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.
It’s strange to have someone, on the one hand, contrast video games with the call to greatness and self-sacrifice, and on the other hand hold up counterexamples like … going fishing, bike-riding, and reading books. Really? I should stop playing certain types of games so I can play other types of games, because I’m called to greatness?
I’m a busy dad who doesn’t have much time for video games. The exception I make is games I can play with my kids, because spending time with my kids is important to me, and video games are fun for all ages. I get my kids outside for fun too. But I don’t have time to hike the appalachian trail or go fishing, or bike to DC, or many of the other things recommended.
Look, if you’re wasting your life playing video games an hour a day or more, you have a serious problem. But I don’t know if the video games per se are your problem. Going fishing every day would be just as much of a red flag, wouldn’t it? The main take-away seems to be that the author doesn’t like, understand, or relate to video games, so he advocates other forms of leisure. Lamesauce!
I think he’s mainly addressing young, unmarried men here, as they are the ones who can be really addicted. (As in, playing games for 36 hours on a weekend addicted.) I’m a father, too, and I will probably get a console or something when my boys are old enough, if only to lure them into doing something fun with Dad. I also play the occasional casual game in the office during the sleepy time of day (2-3pm). I’m guessing that these are not the kinds of activities that have the good Father concerned. But maybe I’m wrong.
That may be the issue he’s addressing, but he didn’t actually address the issue. Spending 36 hours a week every week on basketball or marksmanship or any of the other things he listed would be an equal waste of time.
He attacked the artform itself as a waste of time, and implied that it had zero intrinsic value. That is petty, close-minded, and dumb.
How are video games any more of a waste of time than any of the activities you listed? Particular sports and other competitive activities.
Video games are art. Perhaps not yet high art (though with some titles, like Journey, Braid, and Monument Valley, that’s at least becoming debatable), but it’s also a nascent form of art that is rapidly evolving, and simply wasn’t possible 40 years ago.
It’s foolish to spend 40 hours a week playing video games, unless you are a pro and make money doing it. And yes, professional video gamers are a thing. I’m not nearly capable enough to be in this group. I’d say the same about many other activities you listed. As a father of two young girls, I spend incredibly little time on video games — averaging 1-2 hours a week, and most of that is playing chess online with friends. And yes, online chess is a video game.
Also, keep in mind, that I pursued my profession, software development, because of an early interest in technology stirred by video games. I decided, when I was 12, that I wanted to write software for a living, because of one particular game that was released in the US that year: Final Fantasy. Though the graphics and sound were crude by the standards of the day, and the dialog was compressed in the Japanese-to-English translation, it communicated a larger sense of depth and history of a world that felt lived in, which I had only previously experienced reading Tolkien and watching Star Wars at that young age. I knew it was a new, expansive medium that I felt I had something to contribute to. That game also lead me to seek out older forms of art and music, because it drew so much from them. I don’t think I’d love Haydn, Mozart, Palestrina if it weren’t first for Nobuo Uematsu. Frankly, I don’t think I’d have fallen in love with the old mass if it weren’t for my love of classical music and art.
I honestly believe that the path back to the Church for many people will be through a timeless notion of beauty, assuming the hierarchy at some point stops being ashamed of our cultural heritage. Many people today are only experiencing authentic beauty in contemporary art. Popular music distances itself from the ages. A lot of cinema and video games, however, do not.
I wish I COULD earn a living playing Bejeweled. Any game that matches colors works for me.
I am the “petty, close-minded and dumb” author who wrote the
blog post you are discussing.
Obviously, we disagree on many points. May I simply (and urgently) ask you to widen
your world view? Look around you… look at your brothers! Have we
not become a country of obese, emasculated, disillusioned, apathetic addicted and
confused men? How did men get this way? Of course, one cannot blame
any one thing on today’s problems… but we must be prudent in identifying what
contributes to the welfare and goodness of a man and what detracts.
I said what I said because I completely believe in the greatness/goodness/power
of men… I believe in your greatness. I believe men have the capacity, with
grace, to accomplish many great and heroic things… to be magnanimous. In
my post, I was speaking to men who believe they can be all that God has called
them to be… and who will not be distracted by, or make excuses for, the many
things our culture has produced which are harmful or detrimental to us all. That is why I said what I said.
