Gaming and God (Part 2)

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In our last post we looked at how gaming has become a major part of many people’s lives and the dangers of consuming them frivolously. Today let’s dive into how games affect your personality and what steps you can take to make sure your gaming habit is consistent with your Christian values.

How do games make you feel?

Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the violence in Street Fighter. That might be surprising. Even if you’re not familiar with the series, you can tell just from the title that Street Fighter is a game all about fighting and in the last post I just said to be careful about what you put in your brain, so what’s the deal?

Simply put, Street Fighter isn’t very serious. While it is a series that features martial artists kicking and punching each other to claim victory, there is no blood, no one is permanently hurt or killed, and there are no victims. Fights in that game are much more similar to a boxing match than a mugging.
It helps that the characters and combat are very cartoony and archetypical. The disciplined karate fighter can channel his fighting spirit to throw fireballs from his hands (somehow). The 7-foot-tall Russian bear wrestler will grab his opponents and jump three stories straight up into the sky to piledriver them. Characters react to these blows with expressions worthy of the Three Stooges. Bug-eyed surprise, cartoon grimaces, and hokey one-liners aplenty. If you’re comfortable with watching the occasional schlocky kung-fu movie, the Street Fighter series should be around the same speed. 

But how does it make you feel?

While the violence may be cartoony, the competition is not. Street Fighter is a game about one-on-one face-offs between players. For the people who are into it, the battles are intense. That’s why there is a serious tournament scene for the game, with faithful spectators who tune into online streams in the thousands to watch tournament matches live, and prominent players who have risen to a kind of stardom within their sphere, collecting sponsorships and endorsement deals just like normal athletes.

This competition fuels players at all levels to get better at the game. To push themselves to learn more about each character and sharpen their reflexes for when they face them, and that’s good. I’d argue it’s character building – it’s all about setting goals and putting in the work to see them through. But with that competition comes dangers. Namely frustration, anger, envy, and self-hatred.

I’ve seen a lot of adults with steady jobs and good heads on their shoulder become absolute lunatics playing multiple games. When a losing streak puts them on "tilt” and a mild-mannered father of two becomes a profanity spewing barbarian. I’ve seen thrown controllers, rage-fueled diatribes, and tantrums fit for a 3-year-old. It’s not becoming in the least. 

One needs to know when a gaming hobby is becoming something destructive. If your play sessions with a game leave you angry, irritable with your family, and spiteful against the people who beat you, is it really enriching your life?

This can happen in all kinds of games. From the intense multiplayer competition of something like Apex or League of Legends, to single player games that demand perfection like Sekiro. If a title leaves you feeling worse than when you started, it’s time to either walk away from those games until you can put them in perspective or shelve them entirely if you can’t do that. 

It’s not a crime to say a game isn’t fun anymore!

How much time are they taking up?

Games are supposed to be entertainment. Too often though they can become an addiction.

Part of this is simple human nature. Games can be fun and it’s easy to want to do the fun thing over anything else. That’s something you must watch for and discipline in your life.

Part of it is also by design. Many modern games are loaded with features and hooks intentionally designed to make you want to play more and play longer day-after-day. Things like daily challenges with limited time rewards, season passes that drip-feed new content in like a never-ending treadmill, ongoing stats and public leaderboards that demand you keep up a certain level of activity to place well in them. All of these little hooks can insidiously drive you to focus on something that was supposed to be a diversion. You end up more invested in a game while real life passes you by.

If your gaming is causing you to ignore more important things (school, work, family, relationships) it might be time to give them a rest. This isn’t limited to gaming, the same can be said about any hobby or activity. But gaming seems to have a special vice grip that is difficult to escape, so we need to be extra warry of it.

How can I make sure games are a healthy part of my life?

You need to control your gaming intake and ask yourself questions about what you are consuming and prioritizing in your life. Here are a few things you might want to reflect on to make sure you’re in charge of your games and they are not in charge of you.
  • How often do I game? Do you mostly play on the weekends? During a commute? At night? Whenever you can? During those times, what else could you be doing? Are the kids still up? What does your partner get up to during that time? Is there anything more important you should be focusing on?
  • How long do I tend to play? How many hours a week do you think you game? It can be easy to lose track when you’re enjoying something. Next time you sit down to play, note the time you start and the time you end. Write it down each time you play for a week and find out how close you were to your estimate. 
  • How do I feel when I’m done playing? Are you more relaxed? Did you have fun? Or are you more upset and frustrated than anything else? Make sure your games are leaving you in a better condition than when you started.
  • What does my family say about my gaming? Do you ever get subtle (or not so subtle) hints from your spouse that you’re spending too much time with a controller in your hand? Do your parents or siblings seem to have to fight for your attention? It might be time to reprioritize. Nothing made of polygons will ever have a bigger impact on your life than the people in it. 
  • Could I play this next to Jesus? If you can’t honestly answer yes, then you know in your heart you’re making a mistake. Because Jesus IS always with us and for all intents and purposes IS on the couch with you when you play.
  • How has this game enriched my life? There is a positive side to gaming! Many games can leave us with a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, or inspire us to push our limitations. While you need to be wary of the negative influences gaming can bring into your life, it’s important to also acknowledge the positive.
Reflect on your habits and how you game. Gaming isn’t new and scary anymore and we have to acknowledge that it is a big part of many people’s lives. Just make sure it is a positive part of yours!

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