Christianty’s Blind Eye

I remember going to a friends house about two years ago. It was just a time where we were going to sit down, relax, and play the new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare game that had just come out. It had been a while sense I had played video games. However, I had played an old version of Call of Duty in the past and was up for this new challenge. We played multiplayer mode. All of us were in a deserted town and our mission was to find and kill each other. It is not like I hadn’t done similar things like this before. I remember playing the game Donkey Kong 64 where we all were monkeys running around trying to knock each other out by shooting bananas at each other. I also was a huge fan of Super Smash Brothers, where you play as classic Nintendo video game characters and try to knock each other off the screen.

Unlike prier games however, when I began to play Call of Duty that night I was unusually taken back when I was shot for the first time. It was by a sniper. I got hit right through the head and I very accurately fell to the ground with blood pouring out of my characters head. “Yikes!!!”, I said to myself, “video games have gotten more realistic“.

I came back as my character a few seconds later. I was bound and determined not to get shot this time. I was determined to in fact hunt down and take out someone else. I remember hiding in a multistory building and scoping out one of my friends. I shot him strait through the head. He fell to the ground lifeless and just like my character a few minutes before blood was spilling out from his head. I felt stimulated. Even excited. I in fact felt happy that I had just KILLED A MAN… that is….a virtual replica of a man. After spending some time thinking about it later that night, the high I got from making my first kill frightened me.

We played for a few more hours and I got killed more then I was able to kill. Oddly enough we were listening to Christian music while playing. The more I played the more I felt turn. There was part of me that was really enjoying the “high” I got when finding and shooting my fellow friends. There was also a feeling deep down inside me that was saying, “this is not right”.

I can not say that I stopped playing violent video games after that night. I remember going back to the same friends house a few weeks later and playing Call of Duty and the video game Halo, which also involved a multiplayer mode where we tried to kill each other. I realized that I was not getting any fruit out of playing these video games but rather I was becoming numb towards violence in general. It wasn’t like most war movies I watched. I was not an observer, I could not make the judgment to whether I was okay or not with the killing I was seeing. There was no good reason to why we were killing each other and when we died we did not stay dead and face the consequence of what killing really does. A few seconds after being killed we would be revived and then set out to kill someone else. Also, I couldn’t help but feel the graphics of these games I was playing were adding to my “high” in a very bad way. The killings were physically very realistic, especially on the Call of Duty game. My character would react completely differently depending on how I was shot. If it was by a sniper the impact was clear and precise blood shooting out of the entrance wound and my character lifelessly falling to the ground. However, being shot with a shotgun would send my character flying, blood spattering everywhere.

After a few years of thinking about it I have come to the conclusion that violent video games are some of the worst things we can expose ourselves to. I have also found violent video games have become the drug that is somehow excepted by most of western Christianity.

I have often heard Christians complain about how lost this world is. About how the world needs to stop participating in things like drugs and pornography. However, mindless video games and violence is usually conveniently missed. It is the area where Christianity seems to have turned a blind eye.

It is hard for me to justify playing games in general now a days. They can be very addicting and time consuming. Most games I see people play do not involve much thought. Most video games actually seem to function the same way masturbating or drugs function. For most video gamers it is all about getting to the next “high“, we are never satisfied for very long it is all about getting to the next level. Graphics for video games seem to be working the same way. Just getting knocked out by bananas is not good enough anymore, we need the game to be more real and more stimulating.

Video game companies are working relentlessly at making the gaming experience more realistic. We now need to shoot someone and have the virtual person react just like a real person would react. Detail is everything. A virtual grenade needs to have the same impact a real grenade has. The more real the game feels the more worth we can give it. This is why games are giving us background stories these days. In some of the Call of Duty games for example we are given a past for our characters. We are role playing an imaginary character with kids and a wife back home. The war we are fighting is now patriotic. We now have an excuse to get a high off of killing someone because we are doing it for our imaginary loved ones back home.

