Video games and Mormons

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.

Game on!


Recently, I’ve had the desire to build my own PC for gaming and streaming.  This comes from playing pretty resource intensive games like PUBG, Overwatch, and wanting to play games like Star Citizen.  While in the Facebook groups and forums for Star Citizen, I noticed a trend among many of the members who were miffed that the newest update for the pre-alpha version of the game was unplayable by their computers.

The Star Citizen complainer in his natural habitat posts the statistics of their PC builds often, almost bragging at how expensive it is.  The next sighting of this species is when they complain about how the computer they spent a year’s worth of my rent for runs Star Citizen at 4-5 frames per second.  It’s one of if not the most resource intensive game ever.  I noticed a pattern in most of these game monkey’s PCs.  The CPU.

If you want to skip the jargon and explanation of how CPUs work, skip the next two paragraphs.  I’m a nerd, so if you’re reading this for a talk on expectations, it’s there.  Just gotta understand where I come from.

Let’s just say I’ve looked at gaming PC builds for a long time now, scheming and plotting which build I’ll use.  There’s a commonality among most of them.  They skimp on the CPU.  I’ll explain using Intel, because they’re the most widely spoken of.  An i3 processor, even with the same or close to the same amount of Ghz (Gigahertz, or, how many times the processes of the computer can compute by the billions per second) is nowhere near the same amount of power an i7 can push out.

The number next to the Intel’s chips are a relative power number.   Like how Vegeta calls out a relative power level for Goku (IT’S OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAAAAAAND!), we call out relative power level numbers for Intel’s CPUs.  It has nothing to do with how many cores the CPU has or what Ghz it runs at.  Although, there are patterns to how the different level of CPUs perform when you look at i3s to i7s.  An i3 CPU will bottleneck a top of the line GPU (Video card) guaranteed, meaning it doesn’t have the power or resources necessary to process the amount of commands the GPU is throwing at it.  Most people prefer the GPU to be bottlenecking the CPU, but recent trends are stating that it doesn’t matter what CPU you have when you play video game.

It may be true that a few years ago video games weren’t very CPU heavy.  They mostly relied on the memory of the GPU.  Nowadays it’s not the case.  Most games are heavy on the amount of information being thrown at your computer.  This brings me to my point.

When making anything, you need to have some sort of expectations as to how it’s going to turn out.  I’m not talking about how many views or likes you get, the social media aspect is completely separate to this concept.  I’m saying that with any project, we must expect the outcome to be a certain way.  Whether it’s building a lightsaber and expecting it to be able to hold a sound card and LED light powerful enough to make it look as good as you expect it to, or building a computer with enough power to run a game you want to play at 60 fps with 4k resolution.  If a computer build someone else made says, “This plays anything you want!” That’s their expectations and goals for their build.  For you, you might want less on the video card end, or maybe more on the CPU end.  Of course better parts are always welcome, but to do what we want our computers to do and still eat, we sometimes have to spend less on some parts and more on others.

For games like Star citizen, a powerful CPU (i5-7 processor or its equivalent), lots of RAM (32GB), and a bossin’ video card (1080 Ti) are required for me to play.  If your expectations are to have more than 25 FPS in this game, your computer’s specs should probably be around that.  We can’t complain that a game doesn’t work anymore when our parts don’t match the required specifications.  Not only our parts matter, either, but how we treat our computers is an important factor as well.  Optimization is almost as important as the part itself.  If I have loads of unchecked background processes and updates running nonstop, my expectations for gaming don’t match my actions at that point.

This works for other things as well.  Our performance should be measured by our expectations, not society’s or another person’s expectations.  Again, keep these realistic.  If I’m playing Overwatch, I can’t have the expectation to “win the game.”  I can imagine the win, and my goals can be there, but my expectation has to be simpler.  I can make an expectation as a healer to keep my teammate’s health in check at all time, keep myself in a safe position with eyes on all of them, and land more shots that I control this game than last.  When making expectations, don’t focus on the outcomes of other people.  You shouldn’t grade yourself as bad because you lost a game due to a team effort.  Make your own little goals and work up your expectations from there.

