Loving Our Neighbors: Homosexuality in Gaming

[Originally posted on May 13, 2015]

By Jacob Toman

Disclaimer & Timeline

For us at Gospel & Gaming, we focus on equipping the saints, and empowering gamers. We think, pray, & engage all things gaming. During the last 2 years of our missions efforts we've learned much about the polarizing topics within gaming culture. One of these polarizing topics is homosexuality. The following is a one piece discussion homosexuality in gaming culture and how Christians can embody Christ's love to the world, which is filled with confusion and hurt, just as Christ has done for us!

 

Thursday night May 7th Gospel & Gaming learned about a game called "Kill the faggot".

Friday May 8th Gospel & Gaming held a meeting to pray and discuss homosexuality in gaming culture.

Sunday May 10th Gospel & Gaming finalized the outline & scope of our response to homsexuality in gaming.

Wednesday May 13th Gospel & Gaming published the following response to the current discussion of homosexuality within gaming.

 

You most likely interact with other gamers, and others who are homosexual. Please see this as our attempt to better prepare you for conversations with other believers and unbelievers on the topics of gaming, homosexuality, and Christ's mission.

 

This post has some strong objectionable trigger content, we do not recommend reading this at work.

 

The Cultural Landscape of Confusion

For the past several decades here in the United States the politics of sex have included debates over childbirth, gender, abortion, and homosexuality. Political topics concerning human sexuality over the last year have included issues that directly involve gamers. The situations may differ in particulars, but the dominant theme is apparent: confusion between the biblical understanding of God's plan and the fallen world's desires for men and women.

In 2014 discussions about human relationships between men and women formed a dark cloud that is popularly known as "gamergate". Death threats against women who develop games, and ethics concerning romantic relationships and other such issues within gaming journalism both dominated discussion during the last quarter of 2014 and the beginning of 2015.

This past winter, the state of Indiana updated their religious freedom act (You can read more about the law here). Which caused one of the nation's largest gaming conventions (called Gen Con) to write to the Governor of Indiana with this letter. The main thrust of feedback within gaming was concerned about how the law could interfere with homosexual gamers being treated during the convention in Indianapolis.

The supreme court during the spring of 2015 has been in the news as regards the legality of states granting marriage licenses to homosexual couples. While the recent Supreme Court discussion was often publicized as a final statement on the most recent set of issues surrounding homosexual marriage, this is hardly the final chapter of the legal process.

Individuals from all backgrounds within gaming have shared their convictions and opinions on the topic of homosexuality. Perhaps because the gaming population is a haven for what pop culture would consider "losers"-outcasts and those who may by choice considered taboo, gaming culture is something of an incubator for controversy. During many individual's formative years (puberty through young adulthood) identity is shaped around the choices made in middle school, high school, college, and early professional experiences. Some choose to leave home, or are forced to leave due to the choices they are making (Click the link to read more about homosexuals who are ostracized by friends and family). the gaming community offers a haven for like minded individuals, who have the common experiences of rejection, self doubt, and confusion.

While gamer culture is open and welcoming of individuals from all backgrounds (homosexual, economic class, ethnic history), game's themselves have become more involved in shaping discussions around key cultural issues. The two primary ways games over the last decade have grown in their message content is through narrative and characters. more and more homosexual characters are being featured in major titles:

Gone home has received both praise and criticism from gamers for it's inclusion of homsexuality in it's storyline.

EA has included homosexual relationships in their popular game the Sims.

Mass Effect 3 included a major role for players, as gamers could actually enter into a homosexual relationship as the main character.

Gamers (both developers and players) are discussing and experiencing life, just like the rest of the world. Gamers process, discuss, and create content based on what they are processing and discussing. This includes major life topics such as homosexuality.

 

A need for Gospel Response

Gospel & Gaming is on the front lines ministering to gamers who are in need of Christ. This means we serve all sorts of people, including those who are openly homosexual, and those who struggle with same sex attraction.

The call from the Lord that drives our mission comes in the form of a question: Who will enter into gaming culture, to share Christ's with those who are lost? We try our best to live out how the church is called to enter into every culture, every tribe of people, and speak the gospel into every language.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

                                                                                                                             -Matthew 28:16-20

This past week, several news outlets were (surprisingly) discussing a game known as "Kill the Faggot" which was under development and available via the steam platform. The game was quickly taken down from it's offering on steam after the following video made by popular youtuber Jim Sterling was featured by multiple sources.

A word of warning again, this video has language and content triggers and contains very offensive gameplay.

If you just watched any length of that video you are already forming multiple problems with the game. This game, and the portrayal of human beings who make homosexual choices is inappropriate for anyone, but especially someone who claims faith in Christ. This game is particularly horrifying considering the game's maker is someone who claims to be a follower of Christ.

Some of the discussions we've been involved in here at Gospel & Gaming have gone so far as to call this individual's salvation into consideration. We are not in a position to question anyone's testimony of faith here at Gospel & Gaming. While we will not comment on this individual's eternal standing before God, regarding this individual's behavior through the development of this game, we here at Gospel & Gaming can definitively state that he is not behaving as a Christian and needs to repent.

