Saturday, September 06, 2014

Power, Heroic Purpose and Community?

British jihadists join a real life shoot'em up.

There was an interesting article in the August edition of “Premier Christianity” magazine by Martin Saunders about computer gaming entitled “The Gospel According to Minecraft”. I was particularly struck by the following comments by Saunders in connection with video gaming pundit Jane McGonigal (My highlights):

McGonigal argues [that] gamers are just people who’ve discovered a more compelling lifestyle in the online world. As video game avatars, they can be faster and stronger. Yet the ability to perform superhuman feats isn’t what hooks them in; it’s the sense that the game offers them purpose.
MocGonigal writes ‘Gamers want to know where, in the real world, is that sense of being fully alive, focused and engaged in every moment? Where is the gamer feeling of power, heroic purpose and community? Where is the heart-expanding thrill of success and team victory? While gamers may experience these pleasures occasionally in their real lives, they experience them almost constantly when they’re playing their favourite games’.
Increasing numbers of people are finding the antidote to the frustration and emptiness of their real-world lives in video games, rejecting an authentic but disappointing world for one that has been engineered to make them happy. Digital culture expert Josh Jost also believes that gamers are searching for qualities that they lack in real life. He identifies these are ‘significance’ and ‘the belief that life matters’

What interests me here has less to do with video gaming per se than the human social motivational complex revealed, a complex especially apparent in the connotational content of the words I have emboldened. We see in these words why video games, by connecting with overriding human emotions, are so popular. But coming back to the real world from the video game the average person may suffer an overwhelming sense of anticlimax: The words that express the real world experience may be more like this:

Purposelessness, aimlessness, emptiness, boredom, humdrum, routine, listlessness, insignificance, social anonymity, social fragmentation, no sense of belonging, alienation, estrangement, thwarted ambition and aspiration, trivialization, unimportance, inconsequential, irrelevance, marginalisation, ineffectual, powerlessness, disengaged, hopelessness, demystification, profanity, failure…..

Western societies are good at keeping people relatively safe, comfortable and prosperous, but with it often rather bored and unfulfilled in the deepest sense of the word; especially those of a restless seeking spirit. An unsatiated human motivational complex seeks fulfillment in finding purposes that matter. Religion has the potential to satisfy this complex, but it also has a well-known downside: Sects and cults exploit this complex and use it in perverse ways. Many migrants at the French port of Calais are endangering their lives in hazardous attempts to cross the channel to Britain illegally. And yet in the light of the above quote it is no surprise that many British Jihadists have left their safe, comfortable and prosperous country to fight in a war they have little chance of winning.  It is ironic, but really no surprise when you think about it, that Britain, the pluralist sardine tin country that so many are trying squeeze into, should become an exporter of terrorists!

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