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A Christian View of Computer Games & Virtual Reality

What used to be a rather nerdy activity done by a few teenagers has now come to dominate culture.  Few adults have not encountered some sort of electronic game on their phones. 63 % of U.S. Adults play games, and the average age of a gamer is now 35. Not only are more people playing, and playing at later ages, people are playing for longer hours. In 2007, the average gamer who player World of Warcraft was playing for 17 hours a week – essentially a part time job.

The industry is now valued at around $100 billion. Companies such as Facebook and Google have invested billions of dollars into Virtual Reality, which is certain to overwhelm current gaming in the next 5-10 years.

What aspects of gaming are hostile to Christianity?

  • Immaturity

Dr. Leonard Sax, in his book Boys Adrift, states, “The proportion of young men (age eighteen to thirty-five) living at home with parents or relatives has surged over the [last] thirty years. That proportion has roughly doubled, while the proportion of young women in the same age group living with parents or relatives has remained constant. Young women and young men are now following different life scripts. Young women are getting jobs, establishing themselves in the workplace, then (in many cases) thinking about having children. But a growing number of young men are just not on the same page.” 

Many young men are shunning adult responsibilities, including financial independence, marriage and family (but not sexual intimacy), a career path. There is instead a deliberate rejection of wisdom, a juvenile infatuation with  fun and selfish pursuits. “At some point the responsibilities of adulthood should make regular devotion to video games impossible.”

A near addiction to video games allows an immature person to wallow in substitute reality and responsibility: pretending one is an adventurer, a hero, or a conquerer, while in reality, the person lacks self-discipline, hard-work, sacrifice, and service.

  • Substitute Reality

Stories and fantasy are helpful to the degree that they return us to our world improved, shaped and more rightly viewing reality.

To the degree that they simply show us the world-as-we’d-prefer-it, or some non-existent heroic form of ourselves, it is an exercise in flattery and self-deception. This is where we prefer the fantasy-world. It is the reality we enjoy more, we like ourselves more in that world, and is problems and challenges seem more compelling than the problems in the real world.  

The use of avatars encourage an obsession with ourselves in a fantasy-context, which may nurture more narcissism instead of love for others.

True stories exist of marriages that have broken up because a husband or wife was so obsessed with the alternate reality of gaming that the real-life marriage collapsed.

While playing the occasional game is harmless, a near-devotion to gaming can warp a Christian’s view of reality. At the very least, it can dull him to the realities that are pressing on us: Heaven, Hell, the Gospel, prayer, and our needy neighbours.

What are some of things we’d want to consider as we think on the place of computer games and virtual reality in the lives of a believer?

  • Time and Eternity

Due to their computerized complexity, today’s video games often require days to master and weeks to beat. A game that costs only $40 or $50 to purchase may actually cost hundreds of hours in wasted time. In many games, the player’s character develops as he advances through the virtual story line and becomes more skilled and better equipped. Time invested in such pursuits is forever lost and cannot be reused for things that matter. Hours that could be spent working, praying, reading, serving, fellowshipping, evangelizing, or just thinking are instead spent on activities that have no lasting value. God’s Word teaches us that time is precious (Psalm 90:12; cf. 39:4-5). Using it wisely is an issue of good stewardship. We must not forget that our lives are not our own; we belong to Christ (1 Corinthians 6:20). When we waste time consistently, a few hours each day, we waste the very lives we have dedicated to Christ.

  • Purity

It should be obvious, but games (no matter how popular) that glorify violence, denigrate the value of human life, promote greed, reward deceit, contain profanity, or flirt with sexual immorality should be avoided by believers (Proverbs 6:17; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Timothy 4:12). Our entertainment must honor the Lord and reflect His character. Our amusements should not reinforce values that are diametrically opposed to how we ought to think (Philippians 4:8) and what we are to do (Mark 12:30-31; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

Many games are rated “M” for mature. In one of the most popular games, Grand Theft Auto, where layers gain points as they murder, steal, deceive, covet, and solicit sexual favors, all while trying not to get caught. 

Does the content of the game encourage anything like Philippians 4:8, and Ephesians 5:3-8?

 

Adapted from Austin Duncan in MacArthur, John. Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Controversial Issues.

 

  – David De Bruyn, Professor of Church History, Shepherds’ Seminary Africa

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