Understand

An epiphany has recently struck me. Like a source of lightning coursing through my brain but yet I have seized upon something which I already knew but didn’t quite grasp yet or better yet quite know how to put into words. So here goes my thoughts.

Recently, my online warrior escapades managed me to put me into a sticky situation. But more importantly managed to put me agitated enough to be me into a response on a picture which to be honest didn’t quite match the content that the person was trying to convey. On the picture however, was an idea that I felt was quite far fetched and as a whole so very quite detrimental because the idea was not succinct. It had to do with calling out videogames as being “childish”. ridiculous

Now as a whole this verse possibly is one of my favorite and I’m not going to lie. Much of my choices growing up have lived and died off of this verse and for my love for God. But more importantly the main problem with this picture is … that it is old. Well what do you mean its brand new right? No.

What I mean is the ideas conveyed behind it are developing a misconstrued sense of what being a man is that it is dated in entirely polemical and completely biased view that somehow technology is childish but more importantly art in of it self and its various forms it takes is FORBIDDEN to be interacted once past a certain age as a Christian Male. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told by people entirely apathetic to video-games that, “aren’t those for kids,” or another completely apathetic and misunderstood statement, “well don’t worry he’ll grow out of it,”. Let me ask you a question, did people ever grow up out of reading books? Or how about making art and interacting with it in various ways? Or my personal favorite … movies … after all movies are such a thing that is dated and for largely people who haven’t strapped up their trousers and decided that maybe … just … maybe they need to go get a life.

Ohh wait what’s that its a medium and not an entity? So it can change the level of maturity of message in which it is being conveyed? Impossible only … ART does that . Herein lies the main issue at hand not only do I take issue with the hilarious but biased photo (I know no one who plays videogames that way or even more so plays with a wired controller anymore hence why it is ridiculously old as well) but the main problem is that it is so blind to it’s arrogance it can’t even see the gigantic log in its own eye.

Take it from this anonymous source who posted on the picture’s comments on facebook on “Do Hard Things”:

Alright cool let’s toss my console into the fire. Oh! While we’re at it, let’s take your baseball, football, television, movies, and board games and Chuck them in too. After all, you’re right. We’re men now… I think the issue here is that “old” pass times are unfairly given saintly status, whilst modern day pass times are frowned upon as childish. Perhaps we could say playing a board game or cards, or a baseball game is a childish distraction. So, get off your high horse because this passage is ACTUALLY talking about understanding deeper biblical interpretation and truth, and applying that truth to your life. Trust a biblical studies major from the largest Christian university in the world. I think you might honestly need to remove the log from your own eye before you remove the speck from ours. Honestly, this isn’t a deep biblical interpretation, it’s using the Bible to judge people who enjoy something that you don’t, to create a sense of piety and superiority. Examine your own heart. Work out your own salvation in fear in trembling before the Lord. This isn’t a sin, so calling out your brethren on this is both useless and childish on your part, so I’m calling you out on that sin.

Well said anonymous post person I couldn’t have said it better myself. Here’s another:

Not to jump in, but I believe we socialize sports as a more “acceptable” use of time, while some people do view video games as childish. Because of the age old appeal of sports, we would have a much harder time convincing someone that it was childish. Even though there are video games specifically targeted toward adults (17+) we still convince ourselves that it is a childish waste of time.

Or another:

If you’ve never heard of a married couple fighting over someone obsessing too much over football, baseball, or soap operas I wonder where you’ve been. The only difference is that it’s socially acceptable to be obsessed with sports and other media but because games are new they’re stigmatized. I’d argue obsession with football is far worse in general just because it’s so widespread and accepted.

Or another:

I would tread softly there unless you direct this kind of thing with a psychological point of view towards an individual and not as a blanket statement. Being Christian and playing video games and then saying it makes you childish is a very subjectiveway to address a bigger issue, which is the heart. This is like saying, “A christian can’t be a video game designer as a vocation.” If the heart of the matter is that the vocation (which could be anything- insert vocation here) is reforming your identity into something other than what the word of God says we are than it would be wise to evaluate that vocation as something that hinders a person from putting childish ways behind them. This can be applied to any concept though, anything placed in the position that God should be sitting in is idolatry. Do hard things, try not to get hung up on a subjective thing when targeting people it may not apply too, or at least reconsider the wording so that the post comes across as addressing a heart issue and not so much a subjective issue. You do what you want of course, just giving you my .02 from experience ministering.

Clearly we are getting to a headway here. We seem to have a generational issue at hand of what it means to be a man. But more importantly we have a issue that is far greater at hand … maturity. What defines maturity? Is it age? No we have plenty of immature older adults who somehow are fully grown children but lack the mental capacities to make hard decisions as adults. Is it what we do? Now we are getting to somewhere. Why is it what we do so rightly defines according to our age maturity? Because what we do conveys the ideas we believe in and ultimately are interested in.

