The Problem With Christian Entertainment

Why do we not impact people in the entertainment industry? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday I saw a post on Facebook, and whether it was sarcastic or not, I don’t know, about why Christians shouldn’t watch The Office. Now I have never seen an episode of the show. The most I know about it is I understand a lot of memes on Facebook are from it and I know about the Owlkitty video of it. That’s it.

This led me to thinking about something else. I know we all realize it, but for the most part, Christian entertainment sucks. It’s often just boring and preachy. There are some exceptions, but it’s nothing the world wants to see. I remember when Fifty Shades of Grey came out that the same day, a counterpart movie called Old-Fashioned came out. You might have never even heard of it. There’s no way it could compete with Fifty Shades.

If there is one clear exception to this, it is the Chronicles of Narnia. Yet do you see Christianity explicitly spelled out in that? No. There’s a lot of symbolism in the books of course that points to Christ and so there is also in the rest of Lewis’s fiction, but many atheists can even enjoy reading C.S. Lewis.

Christians don’t have anything in the way of entertainment. We think you have to spell it out explicitly. It’s not fun. If we make something for the purposes of entertaining, our aim should be that the product is actually entertaining. That doesn’t negate we do it for Jesus, but people won’t want to watch Christian entertainment or play Christian video games or read Christian books for fun if they are not, well, fun.

Back in the days of the NES, I remember getting the Bible games from Wisdom Tree. They were alright games, but the only reason I got them was that they were Bible games. That’s it. They honestly hardly even worked on the NES at times. Bible video games are often some of the worst games that they are.

Many of us who are Christians don’t like it when we see a series and the politics is out there in front and everyone knows it. We think we are being preached to, and in essence, we are probably right. I know a lot of people have complained about the newest Star Trek series thinking that it’s going on. They could be right. If we don’t like it, why think unbelievers will like it?

What would be good is if we had a series come out on TV that was actually entertaining or a movie at the theater that was actually entertaining or a book or a video game or whatever it is and people wanted to play it and then find out later on that it was a Christian series. I know some of you will disagree, but on my podcast I have had John Granger on to discuss the Harry Potter series as a Christian series from a Christian viewpoint. Even if you don’t agree with that, if it is true, that is something powerful. That is having it done right.

When we think things have to be explicit, we also assume our audience is stupid. We assume that they have to state it outright or else no one will get it. That insults our audience. No one wants to be assumed to be an idiot.

I don’t know if you should watch the Office or not, but I know the reason we debate this is because we don’t have our own entertainment that’s good. You may enjoy watching Pureflix, but how many people do you know who are non-Christians who are buying it? This is not to knock them at all, but if we are wanting to reach people, it doesn’t help that goal if people aren’t interested in our method of outreach.

God gives us all things richly for our enjoyment as is said in 1 Tim. 6:17. Shouldn’t we do something for the enjoyment of our fellow neighbor? If we want to show Christianity to them in a way that is something they will want, shouldn’t we show them something they would want to have and something they can actually enjoy? This isn’t to say fun is the main goal of the Christian life, but fun is the goal of entertainment. If you sit down to watch the Office, you likely aren’t doing it to study theology or philosophy. Rightly or wrongly, you’re doing it to have fun.

We’re also meant to be creative people in the footsteps of the creator. Our creator created some very fun things for us here. I’ve seen our cat running around here playing some tonight. The animal kingdom is a testimony to the fun of the creator in many ways. Yes, nature is red in tooth and claw at times, but it’s also very fun in many other ways. Shouldn’t we be creative that way? Shouldn’t we make music and TV and movies and video games and books that unbelievers even will want to live?

Let’s do better.

Then maybe we won’t have to debate the Office because not only will we be watching our own great material, but so will everyone else.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I Affirm The Virgin Birth.)

Opening Thoughts On The Final Fantasy VII Remake

What are my thoughts on Square-Enix’s latest release? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Normally, I would have had to put getting this one on hold, but fortunately, someone was very kind and decided to surprise me with a copy of it. I spent a few hours going through it yesterday becoming immersed in the story and enjoying the new additions to it.

While the play style is different and there are no new enemies to fight, I really don’t want to focus on that part. There are enough reviewers of games who comment on that. I want to comment more on the questions of good and evil that are raised.

To begin with, I always think it’s important to consider a work of fiction from the world it’s set in. When we hear talk about killing the planet, those of us who are more conservative might think of the environmental movement and think this is the same thing. That could be true from our world, but in this fantasy world, if what a character like Barrett says is true that the planet has a lifestream and Shinra’s plants are draining that to line their own pockets, then the organization is indeed killing the planet.

Today, we might consider a group like Earth Liberation Front and consider them terrorists. However, if their claims were true about what we are doing to our own planet, then one could say even if they disagreed with their methods, their goal is the right one. While I disagree with Islam, if Islam turned out to be true, then if Allah says killing the infidels is right, well, it would be right.

