Posted in Game and Media Reviews, Sports & Gaming

Video Games as Change Agents for Peace

PeaceGrooves was originally founded as a springboard for the creation of games and other story-telling venues that would educate players in peaceful ways to affect positive change.

My graduate theory paper “Video Games as Change Agents for Peace” presented this idea over ten years ago. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, PeaceGrooves was never able to fully realize its full potential and so I made the difficult decision several years ago to take our website offline and move on to other projects.

Today, I was inspired by the following article in the Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2019/10/14/once-he-was-refugee-now-hes-ceo-making-video-games-peace/

It describes a former Somali refugee’s creation of a video game for peace that is based on the creator’s actual experience. Mr. Lual Mayen has created his own video game company to produce and market his game.

It is wonderful to see others who are making video games that are change agents for peace.

Posted in Game and Media Reviews

Call of Dooky

Pardon the potty talk. I guess I’m regressing back to prepubescence.

But I am annoyed and I don’t mean that goofy character that threatens Domino’s pizzas.

It’s Sunday and as is typical, the paper is filled with store inserts. And it seems every insert has Call of Duty on the front page. Best Buy is the worst. There are three phones, a laptop, and a game console on the first page – every single one with the same puke green Call of Duty wall paper. I guess the idea is that you can play the game everywhere. Yuk!

I write a peace blog so I’ve got more than a few issues with a militaristic first person shooter especially this particular franchise which pushes just about every single one of my pacifistic buttons. Talk about being “depressed.”

I express my annoyance to my teenage son who is growing more receptive to my media maddened rants. He says that pretty much everyone he knows has the game. He’s getting used to not being allowed to play certain games that his friends and family members can. But I’ll be honest with you. It gets old being a parent trying to buck the current – and the current trend.

I mean the game is rated M, as in MATURE. Hello! So for the parents who seem to be unaware of what M means here is a little info. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) rates video games similar to the way movies are rated. According to the ESRB website:

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Hmm. Delightful. I definitely want my child putting his fingers in that stuff. Psych! Sarcasm aside, just for comparison sake, that is similar to an NC-17 movie. In both the video game and movie rating system there is only one rating higher – A (Adult).

If it wasn’t so sad, I would be fascinated by the phenomenon where some parents will allow their children to play M video games and yet not allow them to watch NC-17 movies. But perhaps I’m wrong. Maybe parents are allowing their children to do both. I don’t know. I mean we are so inundated with media these days, how do we keep track? Quite frankly, I look around and I see a lot of parents who seem to have given up and a lot of kids without the necessary boundaries for healthy growth. That is why I write this blog.

So I’ve said my peace. I’m starting to calm down now.

Then my son shows me something else. There on page one down in the lower right corner is another advertisement for earbuds. But these are not ordinary earbuds – they are a tell tale green color and shaped like bullets. Yep, you guessed it. Now you can own your very own Call of Duty earbuds. I guess they make the explosions sound better.

But I suspect they are mainly to keep kids from hearing an alternative voice of peace.

And parents from having to be that voice.

November 10, 2011

Posted in Poems

Drone

The hand on the joystick makes a subtle twist.
The view dips into the confines of a ravine
then bursts free to reveal the lights of a
town glimmering like eyes in the dark face
of the ground.

A red light flickers across the screen.
TARGET ACQUIRED
The finger touches the trigger.
Twin streaks race out into the night,
converging,
a burst of fire,
a surgical strike
divorced from the gore.

Tomorrow there will be another announcement in
another newspaper about another death in this
invisible war,

the terrorist,
the pilot of the drone,
the boy in front of his XBOX 360
killing from the comfort of
home.

http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2011/08/10/most-complete-picture-yet-of-cia-drone-strikes/

Reposted from November 6, 2011

Posted in WWJP? What Would Jesus Play?

When Peace Is Left Behind

Okay, so it’s the end times and it’s up to you save the world. How do you do it? Well, you pray, worship, and fight the forces of the Anti-Christ. The game is Left Behind: Eternal Forces, based on the best-selling Left Behind Series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

There is a lot of controversy about the game (see links below) and it is difficult to get to the truth. Critics say the game glorifies violence by Christians, especially against people of other faiths. Defenders say you are penalized for perpetrating violence and killing innocents. Critics reply that once your spiritual points go down, all you have to do is pray to get them back up again.

Regardless where you come out, the game is questionable for several reasons:

  • It is based on bad theology in several ways. It combines a literal reading of Revelation with the idea that Christians can save the world by themselves, with violence as an option for doing so.
  • It allows violence to be a part of the game (the game is rated T), whether players are penalized or not.
  • It definitely does not portray Jesus as the Prince of Peace. (Just a note: In Revelation Jesus is portrayed as the Lion who is the slaughtered Lamb, one who took violence rather than perpetrated it in order to save the world (see Revelation 5).
  • It pushes a particular theological and political agenda without providing for the sophistication necessary for players to dialogue or raise questions about issues of faith. It paints a simplistic picture of good and evil in the world and the authors of course know which is which.
  • In the multi-player version of the game, you can play either as part of the Tribulation Forces or the Anti-Christ’s Global Community Peacekeepers. However, putting Anti-Christ next to terms such as “global,” “community,” and “peacekeepers” is problematic at best for those of us who don’t see those terms as necessarily anti-Jesus.

