Resting by Playing Video Games

Photo Credit: Red vs. Blue

The Bible has a lot to say about resting. God set the precedent for rest after he created the world, when he chose to rest on the seventh day, giving us an example to follow. It is only through rest that we can be recharged to work again effectively.

This is where video games can be helpful. Video Games can be a relaxing activity that calms the mind and recharges the soul.

This is not always the case, though. Sometimes, games can be stressful. It depends a lot on the person playing the games and on mood that they are in, but sometimes, gaming can be exhausting.

This is often true when playing competitive multiplayer. Any activity that is extremely competitive is usually also stressful. It is certainly hard to relax when in the middle of fierce competition.

Resting is also difficult when playing games on hard difficulties. Playing Dark Souls or any game on the hardest difficulty requires a great deal of focus, and is far from relaxing.

The problem with only playing games that are difficult, or maintaining a constant, laser focus while playing, is that we miss out on the opportunity to rest.

Video games can be a great way for us to recharge from the rigors of day-to-day life.

Rest is a Biblical concept. God wants us to rest, so that we can appreciate life and be rejuvenated to work for him more effectively.

This is an important idea, because some Christians see no purpose for playing video games, and they are right if we treat video games like work constantly.

My point is that video games should be fun, and if we are stressed constantly when we play, gaming becomes just another task for us to accomplish. We need to get that one more achievement, beat this one more game, climb one more rank in competitive multiplayer. Games should not be work, they should be fun, and sometimes just relaxing.

I am not saying that there is no place for taking the game seriously. Us gamers need to take the game seriously sometimes, because there are things that we need to accomplish, and playing games at a high level is fun.

What I am saying is that we also need to take some time to rest. We need to be mindful with how much stress we are dealing with, and if we are in a time of our life where we have a lot on our plate, adding video game stress to the list won’t help.

Put in a game you are good at, or just casually enjoy the experience of a narrative-focused game. Lay back, and don’t worry about it; just enjoy the beautiful experience that games are.

God wants us to rest.

Thank you for reading, and God bless!

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Growing up in a Christian Home and Playing Video Games

Photo credit: Daily Mail

There’s a lot of young people out there who love playing video games. Many Christian parents are okay with that. Some don’t let their kids play at all.  Others are strict on what they expose their kids to. As a child or teenager growing up in a Christian home with parents who limit what games they are allowed to play, it can be frustrating and hard, especially if you have friends that play games you are not allowed to.

To share some insight into what growing up in that environment is like is my friend, Josh. Josh grew up homeschooled with conservative Christian parents. He has always loved video games since he was a child, and considers himself a gamer to this day.

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I asked him a few questions about his life growing up.

Q: What’s your favorite game?

A: The Halo franchise is my favorite, and I am partial to the first one, Halo: Combat Evolved.

Q: What rules did your parents have when you were growing up?

A: My parents were conservative, traditionalist Christians. They did not want to expose me or my siblings to anything with sexual content or too much language.  When I was younger, I was not allowed to play overly violent games either.  The first shooter I could play was Halo, that’s probably part of the reason it is my favorite game.

Q: Was it hard for you growing up without being able to play the games you wanted?

A: Not so much as a child, but when I went into Junior High, things were a little tougher, especially because I had friends who were able to play games that I was not allowed to. It was good for me to learn obedience though. That’s why we have parents. Learning to obey them helps us obey God in the future.

Q: When did your parents become more lenient with their rules?

A: Once I got into high school, my parents stopped really caring what I exposed myself to. I had gained their trust, and was able to make more decisions for myself because I had shown that I could handle it. Once we reach a certain age, it is our responsibility to make decisions on what God expects from us, and I was able to make my own choice about what sort of games I could play without being tempted to sin.

Q: Do you think you will do anything different than your parents when you raise your kids?

A: Not really. I love my parents, and I know that they love me. Their rules were there because they loved me, just like God has rules for us because he loves us. They wanted to make sure that I had a good life, and that I would not have unnecessary temptations. I’m definitely no expert in parenting (I don’t have any kids yet), but I think kids who grow up with no rules and no limitations on their media consumption have it worse off. If a parent does not have rules for their kids, it sends the message that they don’t love or care about them. Childhood years are when we are forming the person we are going to be for the rest of our lives.  If parents want their children to grow up with integrity they should limit what they watch, read, listen to, or play.

