The Digital Jihad

Last night I had a good chat with an old gaming buddy. It was one of those really enjoyable conversations that just coasts along with you both on the same wavelength and, before you know it, hours have passed by. Being gaming buddies we found ourselves talking about games and the current hot potato the Revolution.

During the course of the conversation we both hit upon a realisation. A truth. An epiphany.

Now, some might argue that I take games too seriously. That I’m too critical about what is just a hobby or pastime for many. I’d argue that I’m a huge fan of games and gaming culture and that my interest is so acute due to the 15 years I spent working in many different areas of the industry. Trash talking a company or dismissing a game means more to me because I understand exactly what was involved in getting it from the concept onto the shelf. So, I admit, I take gaming seriously, but I have very good reason to.

However devoted to gaming I am I generally don’t choose sides. I hold no loyalty to the manufacturer of a plastic box of circuits. Compared to some, my attitude towards games is mild. And it was this train of thought that led me to the realisation: gaming is a religion for many.

Words like ‘devotion’, ‘fanatic’, ‘worship’ and ‘faith’ leap into my head when I think of religion. Those same words can very easily be assigned to that very vocal and outspoken minority of gamers. Not being religious in the slightest and favouring facts and logic over faith and belief I’m not convinced of miracles or the ‘hand of God’. A problem I have with religious thinking is how those who practice it can eschew all logic and believe a totally unsubstantiated version of events. The most dedicated of believers are comitted to this type of thought and no application of logic or science will shift them from their perspective. Of course, games are not religion. After all, the very thing that drives a game – it’s programming – is written in purest logic! The industry is a scientifcally explainable entity. Trends can be plotted and every event in the history of gaming has a totally understandable explanation that can be backed up by facts. Games are a distraction, not a code by which a life can be lived or a set of standards than can be followed. Games are not religion.

But gamers have often demonstrated all the traits of the worst of religious fundamentalists. There are those, devoted to one of three Gods, worshiping their electronic idols and praying in the names of St. Miyamoto and others. As in the worst aspects of religion, their chosen path is the only path to true enlightenment. They are right in their belief as they have been promised entrance to gaming heaven, a digital nirvana. They don’t care if their God has let them down in the past – they may not even acknowledge any such fallacy can exist in their chosen belief. Opposing views or even the mention of other Gods will be met with outright hostility. Your logic and reason have no place in this discussion.

The degree to which this devotion is applied appears to be increasing. The timing of this isn’t a mystery – we’re on the verge of a new chapter and people are convinced that they’re going to be one step closer to the Holy Land. But the worst aspects of religious fervour are destroying the sense of community that gamers inhabit. Sides are clearly being taken and the zealots are preparing themselves for the digital jihad. Would they die for their cause? It seems so, yes. Their online presence is expendable. Let them go out a martyr or in a blaze of flaming glory as they rampage through their chosen community starting fights, stamping their feet and cutting down those who might dare to challenge their beliefs. If their online presence, their forum account gets banned as part of this cause then so be it. Sacrifices have to be made and if they must die for their cause then they can be reborn, their belief stronger than ever!

Ok, so maybe that’s over-dramatising the situation in some cases (and in some cases, it isn’t) but the parallels are plain to see. Obsessing over something at the expense of logic, facts, history and reason is as unhealthy as carrying out the actions in Doom or Quake in real life. I’m seeing more and more of this behaviour these days, so much so that I’m totally put off from participating in gaming communities. I don’t post in them and I now rarely read them due to the disdain I feel when I see topic after topic fuelled by unthinking and unreasoned fervour.

I don’t belong to the cult of Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft. But I see evidence that they exist.

1 Response

  1. david April 9, 2006 / 2:53 am

    i agree to an extent, but hasn’t it always been that way?
    st vs. amiga etc
    snes vs. megadrive
    there was always religious fervour within the fanbases of either side.
    perhaps the nature of the internet just makes it easier for any fudbucket with a halfknowledge to voice their “opinion”.
    which is exactly what is happening here.
    your posts on the edge forum were very well written and entertaining. so thanks.

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