Playing and Praying

Finding God and growth in games

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Can video games be used to facilitate character development? I think so.

Ready Player One did a nice job of illustrating how choices made in the virtual world can have a direct impact on the real world, and vice versa.

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Some Japanese use fighting games to become better people; a modern take on martial arts.

I’m a firm believer that how we do anything shapes how we do everything.

It’s not as if you use a second brain while playing a game. The world may be different, but you are still deploying the same neural networks and exercising your moral will throughout.

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Video games form us, for better or worse. It’s our job to decide if we will use them for good or evil. Two people can play the same game – one to practice for a school shooting, another to improve critical thinking, form new friendships, or unwind after a stressful day. We inescapably bring who we are to games, and they in turn shape who we become.

In the real world, I’m learning how to be a better problem solver. In the virtual world, I’m practicing leaning into difficulties instead of avoiding them.

Show me how you play games and I’ll tell you something about your personality.

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I have traditionally shunned walkthroughs, cheat codes, shortcuts, and easy difficulty levels. Aided by Metacritic, I am scrupulous about which games I buy and commit my  time to. When I purchase a new game, the first thing I do is study the manual. The next thing I do is select “hard”. While playing, I try to find every secret and explore every nook and cranny. All of this is extremely enjoyable and rewarding for me. And even if the game becomes really challenging or boring, I make a point of completing it. In short, I play for mastery.

Or at least I used to. As I’ve matured in the real world, this has bled into my approach to gaming. I now see how my pursuit of digital excellence can devolve into perfectionism and wasted time. I’m no longer above googling the answer. I do not exist to serve the game; it exists to serve me.

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I don’t want to be one person in the real world and another in the virtual world. I don’t want to use video games like a drug to escape from reality. I want to live one integrated life. And for me, that means living a prayerful life everywhere. Why wouldn’t God care about how I play games? Why wouldn’t he want to use entertainment to make us more like him?

 

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