Impassioned ritualistic activity leads to cult. In such intense competition, there always emerges among us the godlike whom we are tempted to worship. This takes place first in the competitive industry of game production (the temptation to worship those with a powerful artistic vision). These are the gods. And then there are those who fight to fulfill the tasks set before them by the game makers; these are the heroes. It is out of the great visions of the former and mighty struggles of the latter that myths are formed. This is the stuff of legend and religion. And yet so many insist to themselves that creation and competition are secular pursuits, with no interaction with the spiritual.
It will be fun when we institute gymnos for professional electronic sports players.
Physical athletics have been struck a mighty blow. While I doubt they will ever be overcome, it is (I hope) clear to see why e-sports will be far more compelling in the coming age. Mainly, in that it is bound by none of the limitations of the physical. A game is defined by the different laws that bind and propell the players; restricting them from certain actions and encouraging them in others, not only within the game but in how the strategy of metagame and the discipline of training morphs based upon the rules of the game and how they are enforced by judges and game makers. Not to mention hype and narrative and mythmaking.
Within the physical world, we are all working within the same base set of human and natural possibilities. Firstly, from the creative angle: people get creative with the design of uniforms and artifacts involved, but there’s only so many shapes you can squeeze a ball into. Video games, on the other hand, can have whatever physics the game makers wish. Video games have their own cartoon characters and sound effects and icons and myths pre-loaded, carefully designed for the fanbase to take and make their own. A video game can provide images and icons (seeds of mania) in a way that is bound by none of the limits of physical sports. The physical sports certainly give rise to many legends and powerful images, but you don’t see the mascots out on the field providing that very deeply. With video games, mascots are the manifestation of the player within the game world. There is a level of identity and agency. And they are incredibly beautiful. As beautiful as an athlete in the real world can be, they will not long be able to compete with the ever growing, fully artificial new iconography of lust. Even now many cultists find themselves far more attracted to depictions of animated game characters engaging in sensuality than depictions of real humans. For the creators and creatures of The Game can do anything you want.
And you can be them. Anyone can be them. Anyone can be an all-powerful, all-desirable god or goddess.
Secondly, from the competitive angle, anyone can play. Not everyone will be great, but someone in a wheelchair can play first person shooters. They can’t play football. And, even in less extreme cases, so many awkward, gangly young men who could never acquire the kinetic intelligence to send a small ball or disc or puck into a net of some kind are finally being given keys to the sweet glory of competition. All it takes is the machines, and in our society the machines are everywhere.
All of this to say: video games are the new sports. The old sports probably aren’t going away, but there is a real danger of future generations of young men declining to exert themselves in their flesh, in their strength, in the glory of their youth. (I myself am naturally inclined to think this way, as a devoted child of the indoors–books, internet, and, of course, video games.) Disconnecting social interaction from the joyful exercise of the body is extremely dangerous for our culture. It’s okay when it’s just a few weird outliers (such as myself and those like me in past generations), but now we have powerful motivating factors that will influence on a mass cultural level. Men can receive an immense amount of pleasure and adrenaline without leaving their seat, now. But all of that is a book unto itself.
I say all of this because, as ridiculous as video games are, it would behoove the older generation to understand how big video games are in many men’s lives and will grow to be in the coming years. They’re not just toys. They’re not just a waste of time–though they can be that. The video game is a legitimate and beautiful art form that fosters competition… but, we can’t let it dominate the way that we do sport. We cannot divorce our sport from the physical; if we divorce it from the physical, we divorce it from the spiritual.
This is because sport is fundamentally religious in nature. It is theatre of the glory of man. It is ritual. It is worship.
Therefore, with the cult of video games growing in power and dominance, Christendom is presented with an opportunity to approach it with more seriousness than we have treated physical sports. This is not just casual entertainment–although it often truly is that. There is room for a great deal of casual entertainment within the medium; however, it is also capable of reverence. Just because it involves machines, and the childish are deeply infatuated with it, does not mean it cannot convey glory to God. It is a medium for the presentation of man’s excellence, both in creation and in competition. I beg you to acknowledge the spiritual nature of competition and the fundamental religious heart of all culture.