If you know the story of Final Fantasy VII, you know that the first part of the game involves the group blowing up one of the reactor plants. The difference in this game is that after that, Cloud has to wander through the streets of Midgar and you hear all the side chatter. Listening to what townspeople are saying, you can imagine what it was like on 9/11 if you were in New York City at the time.

Not only do you hear the chatter of the people, but you hear first responders. You hear talk about needing stretchers and someone being injured. The townspeople talk about what they were doing and who they were going to meet and about their families at the time. This is a very real aspect that you don’t hear about in the first game.

This does raise the questions of good and evil. Some might think that one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. It could be tempting to say we do not know what is good and what is evil, but we do. We know somehow in the game that Cloud and his friends are the ones we are meant to cheer for. Now in reality, that doesn’t mean they’re right. Movies and games and TV shows can have us cheering for guys who aren’t doing what is right. You can watch a heist movie, for example, and be eager to see how the main characters are going to outsmart the police and the rest of security and commit the crime.

But ultimately, this is what I like about the remake. It’s the realism. In the original, you blow up a reactor, no big deal to you, and you go on with the game. In this one, you see traffic stopping as people watching and the whole area around falling apart. It definitely brings out that there is a real battle going on.

This game thus far only consists of the parts that take place in the city. We eagerly anticipate what is coming next from Square-Enix in this regard. I am considering doing a video if I can figure out all the things of how to show images of games on FFVII and good and evil and those kinds of questions. Be watching to see what I decide.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Deeper Waters Apologetics YouTube Channel

What is our new resource? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Since we’re all under quarantine and I finally figured out again how to use my webcam, I decided to do something I’ve wanted to do for awhile and had spent some time talking to David Wood about, and that’s making a new YouTube channel. I have one just for fun videos I make and I have one for the podcast, but now I have one for short apologetics videos.

So what kinds of things do I plan to put up there?

Naturally, I started with a video about affirming the virgin birth, which I do affirm, and last night I did a video book review. I could make some short vids responding to current events in the world of apologetics. However, I do have a few ideas in mind for projects.

Tonight, for example, I plan to start a series for Autism Awareness Month, which is this month, on life on the spectrum. I will be tying this in to Christian apologetics and my personal recommendations on reaching people on the spectrum. I hope a video series like this will be more personal than written works on the topic. I plan on working to see how to incorporate images and other such things into my videos instead of just watching me talking.

I also plan on doing series on video games and apologetics. What theological themes can I find in games? I’m not saying no one else is doing this, but I really have not found it being done. I have been told to put up videos of my own gameplay so I do plan on doing that.

I also plan on doing a series on orthodox preterism. In addition, I want to deal with some of what I call the rapture brigade. These are people that make videos on YouTube about all the signs that the rapture is about to take place. They are always proven wrong, but they never seem to learn and keep making predictions.

Ultimately, I expect a lot of trial and error at the start, but I do hope that this will become something more mainstream in my own work. Social media is being more and more the place to go to make statements and with cable TV about to fade out of existence, people will be watching YouTube more for their information. Sadly also, many people don’t read books so I hope that this will fill in the gap.

As of this posting, there are just two videos up, but we have to start somewhere. Why not go and subscribe and share? With quarantine going on, I definitely plan on doing more of this.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Moral Combat: Why The War On Violent Video Games Is Wrong

What do I think of Patrick Markey and Christopher Ferguson’s book published by BenBella books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Gaming has always been a pastime of mine that I have highly invested in. I have heard for years the panic about video games leading to violence. This has often been assumed and taken for granted. If you let your children play violent video games, they will be desensitized to violence and be more prone to be violent. Besides, look at all these school shooters who played violent video games. What more do you need?

People who think that way need to read this book. It is an excellent look at how these claims are blown out of the water. What is going on is often bad science. People are often tested to see if they’re more aggressive after playing a video game. Question. How do you measure aggression?

You don’t let people walk the streets with a crowbar in their hand seeing if they’ll bludgeon someone. Instead, questions are often asked like would you put hot sauce in someone’s food if they didn’t want it? You could be asked if you would be prone to hurt someone’s feelings. Some people will want to do this anyway. Some people might want to do the hot sauce thing not because they’re aggressive, but because they like to pull pranks on people.

When some games have come out, such as some in the Grand Theft Auto series, it has been speculated that there would be a rise in crime. It was even compared to the Polio scare. Well, the game under question came out and yes, crime was affected.

Crime dropped.

What about school shootings? How about someone like Adam Lanza? He’s the guy who shot up the Sandy Hook school. It was said that he was a player of video games and this without the hard evidence and people ran with it. Well, it is true. Lanza was spending significant time playing video games.

He had a reputation of spending hours at the arcade playing Dance Dance Revolution.

What’s interesting is that sometimes, these killers had a history of NOT playing violent video games. This actually could have made them more prone to violent shootings. Why? Because games are nowadays a way that people come together and bond together socially. People who are not doing that can be social outcasts and feel rejected by their peers and be more prone to shootings.