I suppose, if you will not consider my words, be at peace. But I would sincerely ask you not
to defend justify or promote these things to our young men… there is enough
stacked against them already.
I am not obese, emasculated, disillusioned, apathetic, addicted, or confused. OK I may be addicted to caffeine but that’s not the point.
In days past, a man who was a worthless lump might have spent most of his time in a fishing boat with a case of beer and a pack of cigarettes. Today, that guy probably spends too much time playing video games. Probably still with a case of beer, or maybe red bull. The only thing that has changed, really, is the distraction.
I have fished, hiked 16 miles at a time, backpacked overnight on the AT, ran half-marathons, brewed beer, made pizza from scratch, read Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Steinbeck, Hemmingway, Chesterton, Belloc, and Pieper, repaired my own car, built things out of wood, lifted weights, and passed a series of professional exams that is the rough equivalent of a PhD. I teach my children the Faith and lead them in prayer. My son plays baseball and soccer and he’s by far a better athlete than I was at his age. I have read aloud to them more worthy books than I can recall the number of — we have bookshelves full of books I’ve already read to them, which include such masters as E B White, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Johanna Spyri, C S Lewis, Peggy Parish, William Stieg, Susan Wise Bauer, Lewis Carroll, and Jean Craighead George. Soon they’ll be old enough for Tolkien.
I also play video games with my kids every week.
I think you and I can have a common cause. We both want men to get off their butts and start living a bigger, better life. But making video games anathema is as misguided as prohibition. It’s teetotallism for the 21st century. What’s needed is vision, motivation, discipleship, and the grace of God. Write about the things men should be doing, striving for, and creating. Leisure and distractions will fall into their proper place when a man finds his purpose in life.
I’m sorry, but you unequivocally state that an art-form that that *some* find addictive is bad, per se. Video game addiction is not nearly as harmful or as prevalent as alcoholism, yet you aren’t calling for an end to drinking. All things in moderation. People collectively spend more idle hours watching TV than playing video games.
I have a fairly wide world-view. I’ve travelled as much as my means allow, my hobbies include brewing beer, monthly trips to the shooting range (not easy living in NJ), tabletop gaming, computer programming, and camping. I’ve recently decided that I needed to take up blacksmithing, and have spent the last two weekends building a propane forge.
And as to your “which man would you hire” scenario, I wouldn’t flinch at hiring a gamer to work under me. I’ve hired several as junior software engineers, and they’ve all been great. In fact, the gamers tended to be better than the non-gamers (with one exception). It teaches them to recognize patterns, analyze, and adapt. The gamers also tended to get the least frustrated with complex debugging tasks, for obvious reasons.
I’m not saying that gaming is universally good. There is such a thing as bad art. We’re Catholics, and not all things are subjective. And a man who has gaming as his only interest is a dull man indeed. But gaming to excess is no different than anything else to excess. We’re not talking about an objective evil, like pornography, where any level of exposure is damaging.
Fr. with all due respect one needs to know how the gaming community functions before critiquing it.
The problem is that you seem to see the extreme sides of it. Yes there are people who spend entire days or weeks just gaming but, that’s not the average gamer. On average most gamers will play for a few hours 2-4 out of the day or just decide they have better things to do. And yes the attraction is still there of “one more game” but, most people don’t do this so on such a basis that they abandon other things.
Also, I would argue that games can introduce us to greater themes, I mean have you ever played Final Fantasy VI, Bravely Default, Fire Emblem Awakening, and other games that present great stories. Strategy games like Civilization V can teach people how to plan in advance, be effective, and show that certain amount of diplomacy is required to have a positive end game/outcome.
The culture yes can be very toxic but, the games themselves can be very entertaining and good for people in moderation.
It’s like waking up from a stupifying haze when you abandon not only video games, but videogame culture. As a challenge, try to go a whole week without them. This also means no hanging around gaming sites reading about or communicating about video games. See if you can go without even thinking or daydreaming about them. I recommend this even to “moderate” gamers (2-4 hours a day is moderate? Seriously?)
If going for a week without alcohol makes you feel like you’re waking up from a stupifying haze, you should probably give that up too. Or anything else.
This whole post is ridiculous. Don’t play video games because there bad for you. Go shoot guns in stead. Yeah ok. Legend of zelda forever!