If I was to tell you that I played on a street corner tic tac toe or hopscotch with kids on a corner they might just might consider me a complete failure as a supposed adult if I was near 31 and doing this. But if I was playing hopscotch with a child that was dying from cancer you’d probably give me a pass. The same can be said for any medium and the manner it is interacted with such as for example movies. I know of no grown up adult who for free time watches “The Land Before Time ” unless it is with said adults’ children. Yet, at the same time if that adult was watching a movie such as “Memento” or “The Shawshank Redemption” it would definitely consider the man not necessarily smarter but much more of an adult age or more ready to want to deal with difficult emotional or conceptual issues at life. It’s why exposing a child to “V for Vendetta” will largely go over their head or why “Hunchback of Notre Dame” is not a children’s movie. Yet, if a older kid watches those movies or reads a more mature book and comes away with a more sever and deeper understanding and grasping the content I would consider that child much more well ahead of his same aged counterparts. And here in lies the answer.

Maturity isn’t something you can put an age on or something technical but rather a dealing with the deep, the truth, and more importantly things that truly matter in this life and primarily that is done through ideas. Ideas are powerful. They change how we think, perceive, and how emotionally we respond to the world around us. How an idea is conveyed can have all the difference in the world in how the mind accepts an idea as you will and even more importantly how well it’s effect will have on a person’s life.

For example, a book of the movie “Inception” might make some headway with a person but if someone couldn’t read what then well you are at a loss. So I take it and turn it into maybe a painting what then well maybe they might understand the images (as was the case in many cathedrals and their use in telling the gospel message) but invariably you will only be able to communicate so much via static images. So I take it even further I spend millions of dollars and turn it into a movie and add music and now I am communicating at an incredibly powerful level my ideas. But I still maybe fall short as there will always be someone out there who maybe can’t quite understand the characters. So I take it to the next dream state level … I turn it into a videogame. Now you don’t just watch Cobb … you are Cobb. You don’t just see the dreamstate … you interact with it. Simultaneous you are conveyed ideas that translate over into the real world but also are learning more about your character deeper than anything ever before. You shape your character and they shape you.

I compare it to one of my earlier gaming escapades as Delta from “Bioshock 2”. In it you are a big daddy who is trying to reach an area in an underwater city called Rapture to save your daughter from being used as an experiment. It is a game which like “Shawshank Redemption” makes you crawl through “a mile of shit” in order to finally get the pearl the prize at the end. But ohh is it a prize worth having. One thing however, I realized was that even though my protaganist was silent … I was not. Every time I saw my foes hurt my daughter or hurt child that I was trying to protect I became defensive. I internalized what was happening and the “AVATAR” effect was beset. I came to care for my daughter really and when she would talk and converse with my character I genuinely felt care for her  and didn’t want her to get hurt in any way possible. Thinking about how the game effected me I realize that was how my parents at times felt for us their kids but even more importantly how God felt about me. The inner El Quanna … the jealousy of God … the Inner consuming fire. And I can’t tell you how incredible it was being able to understand that. It changed how I thought about children but even how I related to my father and my mother. Hidden in all this was the near perfect design of a game to make you feel this way and all the while tucked inside bring up the God given desire, for many of us, to protect our offspring and more importantly the things we cared about.

It is why I believe that video-games as a medium are going to change the world. The pastimes of wanting to enjoy a character and yet be separate and apart from them is something that while still around will never have the life altering effects of something which enshrouds you. I don’t believe that video-games are the holy grail. I don’t think they answer AIDS and I don’t think they solve a lot of problems but when has a tool ever been useful in solving anything. Rather how a tool is used is how and most likely it will be good to accomplishing it’s goal.

I would doubt by the year 2025 that advanced educational courses (if stayed on the current trajectory) will still even use books. No they’d use video-games (only by then they’ll be called virtual education) to enhance such things as decision making skills, puzzle solving skills, and even more so smaller things such a motor control and possibly even response times and even surgery. Check it out here if you don’t believe me.
http://www.bidmc.org/YourHealth/Health-Notes/SurgicalInnovations/Advances/VideoGames.aspx

Yet, the area I am most interesting in is something much deeper and it is this. They can cut to the soul deeper and farther and better than a movie possibly ever can by fully engaging someone. This allows for the normal cognitive defenses of a person to be lowered and to allow you to carrying a message any message (in my case most likely a Christian message) and allow them to actually hear it and hopefully more deeply and fully understand it. Just as movies have redefined what we think of as art so also will video games in whatever capacity begin to redefine it as well asking deep questions of people and put them in the seat making the decisions and I must tell you that is a horrifying aspect. Instead of watching the hero cringe over his decisions you might be forced to weigh between sacrificing the person you love or sacrificing peasants who got angry at the king as per what happened in “Fable 3” to me. The possible questions are endless and as a whole quite open to a large degree to a large number of people to get across very powerful and life changing messages.