What about Columbine? Contrary to what is thought, the killers had not made a level of DOOM modeled after their high school. Also, the skills needed in a video game to shoot the enemies do not transfer to real life. My father-in-law is quite good at sharpshooting I have been told. Let’s go back to when I used to play Goldeneye. I could play that all day and still go to a shooting range with him and do horrible even if I was the best player of Goldeneye there was.

Many games nowadays also contain moral judgments. Some people will go through a game again and try to be as ruthless as possible just to see what happens, but most will actually start to think about these moral issues. Final Fantasy X can get one thinking about the relationship between religion and technology and what it requires to atone for one’s sin.

What about video game addiction? This can vary. When Breath of the Wild first came out, many of my friends were spending hours playing this. Does this constitute addiction? No. This is just guys getting a new toy and playing with it. Sadly, there are cases where intense horror has taken place, such as the daughter who starved to death while her mother played World of Warcraft.

A child could play 3-4 hours of video games a day and still function well with their peers and make good grades. If they are able to do this, that does not constitute addiction. By contrast, someone could play 1-2 hours and have their grades suffer and that could constitute addiction.

What about obesity and video games? This sounds like a no-brainer, but again, it isn’t. Take away a child’s video games and it doesn’t mean they’ll jump outside and start running and jumping. They can just as easily find something else to do. If anything, now we have games that require movement which are being good exercise. My wife once decided she really wanted to lose weight and did it with the DDR exercise plan. What’s that? It’s playing the aforementioned Dance Dance Revolution. It worked. She lost 30 pounds.

More and more games are coming out like this. It can also be better than going to a gym because with video games, you can get instantaneous rewards that motivate you, such as a high score or trophies or achievements unlocked or reaching new levels.

Now many of you know that this is an apologetics page. What does this have to do with apologetics? First, we need to be people of truth in every field. I don’t care for football at all, but that doesn’t mean I want to spread a claim that playing football makes someone more violent if it isn’t true.

Second, a work like this can show us how misinformation can spread easily. Many people who complained about certain games revealed by their words that they had never played or seen those games and were going on secondhand information. This never does our cause any good.

Third, if we attack false causes of violence, we never get at the real cause. No one doubts the nobility of the desire of people to want to reduce violence by eliminating violent video games, but if that is not the cause, then you could eliminate all such games and violence would still take place.

Fourth, paranoia should never be our friend as Christians. It’s easier to go after something else rather than saying that maybe we should do a better job of raising our children and teaching them good from evil. How about a parent instead of banning some games, maybe try something like renting through Gamefly first and, I know this is bizarre, playing it with your kid and talking about it. If you fear some of the content, go on YouTube and watch the videos of the game and discuss why or why not the child should be allowed to play it.

Also as Christians, we don’t want to unnecessarily alienate video game players. The overwhelming majority of us, including me, grew up playing games and we are not violent people at all. As someone with Aspergers, I was also pleased to hear about how games have helped people on the spectrum socialize and I can attest that that is true.

So my fellow gamers, game on. Enjoy and have fun. We all want to end unnecessary violence in our world today. Maybe now we can go and find the real culprit.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Some Thoughts On Gun Violence

What is the real cause of the violence we see in our society? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

At the start, I will tell you my political persuasion on the issues involving mass shootings. I am the type that is so conservative that I would only fly on planes that have two right wings. I am very much for the second amendment and the right to bear arms. However, when I listen to the gun debate there is something that is missed. I understand it being missed by the secularist mindset, but I don’t expect it to be missed by Christians.

Many times, we hear talk about needing help for mental illness. It’s true I am sure that many people who do the wicked acts of mass shootings could have mental illness. The problem with this is it creates a stigma on mental illness that keeps people with mental illness who would never do something like this from getting help. Imagine what it would be like if whenever the news talked about something like ALS, we also heard it in connection with mass shootings.

Here’s one of the main problems with this. I am not at all opposed to good therapy and psychiatric medicine. I think such tools are extremely helpful. My wife’s own therapist has said that she thinks everyone should see a therapist and even many therapists see therapists.

If we paint the problem as mental illness, then the solution would be that if we could eliminate this mental illness, we would eliminate these mass shootings. This overlooks one of the most important Christian doctrines. It assumes that man as he is will not do evil and that if we can just fix that defective part in his brain, we can prevent that.

But the real problem is not really mental illness, though it can compound that.

The real problem is sin.

And we all have it.

Earlier I said that some people with mental illness would never do something like a mass shooting. I am not recanting that, but I don’t think it’s entirely accurate. In actuality, I think every single one of us, you and me both, are capable of greater evil than we can imagine.

Maybe you wouldn’t now, but if you were in a position of power, would you take the opportunity? Most of us don’t wake up in the morning thinking of some great wrong we want to do. Consider having an affair. Most husbands and wives don’t wake up in the morning and say “I think I’ll ruin my marriage today and have an affair.”

