Between the Lines: A Conversation with Kevin Schut – Part 3 – plus a video

Schut_KevinWe recently had the chance to talk with Kevin Schut about his new Brazos book, Of Games and God: A Christian Exploration of Video Games.

Kevin Schut (PhD, University of Iowa) is associate professor and chair of the department of media and communication at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. His research uses video games to investigate the intersection of communication, technology, and culture. He has published articles and chapters on video games and history, games and mythology, and evangelical involvement with video games.

In part 1, Kevin spoke about common misconceptions about video games.

In part 2, Kevin explained the importance of the “magic circle.”

In today’s post, Kevin discusses ethics and video games.

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Is it ethical to do bad things in an imaginary video game world? 

This is really the significance of the magic circle idea: Do the things I do in a video game matter?

Of Games and God

We can look at it in a bunch of different ways. We could argue that everything in a video game is an imaginary symbol or sign, and therefore nothing good or evil is actually happening.

For example, if I’m playing the grim post-nuclear-apocalypse Fallout: New Vegas and I start killing innocent bystanders, I can just say that it doesn’t really mean anything because those people are nothing, just pixels on a flat, artificial screen.

But if the magic circle is a false idea—or only partially true in the above sense—then maybe there’s a connection between doing wrong actions in a video game and a wrong action.

I spend many pages in the book wrestling with this, and I don’t think there’s an easy answer. I think anyone who wants to argue that shooting someone in a video game is the moral equivalent of shooting someone with a physical gun has a pretty weak grasp on the trauma of actual physical violence.

Yet representations are powerful. Novels matter, movies matter, and so do games, at least partly because what happens in them resonates with what we know to be true.

Evil in a story is somehow like evil in everyday life. I believe it’s the same in a video game. But the exact nature of the relationship between imaginary and real things is very, very complicated.

The long and the short of it is that I don’t have a short answer to the question—and neither does the book! But I think the book raises many of the issues that matter.

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In this video, Kevin Schut talks about what prompted him to write Of Games and God.

For more information on Of Games and God, click here.
To read an excerpt, click here.