Electronic games are more than just high-tech entertainment. True, they challenge your skill and help keep boredom at bay. But they do more. Electronic games can sharpen your reflexes, and studies indict that playing these games improves visual attention. Some of them may even enhance your math and reading skills. Besides, the latest electronic game is likely to be the topic of schoolyard conversation. If you’ve played the game, you have some thing to talk about with your peers.
Of course, it’s up to your parents whether you’re allowed to play electronic games. (Colossians 3:20) If they permit you do so, you should be able to find a game that is both exciting and morally acceptable. Why, though, do you need to be especially cautious?
Sixteen-year-old Brian says, “Computer games are exciting and cool.” But as you likely already know, not all games, are harmless. Brian admits, “You get to do things in the game that you would never actually do in real life-not without getting into serious trouble, that is.” What type of behavior do the games encourage?
Many games blatantly promote immorality, profanity, and violence-all condemned by the Bible. (Psalm 11:5; Galatians 5:19-21; Colossians 3:8) Some games glorify occult practices. Adrian, 18, describes one popular game as featuring “gang wars, drug use, explicit sexual content, foul language, intense violence, blood, and gore.” And each new release seems to make previous games look tame in comparison. James, 19, says that the most popular of these games can be played live on the Internet. This ability takes gaming to a whole new level. “From your home computer,” says James, “you can challenge people who live on the other side of the world.”
Role-playing games have become hugely popular. In these, participants create online characters-whether human, animal, or a blend of both-that inhabit a computer generated world populated by thousands of other players. This online world contains shops, cars, homes, dance clubs, brothels-in essence, it is a replica of the real world. The players in these games are able to instant message one another as their computer-generated characters, called avatars, interact.
What goes on in those virtual worlds? “Ordinary people indulge in activities they never would, or could, do in real life,” says one journalist. He adds: “Sex is commonplace, as is prostitution.” Just by pressing a few buttons, the players can make their avatars engage in sex acts while the real-world participants talk about sex via instant messaging. In addition, those worlds are “full of virtual crimes, Mafia men, pimps, extortionists, counterfeiters and assassins,” says the journal New Scientist. Another magazine reports that “critics have raised concerns about activities that would be illegal in the real world, such as the brothel that features rape fantasies, or people who indulge in sex acts using avatars that resemble children.”
Those who play those violent or sexually graphic games may say: “No harm done. It’s not real. It’s just a game.” But don’t be fooled by such false reasoning!
The Bible says: “Even by his practices a boy makes himself recognised as to whether his activity is pure and upright.” (Proverbs 20: 11) If you make it a practice to play violent, immoral electronic games, could you be described as being pure and upright in mind? Studies repeatedly show that watching violent entertainment increases aggression in those who view it. New Scientist recently stated: “The interactive nature of video games means they have a stronger effect than TV”
Choosing to play violent or immoral games is like choosing to play with radioactive waste the damaging effects may not be immediately obvious, but they are inevitable. In what way? Exposure to high doses of radiation can destroy the lining of the stomach and allow bacteria from the intestines to invade the bloodstream, resulting in sickness. Similarly, exposure to graphic sex and hideous violence can damage your “moral sense” and allow fleshly desires to dominate your thinking and actions. Ephesians 4:19; Galatians 6:7,8.
If your parents allow you to play any electronic games, how can you know which to choose and how much time to devote to them? Ask yourself the following questions: The type of game you choose can affect the way God feels about you. “Jehovah himself examines the righteous one as well as the wicked one, and anyone loving violence His soul certainly hates,” states Psalm 11:5. Regarding those who engage in occult practices, God’s Word says: “Everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 18: 10-12) If we want to be friends of God, we need to follow the advice at Psalm 97: 10: “You lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad.”
Ask yourself, ‘Will playing this game make it easier or harder for me to “flee from fornication?” (l Corinthians 6: 18) Games that expose you to sexually arousing images or conversations will not help you to keep your mind on things that are righteous, chaste, and virtuous. (Philippians 4:8) Amy, 22, says: “Many games desensitize you to things like violence, foul language, and immorality and can cause you to let down your guard in other aspects of life. You have to be very careful what you choose to play.”
Deborah, 18, says: “I don’t think all computer games are bad. But they can be very time-consuming, almost addictive.” Even the most innocent electronic games can consume a lot of time. So keep a log of how much time you spend gaming and then compare that with the amount of time you spend in other more essential activities. Doing so will help you to keep your priorities in order. Ephesians 5:15,16.
The Bible does not require that you spend your whole life studying or working. It reminds all of us that there is “a time to laugh … and a time to skip about.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4) It is worth noting that the expression “to skip about” implies not only play but also physical activity. So why not use some of your free time to play games that involve physical activity instead of limiting yourself to sitting in front of a computer screen?
Without a doubt, playing electronic games can be fun, especially if you get good at it. And herein lies the very reason for you to choose your games wisely. Ask yourself, ‘What subjects do I do best in at school?’ Aren’t they usually the ones that you enjoy? In fact, it often follows that the more you enjoy a subject, the greater the impression it makes on you. Now ask yourself: ‘What electronic game do I enjoy the most? What moral lessons is this game teaching me?”
As a guide, why not write a brief review of each of the games you want to play, outlining the goal of the game and the methods used to achieve that goal? Compare your review with the Bible principles mentioned in this article, and then determine if the game is suitable.
Rather than playing a game just because your peers play it, have the strength to make your own informed choice. Most important of all, apply the Bible’s advice: “Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.” -Ephesians 5: 10.