Question Asked

We've discussed Film and Theology...what about Video Games and Theology?

There are a multiplicity of resources on Film and Theology. Everything from books, blogs, websites, youtube videos and magazine articles on the film industries overlap with the realm of Theology. However, very little has been done on the subject of the medium of video games and theology...why? why not? Do we have anything to say about this? Comment, rate, appreciate ;)

Comments on Original Question


I've actually done quite a bit of thinking about this and would love to do some more in-depth exploration of the topic, but I'll give my first thoughts as a person who has been steeped in religion and theology since I was a small child and in computer mediated artificial environments since I first played the vector game "Asylum" on a TRS-80 in the early 1980s.

The videogame is still a very young artform. It is still in the process of finding its narrative voice and exploring the ways that it differs from other media formats (books, poetry, film, sequential art, etc.) Different tastes for what "good play" is lead some people to love games that others despise. Videogame formats, play mechanics, theme, and graphics differ as much from each other as some prose formats do from other prose formats (take for example a philosophical or historical monograph as compared to a Harlequin novel.) Although there are some theological areas of interest in the mechanical reflex games (Space Invaders/Tetris/Pac Man) and some games that delve into subject matters to which many people of faith would reflexively recoil (for example the Grand Theft Auto Series) -- I think the most interesting areas to ponder would be 1) To what extent do the various subgenres allow for theological and or ethical exploration? 2) Does the open-ended nature of videogames necessitate a sort of teleological ambivalence? (Or perhaps a technological expression of the pleasure that human beings have with having choices -- apparent free will.); 3) Which mythic explorations or story tendencies (tropes) serve as particularly fertile grounds for consideration of issues relating to ultimate non-physical realities? (Although there is a good bit of existential consideration of some of the ultimate human issues in games that don't even pretend to talk about anything beyond the physical). and 4) Which parts of theology and/or religious myth forms and history have been already integrated into the storylines of videogames in the last 30 some odd years?

That's shooting from the hip. If anyone is interested, it would be instructive and fun to take up a conversation about this. Those of us who are avid gamers and researchers could help bring the bits and bytes and long hours of play into words and perhaps illuminate part of the difference between the way that humans who have grown up immersed in multiple storylines and quickly responsive technololgies may differ in their approach to theology, appropriation of mythic and spiritual verities and symbols from those of us who grew up in a culture where stories were primarily linear and data moved at a more slow pace.

I'll start compiling a list of games I think have blatant theological issues and some that have theological and spiritual overtones if anyone shows any interest in this thread. (One note though is that we may find that they aren't theological at all but more ontological, eschatological, apocalyptic, and ethical -- That is to say that upon first reflection I see a lot of religion, religiosity, ethical choice issues, behavior norm issues, good-evil-spiritual conflict, but can think of only a few games that would put the theos into the ology.)

OK -- Let me know if you want a more systematic exploration of this. If not, I'll consider the thread dead.

The Avengers in the film playfully suit up to tackle these themes, hammer on the ideas, shield us from the wrong forms of slavery, and take aim at the "free servitude" our lives should reflect.

Well, I'm trying to get such a project off the ground, so please help me out!

I think there isn't much discussion on that front simply because the generation doing theological work at the moment is still a bit removed from it. It's more seen as a diversion for mainstream culture, and to really "get" video games you have to play them.

As I have. And I hope I can engender more discussion on this front without making it a total copy of movie, or music, or pop culture analysis like most theology + video game works have been.

Sorry for the double post, but I forgot the link.

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