I felt like, as I do my “Why Christians Should Play Video Games” series, I was kind of glossing over an important point. Some people, however confusing it may be to myself and other gamers, actually do not understand WHY PEOPLE LIKE VIDEO GAMES IN THE FIRST PLACE. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d take a step back and give those outsiders a glimpse into we, the Gamers’, psyche (and in turn YOUR psyche, Mr. Non-Gamer).
And since I’m a guy, I thought I’d approach this more or less strictly from a guy’s perspective. The population of female Gamers is growing, absolutely, but since I’m not one of them, I thought I’d resist speaking for them too much.
A common misconception about video games themselves is that they are simply interactive scenes of violence, that instead of watching the violence in a movie or on TV, we Gamers revel in participating in that violence. Sure, there are violent video games. In fact, probably most games, especially the best sellers, are in someway centered around violence. And yes, there is a sense of catharsis in virtually unloading a giant machine gun into a huge alien or a terrorist compound.
But just as in a movie, violence for violence’s sake DOES NOT YIELD SUCCESS. Nor does it yield interest. In fact, do you know what Roger Ebert called “the most violent film [he has] ever seen”?
That’s right. Ebert’s choice for most violent film of all time is “The Passion of the Christ”. And now I ask you, how many of the millions of people who saw that movie saw it BECAUSE of the violence? The same logic applies to video games. In most cases, it is not the violence that draws we Gamers to a specific game. Rather it is the WORLD and the STORY in which that violence exists.
John Eldredge says in his masterwork “Wild At Heart” that there are three core desires to a man’s heart, and in my own life and in the lives of those men closest to me, I find them spot on. Those three desires are:
- A BATTLE TO FIGHT
- AN ADVENTURE TO LIVE
- A BEAUTY TO RESCUE
It is these three core desires that I think has driven so many modern men to play video games. In today’s modern, “civilized” world, the opportunities for a man to participate in a great Battle, either literally or metaphorically (i.e. starting a business, fighting for custody of a child), are both few and far between and, more often than not, far more damaging than rewarding. Video games, particularly war games, give the Gamer an opportunity to participate in a battle without any true physical or emotional risk. It’s safe, sure, but it gives a shadow of a sense of what it must be really like. And a shadow is all many of us think we can hope for.
The same goes for Adventure. Whether it’s searching through space to find the key to defeating an ancient evil intent on destroying all life in the galaxy or uncovering the plot behind the current zombie epidemic, games give the Gamer an opportunity to participate in an adventure LARGER THAN THEMSELVES. More and more our masculine lives seem to be cubicle-centric or, if we’re lucky, corner-office-centric. There is nothing so very grand about finally getting those accounts to match up or finding that pesky line of code that’s been causing all the problems. Games give the Gamer an out, a window into, as I said, something LARGER than their own, seemingly small, lives.
The Beauty is the third of Eldredge’s core desires, and She too is inextricable from the gaming world. No, I’m not talking about the vile, pathetic treatment of women in games like Duke Nukem or Grand Theft Auto. I’m talking about the RESCUE THE PRINCESS stories.
Would the original Super Mario Bros game have been nearly as compelling if the goal was not to save the Princess? Of course not! That’s the entire point. Same goes for the Zelda franchise. Even Halo finally gets around to this element in Halo 3 when you must rescue the artificial intelligence Cortana, a sort-of-but-not-really love interest to the enigmatic main character, Master Chief.
And HERE is where the violence comes in. Randy Alcorn states beautifully and powerfully something that every good storyteller has figured out and what every good story-hearer instinctively knows: “A Rescue is only as dramatic and consequential as the Fate from which someone is rescued.” If the Fate is not dire, and few things are more dire than life or death, then the Rescue is inconsequential. For a Rescue to mean something, the Fate MUST be dire, and that naturally leads to stories and worlds where violence must be used.
Ultimately, it is no different than the reason for the success and perpetuation of the great Greek Myths. Grand, Heroic Battles. Desperate Journeys with Insurmountable Obstacles. A Great Fair-Haired Beauty that must be saved from a fate worse than death. The only difference between those centuries old stories and the video games being produced now is the ability for the Gamer to PARTICIPATE in that story. Technology has allowed us to no longer simply be second-hand OBSERVERS to a great Battle, Adventure, or Rescue. Now we have to opportunity to BE THE HERO. This is the perhaps the ONLY difference in their appeal.
Female gamers, I believe, have a similar draw to games, but from their uniquely female perspective. I will not speak to that, though. It’s outside my realm of expertise…or so I’ve been told…
Do you understand the attraction to video games? If you are NOT a Gamer, what has been your perspective as you’ve seen the medium gain more and more attention? Ladies! Why do YOU like video games, if you do?