A girl I once knew sat on a park bench and cried as I tried to counsel her. I quickly reviewed the last 20 minutes of our conversation searching for a word or two that I had spoken which may have hurt her so deeply. I was angry with myself. “What had I said?” I know I can be a dolt sometimes, and I apologized to her profusely. Looking up at me, she smiled bravely. “No,” she reassured me, “rarely do you ever tell me what I want to hear, but you always tell me what I need to hear.” I have always admired her for recognizing the distinction.
That is the openness required as we consider the worth of playing video games. I have talked with many men, young and not so young, about this activity. I have convinced them to give up a multitude of vices, but all hell breaks loose if I suggest it better for a man not to play video games.
Why is it detrimental to play video games? The editor of this site asked me to provide scientific or verifiable proof that video games negatively influences boys and men – intellectually, socially, and spiritually. Quite frankly, that would not be hard to do. There are many. However, I readily admit that a quick Google search would provide just as many studies (many backed by gaming companies) that assert the innocuousness of the games.
Even so, I believe there is a much more important reason to unplug the gaming console.
First, playing video games, sometimes for hours, is detrimental to a man because, quite frankly, men are made for much more. Put simply, we are called by God to greatness. By greatness, I mean that we have but a few short years, in the grand scheme, to accomplish great feats of heroic and selfless service for our families, for our country, and for our Church. When we consider that we are to be heroic (and I understand, nobody talks this way anymore) we simply do not have time for valueless activities like playing video games.
Yes, of course, games can be entertaining and a source of relaxation. Companies have addressed criticisms and made games more physical or even, via the Internet, more social. However, and I have heard the rebuttal, as men, we know we must live intentionally. Men should instinctively know that life is to be lived in such a manner that the thought of, literally, throwing away valuable time on such activity would never cross his mind.
Two things for you to consider:
I) Before you stop to play video games, make a point to consider alternative activities which will contribute to your excellence as a man! For example: Have you ever backpacked the Appalachian Trail or the Great Continental Divide Trail? Learned a foreign language or a musical instrument? Competed in a sport? Have you ever gone fishing in a remote lake in Canada that can only be accessed by a pontoon plane? Have you mastered basic auto mechanics and learned to change your own oil, etc.? Have you walked the battlefields of Gettysburg, Shiloh, Chickamauga, Little Bighorn, Yorktown, among others? Have you worked, earned some money, and backpacked across Europe or Asia? Worked with the Missionaries of Charity to serve the poor? Joined the Knights of Columbus or other Catholic men’s organizations? Have you visited the patients of your local nursing home or grandparents and spent time with them (the elderly have much they can teach you!)? Have you been trained in firearms or gone hunting? Have you read Dostoevsky, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Tolstoy or other amazing authors? Have you ridden your bike to California or to Washington, DC? Formed a fraternity of your peers to be mutually challenged for greater personal excellence? Sought an advanced education degree? Have you dedicated time to the gym to take off weight or add muscle?
Why would a man squander youth or valuable time when there is so much to experience and so many to serve? The guiding necessity that drives all men is the answer to the question, “Do I have what it takes?” Men must be intentional and use formational experiences like those above to build confidence and find an answer to that question. A man is simply emasculated when he lacks these fundamental experiences.
II) Think about another example: Although the economy seems to be improving (at least on paper), there is an extremely competitive job market in which to compete. If you were an employer and you were interviewing candidates for a higher paying job or a worthwhile promotion that is both exciting and pays well, would you hire a man who has been working on the above list or one that has been playing video games? A game designer recently reported that, on average, 21-year-olds have spent 10,000 hours playing video games. That is 833 12-hour days! Which man would you hire?
I do not intend to sound judgmental. I only ask that we think about all of this, and much more. We are only given a small amount of time (truly) to live and we must use the time we are given wisely. The fact is, there is not one of us who does not have some important work to accomplish. We all have so much life to live. We have tasks reserved to us personally by God.
Again, when I see phenomenal young men who have squandered their lives playing video games, smoking pot, drinking, addicted to porn, having pre-marital sex, etc., I always think to myself, “This man was made for so much more.” Sometimes, I think to waste a life in such a manner is most sinful.
If you are an avid game player, I ask that you give this some consideration. We need you to stand shoulder to shoulder with other good men and work to make a difference in this world. I am very much aware that this could mean you must break ties to friends who may find this blog post completely and utterly ridiculous. But let us look at this in another way. Consider the dark character Wormtongue in the Lord of the Rings. The sycophant sat strategically close the Theodon, King of Rohan, and whispered debilitating nonsense into his ear. At a time when his kingdom needed him the most, he was addicted to the incapacitating voice of a traitor and was made devoid of the power to act. It took the blow of Gandalf’s staff to break the spell and set the king free. It is much the same. Video games distract us from what is real and all that must be done. I humbly pray that, perhaps, this blog post will be the push you need to overcome the spell and allow you to reclaim the man that God has destined you to become.
Unplug the machine!
This article was originally published on ThoseCatholicMen.com. Reprinted with permission.
Fr. Brian Doerr is a co-founder of thosecatholicmen.com. He is a priest of the Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana, where he served as Vocation Director for eleven years. He currently serves as Vice-Rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Fr. Doerr has worked with Catholic men and youth throughout his priesthood, founding a successful high school fraternity for young men that assists members to pursue virtue and mature into good Catholic men. He is an expert on mentoring and has a passion for restoring a sense of nobility to manhood in the Church as well as society at large.