My Life as a Catholic Gamer

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Bayonettais one of my favorite videogames. It’s rather odd for me to say that, considering my Catholic background. I often find myself thinking, “I really enjoy a game about a stripteasing witch who literally fights against God and angels. What does that say about me?”

I consider myself a hardcore Catholic. I tend to have some liberal views outside of the typical Catholic mindset, but I am well versed in my faith and attend weekly service. I believe I have a deep connection with God and have a responsibility to do my part to make our world a better place for everyone.

So why do I feel comfortable playingLightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, a game where the main character actively fights against her world’s version of God?

For me, videogames are escapism. I totally respect people who play for competition, but I love immersing myself in a world unknown. Fantasy is fiction. I can’t double jump in real life, but you can bet a lot of videogame characters can. Many game series likeThe Elder Scrollshave fictional history, lore and religion. Even the Catholic loved and approvedThe Lord of the Rings serieshas fictional religion in it. So if God is depicted as a scantily clad sex object who is hell bent on being evil, I take it just as seriously as any other historical or religious figure depicted in games. It’s fiction and there is no reason to get worked up about it.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees things that way. Just about every adult in my childhood overreacted and lashed out at any depiction of religion in media. I was banned from viewing and reading stories that involved any criticism or fictional take on religion. Luckily for me, the adults in my life didn’t bother to look at any of the games I played. One example that should have been terribly obvious wasThe Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. That game had the three goddesses who created the Triforce and the land of Hyrule itself. It’s sad to say, but this was the first exposure I had to other religions besides my own. It was years until I learned about Judaism and even longer for others. Hell, it wasn’t until I played someFinal Fantasytitles in junior high that I began to see Christianity presented in a villainous light.

I think the difference between me and my elders was the way we approached the issue. For them,BayonettaandFinal Fantasytitles are directly made to insult their God and them personally. They can’t imagine that these games are anything but intentional and evil blasphemies. For me, I see my religion as inspiration for these games. I find it flattering thatAssassin’s Creed 2had me punching the Pope. Catholicism has been a source of pain for many. I realize that as a critically thinking individual. I feel sorrow for evils that our world has been exposed to on account of people of my faith. Therefore, I really don’t find it surprising that my religion is shown as a villain sometimes. Honestly, it’s minimal compared to the punishment we Catholics likely deserve.

It can be incredibly rewarding as well. As crazy asBayonettacan get, its depiction of angels is most flattering I’ve seen in any videogame. My jaw almost hit the floor when I first saw theEnchantclass of angels. I never thought I’d ever see the ophanim ever depicted in games. I only had read of wheel angels in texts like the Book of Enoch (on a side note, that text was depicted liberally in the videogameEl Shaddai). I’m sure many don’t know that in the Old Testament you’d be less likely to bump into an adorable baby faced angel as one who would melt your face if you so much as looked at it. Oddly enough, despite its premise, Bayonettaimpressed me more than my childhood’s local favorite,Bible Adventures, which depicted Noah as having the strength to lift four ox sized animals over his head at any given point.

That being said, I respect anyone who electively chooses not to play problematic content. I’ve had friends of several denominations and religions who for whatever reason have decided not to play certain games. I’m adverse to war shooters, but like my friends, I don’t see people who play them as bad or idiotic. I simply don’t feel good playing war shooters while my friends don’t feel right slicing up something that calls itself “God.” In my opinion, it’s only a problem if gamers outright attack or shame companies for promoting content they don’t like.

There are a terrible amount of Catholics who see videogames as problematic and pointless. Just looking atone particular articlealone, you can read some terrible opinions from a select few priests (except for Fr. Matthew Schneider. He’s awesome!). If a majority of priests and leaders are saying these kinds of ignorant things to their congregations, it’s no wonder the adults in my life didn’t take videogames seriously and still don’t.

I was fortunate to have positive influences in my life. I have a priest in my own family who has been extremely supportive of videogames and my other hobbies. He jokingly recoils in horror upon seeing the “violence” in aKirbytitle and has expressed interest in playing party games and even more mature titles likeLeft 4 Dead. In his eyes, videogames are escapism, just like books and movies. With any medium, you’re going to have good and bad content. Looking at my library of videogames, I can see just as great a ratio of critical successes and failures as I do with my books and movies.

Ultimately, I think I’ve grown closer to my faith because of video games, not against it. Games likeAssassin’s Creed,BayonettaandEl Shaddaihave made me question the content of my religion and its place in my world. I’ve actively researched different areas of my faith to understand why these depictions exist. I’m extremely excited forBayonetta 2to come out later this month. I’ve been avoiding trailers and content footage to get a fresh experience so I might seem ignorant when I say that I hope that Platinum Games continues to be inspired by my faith and adds even more crazy angels for me to fight this time around. In the end, Platinum seems to appreciate my faith much more than the adults did in my childhood. The very medium they thought was a waste of time brought me closer to God than their censorship ever did.