Video Games, Your Conscience and the church

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

  1. you like playing violent video games
  2. you think they (violent video games) are bad, and
  3. 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.

Published by Steve Heyduck

I am a United Methodist pastor, currently appointed as Pastor of OvillaUnited Methodist Church in Ovilla, Texas. I am also the husband of Rachel and father of 3 - Robbie, Eliza, and Liam. I am an ardent nonconstantian and a postmodern Christian. (I am also happy to talk with you about what these things mean to me)

6 thoughts on “Video Games, Your Conscience and the church

  1. The focus of GTA is on illegal activities vs. traditional hero roles of other games. The violence is more realistic, and the main character can commit crimes/violent acts but suffer only temporary consequences. This includes the killing of policemen, various military as well as prostitutes, (after paying to be serviced by them). Each new version has added something controversial: fighting in gang wars, drunk driving, drug dealing, nudity, etc.

    There are numerous Bible verses that I could list, but I’ll only list 2. I know that you know these Steve, but I’ll save you the time looking them up. ;o)

    Philippians 4:8 NIV
    Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things

    1 Thessalonians 5:22 NLT
    Keep away from every kind of evil.

    Keep On Serving Our King! >

    1. There is no denying that most of what such games are about is unredeeming. At the same time, I think there is less correlation between tellinf kids not to play them and kids finding more redeeming entertainment than there is between the violence in videogamea and that in real life.

  2. The violence in the GTA series is extensive, but not a whole lot worse than what I remember from Tom & Jerry cartoons. From time to time I have thought that perhaps the violence in movies and videogames should be MORE horrific (and therefore less attractive). Of course, there is the question of desensitization. I don’t have the answer, but I applaud you for thinking about it at the right time (i.e., now).

    Certain games have always involved “killing” of one sort or another; presumably, the pieces on a chessboard are meant to represent real people with homes and families. Whether a game is good or evil depends, in my opinion, on the thoughts and motives of the person who is playing it. If someone needs an outlet for angry or violent feelings, and chooses to play a violent game because they wish to release these feelings but avoid taking it out on real people (and I would argue that 99% of gamers fit this category), then I think that’s fine. If, on the other hand, a budding psychopath is using the game to rehearse or fantasize about hurting people, that’s clearly not okay.

    These games are intended for people old enough to know which parts of the game are intended as satire (essentially all of the GTA games), and ostensibly old enough to make responsible choices about their own entertainment.

    Getting back to the main point of your post, I have recommended that people make different choices than ones I have made, but only to try to help them avoid my mistakes. There are even some current habits and behaviors of mine that I would counsel people against, but not because I hold myself to a different standard – I’m working on them too.

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