Before I get into this week’s topic, I want to apologize to the readers of Beneath The Tangles as I was not able to meet my commitment and post two weeks ago. We (my wife and I) were actually in the process of moving into our first home so we are very blessed and grateful to God for the new change. Things got so busy that I could not just type up a poorly written piece, as I truly want to do these articles with excellence for you and my Heavenly Father.
This week is going to be all about why we game, and the motives behind the time we spend holding the controller. A long while back, I found this article that talked about how we can honor God through our video games, and to be honest it was pretty negative and pointed out how video games are basically a waste of time and don’t give God any glory.
I’m not going to write a rebuttal to that post, but after reading it I realized that the writer was being sincere and explaining his feelings. That being said, I decided to ponder this and see how do I bring God any honor by playing video games for hours throughout the week (not all in one sitting).
I’ve written on the subject about overdosing on what we enjoy as entertainment and that has its place, but what about God? Where does He fit in while we are conquering our digital worlds, leveling up or camping to snipe the next unlucky player? How can we reconcile our faith with our hobby (yes, I said hobby, unless you’re getting paid to play)? When we are playing games full of violence, gore, foul language and immorality, can we praise God at the same time? These are very valid questions that many Christians and other people of faith ask themselves, and I myself have even been asked on an interview.
Honor God With Your Video Games
17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
In the above verse, the Apostle Paul was speaking to the Colossian church and explaining how everything they do needs to honor God, even their words. As Christians we need to pay attention to what game we are playing, because God will hold us accountable for everything we do. Even if it’s a game that you really want to play, but you feel a tug at your heart to not purchase it, then you need to make the right decision.
What if you’re not a Christian, or you are thinking, “I can play those kinds of games and it’s ok, I’m not going to kill someone like I do in the game or get influenced by it. It’s just a game, it’s not real life!” Whether you want it to or not, what you spend hours doing will affect you whether you want to or not. Whatever we spend enough time around we start becoming.
20 Walk with the wise and become wise;
associate with fools and get in trouble.
Some parents and outsiders look at geeks, otaku or gamers and say what we do is a waste of time, is demonic, fills our mind with junk or will just make us less productive citizens. This can be the case for some forms of media, but not all. Most of the time, we are playing a video game or watching an anime to just relax and enjoy it, not because we don’t have anything else to do. I like to compare video games to any other hobby, whether it’s watching TV or knitting a sweater. Some people know every sports team, all the players, and all the ins and outs of the game while a video game fan could know just as much about the industry, what game is coming out soon, consoles, graphics, game play and other details.
Video games are not about wasting time, but about appreciating a work of art and becoming immersed in the creator’s world and unraveling the story they have laid out for the player.
Some people will see video games as a distraction to their personal relationship with God, while others will say it helps them relieve stress and is as enjoyable as any other fan is to their pastime. Just like when TV first appeared or rock and roll music was starting, many pastors, churches and Christians were quick to say it was the “devil’s work”. I agree that there is evil in almost every form of media, because it’s made by people who aren’t perfect, sin, or don’t care about God or biblical values. Anything can become a distraction, you just have to be careful and be wise with your time.
If you see yourself spending way too much time in front of a screen, whether it’s a video game, computer or TV then you need to reevaluate your time. If others have told you that you spend “too much time playing those games!”, even if they said it in a not so encouraging way, listen to their words and consider them. It’s something we all need to do, myself included. I heard a quote today that sums up what I’m attempting to illustrate:
Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.
I hope that as Christians, we won’t be quick to judge those that are gamers or geeks in any context, and instead get to know them better and walk with them as the body of Christ that we are a part of. If you are not a believer and your reading this, I want you to look at your day or weekly blocks of time you have for your gaming or hobbies. Are they just that, a time to relax and have a little fun, or are they consuming too much of the most important resource we have in life to share with our loved ones, time.
What habits do you have that help you either honor God with your video games (or other hobbies), or ways you limit yourself from spending all day watching anime or stomping on goombas?