We no longer need to go and interact with the real world. The virtual world is real enough. However, unlike real life we are allowed to feel more empowered with video games. Instead of feeling like everyone else, we can become the alpha. We can become a secret agent or a powerful warrior skilled in the art of killing.  And, the best part is the virtual world is void of consequence. We can make fun of and demean someone without worrying about that character knowing who we really are. We can beat someone and even murder him without being arrested or reprimanded in any way.

The problem is that when we pretend to kill each other for entertainment we begin to become numb to the real effects of violence. Just like any other drug video games can be and often are used as a wall to block us from seeing this world and even God clearly. And, just like drugs, video games are usually completely selfish-consuming things. When we become completely self-centered we are never satisfied. The reason why we need to beat the next level or move on to the next video game is because we are never really satisfied with our “high“.

Christianity must be willing to look at all evil, not just the evil we feel we are isolated from. As pleasing as a game like Call of Duty can be it does nothing to further ones faith in God. There is a suffering going on in this world which we have all but blocked out completely through this numbing drug we find in most video games. God wants us to interact with this world not escape to a fantasy land in order to avoid it. He wants us to be stopping the violence going on in this world, not be celebrating it.

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6 comments on “Christianty’s Blind Eye

  1. You know Jacob, normally I would probably disagree with you (and more so in the past), but I really actually agree that video games are completely unproductive and un-beneficial for the Christian. Even though I would agree from probably a different perspective, I still think that you make a valid case.
    Nice work 🙂

  2. Minnow says:

    An interesting point, I think I agree but I wonder if you can get your hands on any statistics or studies to help prove your theory. You mean accept not expect in one place but over all it was fairly well writen too.

  3. Ya I bet statistics would be pretty crazy. Also, you might think about writing something on just video games in general. You seem to focus on the violent ones, but are those any worse than ones that just make you lazy?

  4. Jacob says:

    Thank you guys for commenting.

    I chose not to go the statistics rout because I didn’t think I could find a stat on how it stops Christians from ministering. I do think I could have expressed some stats on how violent video games furthers ones aggression and how much of the general population is believed to be addicted to video games. Maybe I should have. The underline point was to give a personal look at how it stops us as Christians from perusing God.

    I am glad you think I make a valid case Calvin. I think we all have different perspectives on these kind of subjects. However, I think we can both agree that most video games do very little to further our walk in Christ. I personally believe violent video games particularly creates filters to how we view both the world and God.

  5. Jacob says:

    Violent video games particularly give us a “high” or sensation through the hurting or killing of others. That sensation I think is just as bad as any other kind of abusive drug. It is making us numb to the violence in this world. Violent video games gives us false ideas on what violence is.

    In my opinion getting highs through killing people in video games is no better then getting high through looking at pornography. Not only is looking at porn and playing violent video games lazy, they both numb you. They both give us a false idea on what the actual acts of sex and violence are. Because both sensations are in essence a lie, we are never satisfied. Everything is about getting to the next high. Before you know it we become okay with the constant violent and sexual abuse that is going on in front of us every day. In some ways we even support it.

  6. Edwin Herdman says:

    Hello there, nice blog.

    This entry caught my notice and I do think there is a sort of echo chamber issue with the treatment here…”Video games are bad,” says one, “I agree, they are bad,” says another. In the same way, one might find that a community of video gamers would treat the argument in a way that compartmentalizes away the issue. I cannot really give a fair treatment (or hope to) of the issue of violence in media, other than to say that it is a recognized facet of some popular media (remember all those action movies from the 1980s?) but it is not recognized to cause a problem.

    I would offer the notion that focused aggression and its release in a “play” setting is both a natural thing and a training tool (and I don’t mean a training tool in the sense that a sociopathic mass murderer intends, i.e. Harris and Klebold with DOOM), and perhaps in surprising ways.

    I would also offer the notion that trying to generalize the entire industry, via what is of course one of its most visible franchises, is problematic, as well.

