NYT on Halo 3 in Christian Youth Evangelism

What a weird article.

Not once does anyone in the article ask the obvious question – “Why Halo?” If the violence of the game is a concern, why don’t they simply play something else? A church I used to attend had video games in their youth drop-in area, but they deliberately avoided M-rated titles. People still had lots of fun. This was in Canada, so the usual choice was a hockey game, but surely a football game would have the same effect south of the border. But I guess too many of us evangelicals have bought into the idea that we need to ride the hype bandwagons to be “relevant” to kids, instead of teaching them to step back and think critically. Bleah.

The repeated use of “Thou shalt not kill” was also just weird. Talk about what morals the game is passing on, or whether we should be exposing kids to more media violence. Don’t try to clumsily equate killing sci-fi aliens in a game with a literal act of murder. I guess it’s true that the game may be passing on morals and values which encourage violent response, but I don’t see that as a given. Are you even killing humans in Halo 3? I guess in deathmatch mode probably; I haven’t played a Halo game yet, I’ve been too distracted defending the intelligence. (No, TF2 probably shouldn’t be used in youth outreach programs either.)

I’m still a little muddled when it comes to how I want to respond to an article like this. Part of me wants to ask if this would be just as controversial if the youth group was being taken out for a game of laser tag* or paintball**, which are arguably more realistic experiences of gunfighting (especially paintball). I’ve taken in enough gamer culture over the years that it’s hard for me to drop the defensiveness that rises up when it feels like video games are being scapegoated.

But I do believe there are reasons why we should be concerned by what messages and values violent games are bringing to kids. I just don’t think that the outside-perspective analysis given by sources like this NYT article capture the depth of the issues.

For a better example of what I’d like to see more of, in Hartmut Gieselmann’s recent paper, “Ordinary Gamers – The Vanishing Violence in War Games and Its Influence on Male Gamers”:

But when you take a closer look at war games, you will realize that the violent scenes that are shown there are not nearly as gruesome as in fictional games featuring monsters and vampires.

…violence will only be recognized as entertaining for the gamer… when he (much more than 90 Percent of war gamers are male) can draw a strict line between the real world and the non real gaming world – otherwise he would be scared by what he sees and stop feeling comfortable.

…By just pointing at the most violent games, critics overlook that war games have a much greater impact on gamers’ opinions and their world views because they do not show the actual violence.

Which is more dangerous in the hands of our children – fantasy-setting violence which jars the senses, or toned down violence depicted in real-world settings which numbs us to the ugly reality of real warfare? (Answering “both” is fine; it’d be an improvement over most critics and watchdog groups who fixate only on the most bloody games.)

I clearly can’t end this in a way which wraps up my thoughts into a coherent conclusion, because I don’t yet have one. How about I just end off by saying, anyone who buys Halo 3 for a youth group and hands it uncritically to 12-year-olds that I know and care about will probably get a scowl and a talking-to from me. Grrr!

(re: GTxA)
*which is awesome, by the way.

**which, when I played for the first time about four months ago, hurt like heck and left a still-visible mark on my body. Also the masks fog up in the first 30 seconds which is lame. My ideal solution: outdoor laser tag.

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9 thoughts on “NYT on Halo 3 in Christian Youth Evangelism

  1. I think it’s all a master plan to weed out the weak-minded; influencing them to destroy themselves, in the process.

    Really, I just find the whole topic of violence in videogames half-ridiculous. I’m of a similar mind, but this is from my “middle” viewpoint. I don’t find the games threatening at all. I have not observed them to influence most people in any way, not to the degree I would say is worrisome. It seems the precious few that paint a terrible picture of tragedy seem to smudge the picture for the rest. I think I’m mixing up my analogy, but I hope the idea is in there. Anyway, I don’t want to make more comment on the subject than this, nor engage in a debate over it. I’m just tired of seeing it become an important topic at all. No offense.

  2. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and these things will be provided unto you.”

    “Do not live for yourselves.”

    “God would love to give you the desires of your heart.”

    Hello there, I’m just some random 18 year old blogger that can sometimes lose his senses. Lately I have. I’m going through the second rebellious stage in my life. You go through your first one between ages twelve and fourteen, and now this second one is in between the ages of 18 and 21 (is that why we get drafted.) Anyway, it’s not pleasant, because I feel that I can be tempted to loathe everything. I know it’s all my fault, and I’m sad, because it feels like I’m naturally drawn to evil, and some old bad habits. As it is, were all accountable. I guess because we all go through it, we we’re meant to go through it.

    I haven’t had a video game system for months. I sold my PS2 and XBOX at the beginning of this past summer (2007). But I have played video games pretty much all my life (not bragging). I wanted to tell you guys that there are some aspects you should consider-besides what’s already stated. The violence is a big issue, yes, but there are a lot of reasons why one would want to be stayed from playing a video game besides just simply the showing of blood. Some ethical, others practical.

    Top issues-Murder and violence.

    The Bible says that murder is a huge sin, worthy of death, because humans are shedding the life blood a person has, and is attacking God by attacking his image. There is hatred involved for it to be considered murder. The Bible says God will even hold us accountable for how much animal blood we shed-any blood, but especially humans.

