as I'm just as screwed up as anyone. I don't pretend to be perfect or a "good person" or better than anyone else; I see myself as a broken human being in need of a savior. It's not about religion, rules, or perfect attendance at church, but rather a relationship with the Creator of the universe.
That is why it has been such a challenge for me to reconcile my love for the entertainment industry (namely video games) with my wholehearted desire to serve God in all that I do. Now I'm sure some of you are rolling your eyes right now, and that is totally fine. I'm not trying to preach to you or convert you or anything; I'm just providing my own personal perspective on the video game medium, which we all hold so near and dear to our hearts.
So why do I have trouble separating the two? Like I mentioned earlier, my faith is the very core of who I am; it spills out into everything I say and choose to do. When I engage in certain pieces of media, I oftentimes feel at odds with myself. Mashing a button as I watch Kratos tear the head off Helios or holding down 'B' to ram a chainsaw-equipped firearm into the chest of my opponent on the surface seems cool, but down in my gut, it sickens me, as I face the disturbing reality that I've become desensitized to so much violence.
While it's all fiction, all just a creative fabrication, all make-believe, I can't fight the conviction deep within my heart. Is this kind of content really necessary to my enjoyment? Is there proper context to justify the horrific acts that I just took part in? Does there even need to be justification? After all, it's just a game.
Just a game.
Those three words together bother me. "Just a game" connotes a lack of importance, impact, or power behind the medium that played an integral role in my childhood. Video games shaped me—perhaps more than I'd even like to admit—so to write them off as nothing more than a means to have fun seems disingenuous. The same goes with other forms of media, but I'll refrain from discussing those for the sake of brevity.
Video games are far more powerful than I think many are willing to admit. Should they be blamed as the sole cause for instances of mass murder? Absolutely not. There are so many factors at play that instigate tragedies like these, and while games most certainly have a role to play in some cases, there's more behind the choices people make.
But it's not just the sensationalized and gratuitous violence that disturbs and upsets me, it's the unabashed exploitation of sex and other crude content that really puts my faith at odds with my hobby. I won't bother pointing out examples because I'm sure you know precisely what I'm talking about. I'm sure many of you don't see the problem in any of it, but when viewing such content through the lens of my faith, which is the only lens through which I view the world, I find it utterly repulsive.
So I'm at a crossroads. What do I do now? Am I stuck exclusively playing family-friendly games like Mario and Zelda until the day that I die? But I loved experiencing the story of Telltale's The Walking Dead despite its coarse language and brutal violence. I adored the story of BioShock Infinite even though it takes a blatant jab at organized religion. Are there parts of these games that don't sit well with me? Absolutely. Are there redeeming qualities that help me see past the parts that conflict with my beliefs? Yes. In the end, I take the strongest issue with "poorly" designed games (in my opinion) that overtly use sex, violence, etc. to sell copies.
Some may be wondering: But Alex, can't you just separate the two? To that, I must respond with a simple "no." My faith is who I am. It governs what I do. As much as I love video games, I refuse to wall off my relationship with God for the sake of my hobby. Will this ultimately limit the number of games I play? Yes. Does it require a level of self-restraint on my part? Yes. Am I letting my beliefs influence my opinions? Absolutely. Does this strip away my credibility as a game critic? I'll let you decide.