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Why is Christianity often unwelcome by gamers?

Gamers and internet users in general frequently seem to loathe Christianity. While much of this revolves around where you're looking -- some places are just hostile to everybody, while others are simply have minimal patience for being preached at -- it does seem to turn the internet and gaming communities into a minefield for the unprepared, and even more so for the Christians that aren't ready for what they may encounter.

Sadly, Christians are often the ones responsible for people building these metaphorical walls in the first place. Even the most well meaning Christian can cause lasting damage if they aren't careful. Allow me to take a moment to summarize some reasons why Christianity gets targeted so much in gaming circles; hopefully by looking at the past we can learn to avoid repeating mistakes and perhaps mend some bridges.

Moral guardians are not well respected

Now, a moral guardian is someone that tries to improve society by taking a stand against something they view as immoral enough to seriously harm society as a whole. Examples of this include big organizations like MADD or the various "watchdog" groups. The problem is, every so often a self-appointed moral guardian crops up that bases their arguments on very selectively chosen evidence or outright fabrications, and for whatever reason (usually the likelihood of a boost in ratings) they wind up getting their message broadcast by large news outlets.

These overzealous people often try to start what are called moral panics -- a sort of mass hysteria that something is going to destroy or seriously harm society as we know it. When successful, the moral panic harms innocents as parents scramble to protect their children from this new bogeyman.

A classic example was the belief that reading Harry Potter indoctrinates a person into Satan worship and witchcraft. Today, we can easily tell that this was never true, and it seems rather obvious. But, when the series was new, many parents really did panic and forbid their children from reading the series. An even older example was a similar belief that Dungeons and Dragons involved real witchcraft or otherwise satanic practices. Many Dungeons and Dragons players had hundreds of dollars worth of game materials disposed of by terrified and ill-informed parents.

These incidents have greatly undermined the authority and messages of moral guardians or authority figures in general. In many cases, Christianity, not the fallible humans, received the blame for the way people acted. By trying to keep their children safe, many parents only succeeded in encouraging their children to reject Christianity. To these kids, the religion became merely a source of paranoid lies and threats, and thus not something to respect or consider as an authority on anything.

Scaremongering is not tolerated

Just like the problem with moral guardians detailed in the section above, many well meaning speakers use scare tactics or exaggerated facts when informing people about the world around us. This is especially evident in regards to the internet and video games; when either make the news, it's usually reported in a sloppy and misinformed manner.

When something that's blatantly obvious is introduced as something shocking or unexpected, the entire online community rolls their eyes and starts in with the sarcasm. When something "everybody knows" is drastically misreported, that sarcasm quickly turns into anger. This anger usually comes from a feeling of being insulted: how would you feel if one of your hobbies was suddenly proclaimed as being the cause of all evil? Alternatively, it can stem from fear of reprisals from yet another blind moral panic.

I'm sad to say that there's a higher chance of scaremongering in religious news media than in our mainstream media. Religious news media often seems like it's too out of touch with the rest of the world to understand current events, or like it's too busy pushing some agenda to be really trustworthy. As a direct result, the internet as a whole has learned to expect the religious to be untrustworthy at best, pushing agendas at worst.

Many safe alternatives prey on well meaning parents

Parents are expected to keep their children safe from things that could harm them -- it's pretty much the job description. In keeping with this, parents sometimes try to compromise with their children's desires by finding something that should be a safe alternative. A simple example would be how parents of children with Celiac disease find gluten free foods that are as close to the real food as possible. This way the kid gets to enjoy what is considered normal food without being singled out by their illness.

But, compromising like this doesn't always work. In the case of video games, it really doesn't work. Many games that are marketed as being "Christian" alternatives for today's AAA games are infamous for being extremely poor quality. Essentially, they appear to exist to make a quick buck off of well meaning parents rather than to provide entertainment of any sort.

