Millennials are no strangers to videogame-playing, but does the Bible commend a Christian lifestyle characterized by “hardcore gaming”?
Like many other millennials, I grew up playing video games and have had plenty of experience with them across various platforms. What my generation calls “gaming” previously consumed a significant chunk of my time, money, and energy. To put that into perspective, I admit in the past to having logged over 30 days playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare over Xbox Live, and I started to do similarly with its direct sequel Modern Warfare 2. That could translate to sitting on the couch 24/7 for over thirty straight days playing the game. Don’t worry, I agree that it was a colossal waste of time.
I share that personal information because with this blog piece I wish to answer the question… “Can a Christian be a hardcore gamer?” And I believe I’m in a position to effectively do just that. What is a “hardcore gamer”? This is purely subjective, but I think a general definition of “hardcore gamer” is someone who spends an inordinate amount of his/her free time, energy, and money on playing video games. If you play 20 or more hours per week, spend $100 or more per month, and are wiped out due to playing several consecutive sessions of a game online…that’s considerably “hardcore”. The finer details are debatable, but chances are you know if you’re a hardcore gamer or not
I wouldn’t have written this had I not believed it is a serious issue for millennials who profess Jesus Christ. I do, and hope that what Christ has done to change my life in this very respect will serve as a challenge and encouragement to those who consider themselves “hardcore gamers”. Please don’t assume that I’m about to rant about how evil video games are, however. I actually believe there’s nothing wrong with Christians playing certain video games. But like any other secular entertainment, God calls us to approach with caution and discernment. Essentially, our conduct with video games should never resemble the world’s. That is, after all, a part of what it means to be “holy” (I Peter 1:16).
To bluntly answer the question I posed earlier, “can a Christian be a hardcore gamer?”, I would say yes. I think a Christian can be a hardcore gamer just as much as a Christian can sleep in ’til noon every day, never spend time with believers outside of scheduled church services, or only talk about work and sports in conversation. Christians can choose to do these things and never respond to the truth that they’re manifestations of failing to truly follow Jesus Christ. But, and to stay on topic, I actually think the more important question is, “Should a Christian be a hardcore gamer?” And to that I would offer a humble, resounding “No!”
And now I will gladly answer the question that is perhaps in your head, “Why not?”. Out of the many reasons that could be used to support my argument, below is a list of five that you should consider seriously. This isn’t a subject matter that should be handled carelessly.
Why should a Christian not be a hardcore gamer?…
Because video games in general…
1) are created by unbelievers for the entertainment of unbelievers. Video game developers never create their experiences with Christians in mind. They aren’t interested in encouraging those who follow Jesus Christ to love and good works, and the content of their products proves this all the time. Such video games are no different than the racy TV sitcoms and filthy movies that feature crude joking, immodesty, sexual rebellion, and so forth. Yet since unbelievers are entertained by all that, the unbelievers that create their video games include it as part of the content. There are games appropriate for Christians (those who star Nintendo’s flagship mascot Mario come to mind), but these are far and few in-between. If you’re reading, profess Christ, and play games like Grand Theft Auto, I implore you to stop now.
Scripture: Ephesians 5:11
Take-away: Christians must call out sinful video games for what they are, not play them!
2) require hours upon hours of your life in order to meet their various objectives. I think it is shameful that when believers you associate with are in need of encouragement and fellowship, or when so many lost souls exist, that Christians would have the audacity to exchange the time that could be used to be a blessing to those peoples in favor of reaching the next objective in the latest and greatest first-person shooter or MMORPG. (That’s “massively-multiplayer online role-playing game” for the uninformed.) Fellow Christians, it is imperative that we use our time for the Lord and His work, not for satisfying our selfish ambitions in fictional worlds. Make your life count, and fight for the kingdom that will actually exist! God wants spiritual, not secular soldiers. So, I strongly suggest avoiding games that eat the hours away, whatever they may be, altogether.
Scripture: Ephesians 5:15-16
Take-away: Christians must avoid having their time dominated by worldly pleasures (i.e. hardcore gaming)!
