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Turn the Other Cheek

Britton Peele | 8 Nov 2011 08:00
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I worship El Shaddai. Not the game (although it's pretty great), but God Almighty. Some people hear this and call my morality into question when I play a game like Mortal Kombat.

There's stuff in scripture that can be enjoyable to read or watch on film, but there's not a lot to do.

Speaking as a Christian, many people in my religion feel a strong need to justify the media they consume in some way or another. Some do this by only watching shows, reading books or playing games that are explicitly "Christian" in nature. You know, things like Left Behind, Veggie Tales and The Passion of the Christ.

Even if a piece of content takes a lot of liberties with its source material, it's seen as OK because "it's from the Bible." The Prince of Egypt, mostly faithful to Exodus though it was, wasn't an exact retelling of Moses' story. And Jesus' bizarre "I'm a carpenter and I know what sort of tables people in the future will eat off of" moment in The Passion wasn't in my translation of The New Testament.

But it's really hard to make a compelling videogame based off of Biblical content that doesn't involve you feeding the animals on Noah's Ark (see: Super Noah's Ark 3D for the SNES). The problem is that it's hard to make Bible story games exciting, especially without offending people. There's stuff in scripture that can be enjoyable to read or watch on film, but there's not a lot to do.

It's especially hard when you get to the New Testament, where most of the text is about loving your neighbor and turning the other cheek. Even if you take tremendous liberties and try to make an action level in the Garden of Gethsemane, where you are tasked with defending Jesus from Roman soldiers as they try to arrest him, the game wouldn't be any fun. It would always end with Jesus healing everybody you cut down and scolding you for living by the sword.

But then, if Jesus condemns violence against my fellow man, does that mean I shouldn't play the majority of videogames on the market today? Does this make my no-kill playthrough of Deus Ex: Human Revolution that much more important?

Shunning mainstream videogames would be a hard thing for a gamer to do. Some Christians, frustrated with the lack of quality in "Christian" games, resort to trying to find spiritual meaning in their secular content, whether it's really there or not.

Neverwinter Nights was a tough sell in my household back in the day because it was based on Dungeons & Dragons (I wasn't wise enough to make the argument, then, that Gary Gygax, co-creator of D&D, was actually a Christian and not a worshiper of Satan). But the game let you name your deity right off the bat, so I could make my Lawful Good Paladin worship Jesus. In my mind, that made everything A-OK, more or less. I could just roleplay a Christian in a dark world - like real life, only with more dice rolls.

It seems so easy, right? Sprinkle a little God here, a little Jesus there and suddenly everything's purified. Never mind the violence and language in The Book of Eli. Eli is on a journey to save the world's last Bible! He's a Christian! Can you say "Church movie night"?

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