Exactly how is a suggestion of recreational shooting as a substitute for immoderate video-game playing ridiculous?
Which prepares me more for shooting an actual person? And the difference here seems to be social acceptability. Thus, ridiculous.
A weekday day without thinking about games is impossible for me unless I’m on vacation. I oversee the development of online games and contests. So I guess if I want to get fired…
Why are people pointing at video games more than any other distraction within our culture? How is wasting 4 hours on a video game with my daughter any different wasting 4 hours going to a county fair with her like I did this weekend? Or the occasional Saturday afternoon that the two of us spend at Starbucks reading? Or taking her to the archery range like I’ll be doing in a few weeks?
Seriously, this comic comes to mind:
Like the author, I use a “screen” to make a fairly decent living. I gained these skills be staring at a screen for hours in my home as a child.
Why are people pointing at video games more than any other distraction within our culture?
Because immoderate video game playing is the elephant in the room that no one wants to seriously examine.
Obviously, if it is the source of you livelihood, then it must be done. But then it raises the question–shouldn’t you take a break from video games when you are off the clock?
First, I don’t play games on the clock. Second, I play 1-2 hours of video games per week off the clock, and most of that is online chess. Which, due to your prejudice, you likely think is better and more wholesome than if I spent the same amount of time playing Starcraft or League of Legends.
Because immoderate video game playing is the elephant in the room that no one wants to seriously examine.
Except that everyone in ever sphere is talking about it, except on game and technology related publications. No one is talking about the 5 hours of TV that the average American watches. Immoderate gaming is more rare than immoderate TV watching or alcohol consumption. Gaming gets more ink than both combined, because it’s new and people are prejudiced against it.
I think the church should stick to spiritual and theological matters. My video games are neither. People will tune out the church if they hear stuff like this.
I chose to run this story in part BECAUSE I so enjoy video games. Always have. But I’ve also come to realize that they create a false sense of accomplishment, are immersive to the point of addiction for most people (even when you’re not playing them, you think about playing them) and frankly, they have almost universally negative effects on my children. Much more so than watching movies. I can’t begin to add up the time in my life that I wasted playing them, and it’s time I could have put toward other, more worthwhile pursuits.
If you choose to dismiss my experiences as anecdotal, remember that yours are too. The fact remains that any of us, if we’re being honest, know that far too many men spend far too much time playing video games. And we’re in a crisis of manhood as it is. (In Japan, there’s an entire class of shut-ins who do little else, and refuse to function in society.)
One of the bigger problems I see with video games is precisely BECAUSE of what a compelling artform they are. They draw us into their world and out of the real one. In retrosepect, I found that games gave me a sense that I was making something happen, accomplishing goals, and experiencing success in ways that I rarely felt in my own life. I was able to go on outrageous adventures but never take actual risks. I was able to explore but never leave my room. The old quote (from Dr. Who, I think) comes to mind: “I reject your reality and substitute my own!”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that experience with movies and TV. I’ve never been able to sit for 8 or 10 hours watching movies or television, but when I was actively gaming, that was common. I’ve also never felt that those mediums gave me a sense that I was doing something worthwhile, whereas games pushed that little endorphin button in my brain that is associated with overcoming obstacles and mastering challenges.
I liked games then. I still like games now. But almost every time I sit down to play one, I ask myself what I could be doing instead. Could I work that novel idea I have? Write a new post? Could I make something? Sculpt? Paint? Spend time with my wife or kids? Read a book? Help out more around the house?
I once read an interview with Science Fiction author William Gibson. When asked the secret of his success, he said, “I suspect I have spent just about exactly as much time actually writing as the average person my age has spent watching television, and that, as much as anything, may be the real secret here.”
That has always stuck with me (and in fact I built this site in the hours I would have otherwise spent on entertainment). Think that doesn’t apply even moreso to gaming? Add up the hours. Days. Weeks. Months. Years. What could you have done that you didn’t do? What skill might you have otherwise mastered?
This is a hard thing. It’s challenging. I can tell by the way those of you who are defending gaming are responding. There’s a certain tone in your comments. A defensiveness I fully understand.
The modern world isolates us from what is real. Many of us spend most of our time in front of computers for work anyway, so it’s no surprise when we see no problem taking our recreation time there as well. Me, I still spend WAY too much time on the Internet. I’m not claiming moral superiority just because I only game very occasionally these days instead of every day for multiple hours. My addictions have simply shifted.
