Video Games and Spiritual Openings


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

Some of you may have seen this news:

In January, 962,000 people was the average viewership on Twitch. Sometimes there was more, sometimes there was less — but in general, nearly a million people were watching Twitch at any given point.

That puts Twitch viewership on par with the likes of MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, and ESPN.

“For comparison, 2017 total day viewership for Fox News Channel and ESPN was ~1.5 million, MSNBC was 885,000, and CNN was 783,000,” Macquarie Capital analyst Ben Schachter points out in a recent note, “putting Twitch squarely among the most-watched US cable channels.”

What is Twitch? Basically, “People play games live on Twitch while other folks watch.”

In other words, for all of the interest in current events, for many people, there may be more interest in Kingdom Come: Deliverance or Fortnite or League of Legends.

My questions:

  • Do you play video games?
  • Are you socially connected to other gamers?
  • What connection points and openings do you see between your gaming environment and the gospel?

(SeanO) #2

Never attended myself, but there are lots of ministries out there for gamers - for example:

(Carson Weitnauer) #3

Hi Sean, thanks for the link!

I thought it was really interesting that they are an official Assemblies of God church. Also, they call themselves the “First Gamer Church.” Is this the new “First Baptist Church”? First Gamer Church of Warcraft, etc…

I think it is a very challenging and novel tension for the church to address. On the one hand, is it good for people to be immersed in virtual environments for hours a day? There seem to be some important downsides to this. On the other hand, given that they are, what approaches can we take to reach people where they are, and introduce them to Jesus and his ways?

(SeanO) #4

@CarsonWeitnauer I think that in an ideal world positive face to face communication would be the way to go. But in many cases I think virtual reality is a place to escape pain or discontent in real life communities - or even a place to find community.

It sounded to me like the leader of First Gamer Church, who has his meeting on Thursdays, was being intentional about trying to get people plugged into real Churches. He is not holding Sunday services, at least.

(LaTricia January) #5

The extent of my ‘gaming’ is Alpha Betty and Candy Crush LOL. In looking at the site that @SeanO shared, it makes me think of how socially awkward many gamers are, first and foremost. All of the problems stated that are found in the gamer community are found in broader community. However this is the particular avenue of escape found by gamers. It concerns me that even though there is a vision for the church to become a brick and mortar place, their activities outside of a meeting in TN have been virtual.

With that said, it reminds me of something I was thinking about this morning about a church, I believe in the UK where a priest got in ‘trouble’ for using a bible that was translated using language specific to a particular community… Let me see if I can find the article so that I don’t muddle this up. Here we go:

At some point, it just seems like some of the sacredness, importance, and the gravity of the gospel of Christ is lost in attempting to make the gospel fit into all of the different arenas and using terms and such specific to these different arenas. Like the GodSquad Church has a position for a ‘World of Warcraft’ officer and a ‘Discord ModSquad’ team. My concern is that it feeds into the fantasy found in the gaming world more than feeding the reality of God’s Kingdom and salvation. These are things I’m not sure about. In my mind, there seems to be an attempt to remake the bible and the body of Christ (church) in a way that accommodates and is politically correct and so on rather than us being remade to fit in the body of Christ on Christ’s terms rather than our own.

I know of people who can spend pretty much all day gaming and do this for many days in a row apparently. That’s not healthy and while gaming in and of itself isn’t a sin, it becomes a sin for that individual based on how the recreation has been abused/misused.

(SeanO) #6

@LaTricia_January It is certainly true that indulging in fantasy can be a form of idolatry.

But I think it is odd of our culture to applaud athletes - like swimmers and football players - for all of their hard work in order to perform on the field, while condemning those who spend hours playing video games.

Neither sports nor video games are necessarily inherently bad nor do they inherently bring God glory. So when does someone cross the line from enjoying a recreational activity to sin? And is it really something you can measure by how many hours someone spends doing that activity or is it a heart issue?

Neither sports nor video games (assuming games that are not immoral in other ways) are inherently a sin - unlike theft, murder or adultery.

