Can Gamers Go To Heaven?

Following the example of a young saint's uncommon devotion to Christ

Stop me if you’ve ever felt something like this before: You’re in line at Gamestop waiting for a new video game or console. You and your friends are excited this game is finally out. Maybe it was for a new Call of Duty game, or you wanted to get a Nintendo Switch. Suddenly, you notice a homeless person in the parking lot outside begging for money, and you realize this person has no home to go back to or someone to care for him. You’re paying hundreds of dollars for a video game while other people are starving on the streets.

It is easy in a first-world country to live one’s life obliviously. So much of what we live on day-to-day is provided for us. Food is easily accessible, pain can be fixed with a pill or a quick doctor’s appointment, and millions of hours of entertainment are available for free on the Internet. We live in the richest time in human history, where material conditions have never been better.

Yet, Christians often feel a nagging sense these privileges are unhealthy. There’s a base level of inequality in our fortunes, as people just down the road from us often don’t share in them. It can create a sense of cognitive dissonance in the hearts of Christians to realize the things they enjoy are meaningless distractions that drain us spiritually. We weigh the cost of these actions in our minds, knowing every hour playing Xbox is an hour that could’ve been spent at the gym or volunteering at a soup pantry. There is an underlying sense of guilt we ought to be doing more.

So this raises an interesting question — is it a spiritually good thing to be a gamer? Is it good for my spiritual growth and health to buy a $500 video game console and spend hundreds of hours playing it when life is short and the fate of one’s eternal soul is on the line?

Many people say no to questions like this and embrace a life of strict religious observance as an antidote to their desires. They cut out things like movies, fiction, dancing, alcohol, or other frivolous activities from their lives entirely and dedicate every aspect of their lives to hard work, complete sobriety, and religious observance. Colloquially, we call these people Puritans. However, most people don’t feel called to such a life of total deprivation.

But what if I told you we know for a fact that a gamer has gone to heaven? What if a millennial video game player is currently being considered for sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church? What if we don’t need to feel guilty for enjoying video games?

The Life Of The Blessed Carlo Acutis

The late Carlo Acutis is a figure of growing importance among contemporary Roman Catholics. Born in 1991, his family moved to Italy shortly after he was born in England. Acutis lived a normal European millennial life and indulged in normal activities like sports and video games. What made him unusual was his surprising spiritual sensitivity by the standards of a child. He was considered very friendly and obedient as an infant and leaned obsessively into his Catholic faith as a child.

Acutis had a particular fascination with Communion, having partaken in the sacrament of the Eucharist at the young age of seven and regarded it as one of his highest priorities in life. He would attend confession every week and take communion as frequently as possible, calling it his “highway to heaven.” His passion was so intense that he would spend nearly three years building and launching a website dedicated to cataloging eucharistic miracles to spread his faith to a younger, internet-savvy audience.

Unfortunately, Acutis was not long for this world. On October 1, 2006, he sought out a doctor after waking up with an inflamed throat. He died less than two weeks later on October 12 at the age of 15 from advanced leukemia.

Following his death, a cult began to form around him that slowly paved the way for him to likely be canonized as a Roman Catholic Saint in the future. On November 14, 2019, the Vatican announced a miracle had been attributed to Acutis in Brazil, where a terminal four-year-old with a malformed pancreas was miraculously fully healed after his mother venerated one of Acutis’s relics. He was declared venerable and beatified on October 10, 2020, by Pope Francis as part of the Vatican’s ongoing Eucharistic Revival.

Carlos Acutis’s relics are rather unique by Catholic standards, given that among his holy objects that have toured the world and been venerated are his gaming PC and controller. If he is fully canonized, he will likely be considered the Patron Saint of Gamers and the Internet.

Living The Life Of A Holy Gamer

The life of Carlo Acutis creates curious and frustrating questions for Christians who are not Roman Catholic. His declaration of potential sainthood, the attribution of miracles to his name, and theology of reverence for the communion of saints are things Evangelicals and Protestants are going to be reasonably uncomfortable with. I’m not here to say anyone needs to immediately start praying to him for miracles or to convert to Roman Catholicism.

What I do think is the life of Carlo Acutis does deserve moral consideration. He was, clearly, a highly devoted and faithful young man in his short life. He was a normal boy who engaged in normal activities, including teenage sports, movies, and video games. He was famous for overindulging on Nutella and enjoyed sweets.

What set him apart was that he knew appropriately when he needed to sideline those desires. When he was forced to choose between an act of charity and indulging his passions, he chose charity. He reportedly knew the importance of limiting excessive video game consumption, while still considering it an important part of his life and identity. He loved Halo and Pokemon while understanding there were things more important. More importantly, he used his unique position as a young millennial to dedicate his life to a unique online ministry.

“I truly believe that part of God’s mission for Carlo was to be a role model for the technology-lovers. He used the internet, but only for good and to spread word about Eucharistic miracles. He loved his console(s) but made sure not to spend too much time gaming. And most importantly, he had a profound love for Christ and made his will the centerpiece of his life.”

– Catholic Game Reviews

In this season of Lent, it is always easy to dismiss fasting as a burden or some sort of ancient superstition. However, life comes in waves of celebration and trial. Fasting is an important part of the Christian life because it teaches us to choose deprivation as a spiritual principle and temporarily remove parts of our lives that stifle our daily spiritual lives. It teaches us to be thankful for the days of feasting and celebration and gives us a hierarchical sense of how to approach our daily lives.

As Easter approaches, try taking time to contemplate how your life is organized. Few people are called to live in strict poverty like monks and nuns. Most of us need to live mundane lives for society to function. But we can meditate and reflect on our daily lives and consider the small ways in which we need to direct our energies better. We can celebrate life and enjoy simple things like video games, but we need to be able to put them down in the more important moments. Most importantly, we need to know which of those moments is which. In doing so, we can learn to better use our unique talents and passions for Christ’s kingdom, while still enjoying the fun of the things we enjoy.

Tyler Hummel

Tyler Hummel is a Nashville-based freelance journalist, a College Fix Fellow, and a member of the Music City Film Critics Association. He has contributed to Geeks Under Grace, The Living Church, North American Anglican, Baptist News Global, The Tennessee Register, Angelus News, The Dispatch, Voeglin View, Hollywood in Toto, Law and Liberty, The Federalist, Main Street Nashville, Leaders Media, and the Catholic Herald of Milwaukee.

2 Comments

  1. Matt on March 12, 2024 at 7:19 pm

    Wow what a beautiful article! Blessed Carlo Acutis intercede for us!!!

  2. Wesley Lantz on March 4, 2024 at 11:28 am

    Okay, not going to lie, I went into this article with real trepidation. I’ve always been disturbed by people that ask “Can *such and such*go to Heaven?” But what I got was a thoughtful, encouraging piece that nonetheless had a call to action. It didn’t feel like you were railing against the evils of society, but you were calling us to a more contemplative and faithful life WITHIN that society. Excellent work.

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