Where are all of the Spiritual Games?

Most of what I’m about to say rests on some fairly general assumptions.

  1. Humans have always wanted forms of entertainment.
  2. Technology has affected both the form and the function of that entertainment.
  3. Entertainment is a vehicle for scientific, mythical, and supernatural explanations of reality.
  4. Spirituality is not religion.

I’m a gamer. Of course, I’m too old and have too many responsibilities to actually game as much as I want to. Hell, if I had the chance, I’d probably do nothing else. But I still go to work, spend time with my kid, and try to lend a hand around the house. That said, I have about 30 minutes or so to game every night.

I sometimes loathe other gamers, and not just because they seem to be able to fit more gaming into their schedules. I loathe the stereotypical gamers who play too much instead of living life to the fullest (whatever that means).

Do I think that game developers and publishers like to put addictive, base-instinct-feeding components in games just for the sole purpose of driving dollars? Yes. Do I think that the education is vastly underprepared for the glut of gamers in public schools? Yes. Do I think that mindless and misguided media stories create a sense that this world is second rate, prompting the urge to escape into games? Yes. Do I think that gaming is at its pinnacle of creativity and expressiveness?

No.

Not by a long shot.

So much stuff is on the horizon. There are portable VR caves, 3D personal holographic displays, augmented reality gaming, and human-computer interfaces that rely on nothing but brainwaves.

Games are about to get all kinds of crazy.

As a kid who almost dropped out of school once because of an intense desire to game, I couldn’t imagine ever being scared of games. Now as an adult, my fears are rooted not from a concern that I won’t be able to game enough, but from a very real fear that it won’t be enough. It doesn’t matter how much you dress up that newfangled space-war game; it’s still basically cops and robbers. Yeah, there might be more blood, more alien guts, but it’s still a shitload of pew-pew-pew. But for some reason, it’s so much more than cops and robbers…

What’s missing?

I still believe that we can communicate something wholesome, something intrinsically connected to entertainment: spirituality. (Note: I didn’t say religion. Muuuuuuuch different thing there.) We need a Martin Luther, pinning a bunch of  theses around the entrance to EA’s corporate headquarters. We need that game that feels like one hand clapping. We need a Jesus of games.

Games are so much more than what we see. Perhaps there is something linked between competition and fighting, farming and well, farming. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with games in general. We need an experience that is so fundamentally different from other games that it goes with us, changing our own perception of the “real” world.

In my fragmented and pseudo-cynical mind, I can’t help but think that we need to map it all out, finding the patterns from the data so we can more easily see where the trends are taking us. If we moved from Pitfall to Super Mario to Stryder to Twisted Metal to Halo, what does that say about the narrative potential of games? What does that say about us?

And what, if any, are the moral messages that are being taught?

Over the next few weeks, I will delve into some of the issues around games and technology in general, hoping to shed some light on the potential downfalls and shining possibilities of our relationship with these areas.

Until tomorrow,

bk

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