Why do Video Games Get a Bum Rap? Part 3

June 24, 2012 — 2 Comments

Video games get the shaft.

Ok, so what began as something intended to be a short reflection on video games has developed into much more. Refer to part 1 and part 2 of this series to see where we’ve begun. Today we tackle a few more criticisms against video games.

5. Video games consume your life. This is a tricky subject. To be upfront, I’ll level with you.

Between the spring of 2004 and the fall of 2009, I played World of Warcraft for 400 hours. Yes, you read that correctly. 400 hours. Let’s break that down a bit. There are 24 hours in a day. I played World of Warcraft for 16.67 days. Think of it this way: over two weeks of my life were spent manipulating a series of 1’s and 0’s…

As I’m sure you are well aware, World of Warcraft is not the only game I’ve played. It’s not even the only game I’ve spent over 100 hours playing.

I tell you this to demonstrate that I definitely understand the criticism that video games can consume your life. They have consumed my life at times. Even still, I don’t believe that this criticism is valid. Here’s my premise:

The opposite of misuse is not disuse, but proper use.

We all remember the cautionary tale of Prohibition in the early twentieth century. Simply speaking, the argument was that due to all of the problems that come with alcohol abuse, it would be best if the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” were outlawed.

The unfortunate result of this movement in the 20’s was an increase in organized crime as bootleggers established a black market for alcohol. In 1933, the national ban was lifted and states were allowed to set their own laws concerning alcohol.

Though I’m not implying that video game regulations will lead to organized crime and black markets, I do think we can learn something from this chapter of our history.

There are certain gifts within life that can be misused. Reflect upon the potential for misuse these following things have. Sex is a wonderful gift in the proper context of marriage, yet it is often used to manipulate people or enslave others. Advertising can help promote products that enrich people’s lives, but it can also distort our perception of reality. Alcohol can be a refreshing drink that can add variety and spice to various social settings, but it can also destroy homes, cause murder, and lead to all types of bad decisions.

The same is true of video games. They can be used to waste time, serve as an escape from reality, or incite more violent behavior. But they can also cause us to creatively solve problems, enjoy experiences with loved ones, move us by inviting us to participate in powerful experiences, and ask serious questions about our human nature in open-world environments.

It is our responsibility to consider why we play games, how we play them, and in what contexts. If we mindlessly get swept up in games, then yes, we are just allowing them to consume our lives.

However, if we use discernment while playing, they can become a positive force in our lives like great works of literature, powerful movies, and excellent music. The challenge is that video games are still a young medium. People are just beginning to grapple with these questions.

Think about the automobile. It has taken us 80 years to figure out how to safely use it, and we still are learning. New traffic laws are still coming into effect. We still go back and forth about when it is best to teach our children to drive.

The video game culture is just beginning to have some of these same conversations. As adults, it is imperative that we model the behavior we want young people to embrace when they play games. Like the Internet and cell phones, video games are here to stay. It is incumbent upon us to discover how to interact with them constructively and teach our kids to do the same. Avoidance, or strict prohibition will not work.

But what do you think? Is it possible to interact with video games constructively and joyfully like we do with other types of art? What steps do we need to do in order to engage video games correctly and to teach others to do the same?


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I'm a pastor, writer, speaker, husband, father, and follower of Christ, to name a few titles. You can find my contact information in my About page.
  • Erik Kitson

    Hey Austin, its Erik from Carlsbad. I don’t know if you remember but we used to hang out in junior high, play starcraft, listen to punk music, etc. Long story short: I went through a long period of not having interest in video games and recently have found myself drawn to them again! I’ve been wrestling with where playing video games fits in with being a good steward of time/resources, being a responsible husband, having leadership roles at church, etc. I’m still sorting through my thoughts and emotions on the subject, but I found your posts (and the youtube video) to be very insightful and helpful! Thank you for sharing them. I have more thoughts than I could fit here, but I just wanted to say that!

    • Hey Erik, I totally remember hanging out! In fact, a few years ago I played Symphony of the Night on the Xbox Live Arcade and totally loved it. I remember you telling me about how cool it was back in the day, but I had never gotten a chance to play it until recently.

      I can totally understand your struggles. It’s a daily thing for me. I think video games have great potential, but we can really easily get sucked into them. Lately, I’ve been playing Mass Effect 3 way too much. It’s a powerful story and I’m sure I’ll end up writing about it soon. The only difficulty is that I need to quit playing it and start writing more!

      However, I think lots of media are this way. Our lives would be out of balance if the only thing we did in our free time was read novels, too. It’s just that video games are so accessible and so massive these days.

      I’m glad I could help as you navigate these tricky waters of faith and games. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts. Hope you are doing well!