Why Do We Game? – One Man’s Perspective

Written by Anthony Riopel, GUG Contributor, with editing assistance from Marko Ladan

This article was edited to Geeks Under Grace standards, and the personal opinions of this author are not necessarily that of Geeks Under Grace.

A blue and purple Xbox controller
Why do we game?

Throughout my life, I have been captivated by video games. In my late teens, I remember hearing the opening song to Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and it brought me back to when I sat before a TV at the age of five wondering how the heck to use an N64 controller while my dad was away at work. I never got out of Kokiri Forest that day, but I knew at that moment I wanted to explore and know more.

In the fifth grade, I spent more time playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 than I did breathing. I jumped from console to PC, from single-player to multiplayer, and from new to retro. Needless to say, I have a great deal of time playing video games under my belt. More importantly, I have a deep appreciation for many of the games I’ve played.

Yet, at one point — about a year ago — I stopped playing. As I grew deeper in my Catholic faith, I started to value my time differently. It was my first time moving out of my parent’s house, and I found what I desired so much from games could be more beautifully and naturally fulfilled in the world itself. I started teaching myself guitar, exploring new trails, and seeing new faces. I am not knocking those who do play or saying I am better than them; I’m only speaking from the standpoint of personal revelation.

This is why I wanted to take a deep dive into the question, “why do we play games?”

Here are a few answers I gathered from friends:

Video Games Are Fun

We long for adventure, excitement, and exploration. Video games offer that. What they do is scratch that itch. In the game, I’m a warrior. I kill, destroy, and conquer. I can see that with my very eyes. It’s instant and rewarding. 

Video Games Allow Me To Socialize

A countless number of my friends, including myself, can speak of the many hours we spent together online or side-by-side playing video games. They can bring people together. One person told me, “I met some of my best friends through games.”

Video Games Allow Me To Escape

Video games allow us to step foot into a reality other than our own. It gives us the ability to control something other than ourselves. They provide an opportunity to enter into and live out a story.

Okay. Article over. Question answered…right?

Earlier I mentioned I stopped playing video games. Why?

If video games are fun and enjoyable, then why stop?

At some point, I got into a pattern of gaming where I was constantly looking for the next best thing. I would play a game, beat it, not be satisfied, and start looking for another. Something had to change, and it wasn’t the game I was playing. It was how I was playing it.

Two men play video games with headsets on
We love doing it with our friends, and the challenges that come with it.

How Should We Play Games? 

Let’s start by understanding where we are at. I want to preface this by saying I’m speaking from the male perspective, although I know there are many women out there who also love to game.

Dr. Jonathan Reyes hits home on the differences between boyhood and manhood in his Impact the World as a Disciple SEEK 2019 Men’s Session. To paraphrase, he asks: what does a boy do? A boy searches for fun, something that provides immediate satisfaction. A man searches for his duty, his call to serve. A boy wants to know if he is liked; a man wants to be respected. A boy wants comfort; a man wants to do good no matter how difficult.

Many of these desires are oftentimes seemingly fulfilled through video games in ways of good performance and overcoming challenges. I remember when my friend was surviving wave after wave in some of the most dangerous parts of a building in Call of Duty Zombies. I thought he was a legend, and I wanted to imitate that.

I’ve watched hours of Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege top players practice over and over again to master their skills. We’re striving for perfection, gentlemen – we seek greatness. We love doing it with our friends, and the challenges that come with it.

Our natural drive for exploration, discovering the unknown, and taking risks are all good. We see this carried out in our favorite characters in games such as God of War, Assassin’s Creed, Spider-Man, and Halo. These heroes persevere through struggle and overwhelming opposition only to come out on top. We resonate with them because we have that fight within us too. It’s the process of overcoming challenges and facing adversity – despite the odds. When speaking on courage, G. K. Chesterton says, “[A man]…can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it.”

Returning to the question “how should we play games,” we must look inward at ourselves. I know people who work all day – some with families – who come home at night and unwind by playing video games with friends. This is their way of socializing, relaxing, and having fun. I also know other people who game from dusk ‘till dawn. Many kids in middle school and high school come home and sink their teeth into games until the bus arrives the next morning. It’s a learning process, and for our generation, it’s one that is experimental because we are the guinea pigs of this new age of gaming. 

