Monday, October 15, 2007

The Gospel According to “Halo 3”

I must admit, I’m not a big video gamer. In fact, I’ve never even played a “first-person shooter” game like Halo. But lately, I’ve been taken aback at the amount of anticipation leading up to the release of Halo 3 and the subsequent sales of the game which have surpassed the level of many modern movie blockbusters. It has also registered on my radar that this game has prompted a debate among religious leaders, youth ministers in particular, about if and how the success of this game can be exploited for the benefit of the church. I have talked before with the youth at our church about making wise media choices. Ratings don’t always provide the most useful information for making these choices. Just because a movie is PG doesn’t mean that it cannot be harmful to the individual or society. But an R rating doesn’t necessarily mean that a film has no merit or value. (Think of films such as Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, or even The Passion of Christ.) So I can’t say that Halo is bad just because of its “M” rating. I would say that I would be very careful about viewing an R rated film with the youth of our church. I would have to be very sure that the value of the message outweighs the negatives of language, sex, or violence that may have led to the rating. I’d also want to be very careful that teens were given the opportunity to adequately debrief what they’d seen and equip parents to continue with the discussion. So far, the only redeeming value that I’ve read for making use of Halo in the church setting is to draw young people in. I’m not convinced that this practice is justified. I can’t condemn teens and adults who enjoy the game. For one, I’m not familiar enough with the game to make a judgment about its value. For another, I don’t believe that just because media is not appropriate for consumption in a group setting outside of the home that this means under proper guidance from parents that it is not acceptable for private consumption. But I do think that as parents make efforts to monitor their children’s media practices, whether it’s not allowing R movies or M rated games, the church does not need to undermine their efforts by so openly promoting a game perceived by many as unreasonably violent. I hope to post several more comments on this topic over the next few days/weeks, and publish links to other sources discussing the topic. The first is an article from the Washington Post found here. Feel free to weigh in with your opinion. I plan to link articles on both sides of this discussion in the near future.

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