Video Games and Spirituality

I passionately loved role-playing games (RPG’s) growing up. I found myself deeply invested in the sense of mission, which these games evoked.  I constantly make analogous connections between these virtual world missions and real life ‘missions’ until this day.  (If you find yourself cynical towards language that evokes too much romanticism I would stop reading here.)  In a sense, life unfolds in accordance to a grand storyteller.  Then, there’s me and you, each a unique character among many with a role to play in this epic.  In a sense.

Consider the Final Fantasy series.  They’re up to, what, the 13th sequel now?  Each one of the Final Fantasy games requires umpteenth hours of player time in order to complete—the very reason many players don’t finish.  Since the first 8-bit installment of the FF series countless players like myself become effortlessly addicted to immersive storylines that drive our virtual characters across virtual oceans and mountains.  Yet, why do people keep on playing?

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(Final Fantasy VII, Playstation.  Arguably the best Final Fantasy installment of all time.  Retrieved from http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-DELahQ67DH8/TZoQaGN7-0I/AAAAAAAABtc/XapEKld-xdE/s1600/final-fantasy-vii-cast.jpg.)

There is virtue to be discovered in RPG’s.  On the critical realist end of the spectrum, RPG’s can be seen simply as worlds to escape to—a.k.a. to escape reality, rather than dealing with it.  On the practical end, epic virtual worlds and missions in RPG’s keep us in touch with a core human quality: the will to live, the will to explore with excited hearts.  Sure, a person would go too far to replace reality with video games.  However, when one allows virtual assimilation of virtues like courage, team-spirit, love—themes often found these games—to translate to reality, there is no telling how hopefully a young person’s character can develop.  “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus,” Mark Twain would say.

Here is my poker hand.  I wouldn’t be the spiritual—and religious—person that I am today if it weren’t for video games.  I have taken life-long vows alongside these spiritual companions.  Before ‘trying out’ life as a Jesuit, a man goes through an extensive application process that spans anywhere between 6-12 months.  Part of this comprehensive process requires that the man write a spiritual autobiography making an account of sorts of his ‘spiritual journey’ up to the present, primarily getting at this question: Why do you think this lifestyle is right for you? 

In short, RPG video games—and I still can’t believe how true it is—fostered in me an indispensible tool: an imagination apt to engage reality; apt to engage people and build relationships (so we can ‘team-up’ and take on ‘missions’ together—if I may geek out for a moment).

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(Chrono Trigger, SNES.  My all-time favorite RPG game.  Image retrieved from http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/chrono/chronotrigger-sfc.jpg.)

Many of us have suffered devastating losses in some form; existential pains the likes of which make the suggestion that video games can offer any redemptive perspective insulting.  No, nothing can serve as morphine for all the darkness found in life, not even a powerful imagination.  Intense suffering exists to deplete hope and meaning.  That’s a hard rule in this ‘game’ of life—things just don’t f**ken add up sometimes.  However, a powerful imagination will help you back up on your feet, and back into your wings.  So next time, no matter who’s virtual shoes you find yourself in, whether it’s Cloud Strife, Lara Croft, or Jill Valentine, notice how the best of the characters we play in games come out in us in real life.

 

References

Hanna, E. (2012, September 16).  Video games: how they glorify God.  Ibo et non redibo:a weblog of miscellany by Canadian Jesuits.

Romano, N. (2013, September 3).  The transcendent art of video games.  The Jesuit Post.  Retrieved from https://thejesuitpost.org/2013/09/the-transcendent-art-of-video-games/.

“Seth.” (2012, June 19). Video games and spiritual development, a preliminary analysis.  It’s Elemental.  Retrieved from http://www.spiritalchemy.com/1560/video-games-and-spiritual-development/.

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Honey Maid endorses homosexuality

By Matt Gillis

The success of a company’s advertising campaign depends on its ability to stand out against the clutter of its competitors. Traditionally, companies use attention-grabbing themes like sex and beauty to garner added publicity. More recently, advertisers have begun incorporating contemporary, controversial topics like sexuality to create media buzz for their clients.

