God and Gaming: Is it Wrong to Play Video Games?

In 2020, the global video game industry is predicted to generate over $150 billion dollars, more than the movie and the music industry combined! With over two billion gamers in the world today, video games are and will increasingly play a major role in society generally and the nature of human relationships in particular. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? On this week’s Ask Away, Vince and Jo respond to a teenager’s question, “What is your opinion on violent video games and video games in general? Is it unholy to play them?”

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Greetings Robert, @Robert_Repke

The $150B is a staggering number, isn’t it! I’m kind of glad these games weren’t around when I was young as the great outdoors was a worthy option. That said, I can appreciate how some video games are so alluring.

I read your question as: Would God be pleased with a person’s time spent on violent video games and are they unholy? “Violent” is the operative word here. I believe scripture says two very important points: Moderation is key, and play with caution.

We know God rejoices when we are happy. But God tells us He won’t be replaced by such things. “Replaced” has a range of definitions from time spent with/for Him, to worshipping pagan Gods. Psalm 143:10 is about the prior: Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! In application, will the amount of time one plays violent (or any) video games prevent them from hearing God’s Word? And on the more extreme end is Exodus 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God… This might apply to someone with a serious video game addiction. Lastly, #1 of the 10 Commandments is Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Clear and to the point!

To address the “violent” aspect is critical. God’s Commandment #6 is, You shall not murder. Obviously virtual murdering is not remotely close to murdering, but does it desensitize the gamer? Murder is sin, sin is therefore of Satan. Is desensitization bringing the gamer closer to Satan? I believe Christian Counselors would say yes, as would I.

God expects believing parents or leaders to do their job… use His Words to guide youth towards Him. If I were talking with my son about violent video games I would start with a gentle story of moderation perhaps best be found in Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Do any video games permit the player to “think about these things”? Not if they are compulsively playing them. Time must be reserved for thinking about God out of respect for his Son’s sacrifice, to know His love and to walk further down the path to Him.

If you are struggling with a loved one on this topic Robert, consider letting the Connect Community know so we can join with you in your struggle through prayer. We all in for you!

God’s blessings,

Paul D.

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Thank you for your reply, Paul. I am a middle school special education TA and the outright addictive behavior I am confronted with every day is alarming. I have witnessed tantrums, violent behavior and have even been attacked when a student has not been allowed to engage in gaming or to be on their phones during class time. Unfortunately, some teachers allow it and even use it as a daily reward for their students. Though the environment I work in is unique because it is special ed, it shows me that gaming and internet use can clearly be addictive in a very, very destructive way. I have tried to make people aware of this because I see it as a growing and increasing problem. Parents need to be aware and cautious, and educators must do the same. So glad this topic is being addressed.

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HI! Bless you

My English is basic, I don´t understand the audio.

Somepeople help me?

I woul like understand about this topic.

Thank you!

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Hello @Miguel_Oliveros,
We are glad you are here!
What is your first or primary language?
I’ll see if I can get a transcript.

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As a younger guy who’s grown up playing games, and has grown increasingly detached from the most popular models of them (addictive mobile games, “freemium” games with endless monetization schemes, etc) I have to admit there is substantial danger to many popular games. This is expressed mainly as addiction, which many studios and publishers intentionally take advantage of to get addicts (called “whales,” as in the white whale from Moby Dick, because they are a small demographic but make up the vast bulk of purchases) and even children to spend vast amounts of money on many things in games. This can range from “loot boxes,” which are little more than gambling with real money on the chance to get a fun item, or even a perpetual stream of new content for small prices that can add up alarmingly fast.

And then there are the issues of content. The fact is most big games approach gameplay through a design philosophy that correlates play with combat, with anything other than combat being secondary or tertiary to the experience. A ton of independent games (indies) have recently been advancing the design language of gaming to be far less focused on violence, more on matters of philosophy, morals, personal stories, and more. I, for one, love these kinds of games and have found myself drawn far more to these.

