I have come to the conclusion that all video game designers are teachers who have tried to hide this fact by placing themselves in the tech industry. These individuals are incredibly creative people who are known to push the limits of reality in their medium, which is of course the virtual world. They create vast landscapes which contain incredible dangers that are only dwarfed by the incredible treasures that are to be earned. They fashion menacing enemies, both monster and mortal, who are capable of feats that rival anything that can be read within the pages of a Tolkien or Salvatore novel. They create complex puzzles and obstacles, which baffle the minds of players but also surprise them on how easily the obvious answer escapes them. These game designers are not just writers and artists, they are teachers who show gamers their strengths as well as their flaws.
When one thinks of a game designer, they often picture for themselves a young nerdy social outcast who is always slumped over their work place and typing incoherent numbers and characters on a keyboard. Though this stereotype may fit those game designers who purposely fix their appearance to fit this mold, most of these men and women are just like us; normal people working in a normal job. Some of the most exceptional game designers are veterans in the industry, having coded and created video games for well over 30 years. Such legends of the industry are Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear), Gabe Newell (Half-Life series), Hironobo Sakaguchi (Final Fantasy series), and the indomitable Shigero Miyamoto (Nintendo…all of it!). There is another name that has often been glossed over as being a major player in the creation of video games, but the truth is that most of the computer games today would not be what they are without the great Sid Meier.
Sid started off as a game creator in the early 80’s when he picked up an old Atari 800 and saw that video games could be easily created using the technology available at that time. Having knowledge of early computer coding, Sid created fun and educational games that eventually launched as major titles for the PC. His first major game, Sid Meier’s Pirates!, set Sid, and his company MircoProse (later Firaxis Games), on a journey that led to multiple computer games that not only had his name in the title, but also featured hands on experiences with history and flight simulation. He eventual created the Civilization series, which would go on to have various sequels and historic spin offs. Many game developers from such companies as Bethesda and Naughty Dog site Sid as being their main inspiration for making the games that they do. Sid’s main motivation for doing these types of strategy games were to “make history engaging and fun,” and he has definitely done this and then some.
My father always told me to keep learning new things, and whether it was listening intently during a boring science class, or playing one of Meier’s Civilization games, I always tried to learn something new. The Scriptures actually praise knowledge and good advice, saying that “the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel,” (Proverbs 20:15), and that “a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15). As we grow we should continue to learn, but I would caution one about the source of which this knowledge comes from.
If video game designers are seen as teachers, there are some who do a very poor job of teaching people anything credible or praise worthy. Over the past ten years, game developers have experimented with violence in video games, and have tried to push the limits in what is allowed in the current market. Some games (which I will not give them the satisfaction of having their titles publicized on this blog) are so created to show as much “over the top” violence as possible, hosting several layers of gore and visceral carnage that is designed to disgust and horrify. This type of game design is not teaching, but rather depraving the gamer of a wholesome experience that would benefit them if it did not mortify them instead.
We all have to be careful of what we are being taught in this world. I do not care how young or old you are, you are always experiencing, always retaining, and always learning. Much like children, we have to be careful about what bring into our lives, because eventually those things will come out of us. We need to reset our focus on something, or someone, who will teach us lessons that are worth learning; lessons that promote life, develop character, and challenge wayward behavior. For me, there is only one person who is able to teach me these things, and that is Jesus.
Sid Meier may have been able to teach me about building virtual empires, but it was Jesus who taught me how to build a real life. Everything that I have learned in this life has been taught to me by either teachers or games, but the best lessons of my life, the most endearing ones, were given to me by Jesus. He taught me how to love others when they did not reciprocate that love. He taught me to be humble when I achieved something by beating out the competition. He taught me to take care of those who could not take care of themselves and bring a peaceful spirit to an argument or fight. I have allowed for myself to be taught by the greater Teacher, and I would hope that you would do the same.