Instead, it starts with the opportunity to have lunch with a co-worker or just talk to someone casually. Before too long, one is looking for more and more opportunities to be with that person. Then suddenly they find themselves meeting one another in a hotel room. The evil just came gradually.

It’s hard to avoid looking back to Nazi Germany when thinking about this. Look at the evil that they did. We know now it is very easy to lead people to do great evil. Milgram established this with his experiments.

We don’t need to look that far. Consider the abortion industry. We have killed numerous babies in our culture and many people have done so with a clean conscience. This is defended as a moral right. (Ironically, these same people complain about God in the Old Testament putting children to death. Go figure.) This evil has become so normalized many people no longer see it as evil.

Chesterton once said we don’t differ on what we will call evils so much. We differ on what we will call excusable. I really think a lot of gun violence goes back to the sexual revolution and the breakdown of the family. What a shock that many of the evils we tolerate, sex outside of marriage, pornography, abortion, homosexual practice, etc. are all connected to sex. Even now society is trying to make pedophilia more acceptable. Many Christians I know have no problem with the concept of living together before marriage, something Christians for hundreds of years would have condemned immediately.

It’s easy to blame the problem on many other factors. If we remove violent video games, this will help deal with it! I don’t care for many overly violent video games, but at the same time, I am a gamer and one of the most peaceful people I think there is. The overwhelming majority of gamers are not like this.

Maybe it’s guns? Guns can give people a means to do something, but the evil is still there in their heart. Oklahoma City took place with everyday products. 9/11 was done with planes. People have used cars to go on mass rampages. I really don’t think gun control laws will work. Such laws will take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens while criminals who don’t care about the law will use them. If you really don’t care about the law against murder, you’re not gonna care about the one against having a gun.

At the heart, the real issue is sin and we need to return to that. The reality is you and I are both capable of being the next mass shooter. The huge overwhelming majority of us won’t do something like this, but if we dare deny our capability, then we are denying the great evil we have within us. If any of us had the opportunity, we need to be vigilant. One of the surest ways you can fall for an evil is to say it is one you will never commit.

If the issue is sin, there is only one solution. Christianity. It alone is the means to deal with sin in one’s life. Politics has its purpose, but it cannot save society. Only Jesus can do that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/23/2017: Kevin Schut

What’s coming up Saturday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

People who know me know that while I am certainly big into apologetics, I’ve also had a love of video games all my life. A few months ago, someone gifted me Console WarsThis is a book about the war between Sega and Nintendo, which was a major war in my generation growing up. As I was reading it, I read about Emil Heidkamp who was a devout Christian in the field and helping to produce video games, including such classics as Castlevania. I wondered why it was with my love of games that I had never had someone come on my show to talk about that.

I took to Amazon then to see what I could find. Perhaps you could find some people writing on this, but are there really any professionals in the field? Is there any really scholarly work? Fortunately, I found what I was looking for. I found someone with a Ph.D. in a related field who had written a book on video games and Christianity. He took a very positive approach as he is still a gamer himself and still a devout Christian. I got in touch with him and he was very interested in coming on and now the date has come. The book is Of Games and God and the author is Kevin Schut. So who is he?

According to his bio:

Kevin Schut is the Associate Dean of the School of the Arts, Media, and Culture and Professor of Media and Communication at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, Canada.  He’s the author of the book Of Games and God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games, and he spends his spare time playing Mario Kart, King’s Quest, and Overcooked with his 3 daughters.

We’ll be talking about various connections between Christianity and video games. How can Christians partake in a field where there is violence as there is in many video games? Does this go against the teachings of Christ? Schut has three daughters, and yet we know that there are many games out there that do in fact highly sexualize women. What are we to say about that?

What about video game addictions? Don’t people spend way too much time playing video games? Some people have even suffered health problems and death due to video game addiction. Are we enabling people to get addicted? Why should we even be playing video games when we have to spread the message of the Gospel?

Also, what about Christians who want to go into the gaming industry and produce games? What do they need to be doing? Are we just going to wind up like we have in other media fields where we will produce media that will be great at reaching other Christians, but not so great at reaching everyone else? Haven’t Christian video games, like Christian movies for the most part, been just awful?

I hope you’ll be listening next time as I combine two great interests of mine for an interview and we talk with someone who has looked in-depth at these kinds of issues. Please be looking for the next episode of the show. If you haven’t yet, also go on ITunes and leave a positive review for the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Of Games and God

What do I think of Kevin Schut’s book published by Brazos Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Dr. Schut’s book is an excellent one that I can easily say that when I got to the end, I was rather surprised. I hadn’t been keeping that much track. This is the kind of book I wish I had had when I was in high school and dealing with issues of doubt and such. I have seen enough damage done by people who are critical of the medium of video games but have not engaged with it.

