Video games have been getting a bad rap lately. A couple of months ago Mark Driscoll made the statement that video games aren’t sinful, they’re just stupid. Last week Russell Moore wrote a piece on why pornography and video games are ruining a generation of young men. Of course I agree wholeheartedly with his conclusions on pornography. There is nothing good or defensible about porn.
But the statements that both Mark Driscoll and Russell Moore made about video games bother me. But first, some full disclosure: I play video games. I enjoy playing them as a way to unwind. I am a colossal nerd of pocket protector proportions. Sometimes I play with my friends online. And wear a bluetooth ear piece. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.
Both Driscoll and Moore suggest that the problem with video games is their “fakeness” (not sure if that’s a word, but this is my blog, and on my blog I can make up words if I want to). Video games allow young men to engage in combat without really risking anything. They allow young men to conquer kingdoms from their basements, and to win the princess without ever winning a real princess. They allow young men to have their ambitions satisfied without actually accomplishing anything. Instead of becoming productive, married, fruitful members of society, they play video games. They find their validation from a game. They build fake empires and kill fake enemies instead of engaging with reality.
I get what they’re saying, I really do. In some ways, the young men of my generation really are lazy and ambitionless. But to pin the problem on video games seems rather odd to me, like treating the cough instead of treating the lung cancer. Video games are a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. After all, couldn’t the same argument be made against sports or movies or muscle cars or fishing? Both sports and movies allow us to satisfy a thirst for adventure and greatness without really doing anything.
The problem isn’t sports or movies or video games. The problem is selfishness. We live in a post-modern culture where self is king. If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad, right? If video games make you happy, spend hours playing in the damp cool of your mom’s basement. If sports make you happy, get the NFL Ticket from DirectTV and never miss a single game. If movies make you happy, stream thousands of them directly to your television for hours and hours of couch bliss.
The solution is not to tell all the young guys to stop playing video games. The solution is to help them put video games in their proper orbit. Video games, like television and fishing and gardening and restoring antique cars, must orbit around King Jesus. Jesus gets our greatest passion. Our energies should first and foremost be dedicated to conquering for the kingdom of God. To serving others. To building up the local church. To spreading the gospel in our local communities. To pushing back the forces of evil and darkness.
We need to give our young men a compelling, glorious vision of Jesus and his kingdom. We need to help them channel their youthful energy into the things that really matter. If we do these things, video games will fall into their rightful place. Video games can be a helpful diversion for the mind – a way to unwind and relax at the end of a long day. To flat out condemn video games doesn’t really solve the problem and verges on unhelpful legalism. After all, if you take away video games then the young men will simply turn to something else.
I think of my friend, Sean. Sean is a single guy who enjoys watching movies and playing the occasional video game. But Sean is also a fireball for Jesus. He serves like a maniac and is following Jesus at a dead sprint. Should I tell Sean that he can’t play video games or watch movies? I don’t think so. I hope every young guy in my church is like Sean.
The problem isn’t video games, the problem is selfishness. Let’s help our young men and women see that there is a glorious kingdom and that they can be a part of it.