The strength of games like this, is that they are interactive stories that, in many cases, utilize the act of playing the game as a device to explore certain themes. An amazing example of this, that can only be achieved in a video game, comes from last year’s Outer Wilds (not to be confused with The Outer Worlds, also released last year but by a different studio). In Outer Wilds, you play as an alien explorer of their own star system. You start on your planet and fly to all the different planets orbiting the star in real time, unraveling a mystery about an ancient civilization of scientists who vanished.

The only way to progress through the story is to learn more about this mystery. I won’t spoil it, but the entire central mechanic of the game is the player themselves learning about the world, and learning to see things that have been there the entire time. It is about understanding and comprehension, and in fact, the game can be completed within five minutes of starting if the player already knows all the mysteries since there is nothing keeping you from the ending except your own lack of knowledge. Acquiring that knowledge can take many hours of playing to achieve. There is no combat, no violence, nothing but exploring the stories of long forgotten people and their journey to find scientific answers.

Theology aside, there are some outstanding works of art in the medium of video games, and they should be treated as any other arrform. More and more these days, alongside the trash scams that prey upon the vulnerable (a massive issue the industry is currently reckoning with around the world with bans and self regulation as well as boycotts), are also poignant, moving, beautiful, artistically rich games with lovely stories. As the medium matures there is more room for Christians to explore and engage with these more profound areas of thought beyond the simple borders of violence and addiction from the past few decades. Further, there is even room for Christian developers to even create their own Christ-centric games, in the vein of C.S. Lewis’ novels.

I do not think it is anymore wrong to play games than it is to read books or watch movies. There are awful, misleading, immoral, or degrading works in all artistic mediums, but the beauty of video games is that it inherently creates a dialogue between developer and player. I see this push-pull dynamic of interaction as incredibly powerful, and potentially a wonderful way to engage with people. Further, games are just fun to play, even the most violent ones, and afford a great opportunity to engage with people. I play party games and violent shooters with my brother several times a week while we discuss our lives and remain in touch. Games these days often aren’t just the contents of the game itself, but the social platform built atop the gameplay and content. They’re a really unique and engaging thing, and with such extreme variety of content and form, I think it would be rather short sighted to dismiss them out of hand, or approach them with preconceived notions about the inherent value or morality of what some popular games do. Call of Duty is as different from Civilization is as different from Outer Wilds is as different from Hollow Knight.

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This response has been a blessing to me @pdangelmajer thanks and God bless you

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Hi Eileen, @ETA

I’m circling back to this interesting topic and have some follow up questions and one comment if I may.

How have your efforts been going with your students? And, do you add an openly Christian message with your teaching method or teach by example due to school regulations?

When reading this again I feel the need to add something from my years of teaching men’s Christian studies in prisons. It is imperative, imperative that parents make biblical teachings a consistent and abundant part of a child’s life. Answers to questions like yours must be biblically based and well spoken for children to flourish in the Word. I see grown men’s, inmates, eyes open wide when they realize their life was void of this very thing.

I pray you and all that read this, for the health of our world, to be bold in your teachings and for divine protection while doing it in God’s name.

Paul

Joshua, @Jersh @ETA

Your post is one of the finest I’ve read here on RZIM. Your testimony and experiences are filled with facts incredibly pertinent to anyone concerned about this topic. The battle between Good and evil for our children’s souls is palpable in your words.

With thanks,

Paul

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I really love this part of your response. It is quite a revelation @Jersh. My brother is a fresh out programmer and really loves games and animations and is quite interested to go in this line of business. I would relate this thought to him, I’m sure it will be helpful. Thank you so much for sharing this insight.

Shalom! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :+1:

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Hello Josh, :video_game:

I agree with Paul @pdangelmajer, your pertinent and descriptive post on this subject was quite enlightening, thank you for taking the time to form and post your thoughts.

Also, Paul, I gleaned from your points as well,

Thank you both for your contributions. :tulip: