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The New New Media Part 2

June 20, AD 2013 7 Comments

In my last article on the subject of video games and the New Evangelization I briefly went into my own passion for games and how I feel that it is an evolving media that Catholics should begin to reevaluate. While the media itself is only beginning to evolve into something capable of real human drama, it is precisely that reason that Catholics will want to invest their own efforts while the media is so young. In order to understand how to do this we must first understand what these games actually provide to the players.

It is no secret that the video game industry is male-dominated. It is also no secret that the games industry caters to this dominant segment of its consumer base. And while it could use some maturity, the players themselves find in the games more than what I suspect an average viewer sees.

Games provide a rule set and structure – Men need structure in their lives. I suspect women do as well. Speaking as a man, though, I know men not only meet the expectations given them but also rise to the challenges presented to them when they are presented with challenges that are worth the effort. If much is expected of men, men usually meet these expectations. The same is also true if little expectation is made of men.

Our society expects little of men. One only needs to read a synopsis of Entourage to get a feeling of what people expect of men in society. And as young men are fed these constant lower expectations we should not be surprised that they lower themselves to meet them.

Games allow men to fulfill that need to have a set of rules and expectations — meaningful goals and objectives to accomplish, wrongs to be righted and people to save. These games allow men to be men in the shallowest sense of the term. But even this I think shows how starved young men are for meaning in their lives that they would become so involved in a pale imitation.

Games provide a community and foster cooperation –  One of the main concerns about video games are the (usually hyper-sensationalized) stories of game addiction. While these things occur at times if we again look closer we see a more complicated story.

Most of these addictions come from people, usually men, who cannot see their real lives as having worth. They find in games people like them who have the same interests and work together to accomplish those goals. They find in short: community. They find people who care about them (to a point) and work with to accomplish goals that have meaning to them.

Games are fun – There is nothing wrong with fun. I think there is at times a stigma to having fun in some religious circles. Like anything, it ca be abused. And like anything digital, it consumes more time than what is healthy.

This however does not mean that we should throw it out like the proverbial baby in the bath water. Fun is important to a healthy life in every sense. What is lacking among video games is like most of society temperance.

As Pope Benedict called Catholics to embrace the new media of the internet, despite the risks involved, I also feel that those with the inclination should embrace video games  with the same tempered enthusiasm. With the growing industry and the push to enter into mobile markets (think phones and tablets) games promise to be more prominent, not less. And we are in a prime position as Catholics in the social media space to reach out to those whom our society dismisses as “losers.”

Gamers are looking for their lives to have meaning and the work they do to matter. They want community and to know they are welcomed and loved. And they don’t want a rigid and suffocating environment that stifles who they are.

With that in mind, can you think of a better place than the Catholic Church?

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About the Author:

Colin Gormley is a 30 something Catholic who is married. By day he is a contract worker for the state of Texas. By night, or whenever he’s trapped with his wife in her biology lab, he blogs about the Catholic faith from an apologetics perspective. He often strays into politics given the current debates in the country, but he tries to see all issues with the eyes of the Church. His website is Signs and Shadows.

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  • Chris Ricketts

    There are several assumptions you asserted with which I must take issue. Your premise that because the gaming industry is still young and just by it being a growing media in itself is worthy of evangelization is flawed. What about porn? There are plenty more men that look at porn than play video games. Should we “evangelize” porn so we reach those men? Should we start producing Catholic porn? Obviously video games are not necessarily porn, although many include pornographic and misogynistic elements (Grand Theft Auto anyone?), but that does not mean we need to eagerly lump video games into the efforts of the New Evangelization.

    I’m not sure of the “real human drama” to which you referred in the first paragraph. Video games are not real, period. They are a fantasy, in this case, just like porn. You do not solve actual problems when you “work” together with 10 year old boys and 40 year old men when storming the city in Call of Duty. There is no real human drama. Video games are a great escape for men to avoid the real drama and responsibilities of their actual lives. You brush off video game addiction as something rare, but do you actually understand addiction and what the numbers are on video game addiction?

    I agree that men need structure and rules, but these things should be occurring in real life. Masculinity is bestowed upon and taught to a boy by an older man. It doesn’t happen while sitting on a couch, pressing buttons, and talking to each other over a headpiece. That is not building character, community, or strong, masculine men.

    I must refer you back to the links on arousal addiction I left in the comment box on your first post in this series. Men are more visually attuned than women, so therefore are more likely to become more heavily involved in things like video games and pornography. Our brains are not designed to handle the flood of images/graphics that they are subjected to in video games and in pornography. We become addicted to the chemical releases of dopamine and other hormones released in our brains when we engage in these activities.

    I’m not trying to attack you or browbeat you, I just disagree with your ideas of masculine formation. It also seems to me like you are reaching and trying to justify something to yourself. I’m not saying that all video games are terrible and no one should play a game again. I just think that they should be not be lumped into the New Evangelization merely because they are a form of media.

    • Kevin Tierney

      There’s just one problem with your comparison: Video games aren’t inherently mortally sinful. Porn is. those who play games aren’t sinning.

      Second, nobody is saying it’s either video games or being raised by a father. NOBODY. Just that video games, like other forms of media, can be formative. One need only look at the “Total War” series, a strategy series that inserts people into various scenarios throughout history and is a game of military conquest. When Rome:Total War was released, it didn’t just lead to a lot of people playing countless hours of the Romans conquering the known world. It also led to an increase in boys wanting to know more about Roman culture and history. It helped the History Channel more accurately simulate historical battles. They are also both games that have actually treated religion pretty fairly, and included famous religious figures from the early Church and medieval times. Heck I’ve had people play those games and ask about those figures. Sometimes it even caused me to dive into it myself.
      As someone who actually is a gamer and has read all the studies surrounding gaming, and gaming addiction, the numbers say yes it can be a serious problem for those who do it, but at the same time, it is incredibly rare, and normally related to a host of other anti-social disorders/behaviors before they pick up their first video game. The same criteria you use to condemn video games could also be used to condemn sports.
      The most important reason Catholics should not abandon the gaming media is….. the other side sure as heck isn’t. “Tolerance” for homosexuals is pressed pretty hard in the video game medium, because they know its a way to reach a lot of young boys who aren’t as easy to reach through a textbook environment. (The gaming company Bioware is known for pretty ruthlessely pandering to the gay lobby on these things, frequently as a way to mask over their serious screwups in other aspects of the game.) In a lot of games, people of faith aren’t treated fairly, because of quite frankly people like you who imply that there’s something wrong with people who enjoy entertainment.
      Colin, as an ardent gamer, hopefully we could speak sometime as I’m in pretty much the same boat as you. 30 year old, writer, and gamer who has actually used his time in games to help evangelize, and used the time I’ve spent gaming to evangelize. feel free to contact me at kmtierney at gmaildotcom if you ever wanna swap stories. 🙂

    • Colin Gormley

      Mr. Ricketts,

      I really do appreciate your comments and they are worth an article in and of themselves. Believe me when I say I had the same concerns at first. Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to address your valid concerns. But things are slowing down on my end work wise so I hope to give your concerns the time they deserve. Obviously I disagree but I hope to say why in more depth in a future post.

      • Chris Ricketts

        Haha, glad I could inspire an article. I’m looking forward to continuing this discussion. Please know that I’m not trying to come off as obnoxious or as one of them “troll” people. It’s very hard to convey “tone of voice” in a com box. I appreciate that you are exploring this topic. I think it is worthy of thought and discussion.