For my part, I am going to turn 37 later this year and yet I still consider myself a gamer. My favorite kinds of games are RPGs. I am still bothered that I have not got to play Breath of the WildFinal Fantasy is another favorite series of mine and it’s my wife’s hope that somehow we can save up enough money or find someone generous so that we can get a Nintendo Switch so she can play the new Pokemon games.

Like me, Schut is also a gamer. He has seriously wrestled with the arguments on both sides. His favorite games seem to be ones like Red Dead Redemption and Civilization. He also does not deny at all that he is thoroughly committed to Jesus. So what does he say about the games?

Schut does say we need to listen to criticisms. Take time to pay attention to what is being said. At the same time, we should be hoping for critical evaluation and not self-righteous evaluation.

Also, we are living in an age where games are more and more common, including games on our IPhones and Kindles and such. Many people who would likely never play a video game have no problem playing something like Words With Friends for instance. There’s also games that are popular such as Candy Crush which has now become a gameshow, and Angry Birds, which has had its own movie.

He also speaks out against our attempts to Christianize everything. Something is not automatically Christian because it mentions Jesus. Many of us would say the Chronicles of Narnia are Christian, which indeed they are, but you will not find Jesus explicitly mentioned anywhere in them. Our Christian material is usually preachy and we’re very good at reaching ourselves, but not everyone else.

We also have to pay attention to what kind of medium a video game is. One noted difference is that it is interactive. No matter how many times you read The Lord of the Rings nothing new will happen. The story will be the same. No matter how many times you watch the movie, nothing new will happen. Every time you play the game, something different will happen. Of course, there can often be some overriding parameters set for you by the designers of the game, but you have great freedom and influence on the story. No two playings will be the same.

He also does get into the topic of a demonic scare. I was pleased to hear like me, he had a great interest in Dungeons and Dragons as well as Magic: The Gathering. For me, in high school, my friends and I didn’t care for the school lunch at all, so rather than have lunch, we’d go to the library and play Magic all afternoon together.

Unfortunately, too many people have brought into scare stories about such things. Consider the Pulling Report for instance. People who latch onto this do a disservice to those who play the games. Most people who are playing these games are for the most part the same as any other interest. It’s sadly the few that no doubt have other issues going on beforehand that are emphasized.

This naturally gets us into the question of violence in video games. Schut doesn’t shy away from this one, though he does say each person needs to evaluate this for themselves as well. It could be that part of our world is we live in a fallen world and sometimes violence could be what needs to be done. One aspect of this I was considering is that if I’m playing a game like Final Fantasy, one could consider reasoning with a human being, but if a hungry carnivorous creature is coming after me, reason will not work.

Another issue is game addiction. Games do have a tendency to draw us in, reward our achievements, and make us want to do more. There will be a little bit more on this later, but let’s discuss how it relates to addiction. Can some people get addicted? Yes. Still, there is no proven condition like this. Many people do learn to manage their time well. The question is not what do you do, but what do you not do? He also says a temporary obsession is okay. When Breath of the Wild came out, many of my friends were indeed engrossed in that for awhile. (And I hate them for it in a loving Christian way.)

What about sexuality in video games? It is only in the world of video games that a woman can go into battle wearing pretty much a bikini and count that as armor. Video games are usually a world dominated by men, but there are plenty of female gamers. (My wife is playing Pokemon as I write.) The representation on the other hand can be quite different. Women are usually eye candy. There are some exceptions, such as Samus Aran, but we only need think of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider and the obsession with some people on finding a nude code for her.

Now to what I said there would be more on later when talking about addiction. What about education? Video games could be a great source of education. For instance, when I studied Greek in Bible College, we used a program called Parson’s Greek Tutor. I would like very much to get my hands on this again as the interactive format made it much easier for me to learn the material and at the time, I was moving ahead of the class even. Every round was a game and I wanted to get perfect and would settle for nothing less which made sure I learned the material very well. As one working on learning the language now, I look back and wish I still had that.

Video games can be used in such a way for us today. There is something real in the concept of edutainment. Ask a gamer about the information they need in a game and many times they will know it because they have to know it to play well. It is practical knowledge for them.

But what about concerns about the digital age killing our minds? To some extent, this is true. To another extent, the digital age is here to stay and we have to do the most with it that we can. Every new medium brings with it changes. The print medium brought changes as does the internet medium and the video game medium. It’s easy to strike at the medium instead of the human sinful tendency.

Schut also has a section on Christians in the video game industry. Many of these are dedicated people and want to do the best they can. They see their work as an act of service to God in trying to make the best game possible. There are few explicitly Christian video games, and this could be a good thing as sadly, many of those are just awful and only reach those of us who are already Christians. Abandoning the industry will only do for that what it does for Hollywood. We need Christians in every field being salt and light.

