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Arts + Entertainment
The Art of Video Gaming
Video games are an enormous and engaging part of our culture; but who is engaging the institution of video games? Jamin Brophy-Warren is the founder of Kill Screen, an organization that asks "What does it mean to play games?” Warren says that video games don't offer pseudo-experiences, they offer real experiences through detailed narratives. From inside the video game industry, he discusses how we need to view video games as art and build a culture of thought around the video game experience.
The positive side of the gaming experiences such as team work, social interaction, seem to be based mainly on violent action games (often bloody and extreme in nature). I think this could be because the games at the forefront of gaming technology are the violent ones but if we took the violent games out of the equation how big an industry would we be left with? The pros then out weigh the cons so to speak? Does shooting zombies or slashing a person to death in a game really build good team working skills or is it really a good place for social interaction?
Game addiction seems to be now as real a problem as drug addiction. How do we deal with this? We are in danger of losing great lives to gaming addictions.
Some games may be good for our culture but i don't see how games such as grand theft auto or black ops is good?
I get this sense that we can so easily entertain ourselves to death
Mark: Video game addiction has still yet to be proven to actually exist, let alone be more of a problem than, say, being addicted to film or literature. If there is ever a reasonable study or test proving that video games are akin to drug addiction or makes the player violent, then we absolutely need to be more strict when it comes to producing, marketing and selling video games.
"Violent games" are most certainly a big part of the industry today, but they're far from the only thing on the market. Simply because there is Transformers 3 doesn't mean there can't be Inception or Toy Story. Mindless action is far from exclusive to video games, and it certainly isn't one of the most popular genres regarding just video games.
First it was comic books that ruined society. Then came rock n roll. Today, we have video games.
Victor: I agree that culture likes to put blame on the different arts to say they are what's ruining society. I guess they do that to partly shift responsibility and maybe also cause they don't know what's going on but need to blame something.
Good point about addiction not yet proven. But something skill doesn't sit right in me and i don't know what it is???
I think i may have at once been addicted to video games, i made an active decision to stop playing them cause i wanted to protect my relationship with my wife. Not a decision i regret. I'd give up anything i felt was getting in the way of my relationship.
I'm not sure what it is Victor but i just get this sense that life's about more than just playing games and entertaining myself. You ever feel like that man, or is that too deep??
I spent much of my childhood and early adulthood playing video games. I spent about 15 years of my adult life heavily into board and card games. I also spent a lot of time in those years creating those types of games. I used to talk and write about the importance of them and some of my games are played all over the world.
Part of me loves games and I do think they have some value, but in working with students in my job as an educator, I am concerned about our fascination with living our fictitious lives. As that (and fiction in general) has become more socially acceptable, I see a huge number of people who are far more interesting in fantasy worlds than they are in reality. The stories that most engage them simply did not happen, even if they took part in how the story ended.
I do not believe that's what God intended for us. I'm interested in seeing people reach their potential for his glory. In a world filled with need there are real victories to achieve and I don't think we have to look far to see how fictitious entertainment has distracted the church from such a mission.
The elements of fiction/story is quite powerful, and Christ often taught through the use of such stories. And like literature, movies, and music, video games have a large range of titles from Call of Duty (your "blockbuster") to Portal 2 (your thinking man's "award-winner").
I think the most important point that Brophy-Warren brings up is that we should not be ashamed to talk about individual titles -- what we're playing, why we're playing, and what decisions we're making in those games.
We wouldn't talk about literature or movies or music in generic terms (i.e. "music is a waste of time" or "films are greats for kids"). So instead of talking in generic terms, let's be informed and open to discussing actual, specific games and genres and finding the good and bad within an industry that -- like music and film before it -- is only getting bigger and capturing the imagination of many youth.
I know that a common video game argument says that people should be focused on "struggles" and "victories" in the real world, and not in the video game world -- that participating in the video game world substitutes for the real world.
But don't we "participate" in the struggles and victories of the characters in literature and film, and we commend cultural products that show these sort of triumphs? There are plenty of games where triumph is achieved by moral decisions and creative thinking -- so I'm just not convinced of the "fictitious world" argument.
I do agree that it can become a time-waster and the wrong games can reinforce wrong behavior and "escapism." But that's not too different from the film and music industry that was once shunned by Christians but is now more-less embraced (as long as we analyze and talk through individual pieces as the commenter mentioned above me).
If the goal is to get video games to be as socially acceptable as movies and other entertainment, then the presenter's point and most of what is being said in comments is very valid. Talk about the games. Let people see their good qualities.
But my point is that our innate passion to create and achieve is meant to glorify God in real ways. We can argue all day that fiction isn't bad. Yes, Jesus even used it. Yes, it's probably possible for someone to make a good video game that does this. But I'm saying we're well past the point where most fiction is beneficial for the kingdoml. Instead, it provides enough drama in our culture to satisfy most people's desire for excitement. I use this argument against movies and TV as well, so pointing to them as the goal for video games really makes no sense. (Though I used to hope for that when I had more faith in what games could accomplish for our culture.)