Josh is currently in college, and is engaged, so he may have the opportunity to parent kids pretty soon!

I personally grew up in a strict home, and just like Josh, I knew I was loved. The games I was allowed to play, I loved, and I do not have any regrets from my childhood at all!

Thank you for reading, and God bless!

5 Hardest Things About Being a Christian Gamer

In no particular order…

1. Explaining to Christian Friends

Some of us have grown up with very fundamentalist Christian backgrounds. Some of our friends have very, very conservative ideas about video games. That’s okay. I mean, I am pretty conservative myself, but I like video games and see them as harmless. Not every brother in Christ will share that opinion though. The trick is to still treat them like a brother in Christ and not hold them in contempt. They have their beliefs, and we should respect that. It just is annoying if they ever argue that the games that you are playing are sinful, and it is even tougher if you are young enough to still be living with parents, and they are the ones who are against games.

2. Learning to Balance Time

Games are fun, but Christianity has a lot to with balance. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Video games help us relax, and they help us experience other’s creativity. They are fun, and there is nothing wrong with fun. Sometimes, though, gaming can get in the way of responsibilities and even get in the way of our relationship with God. As a Christian gamer, it can be a struggle to keep that balance.

3. Dealing with other Gamers

Most of the time, the gaming culture is a welcoming and fun-centered community, but no matter where you go, there can be hate. Whether online, in videos, or meeting other gamers in person, non-Christian gamers can be insulting to the concerns of the Christian faith and not understand the issues we may have. There is a large liberal atheist community in gaming, and they can routinely insult Christians and out beliefs as a form of humor. We can also get unfairly lumped in with politicians who try to enforce gaming bans in the name of religion. Overall, gamers are friendly, but dealing with people always brings the risk of disagreement.

4. Managing the Conscience

One thing non-Christians can not understand is the demands of the Holy Spirit. Many Christians do not really understand or follow their own conscience. The thing is, a certain game could be completely fine for one Christian without bothering them at all, while the Holy Spirit can convict another Christian strongly against playing that same game. The Holy Spirit can convict you against the content of a certain game because it will lead you to sin, and it can be tough to figure out exactly what the Holy Spirit is convicting you of.

5. Going to Church After Staying up Late

This is a less serious one, but a genuine struggle. We’ve all been there. Up late saturday night, enjoying our weekend and playing through level after level. Tomorrow is not a work or school day, so it can be hard to remember that there’s church in the morning. Maybe we are playing online with friends who plan on sleeping through the rest of the day, but we have something to do in the morning. We need to fellowship with other believers, we need to put money in the offering plate to support missions, and we need encouragement and conviction from our pastor. Those things are hard after a long night of gaming, though.

Playing Games Online

Modern technology has allowed people to connect in ways they never could before. People across the country are now able to play games together via the internet and online gaming services. I know that I personally appreciate the ability to play Halo with my close childhood friends who now live in different states.

Online gaming also gives us the opportunity to meet people who play and enjoy the same games that we do. I have made friendships by playing a few games with strangers and then continuing that relationship.

The only downside to this whole thing, is that you cannot control the people you encounter on the internet. Often the people using mics are, to put it nicely, less than polite (to put it more accurately they are deranged, hate-spewing children).

Anyone who has played an online game like Battlefield or Titanfall has probably encountered a screeching, pre-puberty voice that swears worse than a drunken sailor, someone playing heavy metal loudly over their microphone, or a player who yells at his teammates or sends messages of hate.

So, is navigating the toxic wasteland of what online gaming can be worth it?

That’s your choice.

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Double kill! -A screenshot of my Halo 5: Guardians game play

However, I believe that playing online does not have to be a negative experience. Most games like Halo allow you to mute or block negative players, and some games give you the option of disabling chat altogether. If you do not want to run into annoying people, deactivate chat, and if you have it activated and run into someone who is negative or swears all the time, use the mute button.

The fact is, we can no more avoid negative interactions with people in gaming than we can in real life. Bad experiences with people happen in life. They just do.

I personally believe that the benefits to online gaming out way the negatives.

Not only am I able to play games with friends in faraway places, I can meet new friends too.