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15 thoughts on “Gaming With God: Playing With The Right Intentions”
I definitely feel that motivations are a big part of whether we should or shouldn’t do one thing or another. In the case of online gaming, a big part of my fulfillment in this comes in the form of making friends and contributing to the health and well-being of a team. If my particular skill sets and pieces of equipment are better suited for defending objectives while my other teammates do what might seem like the “ace-player” work (but which would be a lot less useful without my defense), then I have found my place and am happy and fulfilled in it, not because I’m being gratified on an endless loot run but because I know where and how to give of myself to the benefit of others.
True, working as a team is something that games are pushing more and more, which is a step in a good direction. Like Hell Divers is a great example of that. Thanks for the comment!
Being a Christian gamer, for me, means that the lasting appeal of a game is based on how much my experience of it was pleasing/glorifying to God. I’m still developing the self-control to not play certain games for the wrong reasons, but God makes me very aware after playing through a game whether he was happy with the approach I took.
The amount of time I put into Borderlands 2, for example, can be summed up with one simple motive: greed. And, likewise, envy. I wanted all the cool guns. I wanted to have the coolest experience with the coolest guns. Once I was ‘done’ with the game, I realised how unfulfilling my approach to it had been.
My time spent on Dark Souls, however, had a completely different motive: I wanted to persevere. I didn’t actually care much about the whole ‘I’m such a hardcore gamer because I did Dark Souls woo-hoo’ stuff; instead, I took the game as an exercise in discovering how much you can do if you try and try and try again. It was immensely rewarding and helped my perseverance in other areas of life as well.
Hence, I rate Dark Souls as the best game I’ve ever played, simply because the way I played it had an effect on my life which has contributed to my walk with God.
Wow, that’s great JekoJeko. I’ve only played a little bit of Borderlands 2, I need to catch up… 🙁 Dark Souls is another one that I’ve heard so much about, but haven’t tried it out. Is it that difficult? I heard it’s super hard.
That’s powerful, that it helped you persevere more in your relationship with God. Too often, we are quick to give up because we are used to a culture that everything is RIGHT NOW and we don’t have any patience. We have to never quit in prayer and in seeking His face in worship. Thanks so much for sharing, and let me know what other games have had that kind of impact on you, it’s great to know.
As a kid in youth group, I always used to ask, “Is it right to play [insert game here]?” Or for that matter, “Is it right to play videogames at all when you could be doing more spiritual things?” (The implied answer being “no.”) It was a horrible way to think. Later on, I listened to a preacher who said, “Take those stupid videogames of yours and crush them beneath your feet!” Which I did. Not only did it fail to silence my religious conscience, I couldn’t play Halo with my friends anymore and became a generally unpleasant person to be around.
Nowadays, my way of thinking is very different. I see videogames (and media in general) as not so much a right-or-wrong thing as it is a wisdom thing. You have a life; you have callings; be responsible for those, and when you’ve done that, do what you want. There’s nothing wrong with a moderate hedonism so long as it doesn’t come between you and responsibility, and I’m not sure it looks the same for everyone at all times. Right now, I can’t really afford to play games because I need a job, but as for college kids on break, they could use a good month of Elder Scrolls (or Thief, or Postal, or whatever it is they like).
Finally, I’ll say this: videogames matter because they matter to people and because people matter to God. Those who denigrate games as a medium are not just denigrating a form of entertainment. They are denigrating the intellectual talents of real people — programmers, artists and level designers who all have put food on the table, and this is how they do it.
Jo-Shu, I’m sorry to hear that a pastor would say that. I personally have never had those experiences, though I’ve heard stories like yours now for example. Like you said, videogames matter because they matter to people, that’s a real good analogy. Like any art form, you could say that video games are an art form because of all the time and effort they take to create. Look at any art piece, you can draw and make whatever you want. It just depends on the creator. God has given us free will to make anything, it just depends on what the end result and motive is for that creation.
If you can’t afford too many games cause of work, may I suggest used games on amazon? Sometimes you can find them super cheap! Also ebay has great deals at time, I got a copy of FF 13-2 for like….$14 I think brand new. So yeah, just a suggestion. Thank you for your comment, I love reading all of them.
God bless, and keep on gaming my friend!
P.S. Postal…another game I couldn’t recommend 🙁 But yeah….also, stay away from Hatred which is like the rebirth of Postal.