The actions of this individual do not represent Jesus Christ's methodology in approach, or his teachings concerning the worth of individuals. The actions of this individual in making "Kill the Faggot" grossly misrepresent the Christian gaming development community, the church, and worst of all, the savior who loved this game developer enough to die for him.

In light of all the recent cultural confusion surrounding homosexaluity in gaming, we're going to look at a few problem areas with this particular game and a few passages that give wisdom for loving others.

 

Problem Areas

What exactly are the probems with this game? We were able to identify 3 classifications of issues. The gameplay itself, the games theming, and the makers motivation.

Game Mechanics-

The game itself plays much like the popular 1984 hit "Duck Hunt". In comparison the differences are mostly thematic as the games would fall into similar genre of playstyle. Both games are 2d shooters, that score points based on accuracy and reflexes. This isn't a strategy game, a massive multiplayer, or a role playing game, it's an arcade style shooter similar to what you'd see in a movie theatre arcade or pinball joint.

Points are given based on a player's ability to shoot & hit targets. From a development perspective, the game's maker has admitted to this game being simple in it's gameplay, and unpolished in it's attempt at aesthetic. We must emphasize that the mechanics of the game blend together with the theme to create something that is grossly inappropriate, but that the mechanics themselves are something widely accepted.

“Kill the F*ggot” is a shooting gallery type of game. The player’s goal is to “Murder gays and transgenders [sic] while avoiding killing straight people. Get points before time runs out.”

(quote source here)

As far as game mechanics go the main issue is the game's lack of pursuit of excellence. While some may be horrified at the act of shooting or gaining points via killing, this is hardly a foreign concept in gaming. The mechanic of violence (shooting/killing) is one we at Gospel & Gaming don't have a problem with, so long as it's done within a reasonable narrative of the game. It makes sense in a world war 2 simulation for Nazi's & Allied forces to kill each other. It makes sense in a fantasy realm for evil schemers to be confronted by forces for truth. The bounds of a narrative provide a context for the mechanics within a game. In a good game the mechanics fit the theme, and put forward a reasonable explanation for the mechanics involved. Games which do not do this-such as Grand Theft Auto and Kill the Faggot, put forward messages and narratives that are indefensible.

I'll reference a great series on violence in games from good friend and gaming developer Thomas Henshell. You can read more about our position at Gospel & Gaming on violence in Video Games here.

In Summary: The game is similar in genre to other shooter style games, no one is in an uproar about Duck Hunt's mechanics, and there is nothing sinful about the genre of shooter style 2d arcade games. The problems stem from a blend of mechanic and theming...

Game Theming-

The game's theme is an attempt (in the words of the game's developer) to allow players to "unleash your frustration with the “LGBT” community" (Quote from this source). While the game maker describes the game as a social experiment on their website (read more here), it's closer to hate speech than it is science.

A game's theme (narrative, flavor, and art) are the tangibly sensible unique particulars that are separate and distinguished from a games mechanics. The theming of "Kill the Faggot" is marked by hateful speech, and anger towards those who is targeted (there is no doubt that this game's maker is opposed to homosexuality).

The boundaries of a game provide the context in which gameplay is experienced. These boundaries are what take an intangible idea, and turn it into a playable experience. There are 4 "walls" or 4 boundaries which define a game space. Various authors and gaming experts (both in academia and in the industry) have named these 4 principles that stand as defining characteristics of games.

You can read more about the definitive characteristics of games below:

From author Peter Hastie

From authors George Skaff Elias, Richard Garfield and K. Robert Gutschera

From author and researcher Jane Mcgonigal

We use Jane Mcgonigal's definition of the 4 rules-

 

All Game's have GOALS

All Game's have RULES

All Game's have FEEDBACK

All Game's have VOLUNTARY PARTICIPATION

 

The experience of the player within a game is one mixed by both the mechanics of the game (rules, interactions, choices) and the theming of the game (narrative, flavor, art). Within each of these 4 rules are opportunities for theme to add context to the game. "Kill the Faggot" uses each of these 4 rules to create a context that is absent of any positive theme.

In Summary: This game lacks any redeeming thematic expression. The combination of a deathly theme directed towards a particular people group making a sinful decision is in itself sinful. Someone else's sin isn't a cause for rejoicing, it's a cause for mission. Jesus didn't rejoice in our status as lost rebels, he became one of us to change us for the better. This game's theme doesn't change anyone for the better.

Maker's Motivation-

The maker of this game has been quoted as saying his motivation for creating this game was:

"I decided to go down a path that most developers are afraid to go down: to piss these people off by making the most overly offensive game possible to these idiots to prove a point" (Quote from this source).

This is hardly appropriate motivation for a believer, whatever we do, in our work or recreation is to be done as unto the Lord. Our labor and our play are acts of worship to the God who has given life.