Working with people to accomplish a goal in an online environment helps us practice real-life skills, just like sports can.

I find it interesting when I hear Christian leaders talk about the benefits of sports: the team-building, the mindset of never giving up, the competitiveness. These are all things that online video games can give us.

If you like competition, than online gaming is one of the best places to find real heart-pounding competitive environments.

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Getting play of the game in Overwatch is always fun, especially when your knocking a couple players off the map as Lucio!

Another aspect of online gaming to be aware of is its opportunity for witnessing as Christians.

I once struck up a conversation with a gentlemen I met while playing Halo: Reach who had the word “atheist” in his Xbox gamer tag. We had a good talk, and I was able to explain to him what I believed, and I was able to answer many of his questions.

I never would have had the opportunity to meet him if it was not for online gaming.

My sister streams Destiny and Overwatch on Twitch. She has had many conversations about the Christian worldview with both players she meets and viewers who watch her stream.

As Christians, interacting with non-believers in any environment should not scare us. We have been called to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15 ESV).

“All the world” includes the internet, in my opinion.

Thanks for reading, and God bless.

Assassin’s Creed: Playing an Anti-Christian Game Series

Few game series have reached the success and renown as the Assassin’s Creed series, selling more than 93 million copies of its nine main titles worldwide.

It’s easy to see why the series has been so successful: painstakingly recreating historical settings and effortlessly blending open-world free running with counter-based combat and stealth.  I personally fell in love with the series for it’s varied game play and historical settings, and it functioned as sort of a gateway for me to start playing more stealth-focused games like Dishonored.

There is a big problem with the series, however, and that is that the games seem to have a certain bias. Any Christian who has played an Assassin’s Creed game has probably winced at some point due to the often subtle but sometimes very blatant slant against Christians.

Each Assassin’s Creed games have featured a similar message about being developed by a team of “various religious faiths and beliefs,” (shown below) as if to say that there is no religious bias in the games.

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However, the series is hardly unbiased in it’s portrayal of Christians.

Let’s look at some examples.

The very first Assassin’s Creed game focused on the fight of the secret brotherhood of assassins against the evil Templar Crusaders of the 3rd Crusade.

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Combat of the original Assassin’s Creed

These cross-bearing punching bags become the enemy throughout the entire series, representing everything “evil” in the world such as *gasp* law, religion, and capitalism.  Still, Crusaders are easy to paint as villains, and most Christians would not claim them or condone their actions (Crusader’s couldn’t even read the bible anyways, unless they knew Latin and actually were literate). So, yea, making Crusaders villains does not automatically make a series anti-Christian.

Don’t worry, though, there’s more.

One of the main villains and assassination targets of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood is Pope Alexander VI, the head of Christendom of that time.  Assassin’s Creed: Revelations takes place in Istanbul and paints the few surviving Byzantines as the villains (Quick history lesson: Byzantines were the Christian people who lived in the city before the Muslim Ottomans came and killed them all and took over), once again painting Muslim peoples as the heroes against Christians.

The Assassins are a secret group that exists to push against established powers and create anarchy.  Almost every Assassin’s Creed game takes place in a time and location where Christianity is the established norm, so Christians are the villains and those who oppose them are heroes.

In Brotherhood, the actual titular Creed of Assassin’s Creed is repeated over and over whenever you recruit a new Assassin.

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Ceremony in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Part of this Creed states: “Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.”  This is an obviously anti-Christian humanistic statement.  On a side note, it is ironic that the Assassin’s say that everything is permitted, but their whole job is killing people who do things that the Assassin’s deem wrong, like upholding law and order.

If that was not enough, the background lore of the series is that ancient aliens left behind relics that mankind found after they had “evolved.”  These relics are worshiped and called “Pieces of Eden,” and feature objects such as Apples of Eden, the Shroud of Eden (Jesus’ shroud), and one is housed in the literal Ark of the Covenant.  Yea, a little blasphemous.

The evil Templars are shown using Christianity to lie about the Pieces of Eden and oppress people.

It should be clear to you now why people like me have gotten the impression that the Assassin’s Creed series does not like Christians, so some of you may ask the question, “Why would a Christian play these games?”

Well, they’re really fun.

