Adults, Video Games, and the Liberating Power of Limitation

I recently had the opportunity to be on a fresh new podcast, Christ and Pop Culture. This podcast is hosted by my fellow church members Rich Brooks and David Dunham. Rich (his group blog) and David (his blog) are talented, fun guys (with well-done blogs), and I would encourage you to regularly listen to their show. If you desire to know what is going on in American pop culture, and you want that knowledge filtered through a reformed lens, I can think of few better places to send you than to Christ and Pop Culture. They were very kind to have me on as we discussed my blog posts from several weeks back about youth groups using Halo 3 for evangelistic means. Download the show directly here–it’s about 30 minutes long, and it’s a worthwhile listen.

In the course of our conversation, we talked about adults and video games. The issue was introduced, “How much should adults play video games?” Now, while acknowledging right off the bat that video games are not necessarily sinful, and that it can be fine to play them at times, I noted that video games are fundamentally rooted in a fantasy world. They have little ties to the real world, even if they replicate real-world experiences. There is little in your average video game, furthermore, that you can transfer to the real-world in a meaningful way. Essentially, video games are pure entertainment. There is not anything wrong with pure entertainment, of course, but it is my contention that for the Christian, the person invested with the responsibility to bear the image of God, subdue the world, preach the gospel to the lost everywhere around us, and advance the kingdom of God, pure entertainment should be limited. In fact, in a society that idolizes entertainment, recreation, fun, and self-indulgence, we should provide a clearly countercultural picture of a life devoted to higher things, to important things, to causes that last for eternity.

Do not misread me. I enjoy sports and movies as much as the next guy. I am not an ascetic. However, like any man, I have alot of important things to do. I have a family to provide for, a career to build, a faith to cultivate, a church to serve. I love spending some time on TrueHooop (the best basketball blog in the world, hands down), but I get to do so very rarely, maybe once a week if I’m lucky. I love watching movies, but I watch only a few (if that many) in a given week. I love pleasure reading, but since the summer, when I read Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full, I have not even attempted to read a book for fun. Am I unique? No, there are tons of men just like me, no, doing more than me, and we realize that there is simply too much of importance to do in the real-world than to rack up high scores and defeat towering enemies in the virtual “world.”

Christian men who devote large portions of time to recreation and fun would be well served by trading investment in ephemeral things, things that will not last and that are of little lasting consequence, for investment in things that truly matter. Don’t waste your college years goofing off. Serve your church, work hard in your classes, provide an income for yourself. Post-college, don’t follow Zach Braff and the immature men-children and waste your life away. Seek a wife, use your gifts and talents in employment for God’s glory, build a church through faithful service, share the gospel with hell-bound people, and generally live for things that matter and that last. Limit your pursuit of pleasure and fun. If you’re dragging your feet about children, and your wife really wants to have them, but you don’t want the extra work burden and personal responsibility that comes, because you don’t want to give up all those sports games and video games, it is time to limit yourself. It is time to be a man, to dig in, to work yourself hard, in order that your wife would be happy and you would become what God has in store for most of us: a father. If this sounds repressive, the Bible shows us it’s not. Indeed, it is in limiting ourselves–in terms of our pleasure pursuits–that we free ourselves to do things that matter and to become the men God intends us to be. In limiting ourselves, we liberate ourselves.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Adults, Video Games, and the Liberating Power of Limitation

  1. Rich Clark

    Thanks Owen!

  2. Drew Dixon

    Interesting post Owen!
    I used to be really into video games, seminary, church, and life in general have kept me from them for a while now and honestly I am glad. I think especially when Christians make a habit of playing video games by themselves it is problematic because we isolate ourselves off from fellowship (I suppose you could do the same thing with books/ect but if you are reading something biblical/devotional at least you are challenging/equipping yourself with what you reading). I have kind of set a rule for myself with video games–I now only play them with friends, I don’t play them by myself. I am not saying that everyone should adopt that rule, but I made it because I have so little free time that I don’t want to do things that cut me off from vital fellowship with brothers in the Lord.

  3. Anonymous

    Owen;

    Great words of wisdom and a much needed clarity and voice on this issue. I know of one young man raised in our church who is n ow failing out of a major university because all he wants to do is be Tiger Woods on Xbox.

    I hope many are encouraged by your wisdom and clarity

    Bill in Kansas

  4. tyler W.

    Good exhortation Owen. I used to love video games, but I have become increasingly restless when playing them. In fact, I haven’t touched my xbox for over a month.

    Lately, I’ve been contemplating the merits of even keeping it around. Nothing constructive comes out of it and while it can at times provide a much-needed diversion, I usually want to divert my attention elsewhere – like the gym, a book, or my guitar.

    It’s all a matter of being a faithful steward of our time, like you talk about. I think it can often be easy to point to video games because it’s the extreme examples of kids who have online personas and do nothing but play hour after hour that are quite salient.

    It can be harder to see the example of the person who wastes their time aimlessly wandering about the internet or channel surfing, or watching every football game that comes on television because they “can’t” miss it.

    Good thoughts on a topic ripe for the picking.

  5. Adam Winters

    Owen,

    If you’re ever in the mood, consider this my personal invitation to come over to my Fuller Hall apartment for some video game fellowship. ;-)

    Some people believe in social drinking. I believe in social gaming.

  6. noneuclidean

    So Owen, where can we hear some of this Hip-Hop of yours that was mentioned on the show? It sounds like we have some similar views on Christian music, and we both apparently make hip-hop music, so I’d love to hear what you do. Here’s where you can hear me:
    http://www.myspace.com/soberminded

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