I had an experience in Thailand as a missionary where we, my co-worker and I, had a goal to teach 14 people in one week.  This was… Well, if you don’t know missionary culture in Thailand, this was hard to say the least.  After the week was done, and we had taught 2 people, I was really hard on myself.  I thought it was because of me, and my lack of dedication to the effort that caused this outcome.  I was reminded by a close friend that I set my expectations on the free will of others.  I can’t control what other people do, namely whether they’ll listen to us and want us to teach them or not.  I shouldn’t burden myself because I failed an unrealistic expectation.  The next week I had set the expectation for myself to talk to a certain number of people, and to focus on giving my co-worker attention and room to talk.  I expected myself to not interrupt people as much, either.

These expectations made life a whole lot more satisfying.  I felt progress constantly, and I noticed my mannerisms changing and my goals being fulfilled.  When making expectations for ourselves, we may forget where we’re going with them, but as a whole we can only get better if we use them properly.  Don’t think that you’ll be perfect at fulfilling these expectations right off the bat, but continue to think about them and focus on fulfilling them and you’ll be on the right track to becoming a better person and planner.  Keep making them.  Your life won’t feel so held back, and you’ll feel that wonderful, full feeling of accomplishment on a daily basis.  I promise that.

Expectations and Outcomes of Building a PC and Gaming

Battlefield: Hardline – The late grab

I was away from America for two years, and while I was gone, this little gem came out.  Battlefield: Hardline.  It was on sale for 5$ on PSN, so I had to pick it up.  A bit late to the scene, but reviewed in the mindset of as if it just came out.

General thoughts: I’ve been a Battlefield series fan all up until 3. Before that time was a creative use of kits and customization, vehicles, and general strategy. After Battlefield 3 (or the executioner as I call it), I was very disappointed with everything Battlefield related. I skipped 4 completely. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
And here comes Hardline, promising a riveting story line (we all saw how 3 went. Hah!), cop chases, characters, and takin’ down some bad guys.
What I experienced was EA, once again targeting the “grungy child” demographic and ignoring quality.

Let me explain.

Now, before I begin, I know the Battlefield series isn’t so far known for their single player experiences, but seems as how the marketing and game all point to the single player as a main highlight of Hardline, I might as well treat it as if it’s trying to be a triple A story.

We started off with a good opening, a take-down gone wrong, and a car chase. You end up killing some people, but as a detective, you merely get a slap on the wrist. The very first thing I noted in my mental “annoyances” notebook as I played was that the game either held your hand too tight, or completely threw you to the proverbial (literally in one level) crocs and walked away. I felt completely lost sometimes. No one telling me where I should go, or even giving me an icon. Other times I felt too guided. When I looked for evidence (which isn’t mandatory by the way), I had a compass with a distance marker telling me where the next one was.

The AI was a big thing I noticed, too. Either they’re stupid to the point where it makes the first Metal Gear Solid AI look intelligent, or they’re extremely professional shooty mcshootersons with aimbots trained on your face through walls when you’re fighting. They apparently don’t need to use cover either because they’re so good.

The game itself made me feel like I was playing a shooter from the late 2000s. Choppy models and useless quick time events aside, the graphics themselves were a little lacking for our time.
The faces were nice, however. I felt like I was watching a cop show while the characters talked.
Speaking of people talking, there’s absolutely no way anyone in a professional group goes through that many f bombs in one conversation.
I suppose to make the game more “edgy” and “hardcore” EA decided to throw in a curse word into every voice line in the first level. Appeals to the brain dead COD kid I suppose.


As the story continues, your character gets framed for doin’ dirty deeds and you go to jail. You escape thanks to some neutral bad boys from earlier (still not sure why they freed you), and get into the group to take down your dirty ex-police captain. In the end, you track him down with the intent to destroy his life. I expected it to go as most cop movies would. You show to the world that the real dirty cop is the culprit and you walk away takin’ in baddies once again.

But what happened is thus: you kill a bunch of security people in a warzone setting, get to the big bad guy, walk into his office and intend to just kill him. You point your gun at him for a while, talking about nothing, and he asks you to join him. He says you and him are exactly the same. More criminal than cop. You agree and… And…
Well, you shoot him. Dead.

But lo and behold! He left a note for you about a seeeecret storage cave behind a bookshelf that leads you to a bunch of money! And now you’re rich! Somehow! Because you can totally carry off cash and gold off the big bad guy island by yourself with no boat!

