On video games and Christianity

You’ll often seen Christian leaders speak out specifically against video games and porn, lumping them in together. And yet, rarely do I see these same leaders speak specifically to sports addictions. Mind you, I follow many of them on Twitter, and I know they sit and watch sports and support their teams of choice.

Tell me: what’s the difference between watching a 3.5 hour football game and playing video games for 3.5 hours? There’s even proof of video games helping to improve surgeon’s skills (source: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-surgery-games-idUSN2J30397820070219).

I’m certainly NOT making the case for addiction-level attention to video games (or anything, for that matter.) But engaging in an entertainment platform that’s interactive, and requires the player to think, react, strategize, and reason… well, that seems like a better use of time than the near-vegetative state many enter when watching sports.

I don’t hate sports, by the way. I’m a fan. I’m simply using football in this particular example.

Here’s the bigger message, from my side of things. I’m good at video games. Always have been. What I haven’t been good at, my entire life, is sports. Mind you, my parents made the correct decision to enroll me in youth sports, like baseball, basketball, and football. I learned valuable lessons as a youngster, and it helped me to interact socially with others. But I was never good at it. Outfield in baseball, forward in basketball, lineman in football. It’s OK, those are the positions I should have played.

But when it came to video games, I was a natural. My mom will still tell the story of kids giving me quarters at the bowling alley so they could watch me beat Space Invaders, over and over.

Therefore, I’m drawn to this entertainment platform that’s not only interactive, but that I’m good at.

At the time of this blog post, there’s also a large social element to playing video games, specifically online, multiplayer games. I’ve made real friends over the years and we’ve had just as much fun playing games online together as friends who live near me whom I hang out with in person.

And yes, I do realize sports includes a physical aspect that promotes fitness, and that’s important. But I’m speaking strictly from an entertainment aspect. Because, ultimately, watching sports on television is just that… entertainment.

Christian leaders will say “video games are violent!” Some do include fake violence, yes. Football’s quite violent, too, and yet hard hits are celebrated as a show of skill.

I tend to think many Christians simply don’t understand video games. But for people like me, whose friends were often good at sports, there’s some solace in engaging with something we’re actually good at and showing off our own brand of skill.

But again, I state, this intake should be balanced. Daily time in the Word, along with other daily reading (study material, family-centric, fiction and non-fiction alike) should prevail. But I feel like I’m talking about entertainment in general. What about Christians who spend every available second managing fantasy football teams, reading stats for their favorite players and teams, splurging on jerseys and memorabilia? This is addiction, plain and simple.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is, you’ll hear Christians bloggers and leaders say video games are different. They aren’t — they’re simply misunderstood.

Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God, your functional savior. -Martin Luther