Religious Views: StarCraft

[Originally posted on my TeamLiquid blog: www.teamliquid.net/blog/peanutsc]

This is a current screenshot (well, with some parts blurred for visual effect) of my Facebook profile’s “about me” section. For basically as long as there’s been a “Religious Views” field on Facebook (I’ve been on the site since about August 2005), it’s looked exactly like it does today. Religious Views: StarCraft.

At first it was just a “I’m not really religious and LOL wouldn’t it be funny to have a computer game as my religion” kind of thing, but upon further review it’s actually fairly representative of my relationship with this game.

Background: My Take on Religion

My take on religion is less the “worship one or more personified deities” approach and more the Asian philosophical approach. If you’re familiar with Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, Shinto, or other such schools of thought, it’s easy to understand that these “religions” are really more like philosophical systems which influence and provide structure to their adherents’ worldviews as profoundly as religion in the more familiar sense does. These systems each offer a set of concepts and metaphors which attempt to make sense of the world within a certain logical frame of reference. Some examples:

Confucianism:
Human relationships come in 6 different types and each type has its own ideal role for each party involved. Pain and suffering come from an imperfect understanding of these relationships and violations of these roles.

Buddhism:
One lifetime is a single link in a chain of reincarnations where the individual attempts to escape suffering and attain a higher state of existence.

These schools of thought try to organize and explain the rampant (perceived) chaos of life in a way that seems logical and intuitive from a certain perspective. To an extent (that is, from my perspective), you can apply this to the scientific method and more archetypal religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc.):

Scientific Method:
Controlled observations of natural phenomena can be used to generate hypotheses regarding cause and effect, which can then be used to predict further related phenomena.

Christianity:
God gave humanity a means of redemption from (avoidance of/organization of/systematic outlook on) sin (i.e. chaos, pain, suffering) by creating Ten Commandments and then further by creating a human Savior who taught and personified this redemption.

All this is to say that each religion or system of thought (again, from my perspective) offers a way of making sense of the world, especially its difficult spots. Think of the way people quote the Bible (or, for that matter, Confucius or Buddha or scientific papers) in any possible situation – these people are drawing on the universality of the metaphors and concepts that each system possesses. Foundational religious and/or philosophical texts often have parables or analogy-like anecdotes within them which are used as teaching tools – it’s a way to help acolytes get used to applying the system’s worldview to many different situations.

This forms the foundation of what I’ve just decided to name “analogistic liquidity” – the ease with which one thought system’s proprietary concepts analogize to a wide range of real or hypothetical situations. How well would Confucianism’s 6 relationships generalize to, say, humans meeting aliens? Maybe not so well. Low analogistic liquidity there.

I personally have no real cultural or emotional connection to any religion or branch of philosophy, so if I’m looking for some systematic way to view life, I’m basically looking for whatever school of thought has the most analogistic liquidity AND which resonates the strongest with me in my life.

As you might’ve guessed by now, that school of thought is StarCraft.

Why does StarCraft make the most sense for me given this definition of a “religious view”?

Well, StarCraft clearly has a lot of personal resonance for me – I’ve been playing SC for a long time, I’ve met a lot of great friends (IRL friends even!) through SC, I find the community stimulating and the professional scene very exciting, and since I’m in the gaming industry for my career it makes sense that a great computer game would have high emotional value for me.

StarCraft is also a resource management game which rewards skill, strategy, multitasking ability, and creativity, which are all traits which I think are important outside of the game. Therefore, it has high analogistic liquidity for me – the arc of a StarCraft game is something that can be abstracted to many different situations in life. StarCraft resonates with my worldview while also providing a logical structure to help me understand parts of life which might seem irrational, opaque, or chaotic at times.

Example: writing a 5-paragraph persuasive essay

You start out by gathering information and doing research to figure out what your topic and thesis will be and how it will address the body of knowledge that is already out there on the subject.

This is like scouting at the beginning of a game to determine your build order in response to what your opponent is doing.

Then you start writing your paper and lay down your introduction and your major arguments. You draw upon your research to back up your points.

This is like mid-game when you’ve already set up the basics of your economy and you’re spending lots of minerals and gas to produce units to engage your enemy with.

Finally, you pull everything together and conclude your argument, enlightening your audience with its originality and giving them the “aha!” moment where they understand what you’re trying to say and why the hell it matters.

This is like end-game where you deliver the killing blow, your enemy says “GG,” and that win has an effect on the real world by allowing you to advance in a ladder/bracket/your own self-esteem/your peer group’s esteem.

There are a lot of smaller and larger ways in which I call upon StarCraft basically on a daily basis to help explain the world to myself and to others. But anyway, if you got this far, thanks for reading – I hope it was entertaining!

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