But what will money do for you? You’re a convicted felon! I guess we’ll never know BECAUSE THE GAME ENDS RIGHT THERE.

Your character had a hero conplex, too! Does this game just teach children (its obvious targeted demographic) that being a good guy doesnt pay off? Is it trying to create a generation of criminal COD kids? Why would you play up a character’s personality like that for the whole game and just DROP it? GRRRRRAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!

To sum up, Battlefield Hardline was a cool cop game idea that fell through because of time constraints and demographic targeting. The story makes no sense either.

Also, the multiplayer COULD have been cool, but it’s just COD with different objectives.
Good game, EA.  You disappoint me yet again.

Overwatch: A sport?


Now, I know what you’re thinking.  A video game as a sport?  Where are the athletes?  Where’s the ball?  What defines a sport?  Aren’t sports always about physical activity?

So, this is where I come in and say “Overwatch has become a sport.”

While League of Legends was deemed a sport by many countries three (or more?) years ago, Overwatch still has yet to gain that status officially.  But here’s where Blizzard, the makers of Overwatch are succeeding, where Riot games, the makers of League of Legends failed.

For one, as the article below states, Overwatch uses a very simple rule set and play style to draw in more viewership.  The more people that can easily understand what’s going on in a game will be more likely to enjoy it.  For example: I never got into baseball or football as a kid.  I never understood what was going on, and I never had anyone explain it to me.  Soccer on the other hand was a lot easier to understand.  Past the fake injuries, I understood most of the game aside from off-sides.

Overwatch keeps its rule set and characters simple.  The players choose from a set of pre-made characters with their own small belt of skills and weapons that are easily seen and understood.  That girl is carrying a sniper rifle?  I guess she’s a sniper!  The gorilla shoots electricity and jumps?  Cool!  Harambe!

Despite being simple to understand on a basic level, the game itself has a deep sense of strategy, teamwork, problem solving, and critical thinking.  This makes the true understanding of it complex and intricate.  Enough so as to make a football enthusiast enjoy Overwatch with the amount of planning and thinking that goes into every “play.”

The maps bring a sense of complexity as well.  Positioning, like in any sport, is an important part in Overwatch.  Like when a soccer team makes a beautiful pass and score, the position of the players was just as important as the players actually having the ball.  If you have no one to pass it to, or no where to run, there’s no point in having the ball other than to keep it away from the enemy team.  This is entertaining to watch, as seeing the positioning of players before the play happens and determining what would happen is a great part of fun in watching sporting events.  Even if you don’t notice it, your pre-conceptions about how a player is going to go and seeing it actually happen (or not) is why you watch.

The teams in Overwatch need to position well to win.  If everyone is in the same small ball, running into the enemy team, there’s a high chance someone will use a skill that gathers them even more, or destroys them all with one hit.  A common occurrence in professional play.  Watching a team get destroyed from positioning is the same thrill that people get when they watch a football team position themselves just right to get a touchdown.

Another factor in how Blizzard has created a great eSport is in the map design.  Each map has its own simple rules and paths of travel.  One mode is easy to understand: One team moves a vehicle by standing around it to and end point down a series of roads to win.  The enemy team must keep them off of the vehicle long enough in order to win.  With this simple rule set, we can easily see how it could be a very tense, and adrenaline fueled game to watch.  when the clock is ticking down to mere seconds, and the team you are rooting for is having trouble keeping up with the enemy, you know the gloves will come off and there’s going to be an amazing play coming up.  The team all re-spawns after the last death with 30 seconds on the clock, just enough to get back to the vehicle.  They rush in, adrenaline spiking, into the enemy team.  They made a last-ditch effort to win, and even if they lose, the last play is always the best to watch.  Desperation, just like in other sports, is a huge win-factor.

Blizzard is making a huge push to become the next famous eSport everyone plays.  Riot games became that, but made many mistakes along the way I’ll probably point out in another post.  Blizzard, and Overwatch on the other hand, are making all of the right decisions.  Not only are they making good game-design, they’re piling in a huge amount of money into the marketing, and publicity for Overwatch as an eSport.  I’m excited to see where it leads them, and what becomes of the eSports scene.

Next time you turn on ESPN or a streaming site, maybe take a few minutes to watch an Overwatch game?  Who knows, it could become your next favorite sport!

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