These may be the most difficult admissions I will ever make on this blog:
These are some of the games which I have played but never completed: Bioshock, Fallout, Baldur’s Gate, Oblivion, Braid, Half-Life, The Longest Journey, Secret of Monkey Island, Psychonauts.
These are some the games which I own, but never played (even once): Metal Gear Solid 2-4, Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect (all), Portal 2, Planescape Torment, GTA 4, Half-life 2, Arkham Asylum/City, Crysis (both), ICO/Shadow of Colossus, Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls, Bastion, Chrono Trigger, FF6, Beyond Good & Evil, Star Wars: KOTR, Devil May Cry (all), Max Payne (all), Fallout (2 to New Vegas).
These are some the games which I neither own nor played: Persona (all of them), Minecraft, Zelda, Skyrim, Silent Hill (all), Resident Evil (all), Starcraft (all), FF Tactics, Suikoden (all), all Mario games after SMB3, MMORPGS, and pretty much all PS2, PSP, X-box or 360 exclusives.
Quite possibly I have reduced my gamer credibility to zilch, so what’s the point in my admitting these?
One reason why I didn’t play so many important games was that I missed out on the entire PS2/XBox console generation (college, but that’s not the only reason). Even when I got my PS3, it was already 5 years into the current-gen. The more I read from gaming websites and the more new games are released over time, the more my list of “games which I just have to play” grew and grew. Soon it became apparent, being a working adult and all, that I’ll probably never have enough time to play this entire list of games.
And then I got sad.
Hold up, let’s examine why exactly I’m upset, and what this reveals about myself and my motivations for playing video games: I’m upset because I don’t want to miss out on videogame experiences which have been widely recognized by the gaming community as the best experiences videogames have to offer. I want to go through and experience these experiences for myself too. But what really is the value of these experiences? Why are these experiences so desirable to me? Is it because:
- These experiences are so inherently valuable that my I cannot live my life without them? If so, then gaming crosses the boundary into idolatry. The only thing that I cannot live my life without is Christ.
- I just don’t want to miss out on experiences which other people have already enjoyed. In other words, what other folks already have but I don’t, I must also have. Is this not greed, covetousness and envy?
- I know that I cannot be seriously considered a gamer if I haven’t had these gaming experiences under my belt. In other words, I don’t want to be looked down upon by the gaming community for my lack of key experiences. Is this not vanity?
On further reflection, it should actually be a blessing to have missed out of some of these gaming experiences, just like it should actually be a blessing that as someone with a job, I have very limited hours in a week to game. Theoretically, this means that my gaming choices ought need to be more critical and selective. It’s like you’re given an large spread to choose from for a meal, you would want to skip out on the junk food and go only for the quality stuff. Theoretically I should, on average, be having gaming experiences which are of greater quality, meaning and significance compared to other regular gamers.
Well, theoretically that is. More often than not, I find myself playing the kind of game which I have an impulse to play at that point in time. That’s revealing, because it shows that I’m not responsibly engaging video games, and I game primarily for self-indulgent purposes. I hope this can change. One reason why I started this blog is to explore the concept of how we, as Christian gamers, can pursue gaming in a way which is less about self-indulgence, and more about glorifying God. Hopefully, we can discuss these things in greater detail soon.
For a start, I should learn to be content with what gaming experiences I have, and what I don’t. Similarly, I need to be content with the limitations of my time which prevent me to have the kind of exhaustive gaming experience which I might desire, but is in no way truly necessary. Only Christ is truly necessary. And this lesson of contentment is in itself a blessing by the grace of God. May God be magnified in all I do, be it in my moments of victory or in my shortcomings.
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
(1 Timothy 6:6-8 ESV)
[Addendum: This article from Rowan Kaiser discusses something similar from a game writer’s perspective.]