What My Gaming Envy Says About Me

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.

At this rate, I may never get to play Bioshock Infinite =(

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.]


6 thoughts on “What My Gaming Envy Says About Me

  1. This.

    “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.”

    Love it.

    As one who has a list pretty similar to yours, I empathize and agree with all of your sentiments. That’s why I would simply ask one question: What are you playing lately? And what seems to be God’s heart on the game?

    • Currently, I’m so excited about writing for this blog that my game choices are based on which games I think would make interesting articles for purposes of this blog.

      Currently I’m playing Asura’s Wrath (which significantly taps into Eastern religions), and after that I’m undecided between Journey, El Shaddai, or Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (themes of predestination/free will). Bastion is also a possibility, since everybody is saying how great a game that is.

      • Sweet! I’ve not read any kind of Christiocentric perspectives on Asura’s Wrath. Looking forward to that!

        By the time you finish Amalur’s tutorial mission, you could be done with Journey. Amalur is a seriously huge game. I have about 10 hours on it and have barely scratched the surface. The subject of predestination and such would definitely be fascinating – especially given your Calvinist training/influence. Just know that you’re setting out on a massively long undertaking with that one.

        Really curious about your take on El Shaddai, And I’d love to read about Bastion from your perspective. But Journey is just a serious must-play. It’s the first game I ever played that naturally overflowed into worship. In fact, I’m speaking at our church on Sunday about worship and I’m gonna try to use a scene from that game for an illustration.

  2. Hello, Yi Ling here! Thanks for sharing your blog with me. I came across this post and would like to share that I identify with what you have written here completely. I have also made similar lists (and can I borrow Shadow of the Colossus from you? Though I honestly don’t know when I would have the time to play it [gaming envy here]). I have since come to terms with not prioritizing games though, and so even though the recent Bioshock Infinite does look very exciting I am pretty sure I won’t get to play it. I have even (very, very recently) decided that finishing up all the Final Fantasy titles (I’m a big fan) shouldn’t be of a higher priority than reading God’s word. After gaming relatively regularly for quite a number of years I am now at a stage where I am more than ready to reduce it to a monthly occurrence. Thanks too for the article on the gaming diet. 🙂

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