Category: Video Games

Lamenting the loss of video-game worlds

It is not uncommon for Christian leaders to criticize people who play video games for wasting their time trying to save fantasy worlds rather than engaging the real one. But what happens when the line between the fantasy world and the “real” world isn’t so clear? Writing for The Atlantic, Will Partin recently chronicled how some of the biggest game worlds have been shut down, never to be…  [more]

That Dragon, Cancer and finding grace in grief

On the morning that Ryan Green’s son Joel died, Ryan and his pastor went out to the parking lot of the palliative care facility and wept together for 20 minutes. That Dragon, Cancer, a video game created by Ryan, his wife Amy and their friend Josh Larson, tells the story of Joel’s battle with terminal brain cancer. Knowing the end, that Joel “loses,” might dissuade some from playing the game,…  [more]

Fallout 4 and religion after the bomb

I’ve spent the last month or so wandering a blasted wasteland filled with mutants, giant scorpions, toxic levels of radiation and the shell of a civilization that was destroyed 200 years prior and is trying to rebuild. Yes, I’ve been playing Fallout 4. There are many surprises in this post-apocalyptic America, and one of them is a nearly complete absence of religion. The Fallout series takes place in the…  [more]

Soma and the sting of death

Even as video games have grown into a respected artistic medium that tackles some of life’s biggest questions, they can still struggle to grapple with the tragic reality of death. While death plays heavily into the core mechanics of games, it often lacks weight. Most games give players ample checkpoints and save points, as well as infinite respawns — meaning if the player’s character dies, she or he…  [more]

The human complexity of Her Story

A Christian view of people requires a willingness to be surprised by them. Her Story, a video game about a woman being interviewed by police investigators, emphasized this by forcing me to reckon with a complex character who is simultaneously warm, kind, funny, deceptive and cruel. Hannah, the woman at the center of Her Story, reminded me that human beings are incredibly complex. Scripture informs us that people are…  [more]

Fallout Shelter and the cost of free-to-play video games

I got hooked on a little iOS game last week that made an unexpected impact on me. Fallout Shelter is mostly a promotional product, put out by Bethesda to tout their upcoming blockbuster Fallout 4, yet it’s left me wrestling with ideas about right, wrong and the value of entertainment. Fallout Shelter is a base-building game - the player manages and expands an underground vault full of cute, cartoony people in…  [more]

Cults and Daggers: can you fit God in the machine?

As the author of a book about Christianity and video games, I’m naturally interested in how game makers choose to represent religion. So when I read what was supposedly a review of Cults and Daggers, but was really a poignant, troubling and beautifully written reflection on author Nathan Grayson’s loss of faith, I had to play this game. And now I wish I hadn’t. It’s not because my faith has…  [more]

Dying Light and the limitations of violence

I recently found myself behind on an important project, working frantically to meet the deadline. When I was almost done my computer crashed, losing several hours of work. I wanted to scream and punch my computer. Thankfully, I did neither, but I did punch my desk. For the next two weeks, every time I typed, I felt the consequences of this foolish, violent action. We’ve all been there. We’ve faced the…  [more]

The real virtue of virtual empathy

A recent student project at the University of Southern California is using virtual war in an unfamiliar way.  Rather than glory in combat and explosions, like many blockbuster video games, this program aims to use an immersive recreation of the Syrian civil war to educate players about the experience of being in the middle of such a terrible conflict. We often think of video games as tools for imaginary killing,…  [more]

The vain voluntourism of Far Cry 4

The first time I visited a third-world country on a mission trip, I took lots of pictures of poverty - of parents, their children and their dilapidated homes. I did so not out of concern, but because what I saw was shocking to my middle-class sensibilities. It wasn't until much later that I acknowledged the narcissism behind such voluntourism. Playing Far Cry 4 reminded me of this because Far Cry 4 uses…  [more]

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