I used to play GTA3. It’s been a long time, but I have played it. In fact, it has been quite some time since I played any video games. (At what age do you think Eliza, now almost 2, or Liam, due in April, will be interested in enticing Dad to play video games with them?)
A couple weeks go I was talking with one of our youth here and the Grand Theft Auto game series came up. He assumed I knew what these games were but that I had never played them.
“Because a pastor wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, play those kinds of games,” he said.
I asked him why he said this, and he explained all the violence in the games. I asked him why it was ok for him to play them but not for me.
He didn’t have an answer.
I thought perhaps we might get to the point in the discussion that he would differentiate between the simulated violence in video games and actual violence in the real world, but he didn’t. He was, honestly, more concerned for my soul and thus for protecting me from the violence of video games.
I steered the discussion in this direction: I asked him to help me understand this set of premises
- you like playing violent video games
- you think they (violent video games) are bad, and
- you feel no guilt about playing them.
We have not reached any resolution on this discussion, but we have left it open. We will take it up again.
Not very far into our discussion of this topic, I was struck by the idea that I have likely played the same mental gymnastics with things other than video games. My conscince is no more naturally inclined to consistency than his is.
In case anyone reading this is on board with a wholesale critique of video games or some other technology or adolescent related issue, let me make this clear: we all (or at least most of us) have issues, behaviors, beliefs that we would not recommend to others – that we would fight to keep others from taking on, perhaps – that we have no intention of giving up ourselves. In some cases, we do not even feel guilt for doing or saying or thinking these things.
In other words, video games are not the issue. Conscience is the issue.
I believe more and more that in some cases conscience directs our behaviors but not always. Sometimes our conscience is directed, even formed, by behaviors we must choose against what feels innate.
To have the strength to do this, must of us need help. We need, and deserve, the help of a community with which we share a mutal intent to live better, to be better people.
I call this community church. Not Church, but church.