Playing as Others
Theology and Ethical Responsibility in Video Games
Imprint: Baylor University Press
235 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.00 in, 6 b&w photos
- Published: October 2021
No contemporary form of pop culture has as large a social impact as video games, an entertainment industry whose yearly revenues continue to rise. Gamergate rocked the gaming industry when isolated incidents of male gamers threatening female game developers and critics grew into a sustained campaign of harassment against minorities and the historically marginalized. These events negatively revealed the political, ethical, and theological meaning latent within video games and gaming communities, but constructive reactions to the situation showed that video game creators and consumers were interested in thinking about games differently. In the wake of Gamergate, the voices of those marginalized and ignored as the "other" became louder, and alternative gaming experiences reflecting their perspectives more commonplace.
Playing as Others traces the development of video game culture in response to marginalization and explores the ways in which the content of video games can generate theological insight and positive ethical impact. Benjamin Chicka shows how the interactivity and compelling narratives provided by emerging styles of video games can provide powerful lessons in listening to, accepting, and helping those often harmed or outright neglected by society. Bringing Paul Tillich's theology of culture into conversation with Emmanuel Levinas' ethical concept of responsibility toward the other, Chicka shows that video games as art form aid in the overcoming of estrangement.
If culture, art, and technology have the power to reveal divine depth, video games offer a unique opportunity to foster redemptive face-to-face encounters in a way that is impossible for even the most practical discussions of philosophy and theology. With their fully formed characters and morally challenging stories, the games considered here, such as Gone Home; Papers, Please; and 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, can become a means to personal fulfillment and a desire for justice. For nonmarginalized players, virtual encounters are opportunities to listen to the call of the other and carry that lesson into the real world.
1 Tillich and a Theology of Pop Culture
2 Turning to the Other in Video Games
3 Boss Fight: Philosophical Theology and Science
4 Nontraditional Video Games and LGBTQ+ Others
5 Face to Face with Immigrant Others
6 Other Races and Religions in Protest
7 Economic and Social Polarities
Playing as Others: Theology and Ethical Responsibility in Video Games offered me an entirely new look at the power of games as a medium, from a vector that is both intensely familiar to me as a person, but also commonly foreign to the industry at large. In an inspired exploration of how theology and games do and might interact, Benjamin Chicka taught me one more value of this medium I love.~Rami Ismail, Independent Game Developer & Industry Ambassador
Theology is capable of uncovering the depth dimension of culture—every aspect of culture, in principle. But video games? Yes indeed. Benjamin Chicka takes theology of culture a lot more seriously than most, and he shows how deep the culture of video games goes. Read this book to find out where ultimate concerns and ethical principles are explored in video games. Read to find out what Paul Tillich and Emmanuel Levinas have in common. This book will forcefully remind you that theology is profoundly connected to every aspect of our lives. Game on!~Wesley J. Wildman, Professor of Philosophy, Theology, and Ethics, Boston University School of Theology
Playing as Others is a power-up for the field of video games and religion. Dr. Chicka employs an exhilarating interdisciplinary inventory of philosophy, ethics, neuroscience, and social science to enrich his analysis. This book opens new worlds for video game studies and for the theology of culture. Reading along, even the casual gamer can't help but have their own experiences illuminated by the insights developed here.~Donna Bowman, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Central Arkansas