Fmulder reclaims his news-finder crown and points us to a new piece on The Escapist by a guy who used Diablo and other games to help him deal with his real fears of demons. He’s not speaking metaphorically; he was raised in Biblical literalism by an evangelistic Christian church, and as a kid he fully believed that Satan was an actual entity, with soul-devouring demonic agents roaming the earth.
He was terrified of that stuff, and playing demon-killing video games helped him overcome his fears. Here are a couple of quotes, but just go read the article; it’s not very long and it reads quickly.
I was forced to attend an evangelical church two or three times a week for the first 18 years of my life and I became well versed in the ways of The Artist Formerly Known As Lucifer. The pastor at my family’s first church was an old World War II vet who frightened me nearly as much as Satan did with his bellowing voice and the frozen stare of his glass eye. His casual apocalyptic musings about the devil – like he lived down the street from us – were just as frightening.
…One of the verses from the Good Book that I was instructed to memorize was 1 Peter 5:8 and it scared the living crap out of me: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Perhaps some Christians took it as a metaphor for sin and the destructive effects it could have on one’s soul, but my 14-year-old self thought, “Holy sh*t, Satan is going to morph into a Thundercat and eat my soul. I’m dead.”
…Even more so than with Doom, what I enjoyed about Diablo was that it all boiled down to a numbers game. Damage to yourself or enemies, the strength of your weapons and armor – all of it was easily quantifiable with simple numbers. Everything had hit points or a percentage of strength or weakness.
This was a huge contrast to the battles against Satan that I learned about in church, where all conflict is vague and ethereal. The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in the Bible outlines a method of anti-devil protection called “The Armor of God” where you put on pieces like the “Breastplate of Righteousness” and “Shield of Faith” (and one that always made me giggle, “having your loins girt about with truth”) to stop the “devil’s fiery arrows.” In Diablo, something called the Armor of God would be an actual full suit of armor that would probably give a +20 bonus to Holy magic and help you beat your enemies in a way you could predict and calculate. The Bible’s brand of armor felt like the Emperor’s New Clothes – an empty gesture meant to placate me. If the devil really wanted to attack me, I’d be screwed, I thought.
The piece has a happy ending; the writer escaped his childhood church and mindset, and he’s no longer afraid of the supernatural. (Tthough he presumably suffers from the same phobias about Diablo III never being released that the rest of us labor under.)
On the other hand, I wonder if he enjoys games less than he used to? I know I liked horror movies more when I was a kid; I remember screaming and jumping backwards over the couch the first time I saw Friday the 13th on late night HBO, when Jason surged out of the lake and pulled the canoe over at the very end. Whereas similar shocks in movies these days just make me laugh, since it’s always so obvious to my adult mind 1) that they’re fake, and 2) when they’re about to happen.
How much more fun would Doom and Diablo be if you believed things like demons and monsters actually existed? Would that be worth all the attendant anxieties and mental unease?
Update: Lots of controversy and argument in comments over this one. For those offended by the topic, think about this. If this post were the exact same, but the religion was changed to Islam, or Hinduism, or Zoroastrianism, or Germanic Paganism, or Pastafarianism, etc… would you still find it offensive? What would you think of the people who did?