So how can we ensure we game smarter, and in a way that’s enriching rather than destructive to our well-being? Here are some of my suggestions:

Playing Time

If we are to be intentional in all we do, meaning setting time aside to work as well as rest, then we should be intentional with how much we are playing. Consider treating a game the way you would a good book, personal project, or meal. Take your time. Be satisfied with a little, and watch how the story unfolds. Do not be afraid to take breaks. If you play more than most people, then consider taking a long breather. Try putting the controller down for a day, a week even. You’ll begin to notice how that game affects and sits with you when you look at it from a distance.

Couch Co-Op Vs. Online Co-Op

If you are a gamer, you know exactly what I am talking about. How many times have you heard from a friend how they miss the good ol’ days of sitting with their buddy playing games together? Face-to-face gaming is better for building relationships than playing online. You actually get to spend time with the person you call your friend. You see them, hear their voice – not through a headset – and are able to greet them with a hug. It is more than just playing games at that point. 

Online video games are at the top of the list for the falling out of true male friendship. Friendship that demands a mixture of vulnerability, honesty, and laughter is not seemingly fulfilled over a few matches of team deathmatch. We cannot pretend this form of communication is authentic – no matter how consistent – when the only grounds for two people coming together is through the means of a video game. After all, when was the last time you two got lunch? Went on a drive? Sat around a fire?

The question is personal to you. You have to decide how you should game according to what you value.

A dimly lit PlayStation controller
Game developers create these games, but usually do not tell you how to go about playing them. They leave it up to you.

What to Keep in Mind

Please keep in mind many games these days are designed for you to pour hours of your life into them in exchange for no real fulfillment. The act of gaming ceases to become “rest” or “relaxation” when it’s accompanied by a reckless abandonment of reality. Never mind if you’re drinking or smoking while playing, which is not uncommon. Game developers create these games, but usually do not tell you how to go about playing them. They leave it up to you. 

Because of this, we have to be on guard with how we approach games that demand our time. I could nitpick every game and genre, but the short answer is this: consider whether or not it would be good for you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to gradually leave gaming behind, or at least dedicate fewer hours of your life to it. If that pokes you in a sore spot, then please hear me out. If we want to set an example of what healthy gaming looks like, then we have to change our perspective. We don’t have to be slaves to the industry.

There is not a day that goes by when I don’t think about games. I listen to video game soundtracks on long car rides and while studying, and frankly, it still feels like I’m there. Christ knows our hearts, and he knows what we want before we even ask it. Jesus knows these games are special to me, and just because I do not play them anymore does not mean they aren’t still a part of me. Gaming gave me a glimpse of what the real battle looks like. That feeling of acing (taking out the entire enemy team) to win the game is but a sliver compared to what God has planned for you in real life.

I didn’t just wake up one morning and stop playing. It was a gradual process — almost like learning a new language. As with all things, God prepares us for that next big step. He doesn’t just throw us out in the sun to be burned. That next big step for me was moving out, finishing my bachelor’s degree, and most importantly, giving my full yes to Christ. These days I enjoy watching my friends play more than I do myself. But even then, it wasn’t long ago that my roommate and I switched off playing the Resident Evil 2 remake. Those nights were intentional and enjoyable, and I would do it again. 

I often look to the mountains in Western Massachusetts and reflect on the beautiful landscapes of Breath of the Wild and Red Dead Redemption. How I long to be a cowboy. To explore and dive into the mystery God has planned for me. The mystery of my heart, and who I am. I gamed so much because it was all I knew at the time. I didn’t know there was something better until I went searching for it.

“What do you seek?” (John 1:38, RSV)

About the Author

Anthony Riopel is currently finishing a Business Management degree at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. After graduation, he hopes to pursue full-time mission work with Fellowship Of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). He loves talking about all things video games and enjoys keeping up to date with the video game industry.

He can be found with the following tags:

  • Steam: riopel521
  • PSN: Icey1233
  • XBOX: TBMC x SUB
  • Ubisoft: Avocado.Wasabi
  • Nintendo: Riopel521
  • Youtube: Icey1233
  • Twitch: Icey1233
  • Speedrun.com: Icey1233

This article was edited to Geeks Under Grace standards, and the personal opinions of this author are not necessarily that of Geeks Under Grace.

Want to see your work on Geeks Under Grace? Apply to be a contributor today.

GUG Contributor

Leave a Reply