Category: Video Games

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]

Shadow of Mordor and the limits of video-game fun

I have been a J.R.R. Tolkien fanatic since I first read The Lord of the Rings in fifth grade. Aside from the Bible, I’ve read that series more than any other book. I’ve also sampled a fair number of video games based on Tolkien’s Middle-earth, most of which have been like shiny gift boxes containing a serviceable pair of used socks. So I was moderately surprised to discover that the new big-budget…  [more]

Destiny: a video game blind to its own beauty

We live in a beautiful world, one we long to explore so that we might revel in its wonders. Unfortunately, our world is subject to frustration. While the heavens declare the glory of God and the sky proclaims His handiwork, both are difficult to see given the brokenness in our hearts and in creation. As I played this year’s most anticipated video game release, Destiny, I realized that although game worlds often…  [more]

A parent’s praise for Stampylonghead

Last winter, my 6-year-old begged me to bake him a cake decorated with his favorite Minecraft-playing YouTuber, Stampylonghead (aka Stampycat, Stampylongnose, Mr. Stampy Cat and Stampy). Fredrik wanted this cake - not to eat - but so we could take a picture and send it along to Stampycat himself, all in the hope of getting added to Stampy’s “Love Garden.” Naturally, as a modern mom in an age when…  [more]

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