The game is well-done, is getting great reviews, and will probably sell like crazy (just like the books did). We Christians like everyone else vote with our money. The choice is whether to support questionable media or help create alternatives.

In my opinion, the game leaves Jesus and lots of good theology behind. For those reasons it too should be Left Behind.

News links for more info on the Left Behind game controversy:

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/gaming/2006-12-13-left-behind-controversy_x.htm

http://www.leftbehindgames.com/pages/controversy.htm

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16175897/

Anabaptist perspective on Revelation, World Events, and the Left Behind series by Loren L. Johns, Academic Dean, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary

http://www.ambs.edu/LJohns/Godinthisworld.htm

http://www.ambs.edu/LJohns/Leftbehind.htm

Originally posted February 2007

Reposted in light of the passing of Dr. LaHaye.

Posted in Musings

Peace On Earth – Rumors Of Peace In The News

When one reads the news, it seems that the world is only filled with violence and conflict. But though it rarely makes the front page, peace is breaking through in large and small ways. Here are the rumors of peace for this week:

Nigeria: Kaduna State – 29 Ethnic Communities Sign Peace Accord

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Ferguson native creates coloring book to spread message of peace, healing

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Could a Video Game Designer Win a Nobel Peace Prize? Yes, Sooner Than You Think

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Pope Francis appeals for global peace on Easter

COLUMN: ‘Women Promoting Peace’ highlights Muslim community symposium

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North Shore Choral Society celebrates peace in 80th anniversary season

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Two students receive Davis Projects for Peace grant

Posted in Leaves on the Poet Tree

Volume

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I sit in the chair and get my hair cut to the sound of gunshots from an fps video game on pause. Eventually the barber switches the sound to the radio.

If only there was such a button in real life and a way to end the echo of gunfire in the minds of the survivors.

Posted in Longreads & Essays, Musings, Sports & Gaming

Did video games kill Robin Williams?

Robin-Williams-GamerA recent article on Yahoo! about Robin Williams being an avid gamer got me pondering the question:

Did video games contribute to the award-winning actor’s depression and eventual death by suicide?

On this blog I have written extensively about violence in video games and other media. My purpose here is not to get into a discussion about whether playing violent video games causes one to do violence to oneself or others. Or to point the finger at specific games that may be cause for concern.

Rather the question I ask is related to what game designers refer to as “immersion.”

A good game is one that draws the player into its world so much so that he will spend countless hours immersed in that world. This power of video games has been greatly enhanced by new advances in technology such as 3D and HD graphics. Successful games and their franchises rival movies in the cost, staff, and years poured into their development in an attempt to attain this goal of immersion.

A self-described game addict, Robin Williams spent the many hours between filming immersed in these virtual worlds. As a creative soul who struggles with depression I understand the power of fantasy and its blissful escape from the constant buzzing of the low intensity conflict of life. It is not easy to return to reality which can often seem rather dull and gray in comparison.

Sleep deprivation. Poor diet. Confined space. Distance/separation from close relations (ie family). Sound familiar? Such are some of the primary methods used by interrogators to “break down” detainees. These are also the characteristics of avid gamers, who willingly endure such in order to remain immersed. Did such a lifestyle eventually lead to Robin Williams “breakdown?”

There has been some discussion and research regarding how technology is rewiring our brains. More research needs to occur if we are to have a firmer grasp on exactly what is occurring within us as we spend more time within the virtual realm. The impact of such media is not simply on the outward characteristics described above. Something is happening in our brains as well. Did the virtual world become more real than reality for Robin Williams? Did real life lose out to the increasing “otherworldliness” of a good game?

My purpose here is not to judge Robin Williams. I have been profoundly affected by his work and will continue to be indebted to him for his impact on my life. But I found the article that blissfully described his gaming “addiction” as rather naive without any sense of the impact such may have had on the actor/comedian’s depression and eventual death.

World of Warcraft is planning on creating a character based on Robin Williams to commemorate his love of video games after an online petition amassed almost 11,000 signatures. The character will not be controlled by players, aimlessly wandering through the world I assume, interacting with players perhaps, cracking a joke or two.

It’s a nice idea I guess. Some would say even a fitting commemoration. But like most I would prefer having the real Robin Williams still alive, making me laugh out loud or shedding tears so real they fall off my cheeks and bounce on my keyboard while I type.

More info on video game addiction here.