So I think it is important to consider sports and video games in a similar category before making judgments. Would I judge someone this strictly for spending this time working out to play a sport?

We all recognize sports can become idols. But I think sometimes we are quicker to judge gamers than athletes.

What are your thoughts?

(LaTricia January) #7

@SeanO to be honest, I can’t relate to judging a gamer quicker than an athlete. This is partly I know some who are into gaming. Video games are a part of my childhood and early adult life, so it’s not so far removed from me. I think that has impacted how I view gamers in general. Another aspect of my lack of general judgment or me not having a negative perspective is that if it weren’t for gaming, there are many kids and adults that wouldn’t have entered the world of technology and being able to contribute to advanced technologies. Then there is the matter of professional gamers. There are pro-gamers just like there are pro-athletes who’re paid to do what they do; gaming is their bread-and-butter. I’m good with that.

A simple way of determining if something has gone from the simple enjoyment of a recreational activity to sin is by determining if it’s an addiction, if it causes other obligations to go unfulfilled, if it becomes an obsession, and so on. At least this is how I see it. It’s one thing to take a Saturday and blow it doing nothing because it’s been a stressful week or month, so a person is going to completely unwind doing playing games and eating cereal all day. It’s another thing when gaming becomes such a priority or escape mechanism that it takes precedent over everything else including self-care. The same can be said about anything really.

(Jimmy Sellers) #8

Your posted reminded me of a book I read.

Here is a quote from In the Shadow of the Sword, The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire – Tom Holland. He talks about "stylites’, pagans who climbed columns to show their commitment to god. Simeon was a Christian ascetic who became a very famous stylite.

In around AD 430, a whole century before the young Simeon of Antioch abandoned his home town, another Simeon—a shepherd—had climbed a sixty-foot column on the edge of the Syrian desert. There he had remained, precariously balanced, not for a week, but for thirty long years, until in due course his soul had been gathered up to heaven. The challenge aimed at the demons by this unprecedented feat had been quite deliberate. Simeon’s prodigious austerities had easily eclipsed anything achieved by the pagans. To a people only recently deprived of their ancient gods, the withered, worm-infested and quite fabulously hairy body of the “stylite” had served as an awesome manifestation of the power of their new deity. Reports of the miracles achieved by Simeon’s prayers had spread as far afield as Ethiopia and Britain. In Rome, his adoring fans had taken to pinning pictures of his pillar to their doorposts. By the time of his death he had become quite simply, the most famous man in the world.

What a difference 1600 years make in how we view such behavior. :grinning:

(SeanO) #9

@LaTricia_January Well said

(Bryan) #10

As a gamer myself I find twitch an avenue that Christians should pray for. It’s an opportunity for evangelism. And while face to face is better, I feel that their so much of God and the gospel we can find in video games if we view them as the interactive art form they are. Like in Nintendo’s game in the famous Legend of Zelda branch titled Majoras’ Mask, you get a vivid picture of human despair. An entire town is waiting for a joyous festival to come but during the 3 days a ominous moon grows closer to them until the eve of the festival it is set to crush them. You travel in time between the 3 days trying to save them but in the end it feels like even when you succeed it was a fruitless task. There’s such a looming sense of everyone coming to terms with mortality and it paints how very dark and hopeless life would be without Christ. There are many other games that can be discussed with an ability to point to the Gospel, and twitch can allow us to be like Paul on Mars Hill saying “this game says this, which points to God because…”.

Just like athletes pointing to Christ with each touchdown or point scored, gamers can point to Christ by saying the only reason I have victory in this game is from Christ and the grace of God. All good gifts come from Him.

And many who are on Twitch are unsaved and are from all over the world. Places that have closed their minds and doors to Christians can possibly be reached by twitch. While not ideal, at the very least God can start to plant the seed in them of who He is, and bring in Missionaries to finish the growing of the spirit in them.

(SeanO) #11

@PeacefulNinja Zelda brings back memories. Ocarina of Time was classic.

I feel like in some ways games like Zelda or Final Fantasy actually present a kind of quest to save a broken world and indirectly encourage the pursuit of paradise and end of evil.