Hearthstone and the importance of a gaming community

Kevin Schut

Kevin Schut
July 10, 2014

Hearthstone's limited chat options make for a cleaner computer game, but are we losing community in the process?

July 17, 2014

Kevin, thank you for some thoughtful reflections within the gaming community for they are a rarity. I am an avid gamer and am fully aware of the toxic communities that often exist within gaming and so I appreciate Blizzards attempt to control it.

In regards to the thought about keeping communication open and available, I feel there is a large difference between impersonal electronic communication and the face-to-face encounters Jesus had. In our telecommunication age too often we treat "tweets" "facebooking," and "text messages" as real communication. The possibility though to say whatever we want via electronic message without repercussions does not facilitate real interaction. A large reason Jesus engaged his opponents was they actually found and interacted him personally in such a way where their identity and their motives where perceptible. I feel electronic communication lacks this, and often leads to risk-free comments, and risk free relationships are in reality no-relationship at all.

Finally, I would like to say that I feel we as a church have also accepted certain types of unacceptable behavior under the guise of "tolerance" or "forgiveness." The over emphasis on these has led many to permit destructive and undermining behavior which should not be tolerated. To disagree is acceptable, to undermine the church unacceptable. If we create a theology where we must "always" leave the doors of engagement open, where anyone is always free to be heard, I fear we will lose all ability to create a committed communities of love.

Thanks again Kevin, you are right that something is lost, but perhaps something greater is gained?

Kevin Schut
July 17, 2014

Hi Erik, thanks for these comments. I think a lot of what you're saying is valid. There's no question that electronic communication loses some of the richness of face-to-face interaction. It gains something in terms of conquering distance, and there can be some advantages to anonymity, but I agree that some of the kind of emotional dimensions of facial expressions and body language are hugely important and valuable when communicating. But I think we shouldn't take the point too far. It is quite possible to deceive people in face-to-face communication, and not everyone is equally good at face-to-face communication. Likewise, some positive stuff is possible in electronically mediated communication. Online relationships do not have to be "risk-free," even if that is often how people treat them. What I didn't have space to write in the review is that I've had some really positive conversations in League and other games--talks that wouldn't be possible w/ the Hearthstone system. It's not an absolute thing: it might be harder to manufacture positivity in an ugly online interaction, but it's not impossible--unless the system prevents it entirely.

As to the second point, I agree that the line between love and anything-goes is a dangerous one. What I see in the gospels is Jesus never shutting the door on interaction with anything except for demons and God-fearing Israelites who weren't interested in listening--but even when he's interacting with undesirables, you never see Him calling something bad acceptable. I'm not sure how that looks in everyday practice, to be honest. But I'm not convinced it's helpful to shut down conversations before they can even start.

I'm not convinced that the Hearthstone system is wrong. I think it may be very helpful in many ways, but I think we should be aware of what we're losing.

Thank you very much for your thought-provoking comments!

April 20, 2015

Thank you for your comment. As a Christian, are we okay to play this game, seeing as it contains Demons as a card type, and uses 'Devine' on a few cards as well? Would one not see that as disrespectful or even blasphemy?

I have just been born again and have quit all overly violent games or games where you have to kill humans to progress.

Would appreciate some insight.

Kind regards,

Kevin Schut
April 20, 2015

Hi Matthew, that's a great question. As someone who's always been in the church, I want you to know that I still struggle with that very question, so I don't know that I have THE answer. I can give you my thoughts on it as they now stand--take what you want and feel free to leave the rest.

The thing I would stress more than anything is that the answer will be different for different Christian AND it will be different in different situations. This is not new: Paul's famous discourse on eating meat sacrificed to idols very much applies here (I Cor. 8), I think. Some Christians have no problem with playing with such cards and themes because they're simply not real--and while I do indeed believe demonic forces are real, I'm equally convinced they don't take such campy, stereotypical forms (as a sidenote, I'm also not sold on the Peretti-style vision, but that's a conversation for another day). But not everyone realizes this, and for any number of reasons, there may be other reasons that these images and themes are disturbing. I personally rarely played Death magic decks in Magic: The Gathering because I found the artwork too dark and disturbing. I *have* on the other hand, played some decks with demon cards in it Hearthstone (generally, though, when I play Warlock, I play Murloc decks).

This may sound like a non-answer. What I prefer to say, however, is that this is hard work of living a moral life. Instead of cut-and-dried answers, we take principles and figure out how to apply them to different situations. The principles I would follow are these: avoid thing that hurt your walk with God; avoid things that hurt other people's walk with God; do things that celebrate life and play and joy and creativity.

Do certain things in games lead you away from God (for *whatever* reason)? Does playing incite lust or greed or anger or violence? It's probably not fatal, but that doesn't mean it's beneficial, and you probably want to curtail it. I admire your decision to stop playing games where you kill humans. I don't think that's necessary in my life at this time, but it sounds like it is for you, and I think we can both be fulfilling our goal to follow God. Your example, however, pushes me to reconsider my own decisions, and that's as it should be.

Do you think you might mix up other people by what you're doing? This can vary widely--the same activity can have very different meanings in different circumstances.

And game playing can be a great activity. It can be fun, creative, thought-provoking. God wants us to do such things. Not if it leads into the problems described above, but playing games can be a really good thing.

I don't know if this helps or not. If it doesn't, as I say above, disregard it. And if you have specific questions, I'd be happy to get back to you. Sorry for such a long post! I'm not always good at being brief.

Add your comment to join the discussion!