    I have noticed that games have gotten more realistic. I am fortune, I suppose, to have “grown up” alongside the industry. When I was somewhat younger, we had 2D characters, and even as scary as DOOM was reputed to be, it was clear that there wasn’t much to be scared about. In 2002 a game called Morrowind was released, and I remember that one of the characters (a sort of demonic elf-like character that looked a bit like a short, pink, old man) looked rather silly. Fast forward about five years to the sequel to that game, Oblivion, and I noticed that it looked actually rather scary. It’s not so much that the intent has been to make things scarier – old text games can be pretty graphic if they so choose – but the visuals have gotten more convincing.

    The play aspect is pretty simple. You just have to keep in mind that the virtual Russians, or whoever you’re fighting, do not at all represent the real people. I keep a running critique of what I’m seeing and hearing in any game, including the 3D platformers like used to be the norm on the N64 and PlayStation. What are the stereotypes I am being sold, and why should I reject or accept them? In that sense, I see there’s equal opportunities for bad and good in the cutesy game that puts panda people in a Chinese setting with fake-Chinese accents, as in the game that has Russians invading the United States (thankfully both trends seem to have been on the wane).

    Most people do not give game designers credit – aside from the shock and awe part of marketing some games (which featured prominently in the controversy about the “unified Korean invasion of the U.S.” storyline of a recent title called Homefront, which I will not buy), many of them do think through the oddities that we see. Either they keep them in the game because they matter to the playability, or they remove them. Many of these people, I’ve found, are pretty smart and care about what their audience will see, at least a little.

    How do games offer training? Well, the most obvious routes are mental training. Not only 3D visual cognition – which is very helpful at night when you’re on the highway and starting to see things – but also memory. To be sure, some games do this better than others. This is still a developing area but pretty exciting to watch.

    Games also offer socialization skills. I quit the online FPS battle shooters a while back simply because I got sick of feeding into the sick egoism of some minority of the players who would now and then start up a fuss in order to just vent their frustration or to feel more in control. However, this is a valuable lesson in socialization and people need to learn how to deal with the prima donnas of the world (and no, the online shooting rarely “settles” anything; if it does, you are essentially on good terms already!). Games offer one of the opportunities of the modern world to see people from other groups and cultures attack (perhaps literally) the same problems you would, and to gain a respect from them. Buddies in war, I suppose you could say.

    But it doesn’t have to be warlike and it doesn’t have to be competitive.

    Recently I have found a greater sense of satisfaction and accomplishment through my serious tackling of nature photography and philosophy than I had with games. So far, “video games” don’t offer anything like this, so I wholeheartedly agree that there needs to be more in life than a virtual fair. But the concept of simply controlling a computer in a fun way (a “video game”) isn’t necessarily laden with all the problems and issues seen in the most visible titles. Some things to consider:

    “Paint chat” is a way for individuals to collaboratively draw pictures and watch the painting later. Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people use various paint chat applications each day, both for work and play.

    The Myst franchise – the creators of Myst released the first CD-ROM game back around 1993, called The Manhole – was a slightly more-adult version of that earlier game, which was a collection of funny scenes for kids to explore. Myst was a breakout title because it gave people puzzles to solve in ingenious and interesting environments, all tied together with a compelling story. The brothers who created Myst (one has left to do other things since) have been highly inspired by their family’s Christianity, and the themes continue to be seen in their games. The company, Cyan Worlds, has had difficulty staying relevant but they have been slowly working to a new release of Uru Live, which is essentially a Myst world in 3D where multiple people can play and socialize together – without the pressures of another Massively Multiplayer game like World of Warcraft.

    Those are just a couple examples. I see little different in games from in movies and traditional art installations except that “games” covers a broad spectrum that can include sculpture and can (and increasingly does) include movie aspects (though Roger Ebert might disagree). People come together – or, hopefully, learn to disagree respectfully – with games as a focal point. What our challenge is – as consumers, as political entities, as human beings – is to demand games that reveal something of the grace and beauty of the universe in a way that we can safely recognize and learn from. I may never debate Aristotle or visit the inside of a black hole – but wouldn’t it be nice, even helpful, if you could? At the same time, life is filled with absurdities and even the appearance of callousness – games can reflect that too, in a safe environment.

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