Pop Culture 180, Part 1: Giving up Halo for E.M. Forster

This is the first post of the Pop Culture 180 experiment, in which I will give up video games and replace them with reading for more than one week. For more information, read this introduction post.

My renewed relationship with video games has been a fairly recent one. It began at the same time my relationship with books broke down. I guess you could call video games a rebound relationship.

I have always had an appreciation for books. I grew up reading them, and have a few novels of which I am incredibly fond for the simple reason that they shaped who I am. The same could be said for video games. There have been lapses in my love for both mediums, but they have both played a crucial part in my life.

Here’s is the primary factor that tipped the scales in the direction of video games: no one forced me to play them. In public grade school, this meant reading was my duty while video games were my reward. That influence was there and it was real, though I did at times quite enjoy the reading I was forced to do. I wasn’t a dumb kid. By the time I got to college, I had the real desire to be very smart, and so I embraced the reading. There was four years of this, in which I probably read more extracurricular books than I read required reading.

The seminary I attended had a real love for books. I got the impression from my seminary that books were, by far, the ultimate medium. As a new student, I accepted this assumption (which is shared by most who consider the question at all). However, I began to notice that this point-of-view tended to detract from the appreciations of other mediums. I saw this to be a crying shame.

This emphasis was, of course, only right. Seminary is meant to teach Bible, the basis on which our faith is discovered and maintained. The Bible being a book, to the seminary – and to Christians in general – the importance of the written word cannot be minimized.

By the time I graduated seminary, I had maintained a life of constant readership. In actuality, it is the life of a student. My day was characterized by reading, talking about reading, writing about reading, and getting new books to read. I had grown accustomed to this life. Then I had grown tired of it.

So after finally ceasing to be a student, I figured it was a good time to try video games again. I traded in my Wii for an Xbox 360 and bought a few games which I knew to be more substantial. I had heard a lot about some games that were moving the medium forward in terms of artistic value and thoughtfulness. On these counts I was absolutely satisfied. The social aspect of gaming caught me off-guard. But all of these things had me convinced: video games (oh, how I wish they had a more serious name!) were the medium for me.

So here is where we stand: I primarily think about, read about and enjoy video games. But I try to maintain balance. I watch a lot of films, I watch TV, and yes, I read regularly. The difference these days is that I do these things for the most part according to my whims. I read chunks of text, for small chunks of time. I usually have a practical purpose in mind. Rarely do I finish a book. This is who I have become.

Is it for my detriment? That’s what I aim to find out this week. The most important thing I will do this week is be completely honest with myself. I’m serious about this: it is very possible that I will like myself and my lifestyle much more at the end of the week. If this is so, I make no concrete promises about my action plan afterwards, but I can promise that I will write about it, and that it will affect the way I live going forward.

Full disclosure: I do have assumptions about how it will go. These assumptions are that every medium has its own strengths and weaknesses, and that every person and every culture benefits from and is harmed by those things in different ways. I also believe that God gives us gifts and passions about all sorts of things, and mediums are one of those things. I feel that if thoughtful people wrote off video games, then video games would never become more thoughtful. This would be unfortunate.

I guess the question is, just how thoughtful can I be if I rarely read?

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  • I’m proud to say that I’m doing this experiment with you.

    My circumstances are a little different, of course: I have to read…a lot…because I just started seminary classes. And I can’t play video games because my XBox RROD’d about 8 weeks ago. So, I’m two months ahead, but I’m still learning a lot about my own preferences and desires.

    Hopefully what you discover will help me out a bit on this end.
    .-= Charles´s last blog ..Still in Beta, Redux =-.

  • Very good. I am glad to have a fellow sufferer alongside me.

    You really should get that Xbox fixed though. ;-)

  • I will, as soon as you send me a check for $100.

  • And if you send me $300, I’ll get an Xbox 360!