Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Aithre kai Gaia

The English-version names of characters in Ace Attorney have a wonderful mythological resonance. Phoenix, of course, then Apollo, Athena, Thalassa, and you realize that a phoenix is a bird of Apollo, while the Yatagarasu is the bird of Amaterasu, the Japanese sun goddess. This painting is a symbolic tribute to that, as well as practice for an upcoming picture that will be one of the most awesome things I've ever drawn.

I've posted fanart of video games here before, but I wanted to talk about it a bit now.

I don't know how much of a regular audience this blog has. My father and mother look at it, I know that much, but beyond that I'm not sure. But I have the impression that, mainly due to the Liturgical Calendar Coloring Book, much of what audience there is seems to be Catholic homeschooling mothers. That's pretty cool; I think those are one of the few things in our civilization that might have some hope to save it. And so, conscious of the importance of the role of my apparent audience, I want to exhort them about something.

I have seen many articles aimed at this same audience, from Catholic and other Christian sources, online and in print, about problems of our time and culture, many of them have been quite good. But many take something for granted with which I completely disagree. I'm thinking particularly of ones about the decline of manhood and the decline of beauty and wholesomeness in the culture.

What these articles take for granted is that video games are altogether bad: at best an immature waste of time, at worst a violence-inducing immorality like unto pornography.
With this I completely and vehemently disagree.

It's true that many video games are not worthwhile. This simply means that they, like every other form of media, follow Sturgeon's law--90% of everything is trash. The same can be said of books, music, and even paintings.

There is also a kind of man not worthy of the name who's always associated with video games: maybe mostly a stereotype, but they do exist: the sort who is lazy, slovenly, self-absorbed, with no ambition, living in his parents' basement well into his thirties and spending all his time on the internet or playing video games.

I want to tell you that not all gamers and nerds are like this. I'm sure many of you already know this. But for those susceptible to the rhetoric of the articles I mentioned, I want to say I firmly believe that video games are not the cause of what's wrong with such men's (and women's!) moral lives. Truly, the real thing that makes this kind of person a moral failure, which both results from immaturity and results in immaturity, is what used to be (rightly) called self-abuse, that is, masturbation.

I posit that it is this act, not video games, which makes a wreck of such peoples' lives. I'd be willing to bet that every single nerd who is contemptible in that immature way and fits that disgusting image is guilty of that vice. I really would bet lots of money on it. Video games are just one thing they spend their time, sometimes too much time, on and sometimes direct their appetites toward, but I submit that it is that sort of attitude, that self-turned pleasure-seeking, towards anything, rather than the thing itself, that is the problem.

(Of course not all who are guilty of this vice are the basement-dwelling, creepy eternal adolescent type, but that sort of impure indolence is a logical conclusion of that sort of sin.) So, video games do not cause this kind of life though they may be a part of it, and plenty of people who play video games do not live this kind of life.

A video game is simply a way of telling a story, just like a book, a play, or a film. And many of these stories are amazing, full of goodness and truth expressed in beauty. I could summarize several glorious storylines, that could not be told as well in any other medium, about Christ-reflecting heroes self-sacrificially saving others not just from peril but also from moral corruption, but that's for another time. (I hope to do some video game reviews sometime.)

Many of them are not for very young children. That's as it should be. I don't think kids should be playing video games before the age of reason. Maybe something simple and fun that is more like a board game than a story would be fine for six or seven-year-olds, and I definitely think younger siblings watching older ones play is fine, with consideration of content, but with really really young children, I don't think it's a good idea for them to play at all. I have seen three-year-olds being given iPads with Angry Birds and I think it's appalling. Who knows how it will affect their brains and more importantly, they won't learn how to make something up to play for themselves. But once they're older and have learned to understand and appreciate stories, including by making their own, video games have some wonderful stories to offer.

I, like most women, have a longing to be a wife and mother. But it doesn't look like that's ever going to happen. If it did happen, I would certainly spend far less time on things like video games, but unless it does, I don't consider that time wasted. My mother used to want me to become a nun, but I don't hear any vocation for me there and most orders are so compromised by modernism that I wouldn't risk it. What I do have is art, storytelling, and I want more than anything to glorify God that way. And so I seek out other stories that glorify God, both for their own sake and to teach me how to do it.

Believe me when I say that these stories of these video games do just that. No, they are not specifically Christian stories, but if we restrict ourselves to those there is a lot we will miss, and if you restrict your children to those they will at worst justifiably resent it and grow to unjustifiably resent Christianity, at best have an ignorance of many great works. Believe me, I've seen it happen. God underlies all reality, so any story that is really true to reality, to the goodness, truth, and beauty of it, will reflect and glorify Him. When Europe was converted, Christendom did not cast aside the stories of the Greek gods for whom the video game characters in my above artwork are named. We no longer live in Christendom, and barbarity threatens again, but there are those who still love goodness, truth, and beauty, and they make stories about them. These stories are worth telling and worth hearing. Including when one does the hearing by playing.

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