May 12, 2008

Violent Video Game or Emegent Church Experience?



Sorry such a long time between posts, but the tyranny of the urgent continually pulls me away. Speaking of the lack of time, it's been a long time since I would consider myself a vidya-game player. The last game I was great at was James Bond's Goldeneye for Nintendo 64, I currently own a 1st-generation X-box for which I buy one game a year (NCAA Football), and I was once beaten by a girl in a one-on-one match in Halo. Needless to say, it was barely a blip on my radar screen when Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto IV last week. Of course, the standard "we don't like a game that glorifies violence, sex, drug use, criminal activities, etc." followed suit, to no one's surprise.

What was surprising, however was this article in Slate Magazine by Sudhir Venkatesh. It's called "What Grand Theft Auto IV Gets Right About Gangland and Illegal Economies". Venkatesh is a professor at Columbia University and has written books and produced documentaries on subjects like illegal economies. What I find interesting is the positive spin that he puts on the game. What's even more interesting is that it's some of the same language that is used by those in the Emergent Church movement as characteristics that they value. Here are some of the quotes by Venkatesh about Grand Theft Auto IV:

People have to find ways to work together not only to commit crimes but to resolve disputes, respond to injustice, and otherwise fulfill their assigned missions.

The point is that a lone wolf can't survive. Niko [the main character] has to take a risk and trust somebody.

Right and wrong are never so clear—at least in terms of the consequences of one's actions—and Niko's mission can fail because you either did or did not do the right thing.

No one can move forward until they come together and develop shared interests. The result can be a powerful feeling of solidarity.

Venkatesh does point out that these interests are of ill repute, but I do think that all the talk of responding to injustice, working together, and a lack of clarity on right and wrong are funny...especially in a game where you succeed by beating women and committing crimes.

1 comment:

Jeremiah said...

Wait, I'm so confused ... are you saying video games shouldn't be my moral compass??? Hmm, gotta go figure out a new life strategy ...