I’ll say it, being a mormon and a gamer is a tough balance.
First off, I want to preface this whole post with a disclamer of sorts. I’m a devout mormon, Christian, and I search for truth in all things. I’m also an avid gamer. I enjoy single player story-driven games, multiplayer titles such as Warframe, Rainbow 6 Siege, Overwatch, and Fortnite. These two ideas and lifestyles are not opposites, but their cultures can be very counter to each other. I accept that not everyone is a certain way in either culture, and I’m no victim in this situation, but it’s a topic I want to expand on because I think it isn’t talked about or exposed enough. Religion and video games, two things not usually put together.
With that out of the way, I want to talk about being a gamer in mormon culture. I grew up with great parents. My dad played a game every now and then, but he was mostly busy working to take care of me and my older brother. My mother, father, and extended family professed their dislike of me and my brother playing video games instead of doing other things for recreation. We played outside a lot with other kids, built legos, and did some other fun things, but we would play video games at our neighbor’s house whenever their kids that were around our age were home and available. I started to notice patterns in the games like those in movies or books. The plots were similar, but the way they were presented was different, and I liked it.
I practiced martial arts for a few years as a teenager, and I wanted nothing more than to practice real situations or spar. I enjoyed the real practice and thrill of fighting, putting my skill against someone else’s and seeing who comes out on top. This translated to video games directly, especially when I started playing multiplayer shooters at age nine. I still played story-driven games, but the thrill of multiplayer excited me. I naturally gravitated towards that scene.
As a teenager, I tried my hand at a free Korean shooter, and I put all my extra time into it. I would practice my aim, positioning and movement after school, and I got pretty good in the rankings. When I would tell other people I was going to be practicing, or participating in a tournament, they would have one of two reactions:
“Oh cool! You’re playing video games for money?”
or mostly from the mormon community,
“Why would you play video games that much? Why not play sports?” or something to that extent.
I don’t resent these comments. They actually made part of my thoughts about video games and eSports. The part that I didn’t like was that I was being looked down on as an addict or someone with socialization issues. Whenever I would tell someone in the mormon community that I played video games as my pastime I would often get a change of subject thrown at me, or an older person telling me that there were so many better things I could do with my time or that (shudder) video games rot my brain. Video games were a distraction to these people, something to be avoided at all costs. The people who played them were supposed to be “helped” to stop playing because it was an addiction, just like drugs or alcohol.
After all this I am now an adult, and I have a lingering thought in the back of my head that my favorite past time, video games, is a bad hobby and I am a neglectful partner or friend if I play them in my free time.
It’s not true, though. I know this consciously. Video games aren’t evil, just like religions, hobbies, or tools aren’t inherently evil. It’s the people that utilize them that determine whether it’s a good thing or not. It’s the way they use them, how much time is put into them, and what they’re used for that makes that difference.
Mass Effect is still my favorite game series. It has its ups and downs in objective quality, but it’s what it taught me that really makes me love it.
In this game you have a lot of options to choose from for what you want to do. There’s a linear story, but you as Commander Shepard decide on how everything gets done. Want to get rid of a race of aliens that are trying to kill you? You could commit genocide and wipe the entire race out, or just pacify them by only eliminating those who are in leadership positions. You could even agree with their stance and help them towards their end goal.
It’s all about choices. That’s what initially taught me my life is up to me. It was during one of these choices that I realized I had the ability to choose for my life and act on that choice. So I did. I decided I wanted to go on a Mormon mission for two years of my life.
The multiplayer games taught me self control, and that even if others believe differently than I do, I still need to love them and be compassionate.
Co op games taught me communication skills, what was necessary to say, and when to say it.
There we’re many more things I learned, and games didn’t teach me everything. But like any good hobby, they taught me more than I would have learned had I not played them.
This is the point I’d like to make. Video games are like any other hobby in the world. Reading, sports, hiking, crafting, just hanging out with friends, all of these things have similar purpose next to video games. Don’t feel bad because you love something. Others have hobbies too. This one is just one of the newest in our society. Just like how TV was regarded with disdain by an older generation that read, video games may be targeted with such feelings. This doesn’t mean it’s wrong.