One of my goals with this site is to challenge us — all of us, including me — to do better. We’re called to be saints. Read my post about St. Jean Vianney today. The man barely slept or ate, so devoted was he to doing God’s work. He would never have found time for all the pointless recreation we engage in.
I don’t expect any of us to attain that level of perfection. If you can spend less time gaming but don’t quit altogether, that’s still something. But the world needs us. It needs us to be men. It needs us to be apostles. And as the saying goes, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
“Sculpt? Paint? … Read a book?”
Those are just as arbitrary wastes of time as playing a game.
And I understand to want to play games way too much. That’s why I don’t play certain types of games. I saw myself getting sucked into Assassin’s Creed 2 — a phenomenally fun game — but I realized that I couldn’t justify spending 40-60 hours on that game. When I was younger and had lots of free time, I spent a lot more time playing games. Now I don’t. I don’t feel an addictive draw to games. My experience, though just as anecdotal to yours, is shared by plenty of others.
Leisure is a good thing, like all things, in moderation. According to Nielsen, the average american spends 5 hours a day watching TV (http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/average-american-watches-5-hours-tv-day-article-1.1711954)! That’s pretty dang atrocious and decadent! If I spent 5 hours a day painting or reading or sculpting or playing video games or whatever, my family would be pretty pissed! And I don’t think anyone would care what my pastime of choice was.
Video gaming gets the press for this sort of thing because it’s new. Yes, there are some dopamine hits that are similar to other forms of accomplishments (meaningful and otherwise), and corporations like Zynga and King are employing psychologists to help them hit the maximum frequency of the appropriate curves to keep people hooked, so they’ll spend more money (and pressure their friends to do the same) in games like Candy Crush and Farmville, but that’s not the type of games you’re talking about.
I think a more fruitful discussion would be to have men develop more rounded hobbies and skill-sets. Discover a greater breadth of things, rather than specialize in one. I think one of the real dangers of the modern era is that because of the Internet, people in niche interests tend to congregate only with other people that share their specific niche interests, and subsist in these little obsessive monocultures. They define themselves by these things. These subcultures are subverting the need for real, organic community, which is one of the functions that was served by the parish. And this is a much bigger, and more general problem than video games, even if it does apply to gaming-oriented subcultures.
Hold on, are you seriously going to make the case that leisure activities which are tried and proven sources of authentic edification and culture, like literature and the arts, are on a par with mindless recreation?
Really? Come on.
Yes. Again, I’m not claiming that all games are high art, but neither is all literature or all painting. Chances are, if you’re painting as a hobbyist, what you’re painting isn’t anything special. There was a time where polyphony was considered too vulgar for the liturgy.
You should know better than to call games mindless. Would you call Chess mindless? Engaging in online chess games, even for minutes a day, keeps my mind more alert. Many games are several orders of magnitude more complex than chess! Street Fighter 2, Magic: The Gathering, Starcraft 2, and countless others have incredibly complex game states and quickly evolving meta-games at higher levels of play.
Few would dispute that film has attained high art status (obviously, not all films). Video games are another medium for expression, that may only recently have been capable of being high art (again, debatable, but I’m talking about capability). This form of expression directly influenced my career choice and course of education, as well as my love of classical art and music, and thus the traditional mass. I honestly believe without Final Fantasy, I wouldn’t be Catholic today. I want the medium to grow up, and have its own folk-, pop-, and high-culture traditions. But rejecting it as a valid medium of expression altogether is incredibly close-minded.
Keep in mind, it isn’t even my preferred pastime any more. I spend a lot more time shooting, and am working on a small propane forge because I yearn to hammer some hot steel.
The traditional definition of the liberal arts is the things that humans do for their own sake, and not for some other purpose. We may build a house in order to have shelter from the elements, but we write a novel for the purpose of writing a novel. We sculpt in order to sculpt. In particular, although great benefits may come to society out of the arts, I’m sure you agree that artists do not create art in order to benefit society. Society’s benefit is merely a side-effect.
We should be very cautious about condemning things that are done merely for the enjoyment of doing them.
Thanks for your comment. This is a great topic that should continue to be hashed out.