3) glorify grotesque violence, sexual immorality, profanity, and basically every other sin. If as a Christian your aim is to not speak profanely, have sex with someone other than your spouse, or brutally murder a fellow human being in real life, what makes it somehow acceptable to do so in a virtual environment? Interacting with pixels doesn’t all of a sudden make imitating sinful acts a matter of innocence. And don’t be fooled; such video games will influence your thinking. Listening to video game voice acting that drops every cuss word in the dictionary should not be thought of as fun or funny. Watching virtual video game characters engage in sexual acts (i.e. pornography) should not be thought of as fun or funny. Ripping virtual video game characters to shreds should not be thought of as fun or funny. Catching my drift?… Sadly, video games with all those things and more exist, and every Christian should avoid them.
Scripture: III John 11
Take-away: Christians must not imitate or observe sinful behavior in video games!
4) prevent you from engaging in real one-on-one relationships. Using voice chat while playing a video game online doesn’t count as a relationship. Feel free to disagree, but it’s just not. This is really a no-brainer. Investing time, energy, and money into a video game means that same time, energy, and money isn’t being used to develop a real, meaningful relationship with a believer or unbeliever. Again, I’m not suggesting that all video game playing is wasteful, but it very easily and quickly can be. Would Jesus Christ be pleased if the majority of your life was spent in front of a TV with controller in hand? Of course not. His commission is to go to the nations and make disciples of Him. How are you accomplishing that by racking up a meaningless reputation in an online game, or making it your life’s aim to be a video game completionist?
Scripture: John 13:35
Take-away: Christians must develop face-to-face relationships with other followers of Christ, and non-followers! Video games do not facilitate this!
5) are expensive. Most new video games release at $60 a pop. The platforms they’re played on (handheld or console) are usually $300-500 at launch. Controllers for consoles are typically $50-60 a pop. That isn’t monetarily insignificant. You’ll easily spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars if you insist on experiencing every AAA title at minimum. Do I really have to point out the foolishness of this? Instead of being a financial blessing to your church, to global missions, to your family, etc, why are you forking over cash that you spent hours earning to employees of video game developers and publishers that will never lift a finger to further the mission of Jesus Christ? Newsflash: God didn’t give you money to perpetually improve the financials of companies that pursue ungodly endeavors. Plus, don’t you think that such asking prices of these virtual experiences is altogether insane? How about that the same new game you just bought lost the majority of its value simply because you removed the factory shrink wrap? How ridiculous! You can have fun in much cheaper ways!
Scripture: I Corinthians 4:2
Take-away: Christians must not invest in worldly pleasures and endeavors that will be of no eternal value!
The Lord enabled me to make a very difficult decision along these lines only a few years ago. He used my wonderful wife in part to help make that happen. For years I loved spending many hours and dollars playing video games. I was a hardcore gamer. I loved the industry. I loved the competitive element. Thanks be to God, I’ve left all that behind. That’s not to say that I don’t love playing video games anymore; I do. It’s just limited now to my smartphone and/or tablet, at least on an individual basis. I’ve also enjoyed playing Super Mario Galaxy with my dear Christine. It’s also great that mobile gaming is a lot cheaper, and requires much less time to enjoy. But even then, I don’t spend much time engaging in it because I’m far too busy concentrating on other things of spiritual value. I also usually wait until games I’m interested in are heavily discounted in the Google Play Store before purchasing them. And in all this, I believe I’m glorifying Jesus Christ so much more, and doing so much more to obey Him and advance His kingdom. I don’t ever intend to return to the entertainment habits that once characterized my life for over a decade. Do I miss it? Sure. Do I sometimes want to return? You bet. Do I believe I’ve made the right decision that most honors the Lord? Absolutely!
I pray that you’ll think long and hard about this if you consider yourself to be a “hardcore gamer”. Are you willing to put the controller down, possibly away forever, if it would mean being a significantly more effective disciple of the Christ you claim? Or do you think it is OK to be a Christian and hardcore gamer at the same time? What do you think of my points? Just remember that in the end, regardless of what you do…it is all to be done for the glory of God.