Nah, he wasn’t a pastor; he was an itinerant preacher I saw on YouTube. His name was Paul Washer. Although I still respect the man (I really do), he and his teachings were wrong — and not just wrong, but soul-crushing. You know who else didn’t think videogames were real art? Roger Ebert. Although games are different from, say, film (interactive vs. passive media), he and others are wrong to deny them legitimacy as an art form.
As for not being able to play them right now, it’s not so much a money thing as it is a time thing. I can buy what I want (especially during Steam sales), but I need my time for illustration and job hunting, so for now, gaming has fallen by the wayside. Simple as that.
Also, I wouldn’t recommend Postal either… not for the content, mind you, they’re just mediocre games. 😀
Ah, Paul Washer I’ve watched him on youtube as well. And Roger Ebert said that?! Wow….well, I guess at one point video games were just that, games. Nowadays, they have become their own culture and genre, unlike the days of simple arcades with Pac Man and Donkey Kong (Dankey Kang anyone?).
Oh yes…..the steam summer sale….God help all our wallets. It’s my first one where I will be buying anything, as I didn’t even use steam until this year.
I really enjoyed your article. While I was playing SWTOR, which I enjoy playing and a total fan of Star Wars since it’s beginning, on the Empire side I chose to make Darkside judgements. The more I did this the more I struggled inwardly, spiritually, so I quit playing for a few months. When I logged back on finally I decided to change the way I played on the Empire side, I started choosing to go with Lightside judgements. Just making this call in my playing has made it more of an enjoyable game and I don’t struggle with my decisions anymore. As much as I enjoy playing mmo’s like SWTOR and World of Warcraft, I generally don’t play as much as I used to, I might play for 2-3 weeks off and on and then quit for a few months. I keep it very casual when I play do that I don’t get to involve with it to much.
That’s a good strategy you got going on there. I’m glad to know your being wise with your time, and making the right decisions when you game 🙂 Games like SWTOR can suck you in and never let go haha. Happens to me when I get a new RPG….which I’m looking forward now to play and beat FF 13-2….that will be fun.
Thank you so much for this article. This is a topic that I’ve wrestled with for a long time as well; I even wrote a paper on a topic that touched in this a little. Just like all other media, video games are an easy scapegoat for “wasting time” and “foolish behavior”. It all comes down to the person, and their own convictions, as to whether or not it would be right for them. Paul did say in the New Testament that “all things are lawful, but not all things edify”. Personally, I love the freedom of choice in games like Skyrim: I love being able to see how both righteous and wicked actions affect myself and those around me (Dark Brotherhood FTW!). I love elegant puzzles like in Portal, and even multiplayer silliness like in Smash Bros. Video games can be a great way to not only see a story, but to experience a story in a way unlike any other medium.
Now, in response to Jo-Shu, I’ve also heard Paul Washer say the same things. I respect the man, and I like some of his teachings, but I think that he notices the apathy of a lot of professing Christians and feels like video games are one of the primary reasons for that apathy. Do I agree with him? Nope. Like I said, video games are an easy scapegoat, especially as they’re new. You can’t blame a store for someone stealing just because the item they stole was there. It’s the choice of the individual; they choose whether to play the game, watch the movie, listen to the music, etc. All in all, I see where he’s coming from, and I respect his position. 🙂
I agree and I like the explanation you gave for the preacher, it’s very true. I would agree that yes, video games can cause apathy but like you mentioned so can TV, movies, music, whatever it is.
Ah, I’ve YET to play Portal…one of the few in the world to say so haha. I need to try that game out, there’s so many little gems like that one that are classics…to me honestly, I feel like video games are worse than movies in the sense that there are so many to play and more coming out every year.
Thanks for the comment, and am glad you enjoyed the article! God bless you Sam.
Thank you brother for this post. I praise God for brothers lke you, and sisfers that desire Christ and are able to glorify Him even in small things like playing video games and it not being an idol. All of you guys are a great encouragement! Will try to.remember to keeo you all in prayer!
Thanks so much Samuel, God bless you brother. Yes, God is so amazing, His love extends to even our little habits and pleasures. I just want to see Him glorified even in little things like this. Thanks so much for the prayers, if you have a prayer request feel free to email me or leave it here if it’s not too personal for everyone to see. Take care.
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