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An unusual God-talk connection

In my younger years (read: those years before children), I must confess that I actually dabbled in MMPORPGs (that's "massive multi-player online role playing games" for those of you not in the know). Heh, a surprising number of my contemporaries--folks you'd never suspect (but you know who you are)--are regular gamers. Anyway, the concept itself as well as the technology behind it continues to fascinate me, these intricate and complex virtual worlds with thousands of real people behind the computer-generated figures. I must admit, I enjoyed exploring the worlds and how they worked more than anything else (to the bewilderment of some of my gamer friends). I didn't play too many or too long, but it was fun.

Which is why a couple of items by Elliot at Claw of the Conciliator caught my eye. First, did you know the Old Testament prophet Eziekel is considered the patron saint of gamers? Click here to find out why. Heh. Also, World of Warcraft has an interesting addition: a pacifist priest. I never played this one, but I've got friends who do--and, let me tell you, that's very unusual.

Why? Elliot recalls once reading that most of these games are "designed so that your main (or only!) interaction with the world is a violent one." I don't know that I completely agree with that as the games I played often had multiple options of play where violence wasn't always the central aspect. (Though it has been about 10 years since I've played, so things could have changed.) I must admit, however, that one of the elements of the games I avoided like the plague was the "player versus player" aspect. I couldn't handle the idea of actually fighting against another person instead of a monster or robot (the usual threats in the games I played). Somehow, shooting arrows or thunderbolts at a charging polar-bear-like monster felt a lot different than crossing swords with a human-looking avatar (or even an unhuman looking one) that has a person behind it. Perhaps it was because I was a girl (as some of my friends suggested, heh). Maybe it was my Anabaptist roots and my real world convictions. Maybe it was an inconsistent sense of gameworld morality ("kill" the monsters but not the people does have a faulty logic from some standpoints). Maybe it was a combination. Anyway, I actually stopped playing one game when that became an unavoidable aspect. If I were to go back to these games, this would be a very attractive and interesting way to go. Kind of like being a contestant on Survivor with the goal of walking with Jesus. But we won't go there right now, heh.

Thank you to Elliot for these interesting God-talk connections.

(Image: via Wikipedia)

Comments

DesperateFamily said…
Hello,
Cute blog, we personally like "Stargate SG1, and Stargate Atlantis".

Regards from Ukraine
Ken Brown said…
I played World of Warcraft for about 6 months, but it just required way to much of a time commitment (and, frankly, its not worth the monthly fee unless you are going to devote a lot of time to it). When I saw that article about the pacifist avatar a couple weeks ago, my first thought was: "that's interesting and creative." My second thought was: "if he really wants to avoid violence, he just shouldn't play games like this - all he's doing this way is wasting even more time in a world that revolves around war (hence the title of the game)."
Carmen Andres said…
ukraine?! my it's a small world - thanks for stopping by!

ken, i was amazed at how much time was soaked up by those games when i played! that's part of the reasons i stopped playing, heh. re the pacifist player, the idea of intentionally walking in a world of war with an alternative approach resonates with me. kinda reminds me of real life (one also all too often revolves around wars of all kinds, from inside our homes to the world at large) while walking with Jesus and living a new way of life. but then, i could be reading FAR too much into this, heh.
Ken Brown said…
I like your take on it, though I'm not sure he would share it (given that he also has several "normal" avatars besides his pacifist ones). Even so, there would seem to be much more useful (and probably enjoyable!) ways of spending the 100 or 200 hours it is gonna take him to level up a pacifist character! Aren't there enough real world wars to protest, that one should need to devote that much time to "protesting" a fake one?
Carmen Andres said…
heh, i can't really argue with that.

what resonates with me isn't so much the specfics but that larger model -- i think it's a good model (or at least inspiration), a way to be creative and intentional in our ordinary little corners of the world, to seed the world with kingdom life. i don't mean that this guy is intentionally doing that, you've got the point very well nailed there. but i can't help thinking this is one of those things that echoes larger things.

i also think stuff like this is an invitation to think about where we walk in step with culture around us without even thinking about it. on my dresser sits the text for Romans 12:1-2 in different versions (NIV and Message), and reading about this guy makes me wonder how i am formed by my culture--and makes me think about what walking according to God's formation looks like. (again, not that this guy is doing that.) i'll have to think on it some more.

but i do so love conversations like this - thanks for picking this one up.
Ken Brown said…
Carmen,
I was thinking about your comments while driving today and I think you're right. The world is full of pacifists and war protestors that no one pays any attention to (least of all, the kind of people who play MMOs), so I have to appreciate a guy who is able to make pacifism relevant (or at least, notworthy) to the typical gamer teen/twenty-something.

Like you said, whether he actually intended such a thing, he has provided an encouraging example of how to challenge cultural assumptions while still remaining relevant. Good stuff!
Carmen Andres said…
"an encouraging example of how to challenge cultural assumptions while still remaining relevant"

wow, you said it much better than i did - exactly!!
Ken Brown said…
By the way, I wrote a full-length article on the potential social impact of MMOs (positive and negative) for Salvo 3. You can read it here (PDF without images), or here (PDF with images, much larger).