I don't take criticism easily. Especially when it comes to my personal beliefs or the things I'm passionate about. So when a secular game site takes aim at both video games and my faith, I am quick to reach for my righteous rage.
The article, "The worst Jesus-free review of Portal 2 you will ever read," popped up on quartertothree.com last month and later resurfaced on Kotaku. In it writer Tom Chick explains how his genuine curiosity to explore a Christian view of Portal 2 led him to Christ Centered Gamer. With it's potentially theological themes of trials, incarnation and ascension; Chick was hoping to glean a deeper understanding of both Christianity and Portal 2 from CCG.
Instead he was disappointed by the same review he could read anywhere, except with a "numerical score that equates Christianity with facile morality," and without a shred of Christian insight.
I was not alone in taking offence to the criticism. The comments came fast and furious from both sides, most stemming from knee-jerk emotions like the one brewing inside me. Some applauded Chick's observation of Christian failings and others warned him of stereotyping broad groups of people, and still others cried for spoiler alerts (don't read the article if you haven't finished the game.) Cheryl, the review's author and CCG founder, was gracious and understanding in her own response, taking the time to thank Chick for checking out the site and voicing his opinions. But I was still fuming and ready to come to the site's defense. However, it was Chick's additional comments that stayed my hand from the keyboard.
"If you don’t mind me asking, do you think I’m out of line expecting the sort of commentary I suggested?" Chick asked. "My thinking is that since the Gospel is such an important part of how you consider the world, shouldn’t it also be a part of how you consider games?"
He goes on to explain how he would expect a different review of Shift from an actual race car driver, or a father of a young daughter reviewing Bioshock 2.
"As multifaceted and complicated human beings, these aspects of our identity are a valuable way to talk about our experiences, and that includes how we talk about videogames," Chick said.
Additional responses from Cheryl and an in-depth response by fellow CCG writer, Drew Regensburger was also featured in Kotaku and helped explain how CCG still provides a valuable service to parents and Christians sifting through the moral objections in popular releases. Regensburger also adds that steady progress is being made towards more theological observations.
I put down my religious nerd rage as I began to digest the surprisingly heart-felt and open discussions taking place. Still, it left me scratching my head, why do non-Christians want us to specifically talk about Christ in our reviews?
One comment was suspiciously sarcastic but now I wonder if they hit on a deeper calling for Christian gamers like ourselves:
-Would Jesus play and enjoy this game?
-Can I witness/fellowship through this game?
-Does this game witness to me?
-Do any scriptures apply to this game?
-Is it possible for a sin to occur while playing this game?
Excuse this small sermon, but I wonder if Chick and the rest of the world is bored with secular reviews, and instead are seeking out the life that can only be found in Christ. And they’re looking for it among video games.
While our original calling may be to guide families looking for appropriate entertainment, part of our mission as Christians is to point the world to Christ; the source of the life and meaning Chick is looking for. While games can be good past times and a source of relaxation, for many they are a meaningful way of exploring the big questions of life. We have such a rich but untapped ministry in video games. And while I loved how Regenburger wisely navigated the murky waters of Kotaku with a responsible answer to Chick's article, I also feel the trepidation of sharing my faith on the wild and violent waves of the Internet. But we can't shy away from holding out the burning message we have been entrusted with.
We may not be theologians, but we are Christians who love video games. Despite any differences we may have with people, gaming brings us together; that's our ministry.
Second Corinthians 5 verse 20 in the Message says, "We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you."
And yes, we might get laughed at. Even rejected. But second Corinthians 4 verse 3 says, "If our Message is obscure to anyone, it's not because we're holding back in any way. No, it's because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention."
Let's not hold back. Let's give people like Chick what they came looking for.
You can find the original article here at: http://www.quartertothree.com/fp/2011/0 ... ever-read/
The republished version on Kotaku here: http://kotaku.com/5801312/the-worst-jesus+free-review-of-portal-2-you-will-ever-read
And the CCG response on Kotaku here: http://kotaku.com/5802377/in-defense-of ... f-portal-2
Also, here is part of an uplifting reader response received by CCG after the article appeared online:
Thank you for making game choices easier for my wife and myself (I may not be Christian but I share many of the same values as my wife.) I look forward to watching the site continually evolve and change as the market dictates.