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Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s hero, Edward Kenway, taking a dive from his ship’s mast

Seriously, the games are amazing (especially AC II!), as I have explained already, but I’m not here to write a review.  I’m here to give a Christian perspective.

If I were a parent, I would not let my kids play these games. They have philosophies that are just too damaging. Any parents reading this may disagree with me, and that is okay, because this is just my opinion.

As an adult, however, I feel it is up to the individual. Playing Assassin’s Creed did not turn me into an atheist, and the story will be the same for anyone who is strong in their faith. Our world is full of anti-Christian messages, and it is our job as Christians to wade into that world and put forth the voice of truth, not just hide in the corner.

Jesus said in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (ESV)

It is impossible to avoid insults to the Christian faith. Persecution is inevitable, and if the worst persecution you ever endure is the occasional insult or blasphemy from a video game, you are a very blessed Christian.

The real question is, can a Christian enjoy Assassin’s Creed games? Or can we ignore the evil messages and focus on the great game play and historical settings?

That’s up to you to decide.

If you pick up Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, the newest of the series, and as soon as you hear a rant from an “evil” Templar saying how he wants to thwart science because science and Christianity can’t go together (tell that to Isaac Newton, dude) and it puts you off to the point where you are no longer having fun, I completely understand it if you don’t want to play anymore.

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Sir David Brewster, the man AC: Syndicate uses as an example of an “evil” Christian who must be clearly “anti-science” because of his beliefs

I, personally, have been able to focus on the enjoyment of the games. Beyond that, I believe that I have gained a better understanding of how the world views Christians. It is helpful to understand these things, so that us Christians can prove the world wrong and spread the message of truth.

That is the true benefit from playing Assassin’s Creed, if that is what you decide to take from the experience.

Thank you for reading, and until next time, remember: video games are art, and art is what you make of it.

God bless.

Can Christians Game?

Christians have been at odds with gaming for a very long time, now. Once video games were just a few pixels bouncing around on the screen, and there was no issue.  Nobody complained about an Italian plumber jumping onto the heads of a few turtles as being too violent or risque.  When games like Mortal Kombat came out that featured graphic violence, issues were raised.

The greatest Christian heroes are those who spread the gospel and were martyred without fighting back.  The greatest video game heroes are those who slaughter aliens and monsters, or mow down hordes of enemy soldiers with a machine gun.  Let’s face it; video games don’t exactly encourage the “turn the other cheek” behavior that Jesus preached.

Then there is the other stuff.  The sex, alcohal/drug use, and foul language.  The stuff that Christians have winced at ever since they first started appearing in books or movies.  Now they are in interactive media too.

That’s just it, though.  It is impossible to live life without being exposed to these things.  Evil is out there, if you aren’t going to be exposed to violence or sex in video games, you are going to see it in movies, television, or ads.

I was pretty sheltered as a kid.  My parents were responsible and made sure they monitored all of the media I was exposed to.  You know where I first learned about sex, though?  The Bible.

This is something few people talk about, but the Bible is filled with graphic violence and plenty of stories of fornication and infidelity.  Why should we hold media to a higher standard than the Bible?

Now, I realize there are differences between the Bible and video games.  The Bible presents sex and violence in a Godly light.  In Biblical accounts, God often shows up to condemn sexual sin, and unlawful violence is punished, but still, one has to admit that reading the Bible exposes readers to these difficult themes.

A video game might not condemn violent actions at all, but as intelligent media consumers, we have the ability to understand that these actions are wrong.  We can be our own voice of reason.  We have that power.

Some RPGs even give us as gamers the choice to make more Godly choices within the game.  We can play with a sort of, “what would Jesus do” mindset (though laying down our lives freely is usually not an option).

The bottom line is that if Christians are to operate in the modern world, and interact with culture, we have to understand that video games are a huge part of that culture.  Playing games help us better relate to the millions of gamers out there that need Jesus.

Besides, most games have plenty of positive messages in them too, like defending the innocent, never giving up, and  fighting for what is true and right.  Games also can help us develop better problem-solving skills, improve our reflexes, and sometimes expose us to creative and beautiful narratives.

We can either let negative elements of games change us, or we can focus on the positives of games and let them benefit us.

After all, video games are art, and all art is what you make of it.

God bless.