Now, this is where I get into where video games, like many other things truly can turn into and become childish. When I talk to a fellow designer at work and I hear he is playing the latest shoot fest in “Destiny” I don’t applaud or ask questions … (although I might ask why he invested 60 dollars in a half baked game) I simply cringe knowing that he’s wasting time on something that won’t give him anything in return. And I understand where he is too. For a long time I played “Call of Duty” and spent hours doing menial task that meant literally nothing. I would play “DOTA 2” deep into the night with little to no regress only hoping for one more awesome game so to speak. And I can tell you sometimes it would feel great but eventually … God struck me … I began to grow up  I put my childish ways behind me. But it didn’t mean I stopped playing video-games but rather what I played and how my tastes changed.
I began to realize that I didn’t really want to spend my time shooting away at hours on end in a game like “Halo: Reach” for hours it just started to feel pointless and asenin or try getting twenty some odd kills in “DOTA 2” or even building my vast empire in “Rome 2: Total war”. Believe me all of those can be gratifying at some point or another and for a moment you feel like a God. You are in control. But there is one problem … you are not God and you most definitely are not in control.

And so I started playing indie games. I started playing games with real value. “The Bioshock Franchise” with it’s amazing ideas wrapped within and the deep emotions forebode throughout or quotes such as, “a man chooses … a slave obeys,”. “Journey” by that game company which enraptures you with beautiful music meanwhile your character tries to meet the summit of a mountain which is an incredible emotional voyage and might even have you in tears. “Brothers – A tale of Two Sons” a tragic story which is built with understanding your counterparts but even more so learning to combine the two hemispheres of your brain. (I’m not going to lie at the ending of brothers and especially near certain moments I was crying especially since it hit home with me and the relationship I carry with my own brother). “Company of Heroes” learning to outsmart and out think an opponent. “FTL: Faster than Light” taking your skill with your chances with luck. “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” understanding the trepidation and tumultuous struggles to do the right thing within the human heart. “StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm” giving up someone that you love for something that is far greater and which is right. “The Swapper” a discovery into the transferance of consciences. “Valiant Hearts” looking at the history and suffering of men in WWI. “Papers Please” being a border guard at a country within an eastern block country during the Soviet Union and everything that it entails. “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” a look into the power of technology but also his brutal destruction by it and why we, like Icarus, might be flying just a little too close to the sun.

The list is endless. I consider myself very much a refined and careful gamer when it comes to what I let myself try or invest in or play or spend time on and I can tell you that most of these games are just the tip of the Iceberg. They are just the beginning of something much larger and much bigger. Mark my words. Digitalis is upon us and whether you agree or not in the outcomes of it is not important. You can like whatever you believe in that regard. But wouldn’t you want to use that to your best advantage? Wouldn’t you want to be able to mold the medium and use it to tell powerful stories? Wouldn’t you want to harness to server your ultimate purpose- the ultimate purpose of everyone alive.

But no they’re childish. They’re asenin. They’re for kids. Right? Even though a number of games on that list wouldn’t even be sold to someone under 17 at a gamestop.

As the people who use and experience on the medium get older so will the things they produce by it increase in maturity and meaning and power of storytelling. That is why I’m glad the average gamer is 31 years old. It means games are only going to get better and better and the power within for conveying powerful meaningful ideas will increase.

I only have 70 years on my life (probably even less). I don’t have time to waste it going to purely prima-facie functions. Or that serve to give people a false impression of themselves and gloat others in self-indulgent self-images while talking them up at parties. Or have time to shoot endless waves of enemies in a multiplayer game online. Or sit down and watch the newest piece of crap by Kevin Hart. Or watch 28 jumpstreet a couple years from now. Or try seeing if I can pull a condomn through my nose to my mouth cavity. Or take an exorbitant number of selfies while out with my friends. Or read to myself the newest hunger games or shallow teen fiction/young adult novel which has the thought processing of a 8th grader and the emotions of a raging horomonal. Or even sit down and do sudoku all day while tasks lie at hand. Or spend hours listening to repetitive pop music or bland and also repetitive Christian music with little heart invested. Or spend hours building up an non-physical Kingdom in a virtual world on your ipad (Clash of Clans).

No I want depth. Real depth. Depth that is found in God. I want to watch “Lord of the Rings” or “Inception”. I want to read “Fathers and Sons”. I want to experience the prose of “Eugene Onegin”. I want to understand the loss and sorrowful melancholy within a game like “Transistor”. I want to look at the sunset hit the sky in the evening and think to myself … “that is transcendentally beautiful”. I want to capture ideas and put them down into images on a canvas with paint and convey ideas and concepts at their deepest level. I want to design an app that will change how people think of time and their phones. I want to wipe away the frame and give you the image and the canvas alone subsequently to run into and enjoy in all its glory. I want to listen to symphonies.  I want un-found and under appreciated not the huge and popularized in the mainstream. I want to bring Glory to God. By any measure, by any means, by any medium, by utter unbreakable anchored resolve in him and my trust and belief in him.

And videogames … they are just one piece of the puzzle. One small modicum of channel to which to bring this message. Bring this idea. Bring this heart.

This is what I hope you see … this is what I hope you understand.

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One comment

  1. Mackenzie · December 31, 2014

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