No discussion would be complete without the social aspects. I remember years ago getting together with my brother-in-law and some of his friends. No doubt, I was the youngest one there, but we spent all of one afternoon playing Goldeneye together. In Charlotte, I would get together with some friends every Sunday night. After some time playing Super Smash Brothers Brawl we would go bowling. When it came time for my bachelor party, all we did was bring the Wii over to a guy’s apartment complex who had a big screen and played Smash Brothers all night long together.

Games have had a way of bringing people together and uniting them. Gaming conventions are places where people can very often be themselves and form friendships easily. It could be that the gamer today is no longer the single guy sitting in his mother’s basement.

If you’re a gamer, you owe it to yourself to read Schut’s book. It is a gripping looking at a neglected medium and one that we need more of. I appreciate that he sent me a copy for review purposes and I look very much forward to interviewing him on my podcast about this.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Console Wars

What do I think of Blake Harris’s book published by Dey Print Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is not a book about apologetics.

This is not a book about Christianity.

This is a book about video games.

Yep. Video games.

And yet I think it’s a book helpful for apologetics and Christianity.

A friend gave me this book as a Kindle gift and I always like to try to read books that are gifted to me. It’s about the battle that took place in the late 80’s and early 90’s between Nintendo and Sega. How is it that Sega wanted to take on the giant of Nintendo? What worked? What didn’t? Why is it that Nintendo eventually emerged from that battle and now Sega makes games for Nintendo?

My bias right at the start. I grew up a Nintendo guy. I always favored Nintendo. The time I began bending that was to get a Playstation and that was for only one game. Final Fantasy. The series had moved over to the Playstation and I wanted to be able to play the games.

It was fascinating to read this book and realize about all that was going on behind the scenes when I was growing up that I had no idea about. Why was it that I never saw commercials for Nintendo games when I was growing up? I figured it was because word of mouth and the magazine Nintendo Power were far better ways of advertising. What was going on when Howard Phillips left the company? How did Nintendo and Sega come to be?

There are a number of main characters in here. There was Howard Lincoln, the lawyer who joined up with Nintendo and eventually became their chairman. There’s Peter Main who was vice-president of sales and marketing. Minoru Arakawa was the president of Nintendo of America and the son-in-law of the main company head Hiroshi Yamauchi. Other characters at Nintendo were Bill White, who eventually went to Sega, and Tony Harman.

At Sega, you had Tom Kalinske who was the president of Sega of America. He was hired by Hayao Nakayama who was president of Sega of Japan. Kalinske had several working with him like Ellen Beth Van Buskirk and Al Nilsen and for awhile, Steve Race, before he moved over to work with Playstation.

Other characters show up as well. Emil Heidkamp is one who was a noted Christian presence at Konami and if you ever played Castlevania, you owe it to him. Olaf Olafsson was one of the main people instrumental at Sony in getting them in the video game industry in the mid-90’s. There are more people overall that were involved in everything.

So what kinds of things did I learn? For one thing, I went through this realizing that I had never thought about marketing the Gospel. Now by that, I’m not at all saying we tone it down or change it. Not for a second. I am saying we need to consider how we present it. Someone out on the streets with a bullhorn is giving out the Gospel. Someone making an informed presentation at a church on the resurrection of Jesus is also doing that. Who is likely to have more results? It’s not changing the product. It’s doing what we can to present the product in a way people will like and respond to and catch their attention.

This is especially essential to do today. If you are making a presentation and within the first few moments you do not grab your audience’s attention, you will probably not get it back. They’ll go to their IPhone or anything else at the time. We have to find a way to present the message in a way that reaches them, informs them, and convicts them.

At the same time, we can’t be overly aggressive. One of the big mistakes that Sega made was they tried to overstep and do too much. In the end, that doing too much cost them because they focused so much on the style that substance was lost. Thus, when it came time for a product of substance, it wasn’t ready to go out. I could say more about this, but there would be spoilers for those who haven’t read.

Nintendo, by contrast, had an idea of slow and steady wins the race. Despite the increasing power of Sega, they never really saw them as a threat. Nintendo was focused on substance more than anything else and they believed that time-honored tradition focused on good games was what would win the day.

We must also be working together. When you look at Nintendo of America in their relationship with Nintendo of Japan, there are some disagreements, but overall, everyone is on the same page. Not so when it came to Sega of America and Sega of Japan. These two were often working against one another. Japan always had the final say which often would cripple the American company. We in Christianity must not be so caught up in internal debates that we aren’t working as a unified front. Had Sega of Japan and Sega of America actually been working together, things might have turned out rather different.

Honesty must be a large part of all that we do. When Nintendo released Super Mario Kart, there was talk about it having something called Mode 7. This was a real thing which allowed for some 3-D imagery to take place. Sega had to find something they had that Nintendo didn’t. They found it buried in their games somewhere and it was called Burst Mode. They decided to name it Blast Processing. What did Blast Processing do that was so unique?

Well, nothing.