    Take this into consideration-does murder involve hatred, shedding blood that has life in it, and defacing the beautiful image of God in a human? Is that what murder consists of. You can kill a person from carelessness, and even die from it, but it may not be called murder. What about war? Why plays a big role, but that’s called blood shed, not murder. Unless you disobey orders and attack the wrong people for personal vendettas or lack of caring. Ask yourself, is what I’m doing, pixels or not, underneath it all, standing for or against that. Yeah, it’s fake, but what am I standing for by playing this, by letting this entertainment define me (our toys and cloths and possessions can say things about us. Action is more important, but you surely don’t want to give a wrong impression, especially if you’re a Christian.)? Ask yourself if you can define reality from fantasy, right and wrong, and what conditions change a situation. (Rules can be different in war or in self-defense, but not completely.) No one person can be your conscience for you-a trap I fall into a lot. If it feels so bad, go with your gut for a while. The Bible says that if a man does not know if something is sin or not, and does it anyway, it is sin and may be in danger of hell fire if he does it.
    It’s not worth feeling bad over. If video games are supposed to make you happy, why defeat the purpose with something that may cause strife in your life ( besides the fact that they are addictive and fun, and that we are all curious about the little stories in the game, and some of us use it as a way of rewarding ourselves or in a bad way, escapism.)?
    Other factors include these: is it something that is bound to hurt the grades? You know it always will-just maybe more some than others. If trained well, a child’s grades can only be slightly affected, and still maintain excellent grades-I know from experience, handled the right way I was able to make decent grades with that influence in the house. All spiders are poisonous, it’s just the ones that can kill you are called that. There’s no way to deny that playing violent video games will at least screw you up a little- it’s just will you come out with a few scratches in the end, or are you the type of person that those supposedly small (?) scratches can get infected easily, and or bleed to death (by infection, I refer to addiction and possible negative influence, whether in bad, evil behavior or just being slowed down to the point of being physically or mentally incompetent.)
    Will it cause strife? Will it become an idol for the child, to where he does almost anything, good or bad for it? Will it offend a family member, and hurt them by playing it around them? What about weak Christians? It’s better not to eat meat or have fun than to do it in front of a weak Christian and offend them or cause them to sin by emboldening them before they are sure it’s OK with the Bible. In that case, we need to be ready to sacrifice that pleasure on the alter, temporarily if not indefinitely on the alter for the sake of love, Christ, and not being a bad witness. Seriously, Jesus could command you to sell your XBox if it gets in the way of pleasing your mother.

    Also, ask yourself (if the amount or intensity or presence of violence doesn’t bug you) who am I aiming this at? If you have no bad things about guns in and of themselves, does it still not matter how much time you spend with it and what or who you aim it at? Who am I shooting? Am I shooting the bad guy? Am I the bad guy? Why? What has the bad guy done? How am I doing it? Am Doing bad things to justify a supposedly righteous mean? Am I something good, like a knight, a soldier, or a law enforcer, or am I a criminal, a violent person who is stupid and a womanizer, or some sort of sith lord? Like the shirt I wear, does this agree with what I stand for ? If it isn’t exactly that way, does it oppose or force compromise?

    Perhaps who the violence is aimed at is more important than how intense it is. Also, there are morals. You have a problem with stealing, lying, vandalizing, gambling, accidentally hitting innocent people, anything sexual, a whole lot of bad language, any theme of rebellion should be inspected (why, what for, what does the Bible say) using magic (of course it’s fake, but we should be on guard about things that get to close in detail to the sinister real stuff that exists.) What’s based off something sinister and what’s based of of someone going abra cadabra and turning an enemy into, oh a giant chicken? Unrealistic. But being a medium is real, and it’s forbidden. We need to stay away from the dead, and any familiars.

    Sometimes I find what the Bible says, and going with it, can be far more liberating. Head to the source.

    Here are some facts.

    Video games are bound to have an affect on you, and it’s bound for some of it to be negative, but it isn’t always in abounding measure.

    People can get addicted to video games just like drugs. Video games are naturally addictive, that’s how they sell, you want to keep coming back. There have been cases of people playing them for 18 hours every now and then, even a case where two parents neglected their child and got in trouble with the government over it. Embarrassing. blah blah. It’s real.

    It’s a hobby that can consume part of your life even if controlled. But so is football and fishing.

    Video games have been proven to help people with phobias, and some can increase problem solving skills.

    People have just recently developed rehabs for video game addicts, but on the other hand, most of those people claiming to be being destroyed by nintendo actually had a lot of drug problems and such to start with. On a similar note, there are plenty of kids who play doom, and may not be the best characters in the world, but most are certainly not murderer material, and may not even be hateful or have a bad attitude.

    Recently, many people have drawn teenagers to youth groups at church by letting them play halo. Good? Bad? We all need a balanced diet and approach based on basic facts from the Bible.

