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.