Before all you gamers write an insipid hateful comment about how I know nothing about gaming and how it is not inherently evil, read my previous post, 4 Reasons Why Video Games Are Worth Playing. I titled this article this way as a shameless plug to get people to read it because I do think that video games present dangers to the Christian that are worth thinking about. By no means, do I think the medium is worthless and altogether evil–read my previous article and I think that will become clear (P.S. for those of you who don’t know, I am a gamer).
So given that I have outlined 4 reasons why video games ARE worth playing, I now give you 4 reasons why video games are NOT worth playing (which should really be titled 4 reasons video games present dangers to the Christian–but that just isn’t very catchy!):
1. Many video games are designed to consume your time and energy. “Reply value” is a huge selling point to many of the industry’s best selling games. Apparently gamers want games that will last a while, that can be played for many hours without the gamer becoming disinterested. Thus, sports games now have “dynasty” or “career” modes in which you can play numerous seasons with your favorite sports team–needless to say this can consume inordinate hours of our time and energy that could be better spent in more productive ways. I am not saying it is wrong to play a “dynasty” mode, I am just saying that it is probably hard to do so without consuming an inordinate amount of time and energy on a video game. Another example that comes to mind are many online role playing games (or MMORPGs as they are called–MMO stands for Massively Multiplayer Online). World of Warcraft (WoW) is probably the most popular. I haven’t played WoW but I have played other similar online RPGs and have found that they can really consume your time and tempt you to detach from the real world. If you want to be good at WoW (and many other similar games) you have to spend a lot time playing it and leveling up your character. Some people even pay to have expert gamers “level up” their character while they are at work!
In addition, its not just sports games and RPGs, even first person shooters are designed to consume inordinate amounts of time. Think about the design for most online multiplayer games–they all have rankings and tournaments that are designed to get you to play more and more and more. And if you want to improve your ranking and climb the charts, you MUST play a great deal (unless you just have sick dexterity and hand-eye coordination).
2. Video games can foster isolation from community. In my previous article, I argued that video games can build community and I think that is more true today than it ever has been. However, I would venture to guess that most gamers still do the majority of their gaming in isolation. Is it wrong to play a video game by yourself? No, its not, but it could be if you do it all the time and at the expense of cultivating relationships with real people in the real world. I think gamers need to think hard about striking a healthy balance here.
3. Sexually explicit content is becoming a commonality in the many of the most popular games. Many video games today possess sexual content that is inappropriate for most boys let alone most men. We all know that sex sells in the movies but if you didn’t know, sex also sells in video games. Think Laura Croft of Tomb Raider (which is now actually pretty tame compared to the kind of content being implemented into many games today)–Tomb Raider was a great idea for a game about treasure hunting and exploring, but as Laura Croft began to be drawn at higher and higher resolutions, she started a revolution of drawing female video game characters in incredibly unrealistic ways. This is not only unhealthy for Christian young men, but also discriminatory toward women. And as I said, Tomb Raider is now actually pretty tame by comparison with other games like Grand Theft Auto or The Saboteur. Parents, please look at ratings, read reviews, know what kind of games your kids are getting into–don’t buy them games that you know are not going to help their sanctification.
4. Postmodern ethics are becoming more and more common in video games today. I mentioned in my previous article that many games today draw clear lines between good and evil and that is true, however, its is becoming more and more common for games to be pretty unclear on good and evil and instead present a world of moral grays rather than moral absolutes. Please don’t hear this as an argument to boycott video games–we need to learn how to constructively engage our postmodern world for the sake of Christ. Nonetheless, the prevalence of postmodern ethics in video games is something for Christians to be aware of, especially when it comes to determining what kind of games we will allow our children to play.
Probably the most recent example is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which contains a scene where you are undercover pretending to be a terrorist and are charged with opening fire on innocent civilians at an airport in order to maintain your cover and take down the terrorists (I have not played it, but supposedly the game gives you the option of skipping this scenario). Other examples include the Grand Theft Auto series in which you are criminal and commit crimes to progress the plot. Call of Duty: World at War is rather post-modern in its message–instead of focusing on toppling an evil dictatorship (i.e. the Nazis), CoD:WaW seems to function to illustrate the ills of war and the sins committed on all sides (there is certainly a realistic element here that adds some value to the game). Some of these games have almost no redemptive qualities (i.e. Grand Theft Auto), others are worth playing for the challenges and questions they bring up which mature Christians will engage in thoughtfully (i.e. Fallout 3 or perhaps Fable). In fact, it seems the anti-hero is more common than the hero in today’s most popular games (Call of Duty, The Saboteur, God of War, Assassin’s Creed)! This trend is something to be aware of and it certainly presents its dangers, because as Christians we realize that there are absolute truths worth living for and dieing for. Although the gaming world is not the real world, it is an expression of it and one that we would do well to engage thoughtfully as Christians and carefully as Christian parents.