In an essay posted on the Christ & Pop Culture website, Missouri Pastor Patrick Miller defends video games as narrative, immersive masterpieces that should be viewed as art. Miller, a Millennial with a lifelong interest in gaming, says older generations tend to be either indifferent about or antagonistic toward video games.
That attitude, he argues, has “done two generations of Christian gamers (Millennials and Gen Z) an enormous disservice by ignoring games and failing to offer tools to think critically about entertainment. A healthy theology should drive Christians to develop a framework for critically evaluating games that takes them seriously as a vehicle for artistic expression and aesthetic resonance.”
Patrick Miller: ‘More Than Childish Violence Pills’
Pastor Patrick Miller begins by exploring generational viewpoints, noting that links between real-world violence and video games have been disproven. Although some evidence does warrant concern about video games being habit-forming, the pastor says it’s unfair to label them all as “addictive, childish toys that make children violent and lazy.”
Christians’ discussions about video games should include those concerns, says Miller, but shouldn’t stop there. Video games generated more than twice the global revenue of movies last year, which Miller says “begs the question: Might games be more than childish violence pills inducing nationwide sloth?”
To defend the merits of gaming, Miller focuses on fun and storytelling. Well-designed video games teach players the art of fun and “the tactile joy of mastery,” he says. “Recreation is a form of rest [and] invites creatures into re-creation. … A Christian framework for video games not only values recreation, but also seeks to understand and appreciate the unique artistic design behind any act of fun-making.”
As for storytelling, well-done narrative design leads to the type of immersion that “the best art allows for,” according to Miller. He compares this to immersing oneself in a great novel, citing C.S. Lewis’ quote about reading wholeheartedly and receptively. “To misquote Lewis,” Miller writes, “‘In playing great games I become a thousand men and yet remain myself.’”
A ‘Profound Vehicle for Aesthetic Resonance’
On Twitter, Miller writes that Christian discussions should recognize a game’s potential for being “a profound vehicle for aesthetic resonance.” In his essay, he proposes four ways that gaming—like books—can be critiqued and used for God’s glory.
First, the pastor writes, video games can “point us toward Christ, calibrating our imagination and ethics toward the kingdom.” Second, they can “unveil the dark powers animating the world.” Third, video games can “show our cultural blind spots.” Finally, they “invite us into the non-Christian imagination, so we can challenge it sensibly.”