Honey Maid, producer of snack products including graham crackers and Teddy Grahams, released their “This is Wholesome” advertising campaign on March 10 via YouTube. The commercial features several different types of families, including a single dad, an interracial family, a blended family and two gay men as parents.

The advertisement, which recognizes that the reality of family has changed, but the wholesome connections that families share still remains, received over four million views within four days of being uploaded. With 4.5 million views today, Honey Maid says the commercial has received ten times more positive comments than negative ones despite its controversial nature.

However, several large organizations have spoken out about the advertisement, specifically about its message of describing homosexuality families as “wholesome.” One such organization, One Million Moms, a group promoting “biblical truths” and family values, described the commercial as attempting to “normalize sin” and characterized the two gay parents as “sexually perverse.” The group stated that if Honey Maid continues to define these families as “wholesome,” they would boycott the company’s products.

Honey Maid used the negativity surrounding the initial advertisement as an extension of their overall campaign. The company released a response video showing that the number of supporters of Honey Maid’s campaign greatly outweighed those who were against it. The video reads, “But the best part was all the positive messages we received—over ten times as many—proving that only one thing really matters when it comes to family: love.”

I believe this campaign was successful not only because it managed to gain widespread attention due to the use of a controversial topic like homosexuality (which was, no doubt, a strategic decision made by Honey Maid), but also because the company was able to turn the negative publicity into something positive with their “Honey Maid: Love” response video. The company successfully characterized itself as a progressive brand with every family in mind.

Because Honey Maid already had an established brand following before the release of this campaign, the company was able to approach the topic of homosexuality without much backlash. Honey Maid is the top company in its brand category of graham crackers. The company’s loyal customers will probably remain loyal. However, if Honey Maid was not a top competitor in the marketplace, their campaign approach may have cost them their success and longevity.

Reference list:

–       Lee, J. (2014, April 4). Honey Maid responds to antigay backlash with ‘Love’ video. USA Today. Retrieved April 4, 2014, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/04/04/honey-maid-love-gay-rights/7303481/

–       Nichols, J. (2014, April 3). Honey Maid releases ‘Love’ in response to anti-gay commercial backlash. The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 4, 2014, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/03/honey-maid-love-commercial_n_5086442.htmlComments

Yeezus Makes A Risky Move

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For years, Kanye West has been a partner with one of the most successful shoe companies in the world: Nike. At first, in his career, he started off as only a hip-hop artists and nothing more. But more and more, he wanted to show off his passion for fashion and design. He has been partners with Nike for years, but there have been rumors for a long time that he cut ties with Nike for good. This weekend on his Yeezus Tour in New York, Kanye confirmed the controversial and shocking news that he did in fact drop a deal with Nike.

It was a very surprising announcement because he spoke strong feelings against Nike, which implies that Mr. West ended his relationship with Nike in a bad way. He even spoke against Nike CEO Mark Parker and said kept repeating that Nike would not let him be himself or express himself the way he wanted to in a creative way.

Kanye always complains and rants about things, but when he was talking about why he left Nike, he also confirmed that not only is he ditching the brand, but he signed up with Adidas, which is Nike’s main competition. In between songs, Kanye said ““The old me, without a daughter, would have taken the Nike deal because I just love Nikes so much. But the new me, with a daughter, takes the Adidas deal because I have royalties and I have to provide for my family.”

His main reason for leaving Nike is to better provide for his family and better express his freedom of creativity. I love Kanye and do think that he is a big icon for fashion worldwide, but I do think it is ridiculous that part of his decision to leave Nike was to better support his family. This is crazy to me because Forbes recently just marked Kanye as being worth $100 million dollars.

I loved all of the shoes that Kanye made with Nike called the Yeezy’s and I am worried that the shoes he makes with Adidas will be uglier in comparison to the Yeezy’s. Yet his other reason for leaving was because he did not like that Nike did not give him freedom to design. However, this makes sense because Nike is a shoe for athletes and professional fitness people, not a purely fashion shoe. I think that Nike and Kanye just had different visions for what they wanted in a shoe, so maybe switching to Adidas will be a better match. Even through countless Kanye meltdowns… I STILL LOVE KANYE.

