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.
You might also like
I’ve never been able to get into the Grey’s Anatomy, House, or other medical dramas. Not because I don’t think they’re objectively good shows, I’m sure they are, but I just could never deal with all of the…well, medical [...]
Some of my favorite characters have often been those who struggle with who they are meant to be and are either unwilling or reluctant to embrace the destiny that is thrust upon them. These characters are known as reluctant heroes, whom I believe [...]
When I was about seven or eight years old I had this “game” I would play where I’d close my eyes in my bedroom and walk my way down the hall, through our entertainment room, and past the basement stairs railing using only my fingers as my guide. My [...]