There is certainly a need for repentance here. Although the maker needs to repent, this so far has been his statement:

"As for an apology. Ain't gonna happen. To everyone that got overly offended. Good, thats what we were going for. Just wait for our next game we are working on, its gonna be way more offensive as this one".

This is one of the worst ways to point towards truth-through the smearing and dehumanizing of them. Homosexuality isn't a part of God's desire for humanity flourishing. Speaking out about the evil choice of homosexual behavior is something that should be done, in a way that communicates a desire for the BEST for the individual's being persuaded. This game does the opposite, by trying to shame, humiliate, and denigrate, rather than persuade through truth.

In Summary: This one individual reflects a very sinful attitude that may be on a larger scale. That method of message is abstracted from the meaning of the message. This individual isn't representing Christ well in his refusal to apologize. This person's method (creating a game) contains a message that people who make homosexual choices are objects of dark humor and dehumanizing depictions. This game was motivated by anger, and should be no shock to continue to grow that anger until Christ intervenes. 

 

Gaming problems, Gospel Solutions

What does the Gospel have to say about these 3 classifications of problems?

Game Mechanics

The maker of the game has stated that some of the reason for the game's unpolished look & feel, is that he rushed the game, and developed it in only a few short days. These may be reasons for why the game is the way it is, but it's unprofessional and beyond "campy". The choices players make in the game are rather limited as a result of the genre. Player interaction and progression is determined through scoring points on targets. There is nothing wrong with this mechanic in itself, but when

Christian games-as defined by the people involved in the development process-are always to be made as art for the enjoyment of God the creator. If our lives are dedicated to God that includes our work and our play. Our work ought to be as polished as possible. We Christians do not need to become perfectionistic within our critiques, but we should always be pushing towards glorification without efforts-the glorification of God. This game didn't need more time polishing and producing, it needed less.

Game Theme

It's clear that this game's maker is fulfilling the saying of Jesus in Luke:


A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

                                                                                                                                           -Luke 6:45

The game celebrates through thematic expression (voice acting, music, and stylized hype) the death of people the game's maker clearly has a problem with. This combination of kill scoring mechanic & directed theme is distasteful, and hardly an apologetic to point anyone to the person of Jesus.

Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

                                                                                                                                       -Ezekiel 18:23

The theme of this game is deplorable, imagine a game called "Kill the Murderers" or "Kill the Adulterers" or "Kill the Idol Worshippers", where you scored points for each person who had murdered another person, had unmarried sex, or was addicted to pornography. This type of game is wrong, not just because of the sin mentioned, but because as a method of persuasion, and as an act of playful worship, "Kill the Faggot" fails.

Maker's Motivation

As sub creators, artists create hints and shadows of what the creator God first did. Tolkien called this the process of "Sub-Creation".

"Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.” -J.R.R. Tolkien.

The creation of this game didn't come out of a desire to please God, the motivation (according to the game's maker) came out of anger towards other image bearers. These two ideas are not mutually exclusive, it's possible to make a creation both out of anger at others, and a desire to see God;'s glory shine. However, in this case the author has omitted God's glory, and simply allowed his bitterness to produce a seed of destruction that actually makes the work of missionaries (like myself) harder. It's because of fools like this that when entering into discussions and relationships with gamers the cross of Christ is defamed. The cross is already enough of a stumbling block & foolishness to the unbeliever (1 Cor 1:23), we don't need fools misrepresenting Christ to make the work harder.

The game's maker has stated he made this game out of frustration "I decided to go down a path that most developers are afraid to go down: to piss these people off by making the most overly offensive game possible to these idiots to prove a point"

This goes against what Paul explicitly teaches in Romans:

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

                                                                                                                                        -Romans 12:18

This game didn't NEED to be made, it was dependent on the game maker to create this product. This was an action that he chose to make, and falls into the category of what Paul is talking about. Living in peace is exactly the opposite of what the game maker has put forward in his quote.

 

Controversy in Culture

As believers, we shouldn't be shocked, surprised, or intimidated by the controversy that arises in culture. The Christian perspective is inherently different from the unbeliever's. The Christian's life-thoughts, words, and deeds-are to be marked, governed, and guided by relationship with the Jesus Christ who is the Son of the creator God who lived, died, and rose again from the dead.

Regardless of the controversy our treatment of others must not be shaken. It isn't hard to be kind to someone whom you love, yet Christ calls us to love those who do not love us.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

                                                                                                                                   -Matthew 5:38-42

It's through our love of those whom we disagree with, whom hate our relationship with Christ, and through our treatment of other humans as image bearers of God, that we embody and display our own personal relationship with Christ. When we fail to love our neighbor as Christ has called us to, we are failing to love Christ as he has loved us.

I conclude this with questions for you, the gamer, the parent, the Christian reading this.

 

How do we love our neighbors?

How do you represent Christ in your workplace?

How do you represent Christ in your recreational?

 

We here at Gospel & Gaming believe Christ came to die & rose again to live for the glory of God and for the joy of his people. We're going to keep gaming, and keep on our mission, to love our neighbors digitally, equip the church, and empower gamers to life lived as image bearers of God.