I mean, it had an effect, but the effect was miniscule. That didn’t stop Sega from making commercials about it acting like it was this great big innovation. The sad thing is that they knew that it wasn’t.

I was very surprised when moral issues came into play. Emil Heidkamp met Tom Kalinske at a show once and talked about how he had become a born-again Christian. Heidkamp worked with Konami and had a standard for the entertainment they would produce and was concerned about where the industry was going. He ultimately left when he saw Mortal Kombat. Kalinske heard his concerns, but when it came time to push the envelope into areas that Heidkamp would not have liked, Kalinske decided to do it. That included finding a way to cheat the system on Mortal Kombat so that Sega could have the blood and violence that Nintendo wanted toned down. Throughout the book, Kalinske will then have issues of conscience, but push them away.

Eventually, some companies started looking into video games and being concerned about the effects on children and such. When Kalinske got a call about this, he seemed to go into a panic mode and tried to explain things the best that he could. When Howard Lincoln of Nintendo got that call he just said “It’s not us.” The difference was remarkable.

By the way, a word about Howard Lincoln. At the end when Kalinske does retire, he gets a very nice letter from Howard Lincoln. This was something that really showed me the character of the Nintendo people. They weren’t saints to be sure, but I think they always tried to play by the rules.

While the lessons I learned were good, ultimately, this was also just a fun read. I could hardly put it down. In many ways, I got to relive my childhood and see so many games mentioned and events that I had forgotten about. I remembered the World of Nintendo centers that I always looked for in the department stores as a kid and I remembered the Play It Loud campaign. It was amazing reading about what was going on that I had no idea about. (Unfortunately, that also included some brief reliving of the travesty that was the Super Mario Brothers movie.)

I understand there’s a documentary being made based on the book. I eagerly look forward to seeing it. Console Wars was a wonderful read and anyone who grew up and saw this battle owes it to themselves to learn what all was going on.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Why I Am A Gamer

Why enjoy a hobby that has so much violence? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The following blog entry is also a guest blog entry at NearEmmaus. Brian LePort who runs it started asking questions about football of all things and whether there are any theological questions. Now to be honest, I don’t care a bit about football. I watch the Super Bowl for the same reason several of you probably do. I want to see the commercials! The only sport I could ever get into any at all is Braves baseball. Yet I saw the question about football being violent and thought from a different perspective that I could handle that.

Why? Not because I like football, but because from as far back as I can remember, I’ve had a great interest in video games. For me, it started with realizing my parents had something called a ColecoVision (Some of you remember those I’m sure). My favorite game on it was not a fighting game but a puzzle game called Ladybug. (I would love to be able to download this game on the Wii today!) I could often reach level 100 on the game. I had it mastered from an early age. (It’s not as easy to do on the computer)

Being in Elementary School, I realized I needed to get a Nintendo soon and so like many others, I grew up playing games like Super Mario Brothers and the Legend of Zelda. Link of the Zelda series was a hero of mine growing up. I still remember taking a Nintendo Power magazine to the place I’d get my hair cut. In it, I showed a picture of Link from Zelda II and said that I wanted my hair to look like that.

And before too long, people at my school knew who was the main expert on video games. While there are puzzle games and some adventure games I still enjoy, far and long the games I enjoy the most are RPGs. I prefer Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Kingdom Hearts, etc. A notable exception could be multi-player games such as how in Charlotte I got together with friends every Sunday night to play Super Smash Brothers Brawl. When I visit my in-laws, we can play the Wii Sports or Mario Kart Wii. I also like to play the old classic games.

Now with puzzle games we don’t really have much problem of course. That my Dad and I can still play Dr. Mario today is not really a problem to anyone. What about a game where you get a sword and cut through monsters? Isn’t that violent?

Why yes. Yes it is.

Now note in this that for me, I don’t play games that have gratuitous violence. There are limits for me. I do not really like to see the sight of blood that much. I could take something such as playing Goldeneye on the 64 and seeing the blood come down when my character died, but to see someone get shot at regularly and have blood come gushing out would not be something that I want to see. Just yesterday my wife and I watched “Flags of our Fathers” and I had to cover my eyes a number of times because I can’t stand the blood. Watching “House M.D.” can be difficult and I have no idea how I got through the first season of Dexter. This could also be a question of conscience, which many of this is. Note that if someone reads this and still has hesitations and really doesn’t think they should play the games I play, that is just fine with me. I have no problem there. Let us follow a Romans 14 perspective and see this as a matter of conscience. Of course, if you have a real objection, then bring it.

Yet if we are to say that something is to be rejected because it contains violence, then frankly we Christians will have to reject the Bible as well which has much violence in it, something that we need to accept. God is a holy God and those who go against Him are dealt with in accordance with what they do wrong, and sometimes His instrument for doing that is human beings. This still goes on today. Romans 13 speaks about government being such a force that bears the sword. Yes. There are times violence is necessary.

Why?

