Virtuous Worlds: The Video Gamer’s Guide to Spiritual Truth

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.


Virtuous Worlds: The Video Gamer’s Guide to Spiritual Truth


John Stanifer


Winged Lion Press

Publication Date:

June 1, 2011




198 pages


Video games have frequently been one of the hot topics that Christian families debate. Are video games mindless entertainment with lots of violence? Or are they like most entertainment forms, capable of expressing spiritual themes and ideas? John Stanifer suggests that while it’s important to use video games in healthy games, they do often explore themes which have more substance than Christians might expect. He looks at seven notable video game series:

  • The Legend of Zelda franchise
  • Star Fox
  • Metal Gear Solid
  • Halo
  • Call of Duty
  • Mario Bros franchise
  • The Sims

In each chapter, Stanifer overviews the game’s development history and basic ideas, and notes particular ideas which parallel theological concepts (citing Bible passages that those concepts come from).

Stanifer applies the orthodox Christian idea that all truth is God’s truth to an area that many Christians haven’t considered. He also references C.S. Lewis’ observations about spiritual longing in his memoir Surprised by Joy, which is fitting since Lewis also saw spiritual themes in a genre that many Western Christians wouldn’t see as spiritual. For Lewis, world mythology with its recurring stories about dying gods who rise again had parallels with the Gospel. For Stanifer, video games with their various themes about beautiful creation, good triumphing over evil, and other themes have parallels with Biblical ideas about morality and spirituality. He draws compelling connections between theology and the video games he loves, without ever being syncretic.

In addition to these excellent features, Virtuous Worlds has a quality that most nonfiction pop theology books don’t have: it’s just fun to read. Stanifer creates a group of archetypical figures (with names like Heckler, Old-Fashioned Evangelist, Nerd #1 and #2 and #3) who chime in with their own dialogue, responding to his ideas with support or objections. By answering their concerns, Stanifer breaks the usual way that a nonfiction writer communicates with the reader, creating a kind of meta-humor like a movie where the actors suddenly start talking about the scene they’re doing. On another level, it’s similar to how many video games feature characters or a narrator talking to the audience, breaking the “fourth wall” between storyteller, character, and audience member. The humor makes Virtuous Worlds appealing to an audience who may not read nonfiction much but enjoy video games and meta-humor. In short, it’s a clever move that pays off quite well.  

A fascinating, entertaining thesis on video games and theology that’s well worth reading.


Rating (1 to 5 stars)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Suggested Audience

Christians interested in the ethics of playing video games, spiritual takeaways and pitfalls in various well-known video games.

Christian Impact

Stanifer notes a variety of video game elements that parallel ideas that the Bible talks about, frequently citing the Bible verses which outline these ideas. At the same time, he’s careful to explain the difference between parallels and deliberate propaganda and to point out the elements some of these video games have which clearly don’t fit Biblical ideas. This balancing act makes the book a discerning yet inspiring discussion about video games and their potential for exploring spiritual ideas.

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