15 August 2022

Can anything good come from video games?

Video games divide opinion. When I tweeted asking what I should cover in these articles, the responses were polar opposites. Some Christians shared their concerns about addiction and violence, others were frustrated. One man said, ‘I think people are tired of being told that the hobby they love is bad.’ This poses the question Can anything good come from video games?

In this blog post, I’ll confront five common objections to gaming. For gamers, I hope this will lead to self-reflection. For those who aren’t, I hope this will lead to more wise conversations about gaming. (You might also be interested in my previous blog on the 6 myths about video games.)

Sinful vs. grateful gaming

Is gaming sinful? It’s an important question to as about anything but Christians should be careful at creating additional rules, which the Bible consistently warns against:

Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sinful indulgence. (Colossians 2:23, NIVUK)

Gaming, just like money, isn’t itself sinful, but as Paul says when speaking about money, it can be ‘a root of all kind of evil’ (1 Timothy 6:10). Just like we don’t avoid money altogether and it can be used for God’s glory, the same can be said about gaming.

Gaming can become a stumbling block to Christians and one area Christian gamers must consider is the types of games they play. Not every game is rated PEGI 18 (games aimed at those who are over the age of 18), yet such games do exist. Personally, I struggle to see how games such as Grand Theft Auto – a game where you take on the role of a criminal and all that it entails – can be played in good conscience. But rather than make a list of banned games, each Christian must develop discernment. A good question to ask is ‘Can I genuinely thank God for this?’ (cf. 1 Timothy 4:4-5).

Time-wasting vs balanced gaming

Disgraced pastor Mark Driscoll once announced, ‘Video games aren’t sinful, they’re just stupid.’ Hasn’t he got a point? After all, what value is a goal scored in FIFA or a quest completed in World of Warcraft?

One Twitch streamer said to me ‘Do not get me wrong, gaming can become an idol. However so can many other things such as sports, food, fishing and any other hobby.’ God didn’t just create us to be working machines. He made us to rest, create and enjoy the world he made. Some do this in sport, others in music and others in gaming. Many non-gamers fail to see it in the same light as they might the recent sit-com they just binged.

Nevertheless, it should be acknowledged that time-wasting is possible. Whether you are writing poetry or bashing a controller, you still need to balance rest and work. Here are two questions to ask to check if you are using time wisely:

  • Are you neglecting basic spiritual practices (bible reading, prayer, attending church) to game?
  • Are you keeping up with your responsibilities to loved ones and work?

Addicted vs self-controlled gaming

Many video games boast of their addictive nature. ‘Just one more turn’ is a strapline to the successful game Civilisation. Christians have generally opposed addictive activities: gambling, drinking or drug use. Couldn’t video games be opposed in the same way?

I discussed in slightly more detail the debate about whether video gaming is actually addictive in my previous article – research has shown that approximately 3-4% of gamers would be classified as addicted. This suggests that the huge majority of gamers can enjoy gaming in a self-controlled way.

Each gamer should ask ‘Who is in control?’ A Christian should be marked by self-control. UK Rehab defines addiction in this way:

…gaming becomes the individual’s dominant or even sole interest. All their free time is taken up with gaming, and all their energies are focused upon it, possibly at the cost of work or academic progress. Dietary and sleeping patterns are likely to be hugely affected by constant gaming, and the gamer may find themselves entirely dislocated from friends, family and the real world.[1]

If that describes you, you should look for help from your GP. For the rest, consider how to game in a responsible manner.

Isolated vs. social gaming

The stereotype of a gamer being a loner is unfair. Many games are cooperative and players spend time together virtually. Of course, playing solo isn’t wrong either. The problem is when these two things replace the need for relationships.

Gamers, consider whether your games can connect you to people. Some groups of Christian men play together and have good conversations alongside the game. But at the same time, nothing can replace face-to-face relationships, particularly at church. Make a priority of these in-person relationships and connect your games to them.

What next?

With all these caveats gamers might throw up their hands and say, ‘Is it worth it?’ Certainly, no one is forced to game. Many adults will let go of some hobbies, such as gaming, for adult responsibilities. It’s okay to make that decision.

If you do choose to game, revisit these questions:

  • Can I be grateful to God for my game? Or is it leading me to sin?
  • Is my gaming balanced with other responsibilities?
  • Am I showing signs of addiction?
  • Is my gaming leading me to or away from people?

What about those of you who don’t play but want to offer support, perhaps as a parent or pastor? Here are some suggestions of how you can engage well:

  • What do they enjoy playing? Why do they enjoy it?
  • Join them. Perhaps particularly parents could play along and understand.
  • Look at your own entertainment habits. Whether it’s gaming, TV or stamp-collecting, you could ask these questions about your hobby.

Tim Wilson is the pastor of Wheelock Heath Baptist Church. He is a graduate of Union School of Theology and lives in Cheshire with his wife Natalie and three children. You can follow Tim on Twitter.


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