This week we’re going topical again and looking at the growing phenomenon of customization in video games and how it relates to our identity. Today we’re seeking to understand this trend by looking at the second of two possible answers to one question: Why do we want to create a new identity?
For people like Dwight, a virtual world is just another means of experiencing everything they like about themselves. When Dwight made a Second Life character, he was just who he was in real life…except he could fly. Dwight was comfortable with himself as a person, but the digital world still provided something above what he could experience in real life.
The character creator tools available in games today are getting better at allowing us to create something that looks close to reality. Yet no matter how advanced a game gets at providing customizing options, it still won’t allow us to change our actual identities. We will still come up lacking in real life. The character change options in real life are very few and mostly ineffective. Self-help books may help and perhaps moving to a new place may produce some changes, but there are still many things that we all have trouble changing.
The most profound problem that we cannot change is our engrained sinfulness. Our depraved nature is so central to our identity that there is no way we can escape it on our own. The embedded faults in our very identities go deeper than the surface level actions we perform. This is where Jesus comes in. Even non-Christians know that Jesus forgives sins- that is, behaviors. But what we need is something much more. We need new identities. Much like how Mass Effect 2 gave you the option to completely change your identity to whatever you wanted, regardless of the previous game.
Jesus’ death not only takes away our sin, but also gives us a new identity in him. Accepting Jesus means that “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ.” God is in the business of making new people, not just a superficial makeover. He changes the basic structure of our identities, taking out the cold, sinful hearts of stone and replacing them with new hearts. This allows God to help us become what he intended for us to be without the effects of sin. God is able to redeem for us our true identity as he created us.
You are the product of God’s character customization engine. This world and everything in it is God’s giant game of Minecraft. Genesis 1 describes how God formed every aspect of creation, pixel by pixel. The account in Genesis 2 describes how God formed Adam with his own hands, and he has put just as much care into creating you. He painstakingly stitched together every aspect of your identity before you were even born. God is fully aware of every single hair on your head and how it got there (or fell out).
But there’s more! Much like Dwight chose to make a Second Life character in his image, God also made us in his image. This means that we bear traits of God that influence our identity. We have desires and impulses in us that originate from the very nature of God. One of these is the impulse to create.
So why do we want to create a new identity? Now we have our two answers:
1) We are dissatisfied with our sinful identities.
2) We have the impulse to create something new, much like the God whose image we bear.
Many players default to trying to make characters looks just like themselves, and that is one expression of the God who made us to be like him. Others just want to come up with something new and off the wall. Games like Spore are perfect for “playing God” in a sense.
Now, let’s not fools ourselves. That very impulse to create something crazy comes from the God who made you. He has some pretty wild creations himself. Don’t believe me? Well, God made this:
The gaming culture’s fascination with customization serves two purposes. First, it reminds us that our desire to live as a different identity comes from a dissatisfaction with our sinful selves. The only alternate identity that is of any worth is that of Christ, who gladly takes our old selves and makes us into new creations. Second, the complex customization tools that games provide to construct new things is also a reminder that we are made in God’s image and that we share his artistic impulse to create.
What’s the most crazy awesome character you’ve created? Provide links or pics if possible.
Has there ever been a time when you became too engrossed in an online identity?
Thanks for reading and come back soon. Next on the list is Dead Space, so try to get some sleep now.