Happy Mother’s Day week! In one of the columns below, you will find a sneak preview to this Sunday’s special celebration of Mom’s Day.
But first I want to deal with America’s video gaming obsession. Here’s my brief history of gaming: In my childhood we played a game of tossing pennies or dimes against a wall, and the closest to the wall won the coins. Then we graduated to playing caroms (a board game with pieces that you shoot around a maze); and finally, we made it to pinball games. In the Rock Opera “Tommy,” a famous song was “Pinball Wizard,” which celebrated this obsession. When Leanna and I were on our honeymoon, we played the very first video game, Pong. Then along came Pacman. I thought I was getting good at it until an elementary aged girl whipped me in a public place. How did she get so good?
When I was on a mission trip to Paraguay in about 1996, one night I couldn’t sleep so my host set me up with a computer game called “Civilization.” I was at it for the next several hours! I almost conquered the world! I decided never to get the game because it would eat up too much time. Since then I dabbled in some video sports games, but that’s about it. I am not a video gamer.
However, many are. The numbers for the over $100 billion video game industry are astonishing:
- At least 155 million Americans play video games.
- 40% play a minimum of 3 hours per week.
- At least 34 million play about 22 hours per week.
- Five million surpass 40 hours weekly.
- The revenues collected by the industry rivals that of professional sports, motion pictures, and television!
Why have video games become America’s latest obsession? In the New York Magazine, writer Frank Guan examined the gaming craze and offers some possible reasons behind the passion:
- Intelligibility: The “games make sense.” The rules are clear to all. According to Guan, “The purpose of a game, within it, unlike in society, is directly recognized and never discounted.
- Participation: You are always the good protagonist. You are the main character, and the game revolves around you. “Unlike with film and television, where one has to watch the acts of others, in games, one is an agent within it.”
- Convenience: The gamer never has “to leave the house to compete, explore, commune, exercise agency, or be happy, and the game possesses the potential to let one do all of these at once.”
- Accomplishment: While the game might certainly be challenging, “in another sense it is literally designed for a player to succeed.”
- Escape from Reality: Here’s what Guan says about the escapist nature of video games: “[They] solve the question of meaning in a world where transcendent values have vanished … We turn to games when real life fails us—not merely in touristic fashion but closer to the case of emigrants, fleeing a home that has no place for them … . Life is terrifying; why not, then, live through what you already know?”
Everyone needs a break from the stress of life. Video gaming is no sin, and it can be perhaps cathartic if it doesn’t become an obsession. The good news for followers of Jesus is that while transcendent values may have vanished in our culture, not so in our lives. We embrace the transcendent values of God’s word. This is why at Crosswalk our mission is to passionately demonstrate the love of Jesus by pursuing truth. The psalmist prayed:
Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.
– Psalm 119:111 (ESV)
Keeping life in perspective,