Letters to the Editor

Lightness of Being (a Gamer)


In response to “Gentlemen, Welcome to Shoot Club – Part One” from The Escapist Daily: Welcome, Gentlemen indeed! Ecstatic to see a site wise enough to stoke the Shoot Club furnace. Weekly updates? It’s a dream come true.

Here’s hoping the new guy can handle his first shoot. See you next week.

– grendelpete

In response to “A Lack of Faith” from The Escapist Forum: Re Left Behind, the book itself is largely devoid of pain or serious contemplation of what it would mean to lose all the Earth’s children in the twinkling of an eye. The fact that the game is so vapid (and terrible) is not shocking considering the thoughtless plot-focused literalism of the novel.

RPGs, of course, offer the best route for ethical/spiritual investigation but they are hamstrung by gamers themselves. But Job himself complains that rain falls on good and evil alike; that ethical behavior is no guarantee of reward and RPGs as currently constructed are about a string of rewards (usually for pathological behavior). Designing a religious game as an effort at witnessing, therefore, runs into the fact that gamers will optimize their solution to get the reward, if that means mindlessly following the “Good Path” then they will do that. Planescape was deeply philosophical and strongly written – for a game. But for me it had all the take away of a good Babylon 5 episode.

I often think about doing a design doc for a pseudo-historical strategy game based on the biblical histories of Israel and Judaea, but you run into the problem of how to work the prophets, Yahweh and the Assyrians into the same game. How do you respect the Biblical idea that lack of faith condemned those nations without making “Tear Down Asherah Poles” the magic bullet train to success?

– Troy Goodfellow

In response to “Jesus Was Not a Gamer” from The Escapist Forum: Anyway, my own version of why Jesus didn’t play games (with which I agree) is perhaps a bit controversial… but I’ll say it anyway.

I think that Christianity more so than other modern religions, and certainly more so than ancient pagan religions, has a concept of fearing God (hence the frequent use of the term “God-fearing” in Christian vernacular). Which makes the explanation simple: when God is something to be feared, or, lets say, fearfully respected, you don’t want to bring him into your games so much, since that might be misconstrued as disrespect on the part of the Almighty – and here is your hall pass to hell. Contrast this especially with relationships that the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans had with their Gods – they (the relationships) were much more easy-going and thus conducive to play.

If I was to generalize, I’d say that if you look at the evolution of religious thought in general, it evolves to be more and more serious and somber in the later phases of mankind’s development, and so some of the youngest religions such as Christianity are already so serious as to make mixing religion and games simply inappropriate.

– vaga_koleso

In response to “Jesus Was Not a Gamer” from The Escapist Forum: The question at the crux, I believe, is one that has bothered theologians for millennia.

Do you – does the game designer, does the game player – believe that God has knowledge and control of particulars. I think a passage in the Bible goes something like, ‘God knows when a single hair on your head moves’.

If someone works with that as part of their core beliefs, then they must surely believe that God plays a role when a Hail Mary pass is thrown. God can surely give an athlete the strength, the clarity of purpose and mental fortitude for a moment, i.e., inspire the athlete.

And let’s not forget the name Hail Mary has some religious connotations.

Anyway, my point is this. For Christian game designer designing Christian games, to incorporate doubt and crises of faith, would be seen as yielding to temptation.

In conjunction, let’s not forget what Jesus’ response was when Satan tried to tempt him a second time by suggesting that Jesus throw himself off the temple so the people milling about below could see a miracle…

– DaXIthR

In response to “Paladins can Loot?” from The Escapist Forum: How much longer will it take for game designers to realize that there is no such thing as absolute good or evil, there’s only actions and consequences? “Good” and “evil” are labels people assign certain deeds to reflect their personal attitude towards it. And this is where the trouble starts – if most of us can agree on basic things like killing/saving life being good or evil (and even then – what if you save a life of someone who was going to kill someone else? Is that good or evil? Or even lawful/chaotic?), the more “gray” you go, the more subjective and personal the labels become. What is seen as “evil” by the designers might be seen as “good” or at least “neutral” by the gamer. Even further – what might be seen as “evil” by both designer and player, might be seen as “good” by the game characters given a certain context (say, killing a guy who beats his wife).

IMO what game designers should focus on is choose-consequence, action-reaction model, abstracting from subjective and uncertain labels like “good”, “evil”, “lawful”, “chaotic”, etc.

– shadowbird

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