There was a time when telling me to stop playing video games would have equated to writing me a 40-page hate letter. I, among many men, loved the idea of taking control of a digital soldier, while breaking the 6th commandment with the R-trigger. Gaming has been defined as an addiction, more culturally acceptable than pornography or smoking.
But now I have taken ahold of this Lenten season to abstain from playing video games. I will ignore the call of duty, be absent from the battlefield, and will craft no mines. Before that fateful day, I was heavily playing Batman Arkham City, Sniper Elite V2, and Fist Puncher over Steam. On Playstation 3, I was commanding Sam Fisher to execute terrorists. On my cell phone, I was helping Lego Batman to defeat Brainiac, or winning a new pilot in Shooty Skies. Needless to say, I was so connected to games, I could build a gaming cocoon to live in if I wanted to.
I have always tried to get a good balance in my life. There is nothing sinful about playing games; you just need to be careful not to overdo it. That is also true. But this article is more a study of how I attach my heart to things and what I need to do to get over them. Here is what I want to accomplish while on this fast:
1) I want my identity to be Christ alone to the best of my ability. I don’t think I was hooked on games, but at the same time it was my go-to hobby and the thing I used to fill dead time. I don’t want God to have to wait for my hobby to end before he can get what is left of me.
2) I wanted to see what would happen if I gave up something with so much grab in my life. Would I wither away from boredom? Would I go back to the mistress on my knees? Would God honor my fight and give me an alternative, awesome project? I’ve fasted from video games before, but this time I am conscious that a closeness with God is the true aim.
Here is how I anticipate the 40 day exodus from games going:
Day 4: My right thumb starts getting the jitters.
Day 7: I keep checking the bathroom scale to see if I leveled up
Day 10: After eating my meals I check my health to see if it has replenished
Day 20: My new way to argue is to throw barrels at people
Day 39: I am now officially paying for everything in rings
It has only been a few days but here is what I have learned.
My Life is Boring
It doesn’t take a life coach to look at my life and realize that I have been living like a boring man. Some background information: my wife currently resides in Canada. We are waiting for her permanent residence to clear in the United States. It really stinks having your wife three-and-a-half hours away, but it is a reality we were both ready for (by ready I mean I cry nightly). But this opened up a new question: what do I do with my spare time when my better half is far away? The answer was to get lost in video games.
The problem with that last statement is that I don’t actually have an excuse for a boring life. I have a t-shirt company that I love to draw for, I am support-raising for a campus ministry job, and I have a book that I am waiting to get self-published. By all definitions, I am the Miles Davis of Geek cool. My love of video games was a reminder that I too easily go for the path of least resistance. There are a thousand ways I could be honoring God with art, writing, and ministering, but instead I am trying to help a plumber save a princess.
I Have A lot
I am rich by global standards. I am rich by American standards. I may not be the 1%, but 99% of me is able to get whatever I darn well please. It’s hard to see that you are richly blessed with electronics when you are knee deep in them. In some respects, the pursuit and excitement of getting a new toy is actually better than having one. I wish I could start a mailing service that sends me a new, stimulating electronic every month that dissolves a week later.
As I am writing this article, listing the games I was playing, I realized that I have so many opportunities to get distracted. But only a week ago I contemplated that it would be really nice if I had a Nintendo 3DS. Of course, you can’t just get a Nintendo 3DS; you need to get 5 games with it. And while you are picking up those 5 games, it might be nice to buy a Nintendo Wii U so you can invite friends over to play some of those games. But how can you play Wii U on such a small TV? I need a 42 inch HD 4K TV with 3D capability. The 3D is for any friends who come over that have young kids. Speaking of young kids, I need to buy more Wiimotes just in case the kids want motion control games.
IT’S NEVER GOING TO END! KILL THE BEAST!
Here’s the problem: God keeps knocking on my door with with this one plea. It happens to be in the Bible verse I use to justify playing games:
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Corinthians 6:12).
There’s a lot of fun things for us to do. Our eyes can look down sights, our ears can hear pew-pew sounds, and our hands can control assassins that live by a creed. I wish I could just stop there and end this conversation with, “and that is why it is okay to make a video game cocoon.” But the difficulty comes with the next verse: Not everything is beneficial. Be careful what hobbies you marry your identity with. They can be traps of distraction and obsession. I want us to be cautious when we call ourselves proud geeks or nerds. Does that identity win arguments with God? Does God get any say how in much of a geek you get to be?
Some people might read this and exclaim, “Asking me not to do the stuff I like is judgmental and that follows the law. I am a grace Christian and that means I can see rated-R movies/watch Anime/play first-person shooters/collect comic books.” But when this wonderful life ends, I want to answer the following questions with proper answers: “Did I let something small master me when something grander was within reach?” and “What did I do with my time?” All Christians have to answer this question, and it is not easy with all the distractions out there.
So, I am trusting in God’s John 10:10 promise of a full life and satisfied heart. These next 40 days won’t be easy, but nothing in this life should be. Maybe one of you will walk with me.
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