On the one hand I believe I fully understand what you are saying and actually agree with you that video games are a worthless waste of time… On the other hand I’m not willing to agree that we should never do fun things that are a worthless waste of time. For instance, sitting around a camp fire nursing a cold beer pretty much fully qualifies, and you’ll never get me to condemn that. Staring at fires is something I can do for long periods of time alone, with relish. Good company enhances the experience greatly, of course. The same is true for video games. I think my appetite for fire is about on par for my appetite for video games. I wouldn’t do either for 8 hours at a time. I probably wouldn’t do either on a daily basis even for an hour — unless I was on a vacation of some sort and looking for fun things to fill the empty hours.
Here’s where I reacted negatively to the original article: I can’t help feeling that there’s a little falseness in the promotion of alternative activities that are strictly leisure, as fishing has some intrinsic value that makes it “real” while video games are “fake”. I recognize that video games are, by definition, fake. But I don’t think that real/fake distiction justifies some kind of moral distinction that endorses time-wasting activities that don’t involve pixels reacting to me pressing buttons. I almost want somebody to get in our faces and say, “Fathers of children have no time to play video games, nor fish, nor hike, nor read novels, nor do any other thing that doesn’t directly contribute to the construction and maintenance of the domestic church that is their home, or the salvation of souls in the wider world.” To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed that Father’s essay didn’t take a harder line and really force us to hash out the underlying principles.
But I guess when it comes to that, even teaching our children how to take their leisure is part of their upbringing. I teach my kids to play card games like gin rummy, mostly out of nostalgia and a sense of sharing the enjoyment I had in it when I was a kid. When they’re a bit older I’m sure we’ll get into Scrabble too. For the same reason, I have some emulators on a pc so that I can share games like Super Mario Bros 3 (NES) and Super Mario World (SNES) with them, just as I once did with my brother and friends. Minecraft is the only really new game that we play, and I got interested in that because I heard from so many very intelligent parents what a great educational game it was for kids. I do strictly limit my kids’ screen time, just as my parents did for me. Children can’t be expected to manage their time in a healthy way, any more than they can be expected to eat a healthy diet if they are allowed to each junk.
On the other hand I long ago made the judgment that there is nothing redeeming in broadcast television and I will not abide a television as a source of leisure for my kids. So I recognize there’s room for different individuals to make a personalized judgment calls about these things. Father’s essay was _not_ the personalized witness that you offered, which I very much relate to and agree with, to an extent. Instead, we were told that throwing away our valuable time on video games should never cross the mind of a true man. Instead he should go fishing. I’m almost quoting verbatim. That’s the contradiction that I’m responding to.
Kevin is doing a much better job of stating my issues with the article.
Yes, video games are a waste of time. So is… just about everything else we classify as leisure. Sometimes it’s fun to just waste some time, regardless of the activity.
I’m not saying that you should never engage in purely recreational activity. I would simply argue that by design, video games are the most immersive and addicting kind of recreation, and most people have a hard time enjoying them in moderation.
That’s fine. “People have a hard time enjoying video games in moderation” is not an appropriate summary of the original article, though.
Fair enough. Father Doerr’s position isn’t the same as mine, but I believe it merits consideration. And the post got exactly the kind of discussion started that I wanted to have.
Sometimes finding the truth that lies somewhere in the middle means first considering the extremes.
Where are you getting your figure of “most people”? I ask because I have no hard data, and my sample (I went to an engineering school, so pretty pretty much everyone played games) suggests that it’s actually the minority that is unable to enjoy them in moderation. I have a single friend who’s life was largely ruined by video games in college. I had another who had the same issue with over-involvement in the school’s theater. A few more still that flunked out because they were just lazy. But the majority I knew graduated and are doing just fine now. Outside of my college, I knew a number who wrecked their lives partying (there wasn’t really a party scene at my school).
I’d argue that every art form by attempts to be engaging as possible by design. Engineering for addiction is actually a relatively new phenomenon, and is mostly the realm of free-to-play mobile and social games.
Largely experiential. People I know. But it’s not hard to find more info:
I mean, that’s the first three. I don’t know if anyone has done a comprehensive study.
And most people I know who say they “hate” video games tell me “I won’t play them because I find them too addictive.”
