“Video games are not sinful, they’re just stupid…”
Mark Driscoll said this recently. He goes on to say:
“They want to get on a team, be part of a kingdom, conquer a foe, and win a great epic battle. So they do it with their thumbs, and it doesn’t even count…it’s all fake. It doesn’t count. You want to do something? Get off the couch, unplug the electronics, and give your life to Jesus, find some other guys, and do something that actually matters. Leave a legacy for women, children, and generations, not just the high score on some stupid game.”
I don’t hate Mark Driscoll, but I disagree with him often. This is one of those times.
If you’re reading this, you probably know me. And if you know me, you know I’m a big fan of video games. But I’ve often wondered about gaming. Is it inherently sinful? Is it a waste of time? And I’ve given it a lot of thought besides just what Driscoll said. There have been some questions raised by a lot of guys, from people I think highly of to people I don’t really pay much attention to. And these questions deserve some serious thought.
But I have a problem with 2 things here – one, Driscoll’s statement, and two, his presentation.
First, his statement – “Video games aren’t sinful, they’re just stupid…”
Video games aren’t stupid any more than movies aren’t stupid, books aren’t stupid, or sports aren’t stupid. I mean, yes, some stupid video games get made, and they become wildly popular, but Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey are best-sellers. So…stupid books get written, stupid video games get made, stupid movies get made, etc.
And maybe 20 years ago video games were stupid. Maybe back when all you could do was bounce a ball off of two moving paddles games were stupid. But now…now they are anything but. And at one time, maybe they were just a mindless form of entertainment. But video games have become more than that. Video games are, as much as anything else, a medium for telling stories. Some of the stories that stick with me the most are stories from video games. I mean, I think about Final Fantasy VII. That was the first game I played that the story just consumed me. And maybe Mark’s right. Maybe, at the end of the game, I hadn’t really saved Gaia. Maybe I hadn’t actually defeated Sephiroth and helped Cloud exorcise his demons. But guess what? At the end of The Return of the King, there wasn’t actually a ring that had been destroyed. No city called Gondor actually got restored, and Hobbits still weren’t real (which is actually kind of a bummer). There are other examples, too, but I don’t want to explain them all.
Simply put, video games tell stories. Some tell good stories, some tell bad stories. And maybe at the end of those stories the world isn’t really saved. Maybe at the end of those stories a woman hasn’t really been rescued. And maybe at the end of the story the problems of humanity haven’t really been solved. But guess what? Unless you read nothing but non-fiction, or watch only documentaries, the same can be said about books and movies. Video games are, in essence, interactive stories.
Great stories inspire. Great stories stay with you. Great stories are great stories, regardless of the medium. And as a fan of great stories (and unique storytelling), I want to read/watch/interact with them however I can.
Second, his presentation – “They want to get on a team, be part of a kingdom, conquer a foe, and win a great epic battle. So they do it with their thumbs, and it doesn’t even count…it’s all fake. It doesn’t count. You want to do something? Get off the couch, unplug the electronics, and give your life to Jesus, find some other guys, and do something that actually matters. Leave a legacy for women, children, and generations, not just the high score on some stupid game.”
One thing I am in the process of learning is to not paint in broad strokes. Whether it’s theology, the “Precious Puritans”, fans of opposing schools, people who believe differently than I do…whatever…trying to explain away people who do stuff differently than me as generically as possible is a bad thing. And to just explain away gamers as people who are losers who get caught up in fake universes is wrong. Now, yes, some people get too involved. But what is that not true of? I read a sports message board quite frequently that is full of people whose holiday season will be totally ruined if our school doesn’t win a football game. I know people who got so invested in books, or TV shows, or movies, that they alienated people they knew and loved.
Anything – anything – can be taken too far. You can change that statement to be about anything.
Also, I find it quite hypocritical that Driscoll, a self-avowed techie, would tell anyone to “unplug the electronics.”
So…you know. Video games can be stupid. They can be sinful. But here’s the thing – video games, just like everything else, reflect the condition of your heart. Work, fishing, sports, reading, building, music…whatever…they all do that.
Again, I don’t want this to be purely a criticism of Mark Driscoll. I’m not really a Driscoll fan, but I’m also not a Driscoll-hater. I mean, he’s fine. Whatever. But I get frustrated when pastors, especially pastors with that kind of platform, take the easy way out on stuff like that.
But enough of this. I’m like 85% through Assassin’s Creed III…time to finish up!