The mission of God’s Gamers has always been to tackle the difficulties of mixing faith with the gaming world. It can be really challenging to navigate those difficulties, and even more so when we think about the harsh atmosphere in which we play. Gaming often comes with trolls, toxicity, bullying and harassment, gamer rage, and a lot of overall negativity and hostility. This can make gaming a really tough environment to be Christ Like and fruitful.
So, we started asking ourselves - how should we respond to the toxicity of the gamerverse?
This is certainly a loaded question, but one every gamer seeking a positive gaming experience should be asking. Looking to scripture for answers we find a couple of ways to answer this difficult question.
Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:28
Many times since I got heavy into gaming I've found myself so angry at another player I could scream and, at times, I most certainly have. At these times I am so tempted to criticize how rude they were, how ridiculous that kill was, how bad missing that shot was. The other way around, I've had people come at me the same way. There's no way I could keep track of the times I've been called an idiot and a noob, or told to just give up because I have no business even playing the game.
I play a lot of Elder Scrolls Online and one of my biggest pet peeves in this game is when someone snatches a harvest node or a chest right out from under me. Like DUDE I was RIGHT there! I used to straight up yell at people and call them out in the zone chat, or even whisper them if I got a good look at their name. I would get so angry over a node that would literally respawn in a couple of minutes, and better yet there are 100s more around us for me to get instead. Over time I found myself complaining constantly of this issue in my guilds, in zone, to my friends. I was consumed with such frustration over this I chose not to keep it under control. One day someone finally snapped at me "it's just a node, get over it and go get a different one." That was a harsh realization that I was totally overreacting about something so darn simple, and half the time the other person probably had no idea they were "stealing" from me, as I had looked at it. It wasn't even intentional 90% of the time.
The things people say in their gamer rage can be hurtful and can sometimes have a heavier impact than we think they could. Words hurt. People being unkind hurts. But we have a choice in how we respond. We are called to go into all corners of the world to be examples of Christ.
During his life, Jesus consistently displayed love and kindness, even to those who abused, beat, and put him to death. As Jesus was on the cross in his dying moments he breathed out to God "forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). He prayed for the people who were actually killing him where I was getting angry over digital loot.
Now when I experience someone being rude, calling me names, or taking loot I want for myself, I try to stop myself, take a breath, and pray for them. I don't lash out and get angry nearly as much as I used to, and it gets easier all the time. I tend to tell myself that they apparently needed the item more than I did, or that maybe they are having a really bad day and just need someone to show them some kindness. I've ended up making some friends since making an effort to be kind to the unkind and pray for the ragers. Not everyone is out looking for kindness. Sometimes people have the desire to be cruel, but choosing to be kind toward someone who is not kind to me can take the power away from the unkindness and transform a situation or even a heart.
Don’t answer a fool according to his foolishness or you’ll be like him yourself. Proverbs 26:4
I cannot count the number of times I made the mistake of talking in an MMO zone chat and found myself in the midst of a senseless argument with people. I'm sure we've all been there at some point - you know you're right, you know they're wrong, but continuing to try to prove yourself is futile. I feel one of the biggest changes is just simply "walking away" from these situations and not allowing our human desire to prove ourselves to take over and make us into fools.
The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out. Proverbs 17:14
If you find yourself struggling to stay out of arguments, try filtering your chats. Keep out of groups you know you cannot help but have toxic and unfulfilling conversations with. Pray for self control in situations you are so tempted to respond unkindly, jump into a debate, or respond with gamer rage and boasting. God can change hearts and habits, and that should always start within ourselves.
As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him. Titus 3:10
In one of my streams a couple of months ago I was having a nice chat with some of my regulars when all of a sudden my chat was absolutely flooded with hate messages, spam, and utter abuse from about a dozen different accounts all at the same time. Even in this instance, I asked them to please cease and desist from this behavior and be respectful of my channel and our chat rules. It stopped for a moment or two, and then once I got going again the flood persisted. I then had to make the decision no streamer likes to make - many accounts were blocked from my channel. This is never something we do lightly but sometimes it is just necessary.
Jumping to a ban, block or timeout can often be a missed opportunity to be loving to someone who desperately needs it. Love and acceptance are so often what the person on the other end really needs. Sometimes people need to see that second chances can be given, even in an environment like a stream chat, and sometimes the mere fact we choose not to immediately jump down their throats will kill their desire to troll in the first place. Darkness cannot be defeated with more darkness; darkness is only defeated and transformed by light.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16
An amazing role model for me has been PastorSouzy of God Squad Church, now known as just Souzy and SouzyLive across his Twitch and social channels. He spoke a few weeks ago about how being a positive gamer doesn't have to be about throwing Jesus in everyone's faces that we meet. We don't need to group up with someone and say, as he put it, "hey, nice to meet you, I love what you hate! Let's be friends!" Gaming is an area we can live by example, be compassionate toward others, shout out a "good game!", "nice shot", "great play, man" even when that person may have just killed us, or even, I'd say especially when the other person chooses to act unkindly. Walking by the spirit doesn't mean always preaching at people. It simply means to be an example of love and kindness no matter the circumstances.
We are in control of how we respond. We can be part of the problem or part of the solution. We can choose to spread light, or choose to be consumed by the darkness.