    Video games evolve over time, and entrepreneurship can help people get what they want. On a positive note, video games have become like a season of a TV show or book that you can play through. Games are becoming more in depth, and even pulling morality and choices into the game as an element. Also, with the Wii, nintendo takes it one step further by adding exercise into the mix, something a lot of people feel there is a lack of due to TV and it’s cousins.

    On a negative note, all of the new graphics and in depth stuff can make bad stuff in a video game seem more real, and get in your head. The Wii’s interactive motion sensing can actually give players a feel and practice the motions to kill something with a sword or weapon, making it even more in depth and realistic. Some of these games draw the line farther each year. Even if you still have a choice in the matter to do something heroic or wicked, setting that choice for you to choose and you can choose something so bad might should catch our attention. (Bio shock.)

    Video games are more conservative than other media in their content. Violence at the level you see in a rough PG-13 movie only pops up so often in various T-rated games. A lot of M-rated games don’t have nearly the bad content as an R-rated , movie.

    Because video games are about doing things more than watching, they tend to be more focused oriented on action. This means that most video games get rated for violence. Most of them didn’t have a relatively huge amount of language, or sex, mainly just violence(compared to movies). That’s kind of just begun to change lately, with more language in games on the 360 and PS3.

    Some people reason that this conservatism balances out next to the fact that the player is actually doing the violent scenarios instead of just watching them-meaning it would have more of a profound effect on one’s psyche.

    Hillary Clinton wants to put restrictions on video games. Video games tend to make very masculine guys with guns and occasionally ones with morals the heros. And then tend to focus on war. Hmmm…. Perhaps it’s a media that’s not completely liberal? Well, now were not in complete facts anymore.

    Now back to what I think. When I heard about the church’s using halo, I thought they shouldn’t feel like they “have” to do anything to bring kids in. That’s horrible. The Bible is important enough on it’s own, and people need to show that it’s necessary like water, not just a tasty thing like coffee. It’s real, not just a philosophy. If they wanted to, that’s nice, but they shouldn’t feel like they have to offer that much appeasement to kids. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a cool idea, but if they feel they have to and do it too much, just to get the kids in, that is horribly wrong. It’s prostituting the church. Ask yourself, are you training the kids to love Jesus and come to church even if there is no Halo, or will the numbers reside if xbox gets taken away. DO THEY COME TO CHURCH JUST TO PLAY HALO? DO THEY ACTUALLY LISTEN TO THE DEVOTION FROM THE WORD OF GOD, AND START TO CHANGE AND THINK ABOUT IT, OR DO THEY JUST COME IN. ARE THEY A BUNCH OF PUNKS WHO NEVER CHANGE, AND ONLY BEHAVE TO GET SOMETHING?

    That’s something to consider. Kids can respect honesty, and not feeling like you have to sugar coat the Bible to make it important, because it’s important to your life wether you always like it or not.

    On the other hand, one person said something about it like “well, if you offer porn and alcohol at church, that would attract young people.” True, and maybe that analogy applies to this situation, but not to that extent. I get the point, and it’s relevant, but it’s not like they are doing that. The kids aren’t watching porn. If the wrong attitude gets combined with this, yeah, but it’s not that way now. Is there a manifest destiny that it will?

    One thing the church needs to consider in this situation is what do the parents think. Some parents have a problem with m rated video games and some have a problem with video games in general. They should announce and warn ahead of time, and offer alternatives so that no one is left out and tempted to disobey their parents or something. That’s why it’s such a good idea to save it, and a few alternatives, for a church lock down. You will attract some bad people, though.

    Why can’t this issue be resolved over such a stupid matter. It’s not an issue in general, just in specific situations. On one side you have people who call it murder, and associate it with porn and drugs. On the other side, you have people who are so evil that they don’t care but embrace violence just to be bad, and they hate God and are a bunch of atheists or thugs or what have you-they sound just like the other side’s nightmare and they know it, making the situation worse.

    How can I start to have a specific hobby taken away, I want my freedom and not get yelled at or in-tolerated because of an activity in general. Fine, I can give it up to find peace with some of my older, fellow conservatives. But if I give something up in the name of peace, and it really doesn’t help, maybe it wasn’t the problem. Sometimes our fellow human beings really just ask too much.

    But I don’t want to be completely evil either. Come on, I’m not one of these people who hate everything happy and conservative and use video games as a tool for that. For crying out loud! I’ll give it up if I have to, hoping it’s temporary but ready to accept indefinite forbidding of the ever “sinful pleasure” of spending an hour or so in front of a screen shooting bad guys and aliens, or just eating mushrooms to get big.

    I have given up video games for other people before, not for myself, but I thought it was my Christian obligation to make sacrifices in the name of peace. Now, I’m not defensive anymore-I’m just sad, because I’m divided between two factions who can make it hard. Eventually, I’ll have to side more with the conservatives. Why the division? It’s crazy. Stereotyping people based on hobbies? Why must people hate so fervently those who might threaten those hobbies?

    This is Forrest. I am a hyper conservative who occasionally leans moderate to understand other people. I’m not what you think. Or too much of it. Good luck, good night, God bless.

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