I hear stories from friends about the guys at work who schedule their vacation time for a release date of the latest game in their favorite franchise, because they know they’ll be playing it 2 or 3 days straight with only minimal breaks.
It ain’t rocket science. This is what good games do. And electronic stimulation has been shown to be different than non-electronic. I don’t care how great the page-turner novel is I’m reading, I’m going to fall asleep at some point. But sitting in front of a screen keeps the brain active in physiological ways other things don’t. That’s why so many nutritionists and doctors recommend no screen time for at least an hour before you want to go to bed. Otherwise, you don’t feel tired and keep going.
I’m actually the opposite. I fall asleep during movies or TV shows I enjoy. I’m more likely to fall asleep with an e-reader than an old-fashioned book. One of the reasons I stopped using a tablet for gaming or any other form of late-night entertainment, is because I’ve woken up too many times having the damn thing smack me in the nose.
One of my co-workers schedules vacations for game binges too. He’s young and unmarried. I know others that make annual pilgrimages to PAX East. In October, I’m going away for a weekend for a hard-core rifleman’s training regimen that’s a 3 hour drive from my house, and hoping to put 500+ holes in paper at high velocity. I honestly don’t see much of a difference, except for frequency (and I’d be doing this sort of thing more frequently if I didn’t have a family, instead of once ever). It’s not like I’m training to fight redcoats.
If you don’t think shooting (which is a perishable skill) is something worth practicing, you may not be paying much attention to the news.
If it comes down to a shooting war with the US government, we’re all freakin’ doomed. What can a small, scattered group, like traditionalist Christians, do against the most powerful military in the world?
Most defensive shooting happens in under 10 yards. I can easily hit minute of bad-guy at that range with a pistol, shotgun, or rifle. Under stress? Not sure. I’d like to do some real defensive training at some point, but that’s kindof expensive. The training I’ll be doing (http://appleseedinfo.org/) is much more for personal edification than self defense, and it’ll only cost me $60 plus 2 bricks of .22lr.
I honestly wish I got off my butt years ago to get into shooting. I just wasn’t friends with anyone at the time who was into it, and felt intimidated by the whole thing. I’m possibly also going boar hunting in January. We’ll see about that, though.
Your co-worker is entering a competition where every response to his action is pre programmed. He can not expect to even play without a system which includes a system of pre set responses. Even when these games are taken to a level where someone from LA competes against someone from New York, a human element is simply inserted into the program. These are programs wrtten to respond to a person’s decisions and timing.
When you take your rifle out to shoot 500 rounds, you will be competing against the wind, the barometric pressure, the minute differences in each round of ammunition, the temperature changes in your barrel, your personal life, and a host of other sciences. You are choosing to engage in something the natural world, which God created, impacts. Your gaming co-worker is choosing a forum of preset responses he must master which can only be mastered in a false world which does not really exist.
After a short time with a game console in my home, I chose to disallow them. They keep people from engaging in real life. People are engaged in a sort of false digital life. God does not live there. If a game ever includes a version of a god, it will be a program version a person or group of people invented.
God lives in us when we let him in. It is much easier to let him in while hiking up to the mountain stream where we catch cutthroat and brookies. When we are enjoying the bounty God has created we can dispose ourselves to be in his presence. When we are killing digital versions of people from Hong Kong, or wherever they are from, we are not living in God’s creation. We are living in a digital, programmed place where hours are spent with no thought of God. It may seem harmless on the surface, but anything that distracts our mind and body so completely from God is not good.
There is one video game that I find too addictive to play: the chess.com app. I used to play long-term correspondence games with random people, keeping about 10 games going at a time, making a few moves a day. One night I was all relaxed and ready to sleep, but I decided to make one more move. It only took a few minutes, but my heart was pounding pretty hard when I was done. The adrenaline kept me up for at least another two hours. It’s hard enough for me to find time to get adequate sleep. I decided it wasn’t worth it.
Bejeweled, Collapse, and other games where you have to match three or more colors…strategics, planning, thinking ahead.
Word games like Word Yahtzee increases vocabulary, spelling.
I also recommend Free Rice where you can actually earn rice to help the hungry throughout the world. They have math, different languages besides English, geography and more. Even the pope would use this one.
I don’t agree. Playing games like Bejeweled where you have to match three (or more) colors is good practice for strategics, planning, thinking ahead. I suppose the same could be said for a very real (non-electronic) game of backgammon with very real people. If only I knew I could get paid for it.