And I realize it's futile to try to rally a cry against fiction in general. I only wrote this to clarify my point, not to convince anyone. :)
Point well put Mike. I guess we've yet to see games that really glorify God. I've watched films and been touched by the presence of God through their message. But i've yet to play a video game where i felt the same presence of God come through them. They could be out there but i've not come across them.
I might have a unique view on this as a young man currently pursuing an MA in poetry who enjoys video games, particularly, at the moment, Bastion and Minecraft.
People have pointed out that we might not have seen a video game that glorifies God yet. Anyone who thinks that should play Minecraft. Though Markus 'Notch' Persson, the lead designer and coder for the Minecraft project, would probably hate this comment, Minecraft glorifies God (in a "general revelation" sort of way).
Play it for two hours (they go by quickly), and you'll see what I mean. You are placed in a strangely beautiful, pixellated world. You must bring order out of the natural chaotic beauty in order to survive. You'll make tools, torches, start a mine, hunt, maybe even plant a garden or build an architectural wonder.
But after two hours in the game, you'll feel lonely. It sounds trite, but the game points to our innate need for community. It delivers by allowing us to create and/or join multiplayer worlds over the internet.
If your view of the video game world is only colored by Halo, Modern Warfare, and World of Warcraft, then you should realize that it is a far deeper and stranger world than you have ever imagined. Let Minecraft be your white rabbit, and see how far the rabbit hole goes.
And Mike, remember this: "Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity." --G. K. Chesterton
I understand your fear that we might live in a fantasy world, but don't you think that our reaching for fantasy betrays our innate desire for a world beyond our own? Not to quote C.S. Lewis, but if there exists within me a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, doesn't that mean that I was meant for another world?
Yes, without Christ, we easily become lost in fantasy. That's a given, whether that fantasy happens to be World of Warcraft, the idea that the next drink or the next girl will make me happy, the idea that if I get that raise I'll be happy, or celebrity worship. Games, drink, sex, jobs, admiring the work of famous artists--those can all be good things. Yes, they can all be twisted by our sin, but they can also be a part of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.
To add to the list of media that everyone was afraid would ruin society: novels (interestingly, reading was considered a distraction from the healthy pastime of play), fiction generally (unless it reinforced a positive moral), pre-rock music (especially jazz and certain time signatures), poetry (it's far too sensual), printed text (who will prevent bad ideas from being printed?!) and the written word generally (which would cost us the intelligence and ethical training involved in rote memorization of stories).
I believe that play is an important part of our humanity and growth as social, ethical and spiritual beings. It challenges us to face situations, people and views that we would not likely encounter, or may otherwise actively avoid. A basic literacy in games is also a great step into a broader systems literacy, in which we can better understand the complex systems that dominate our lives, be it in tax codes, marketing, Wall Street or the weather.
What a thought provoking presentation! I have always been a passionate advocate for that certain "something" that video games have and other forms of media cannot hope to capture. The part of the presentation that highlights the fact that gaming is only medium where the partaker refers to himself/herself as "I". What a profound difference that is to other forms of entertainment, and I'm confident that we've only begun to tap this potential.
I also appreciate the sentiments that Mike has offered about video games not glorifying God as they could. I'm a Christian who has struggled to strike a balance between enjoying games and being obsessed with games, and the battle has been both physical and spiritual. But I've come to the conclusion that like all forms of media, video games can convey tales of virtue, heroism, love, and compassion in a way that is glorifying to God. In fact, I wrote an article a few years back about the Halo series as a Christian Allegory that has been a "Hot Topic" on the Halo developer's web site ever since (and around the net in other Christian circles). In fact, it was even referenced in an issue of Official Xbox Magazine. For anyone that doubts that video games can weave a complex yarn and glorify God in doing so, please try to give it a read and see how far we've come since the Pong era.
Here's the link if you're interested:
I am really impressed that there is so much information about this subject that have been uncovered and you did it so well, with so much class. Thanks.
Thank you all so much for sharing your thoughts and making me think. I am and have never been very good at video games, even when I was younger. It was something I could never seem to master and so it was easy to walk away from it. Later, as a youth pastor, I found myself trying to relate to my students by joining them in games. They killed me and it wasn't fun for either of us so I simply took on the role of cheerleader, encouraging their accomplishments on the screen. Then my son came along and now at 15 has been very involved in gaming for the past 6 years or more. He also doesn't like playing with me because I suck. But this has been good for me to see things more clearly and adjust my attitude toward gaming which is a big part of his life right now. I intend to be more specific in our discussions about his game experiences and look forward to hearing his stories.
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Video games for me became a therapy to improve eye/hand coordination after a significant brain injury the benifit was priceless as well as improvement in memory among many other things- when i hear video games demonized for all the worlds faults I have to laugh. It can be a useful outlet for fustration that otherwise could be misdirected or turned inward.Video games in my opinion are a benifit when used properly and should be a part of every physical therapy program invilving closed head injuries!
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