One of the most infamous examples was just a reskin of Wolfenstein 3D, a popular and violent First Person Shooter. The German soldiers were replaced by rams, the weapons with slingshots, the hero with Noah and somehow the player was to save the animals from the Flood by shooting them with rocks until they were knocked out cold. The reskin was reportedly very badly done as it wasn't very through. According to rumors, many levels still featured swastikas and portraits of Hitler like the original game.

This also brings us back to the problem we've seen before: kids are going to know that they are being given cheap imitations, and they are not going to understand why. It's like having a party at a pizzeria and being the one kid that's stuck with a salad. The difference is staggering, and will likely be viewed as punishment or injustice. Children are very good at spotting patterns, and it won't be long before they notice that it's mostly the Christian parents that are the unfair ones. This results in Christianity, rather than the misinformed parents, getting the blame for causing the trouble.

This sort of thing festers over time, and eventually becomes resentment towards the blamed party. Eventually, resentment gives way to anger and religious people become viewed as an enemy.

Bashing Christianity is seen as edgy

Sometimes, people and games make fun of Christianity or Christians without any obvious provocation. This is particularly noticeable in games where you suddenly find your character going up against an evil Pope or other religious figure. Now, while it's true that some people are simply being malicious for whatever reason, most of the time this seems to stem from one of two more benign sources.

Firstly, kids want to have fun. After all, if someone wasn't interested in having fun then they wouldn't be playing video games. A lot of things that kids enjoy aren't very safe or can lead to other problems, so adults often have to make and enforce rules to keep things from getting out of control. It's not hard to see why a little kid would object to being bound by rules. Just try to get a little kid to go to bed on time -- going to bed means they have to stop playing, and they don't want to do that. Christianity, like most religions, comes with a large set of rules that seem arbitrary from a child's point of view, so attacking Christianity is an attempt at fighting back against "rules" in favor of "freedom". While it certainly is concerning, it's no different than any other time a child stamps their feet and shouts "NO!". Most people outgrow this sort of thing, but some take longer to get there than others.

The other typical reason games and kids attack Christianity is honestly rather stupid. "Edgy" material gets attention and attracts sales. One of the quickest ways to make something edgy is to attack something that people consider sacred, and so Christianity becomes a target. Ultimately, mocking religion is the fart joke of darker and edgier storytelling, hence my remark about it being kinda stupid.

The takeaway here is that when kids mock religion or Christianity, it's usually only a case of them yelling "pay attention to me!" than anything else. Most of them aren't going to recognize that there's a difference between humor and blasphemy; they'll just know it gets a reaction and run with it until it gets boring.

Handling the situation

As unsettling as some of this is, it's dealt with remarkably easily.

Don't get angry
Sooner or later you'll run across something that will insult you or your faith. Remember that the majority of these insults do not stem from actual malice, but rather a misguided attempt at being edgy or funny. Simply try to ignore it if you can. If the "jokes" keep falling flat, the people making them will move on to something else soon enough.

Be cautious about flaunting your beliefs
By this I simply mean that you shouldn't run around making a fuss about how you're a Christian. This essentially paints a massive target on you, and will bring out the worst in people very quickly. Having a note that you're a Christian, religious, that you believe in God or other similar statements on your profile is usually fine, but leave it out of casual conversation unless someone else brings it up first or asks you about your beliefs.

Let your actions do the talking
Actions speak louder than words. If you find a game insults your beliefs, stop playing it and find something else to play. There are always other games, so you should be able to find one that you're comfortable with. Likewise, if a group of people keep bashing religion, you can always play with someone else.

Moral behavior is not limited to Christians
If you do need to confront someone about their behavior, there is a better option that using the Bible. Proper moral behavior is universal, so rather than citing Bible verses, you can always defend your view using secular evidence. After all, games are about having fun, so doing something that ruins the fun for others is wrong. Note that you need to be aware of griefing and trolling before doing this, as you may be walking into a different kind of trap.