Even the Army has computer games for training purposes. They are actually scored and are used for future deployment possibilities.
Another thought for you married men: have you flat out asked your wives, “No BS, what do you think of my gaming habit? You cool with it?”
I’d be curious to hear what they say.
Brilliant suggestion. Heck, you don’t even have to actually ask her. Just ask yourself how you would feel asking your wife this question. Balk for a nanosecond, and that’s the signal.
What husband doesn’t already know the answer to this about all of his hobbies? My wife thinks my beer brewing, gaming (including tabletop), sci-fi reading, shooting, 2/3rds of the music I listen to, card playing, personal programming projects, and building a forge are all dumb wastes of time. Because she’s into none of it. Do you think I care that my wife thinks all of my hobbies are dumb? Nope. Why should I?
I know the answer, and it isn’t the same as yours. The hobbies I do that do not consume ungodly amounts of my time, help me to clear my head, and don’t necessarily isolate me from my family are not a problem.
These would include: sculpting, reading, writing, watching movies, having discussions/debates with friends and family, and before I became gluten-intolerant, brewing. (Shooting would be included, but I can never find ammo, so that’s a different subject.)
As for your question about whether you should care what your wife thinks? I suppose that all depends on how happy you want to make her. Caring does not equal capitulating. It means taking her desires into account and not always choosing to prioritize your own.
.22lr, I presume? Around me, it’s finally in stock at a number of venues again. It was a nasty ammo drought for a while, and the stuff was approaching 9mm prices.
I generally prioritize stuff I can do with my older daughter, because that frees my wife up to just deal with our 4-month-old. Or at least wait till the kids are in bed for a lot of the stuff. If my wife thinks what I choose to do with my leisure is dumb, that’s her problem, not mine. And though she thinks my stuff is dumb, she doesn’t really care that much as long as I’m not shirking my other duties. Would she prefer if I only had hobbies she liked too? Probably, but by that not that much.
I might be getting repetitive, but: Have wives ever been big fans of their husbands’ hobbies? The ones they don’t want to participate in? I’m pretty sure guys that go fishing annoy their wives. I’m pretty sure my wife didn’t like it when I owned a bunch of beer-brewing equipment. (She doesn’t drink.) Heck, my wife even gets annoyed when I’m teaching my kids math — if there’s something else she wants either me or them to be doing at that moment. She doesn’t nag or complain about it, don’t get me wrong. But I can tell.
My wife probably doesn’t think much of my video game playing for the same reason as Father Doer: She doesn’t play! Of course it’s going to seem like a waste of time if you can’t relate. You know which wives don’t mind their husbands playing video games? Wives that like to play video games.
The key here is, if she asks you to cut back or whatever, *the reason to do it is charity towards her*–not because a morally neutral act suddenly becomes an intrinsically evil one. (Or is it now time to argue how intrinsically evil is Tetris? Minecraft? DnD [online or tabletop]?)
I am a woman who is wasting so much time on computer games. I feel like I am addicted to them. This article is for women too. I know that these games are doing nothing to help me become a Saint or get to heaven so I was glad to see this.
Well at least video games have the positive that one is thinking and doing, not just sitting absorbing like a sponge in front of the TV!
Fun fact: women play games, too; what of us? (My icon on the internet is currently my Jedi in SWTOR.) Also, games are far cheaper than anything else on your list, (ex: for what SWTOR costs, I can get maybe 3 gallons of gas, and it’s going to take more than a few tanks to get anywhere “epic” when you live in the urbanized midwest.)
I could also point out that, by the time I get home from my job every day, I don’t have the ENERGY, let alone the time before I have to be in bed to prepare for the next day’s run on the hamster wheel, for “greatness.” I can also say for a fact that, for some of the folks I’ve met in games, I’m the first and sometimes sadly only exposure to the Faith that these folks get outside of what the MSM or their childhood pastors spoon-fed them. Anything else I could write on this point would likely inflate my already-problematic pride, so I’ll move on.
