I am a very good assassin. Oh, and mage, archer, and sword-wielder. I can sneak around, plunder booty, plant traps and pounce on enemies with the best of them. As long as I don’t have to go head to head with a quick-reflexed middle-schooler, I stand a chance of kicking some serious hiney.
I played Pong, PacMan, Asteroids, and Tetris long before the high-def graphics and complex controllers of modern video games. I’ve made uneasy peace with the blood-spattered, first-person shooter world of today’s games. What I’ve never made peace with is the misogynistic, often outright racist and almost always exploitive storylines of modern games, where women are tiny-waisted, big-busted trophies when we appear at all.
But then I happened upon the world of Dragon Age, where women are diplomats, generals, villains, warriors and loyal companions. They are all wearing clothes, all the time. There are also beings with a stunning array of skin color, gender expression, accent, talent, variety of evil, and level of spiritual maturity. There are people with wicked strong bodies hidden under tough armor with short hair and women’s voices.
It’s no wonder that the latest version of Dragon Age just won special recognition at the GLAAD Media Awards.
Bioware, the creators of Dragon Age, have done something all congregational leaders can learn from. They’ve taken a platform which is at best mono-dimensional and at worst offensive and made a thoroughly engaging world of rich diversity. By avoiding assumptions about the kinds of lives players want to create and by not setting technical limits on that imagination, the creators allow players – and our identities – to roam free in the game space. They’ve abandoned the dominant culture of gaming and retooled it to reflect more of who more of us are.
As congregational leaders we could think of ourselves as creators of playful platforms where we remove barriers to imagination and participation and give our people lots of ways to experiment and roam freely. People are so hungry to play in worlds that reflect who we want to be and how we want our world to be! Our churches can be those worlds.
Rev. Sue Phillips may or may not have spent an entire weekend doing “research” for this article. She wouldn’t dream of boasting that she is a level 19 rogue with 200-defensive point armor who can crush malevolent spirits with paralyzing spells.