Shoot the Devil in the face, and you’ll stop being afraid
I’ve never been able to fully appreciate the kind of fear mongering religions are well known for, mostly because I was never influenced by their terrifying dogma. It’s easy for many of us non-believers to scoff at the claims devils casually walk the earth, looking for souls to devour. But for millions of impressionable children, these kinds of messages often create fear and panic over the thought of being possessed or even destroyed by supernatural forces.
The Escapist has an interesting article about how a young man found the courage to face his fear of the Devil by playing Doom and Diablo II. Since his church filled his head with vague stories of demons waiting around every corner without shape or substance, he found shooting their physical manifestations, even if they were in video game form, was therapeutic. For the first time in his life he was able to confront the imagery that had so terrified him:
Satan, as presented in my religious indoctrination, haunted me because I could never truly perceive him. He was an invisible being that could strike at any time and turn me into the head-spinning, bile spitting torture victim from The Exorcist. In Doom, supernatural evil had corporeal bodies, ones that I could puncture with a full arsenal of weaponry found lying around like discarded trash. They had the ability to return the hurt, sure, but that’s what picking up med kits and new suits of armor were for.
It kind of makes me wonder if that isn’t the best way to get young people to stop being so afraid of the “monsters under their beds”. Preachers are often notorious when it comes to drumming up fear to terrify their flock, but they can’t contend with the entertainment value of a good video game. And rather than being a passive observer, the player is an integral part of the story, leading the charge against demon hordes. Have video games helped more kids get over their fear of the supernatural? Maybe not, but would you stop playing them even if they didn’t?
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