(Spoilers for Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the Harry Potter series below.)
The two main points of GUG’s mission are to help Christians consume geek culture appropriately and to use geek culture to lead others to Christ. We have some great examples throughout our site’s history of the second point, something we are immensely proud of. After all, the Great Commission is our number one job. Regarding the first point, we do our best to make that part of our mission clear with content guides, Bible studies, and so forth, but we still get a lot of questions.
These are often in the form of “How can you possibly be okay with [content X]?” In particular, the question we’ve received through every channel lately has been that of praying to statues of goddesses in The Legend of Zelda: the Breath of the Wild, a topic which I extolled in a positive way in a recent article. I am going to use that topic here as a case study. What’s below is my personal response to this question, but the ideas below represent GUG’s general response to these kinds of questions, as this article has been proofread and approved by the board.
I am 33 and also a father of two. I went to a Christian liberal arts college (Indiana Wesleyan University) and now teach at one (Taylor University). While that makes me no expert, it means I’ve had some nuggets of wisdom from some teachers I really respect, so I’ll try to pass on that knowledge on here.
First, I would refer to Romans 14, particularly verses 5-9. It is entirely possible within that context that it is okay for me to play Breath of the Wild, but not you. For example, I don’t have a problem with the content of Magic: the Gathering. I played it for years, but quit and decided it was a sin because the random way the game is distributed (rares and mythic rares, etc.) led to an obsession I sunk far too much time and money into while ignoring my responsibilities. Other people can control themselves better, so it’s a non-issue for them. I’m also uncomfortable watching R-rated movies, while other Christians are not.
As far as my own “being OK” with Breath of the Wild, one thing we were taught at IWU was Wesley’s quadrilateral. This methodology says decisions should be seen through four lenses – Scripture, Reason, Experience, and Tradition. It’s a quadrilateral, not a square, so perhaps things are not equally important, and many traditions would give Scripture the biggest corner of the shape. While Scripture says not to worship anyone (or anything) other than God himself, I personally am not praying to a fake God. I never view myself “as” Link while playing, but rather feel like it is a story I am watching unfold (like a movie), that God can use to say something about his character.
It is very tempting to have the attitude, not only about video games but about any part of life, to disengage with anything not “clean” or “properly Christian,” but God calls us to be in the world even if we are not of it (Romans 12). In particular, I am thinking about how in Acts 17:16-31 Paul uses the local faith – even though it is wrong, heretical, sinful, false, etc. – to make clear to them they have known all along the existence of the true God (Roman 1:20).
I feel a proper understanding of Scripture paired with Reason suggests it’s okay to play Breath of the Wild. One of the main verses we follow at GUG is Romans 1:20. We engage with geek culture because we see how these stories, however broken and distorted, display God’s truths. Is it any coincidence the grand finale of the Harry Potter series hinges on sacrifice and resurrection, for example?
As I became a Christian in my teens and was not raised in a faith tradition, and now teach at a non-denominational (but evangelical) institution, I personally view Tradition as the least important part of the quadrilateral, but many other Christians (even here at GUG) will feel differently. In any case, video games (and even movies) are such a new medium that it is hard to say what Tradition would suggest, and many times Tradition has been wrong when it attempted to undermine reason and experience (Martin Luther, Galileo, Georg Cantor, etc.)
The last part of the quadrilateral is Experience, which of course is unique to each person. I can say the day my article was posted, God answered our three year long prayer to adopt with a phone call saying there was a baby waiting for us – and today she is finally at home. So for me, personally, those reasons answer the question “Is it okay to play Breath of the Wild?” in the affirmative; but keep in mind your own convictions may have a different answer.
This is the reason prayer and taking time to listen to God is important: So we can be convicted of things such as this, so we don’t wind up letting our interests hurt our walk with Him. If you are struggling with your convictions about the kind of geek content you are engaging in, we strongly encourage you to seek out other Christians to discuss it with, whether that be your local church, small group, or us. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out our contact page to speak with someone else. Otherwise, make it your mission not only to consume geek culture because you enjoy it, but to look for God’s presence in it – because it’s there.