It would be nice if we all lived in a world where everyone would sit down to peace conferences and be willing to do all that was necessary, but because we are still in the flesh, such is not going on. There are people who will want to get whatever they want and who cares about anyone else? There will be people who do not follow the rules of others and go forward on their own authority seeking to stomp on anyone who gets in their way.

But are we not told that blessed are the peacemakers?

Those familiar with Westerns know that Wyatt Earp referred to his gun as the peacemaker. Let’s suppose I had been out somewhere and came home and heard my wife screaming inside. I go in and find some man attacking her and getting a weapon, I manage to kill her assailant. In doing this, I have become a peacemaker the way Earp said his gun was. The person who I dealt with was someone who was violating the peace. By eliminating him, I have restored the peace that he shattered.

“But Jesus told us to love our enemies! Should we kill them?”

Most of us would not consider it loving to lock someone behind bars in a destitute situation for years or to charge a really hefty fine for something. This is what we do however! Why? Because love does not mean everyone gets to do what they want without any consequences whatsoever. Now some have argued that Jesus would forgive people. Yes he would. So should we. However, there is a difference between private and public forgiveness. Someone can privately receive forgiveness for what they’ve done, but they still owe a debt to society and that debt is to be repaid. For an example, David in the sin of Bathsheba was privately forgiven, but his son still died. Forgiveness does not automatically mean there are no consequences. In fact, the Christian narrative should remind us that all actions we do have consequences.

If someone is out there actively doing evil, you can be sure that they are NOT seeking forgiveness. They are not in a state of repentance. I hold that Christians should always be willing to forgive, but they are not to offer forgiveness until the person comes to them and asks for forgiveness. Some might think that is not a good attitude to have, but why think that when that is the exact position God Himself holds?

Yet are we not to turn the other cheek?

Jesus’s statement was about an event in the private setting that constituted a simple insult. The idea was to end the cycle of retaliation before it starts. It says absolutely nothing about physical danger. It is not being like Christ to do nothing while someone inflicts serious injury on innocent people. If you are insulted, it can be a mark of character to simply not choose to retaliate in private. In public, matters are different. While it can be questioned whether Edmund Burke said it, I can easily agree with the idea that “All that is needed for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.” If we sit back and do nothing in the face of evil, let us not be surprised that evil flourishes.

So what about the gaming area since you are the one doing the activity?

And I have no qualms about it. Note for instance that in many games today, one is fighting monsters who are not rational human beings and seek only destruction. (Never mind in these worlds for some reason they all breed like rabbits and are all deadset on destroying you and your party) There are times you fight people, but again, this is in a public forum with fighting those who wish to do evil and are not repentance. There are times in RPGs where you can be given the choice to let a character go who seems repentant.

We also should realize that a game must be considered in the world that it is in. We can look and say that on Earth it would not be like this, but then on Earth we don’t have dragons flying around us and imps breeding everywhere. In this world, if one does not fight evil villains, then the good of the whole world will suffer and we must seek to bring about the good of the world and not just that of an individual.

Of course, we must be sure we are fighting for the good of the world. Are we doing that? If someone is going on a quest and slaying monsters but they’re only doing that so they can get to the hapless village and destroy it, then it would be apparent that while they could be doing good on the way, their overall approach is not good and is therefore something that should be condemned.

Now what about football with all of this? It’s also important to consider that men by nature do tend to enjoy violent activities. That’s the way we are. We’re warriors at heart. Men like something to fight for. One of the reasons I believe marriage can domesticate a man for instance is that it gives him something he can fight for. Many of us men would hopefully be ready for action immediately if someone were to do something that would endanger our wives. We have this instinct to protect and fight born into us. We grow up with toy guns and swords and all manner of activity like this.

What we need to ask is what are we going to do with all this aggression and energy that we can have? Football could be a fine outlet for some people, though I would advise them to be extremely careful. Several older people today suffer greatly because of injuries they got when playing football while young. Of course, on a field, one should only use enough force to take down an opponent. (Don’t expect technical terms from me on football. I couldn’t tell you) I do understand that there are such things as unnecessary roughness in a sport like football. It can be necessary to knock down your opponent. It does not mean it is necessary to pummel him on the ground to keep him down.

Of course, every Christian will have to examine themselves. My great concern for us gamers is not that we will become violent people, but that we will spend too much time with our hobby. I make it a point for instance that when game time comes here, I usually listen to an MP3 at the same time so I can at least be educating myself as well. (Somehow, I don’t think this would work in a football game) Of course, that doesn’t hold if I’m playing a multi-player game with friends in which it’s just fun fellowship. Now if you really have serious qualms about this and you’re not even sure why, you can examine those, but you do not have to partake of something. This is the freedom of the Christian.

As we observe our freedom, let us be careful about how we approach another person’s freedom. What you might find questionable they could have no problem for and let each be fully convinced in his own mind.

In Christ,
Nick Peters