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Popcorn Protection Plan

This new piece of data will blow your minds away.

Here is an interesting new finding: eating popcorn in the movie theater makes people immune to advertising! A new study that was conducted by Cologne University has come to the conclusion that chewing makes advertising ineffective when sitting in the movie theater.

A researcher from Berlin has come out to say that “the mundane activity of eating popcorn made participants immune to the pervasive effects of advertising.”

I usually get irritated when I hear people munching and crunching on their popcorn, but apparently advertisers are beginning to get irritated as well.

The first thing that came to my mind when I was trying to process this study is how

scientists came up with this unique conclusion. A quick summary of the findings suggests that the reason why adverts have the ability to implant brand names into our brains is because our lips and tongues automatically stimulate the pronunciation of a new brand name when we first hear it.

Every time we see the name again, our mouth subconsciously practices the pronunciation of the name and that is how it manages to stick in our heads.

But chewing is disturbing this “inner speech” that advertisers have been using for so long to make us memorize the brand.

There was even an entire experiment where 50 people in a theater were given popcorn and 50 people were given nothing to eat during the show. I always snack on something when I watch previews in the movie theater and I never remember anything being commercialized.

At the end of the screening, there was a test and the study showed that the commercials had no effect on those who were munching on popcorn the entire time.

The man who created this study suggests that his research might in fact be the end of selling traditional popcorn in the movie theater. Any thoughts on that?

I personally think that it is a really out-of-the-box claim to say that popcorn is the reason why advertisements do not sink in our heads. However, I am not a psychology major, so I do not know the extent of this whole “inner speech” thing, but after reading the article in the Guardian I guess it makes sense.

Could food be the ultimate killer for all commercials?

Have advertisements found their ultimate weakness?

Do you guys buy this new study?

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A Bold, Brave and Black Ad

Many people do not know, but Dunkin’ Donuts is a worldwide company and has many locations all around the globe. The “DD” in Thailand has recently had a 50% increase in sales and many say that it is because of a very popular, yet very controversial ad that was just released in the country.

The advertisement pictures a beautiful, smiling young lady, whose skin was painted charcoal black, wearing a bright pink lipstick and holding the company’s new “charcoal donut.” Obviously, this sparked some anger in people, but none of these offended people are Thai…they are American! The CEO Nadim Salhani says, “So what? It’s just paranoid American thinking.”

His daughter is the one who is the model for the ad. The CEO told the Associated Press that he did not understand why he is not allowed to use the color black to promote the new product, because if the donut was white and he painted someone’s face white, would it still be considered racist? He thinks not.

The American Dunkin’ Donuts posted an apology on its website and promised to take down the advertisement because of it’s “bizarre and racist sensitivity.” The Human Rights Watch even complained about the ad and could not believe how offensive and crazy the campaign was.

I have attached both the magazine/Facebook advertisement for the “charcoal donut,” as well as the commercial for it (sorry it’s all in Thai I could not find English subtitles). Personally, I do not think it is offensive and I believe that it is important to understand the global context of the situation, because even if Americans are offended, the ad is not running in the States. If it was broadcasted in America, people would obviously react in a negative way, but it is on the other side of the planet, so the people of America and every other country need to be more understanding and open-minded about global mindsets in marketing.

The Thai Dunkin’ did not create the advertisement with the intentions of offending people or being racist. They wanted an ad that would be appealing to the eye and of course a pretty girl with bright lips but a pitch-black face would make consumers curious.

I like the concept of the commercial, I think it makes people interested to know more about the donut and makes them want to go out and purchase one. I don’t think that it is insensitive in any way; it simply appears to be a creative marketing tactic.

Sorry America, I’m going to have to side with the Thai people on this one. Stop taking things so seriously!!!!!!!!! Take a chill pill, people!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQMKqeHgEEs

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