Wait, Dordt has E-sports?

Zac VanderLey— Staff Writer 

Dordt has officially entered the world of video games. 

A new game room resides in the basement of Covenant Hall: five Titan chairs, a 65-inch OLED TV, one PS5, a Nintendo switch, and five high-end PCs with colorful flashing LEDs on the keyboards. On the stone wall hangs a Pacman LED sign along with a Dordt E-sports sign. This will be the home of the new Dordt E-Sports and tabletop club.

When I heard about this new development over the summer, I threw my phone across the room and then called my roommate. I remember my first experience at Dordt as a freshman: sweat dripping into my eyes in the air-conditionless East Hall. One box fan from Walmart blew hot air through my gray Dordt t-shirt, and I wondered why I decided to attend a college in the Midwest. 

Three years later, incoming freshmen share this same experience, while Dordt acquires a PS5. 

So, I asked questions; and I learned.

The new game room is not in danger of being raided as it contains multiple cameras, requires special access, and will have a work-study room monitor. There aren’t many places on campus the room could exist, and if the club expands, then it may move to a different location. But there’s something a bit deeper going on here.

After listening to new Student Services member Brad Hickey—who’s writing his dissertation on video games and Calvinism—I began to see that Dordt entering the E-Sports realm is not only smart; it’s also quite reformed.

Now, I’m by no means a gamer. Just ask my roommates over the past two years. I will only play two video games (although I did have a long run with Pokemon Go): Super Smash Brothers and NBA 2k. When I play those games and choose King Dedede or Nikola Jokic’s Denver Nuggets, I rarely lose—but I don’t have the time or desire for consistent gaming.

That being said, I’ve lived around gaming culture for the past two years: the toxicity of both online Rainbow Six Siege and For Honor, Brawlhalla, Minecraft shenanigans, Warzone, that two-week period of Fall Guys, and everything in between (thank goodness my roommates didn’t play much Fortnite). The intricacies of the coding and graphic design within some games require an artist. However, I will always choose to read a book, play guitar, or play pick-up basketball in my free time.

Video games aren’t inherently bad, nor are they inherently good. I have watched my previous roommates spend hours upon hours staring at screens, wearing headsets, and communicating with people in different locations, but this can lead to genuine community. Dordt has never had community for those who love to play video games, so they have been forced into their rooms. While I would love to see AC in North and East one day, this new game room will serve the needs of a population at Dordt that has remained mostly untouched by the school. 

Hickey and I discussed the ethics within video games, leading to the big Dordt question: Can you play video games Christianly? 

We think so, at least.

I still struggle with the open-world games that involve ruthless killing and sexually suggestive material, but plenty of Christians watch TV shows with the same content. Video games are just another medium where people connect with one another while learning about themselves. Video games can be introspective; and we all could spend more time reflecting on who we are. The people who play these games enter a new world, similar to the magic of reading a book or watching a movie. If our God is totally sovereign, then why shouldn’t we be able to enter the digital world of video games and transform it? 

Let me be clear, addiction to video games isn’t healthy. All the online toxicity—the racist jokes, sexual jokes, stupid memes—is not being embraced by Dordt’s E-sport club. It’s easy to blame video games for the addiction, and certainly the medium contributes, but addiction is just our totally depraved desires kicking in again. I’m not arguing for us to leave this world in favor of the digital world; I’m merely suggesting that maybe the digital world is a part of our complex world. Thus, Christians shouldn’t be absent from it. 

I did not begin writing this piece in support of E-Sports or my college’s desire to invest in them. But after hearing the stories of those impacted by gaming, seeing the friendships formed through them, and thinking on the trajectory of our world, I opened my mind. I wish more people listened to the stories of others, especially those they disagree with.

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