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?
(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).
(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.
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/.