December 31, 2022

A Defense of Video Games

Patrick Miller provides an apologetic for video games in Christ and Pop Culture. He dives into the topic of whether we (particularly us Christians) should spend our time on something that appears to be merely recreational.

But should Christians value fun at all? Frowning Puritans notwithstanding, our theology of Sabbath recreation gives us a resounding answer: Yes! Recreation is a form of rest not only because we cease labor, but also because we honor the fecundity of creation by using our God-given minds and bodies to draw out hitherto unimagined worlds and possibilities. Recreation invites creatures into re-creation. We play with the raw material of a good world, reconfigure it into new worlds, and find ourselves wonderfully rejuvenated—and thus prepared for more productive labor.

Video games have evolved into more than just playing Pac-Man in an 80s arcade cabinet, or even shooting aliens in Doom, but it seems the arguments against gaming haven’t really caught up. Miller uses the Final Fantasy VII RPG as an example of a game that has impact beyond simply providing easy entertainment to the player.

After selling more than 13 million copies, there’s little doubt that this story affected gamers deeply, but how did it do this? The game is not a 36-hour TV show, spoon-feeding plot points between action sequences. Rather, Final Fantasy VII draws the player into the story through gameplay. This experience of entering a story is what game critics call immersion.”

Miller makes the connection between narrative, immersion and what constitutes art.

Now I know: That’s narrative design. That’s immersion. That’s art.

Few people would argue that spending time immersing ourselves in art has no benefit. The soul-enriching capabilities of art are well understood. If we place games into this same category, the justification for spending time with them becomes self-evident.

I can say that the version of myself from 25 years ago would be deeply disappointed that I have a copy of the remade Final Fantasy VII on our family Playstation 4, and I’ve never played past the first level.1 Every so often I think I should make time to play it, without guilt that I could be doing something more edifying.

  1. The game was amazingly, free, with a Playstation Plus subscription.↩︎


← Previous No Roof No Floor I generally don’t do year-end lists, but I like to share a couple of my favorite things from the past year. In this interstitial time between Next → Being Wrong in 2023 Jesse Singal has a hope for going into the new year. He wants us to rediscover simply being wrong. In 2023, I hope we can rediscover wrongness.
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