Are you there God? It’s me, video games

By Glenn Battishill

Video games are excessively violent; many modern games contain murder, violence, and some contain instances or scenes involving rape. For these reasons they are labeled as “for mature audience” and aren’t supposed to be placed within reach of children. Of course, many people still have a problem with these video games even if children aren’t playing them. Sometimes it’s not because of the violence, or the language. Sometimes it’s because the game is called “Diablo.” “Diablo” being both the Spanish word for “devil” and an obscenely popular video game series created by Blizzard studios where the player is tasked with killing as many demons as possible. Given its subject matter and goal you would think that churches across the country would hand out copies of “Diablo” to adult members of their congregation, along with countless dozens of games that task the players with ridding the world of demons.

Instead, Christian video games are the laughing stock of the gaming community because more often than not they tend to be made exclusively for children and have titles like “Bible Adventures” or “Sunday Funday.” Apparently, Christian game developers are under the assumption that Christian video games should all be family friendly adventures.

The problem is, The Bible isn’t a family friendly book. The Bible is full of violence, murder, revenge, betrayal, love, lust and war.

Game developers looking to grasp the epic scale of The Bible need to look no further than any of the dozens of wars and battles depicted within its pages.

An argument could be made that making a video game of The Bible would trivialize its content and the actual people who lost their lives during these conflicts. It’s the same argument that gets leveled at games depicting real life wars and it isn’t an entirely meritless point. Would rewarding players for killing armies of Philistines trivialize the trials of the Hebrews?

Perhaps the best way to represent God and religion in video games is by doing it the same way Tolkien and Lewis did it through themes, metaphors and allegories.

And to their credit, some games have done just that.

In “Skyrim” a conflict sparks between the residents of the country of Skyrim and the rest of the Empire because the citizens of Skyrim worship a god named Talos. According the lore of “Skyrim” Talos was a hero and the heir to the seat of a king. He is worshipped as the protector of justice and civility. Upon his death he was elevated to godhood because he had united the residents of Tamriel peacefully for the first time in history.

In the “Dragon Age” universe a chosen prophet named Andraste convinces The Maker of All to return to humanity and forgive them of their transgressions.

The player in “Fallout 3” is given the power to purify the water of the irradiated wasteland by his father, who forces him to leave the safety of him to go forth and save the world. He is tempted many times during his journey to abandon his quest but in the canonical and good ending of the story the “lone wanderer” sacrifices himself to purify the water and bring life back to the wasteland.

Is any of this sounding familiar?

It isn’t hard to make a compelling narrative out of the themes, characters or imagery of The Bible, it just isn’t what Christians want.

I can say with no sense of irony whatsoever that I pondered the messages of The Bible by playing those games than I ever have watching Christian movies, and reading contemporary Christian literature.

Sure, the games aren’t perfect religious metaphors and some do contain criticisms of religion, but they look at the big themes of Christianity and God in a mature and objective way.

And these days, a little religious objectivity could be just what the doctor ordered.