Lastly, games today aren’t just Mario, LoL, or WoW; today they can tell stories on the level of any book, (BioWare is especially skilled at this,) and since the player can actually DIRECT that story, it can be as much a tool for thinking and growth as more “acceptable” media. (Example: Dragon Age 2 is a sobering reminder that, sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you cannot stop the self-destruction of someone bound and determined to do so. That’s a lesson the need of which out of which I’ll never outgrow.) Which is a bigger waste of time for me, not to mention spiritually dangerous? Playing SWTOR or Dragon Age or reading 50 Shades? I think the answer is obvious.
Use and miss-use, and yes video games can be addictive. So can chess, but not as easily.
I know I’m late, but thought I’d chime in on this one.
At its core, every game is a puzzle game. You are given a puzzle and a tool to solve it. It may be “form lines” and the tool you’re given is a Tetris block. It may be “get from one side of this industrial complex to the other without getting killed by terrorists” and the tool you’re given is an M4 assault rifle. The point is, you’re always puzzle solving. Games are essentially brain exercises. They are not analogous to smoking pot or drinking.
Is there such a thing as too much gaming, and are there more valuable things to do with your time? Of course. But games do pose several advantages over many other leisure activities. Not least among them is the very practical benefit of being economical.
While I’d love to backpack the Great Continental Divide, doing so would cost far more than $60. Real traveling is expensive, and in this economy most folks aren’t flush with cash. In contrast, a good adventure game allows you to virtually explore another world without having to break the bank.
Fr. Brian Doer,
I have to ask, precisely what kind of stereotype or image do you have in mind when you think of videogames? Games have become a whole lot more today than they ever were. There are games that can be played continuously, there are games that last 10 hours, 2 hours; there are competitive games, games with stories and themes that are very remarkable!
Are you against watching films or reading books? Are there even films or books you’d recommend? In that case, how can you vilify games for providing the same kind of edification?
If you have any young parishioners with a PlayStation 3, ask them if they can play a few titles for you such as:
– The Unfinished Swan
– Heavy Rain
I recommend the above 3 as those are particularly short, the first 2 playable in about 2 -3 hours are cheap to purchase and are non-violent. Journey is a very nice experience that uses visuals and music to set mood and tell a tale about someone or two people who co-operate on path that explores themes of separation and even life, death and resurrection.
The Unfinished Swan is unravelled in a whimsical children’s storybook fashion that is a story about a King who (much like the thrust of your article) wastes his time on something he can never finish to his detriment, and the moment at the end is very touching and a timely moral that adults and children can learn from.
I also recommend Heavy Rain, which can take 5 or more hours to complete that plays as a choose-your-adventure novel which is also a drama that tells the story of a father trying to raise his son, dealing with loss, and a broken family and then when his son is kidnapped, he goes looking for him. The game also features other characters you play as. There is questionable subject matter in the title, it’s a game for adults after all, though much of it is left to the player to make moral choices from sex to sparing lives so you have control over what you may do. But the reason I recommend it is that you can explore the opening sections of family life and even see how games can deliver content that is dramatic and heart-warming.
My point is that, games can tell stories and deliver experiences unlike any other medium. So why not instead encourage Catholics to get more involved in the game industry so that we can use this medium to spread the Gospel and promote Christian themes and morality in new ways that appeal to adults and kids? The Indy scene has gotten quite big and technology has advanced a lot so it doesn’t require million dollar budgets to make good experiences?
Imagine games about the Crusades that expose the player to actual Church history and not distortions! Imagine a game where you play in the role of an Inquisitor requiring you to study and know the faith in order to make determinations of heresy or innocence, no different that games such as Ace Attorney?
Virtual Reality with devices like Oculus Rift and Morpheus are coming onto the scene that hold promise for amazing or horrific things! Why don’t Christians, instead of running away, embrace new means of using the tools that God provides through human ingenuity that can be used for either good or ill? Imagine if I could pray the Stations of the Cross, while entering a virtual environment where I’m right there at the foot of the Cross on Calvary?
In the past, the Popes and Church used the means at their disposal to fund painters, sculptures, architects, window-makers, playwrights, composers to use visual means of expression and entertainment to teach and spread the Gospel of Christ. If the Church of yesterday had the technology we have today, then surely it would’ve used it to have game developers create similar virtual masterpieces.
Games can be time-wasters, it’s true, but they have also demonstrated amazing examples that drive story-telling, informative and emotional journeys that can be very inspirational! Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
As a former video game designer and avid video gamer, I know a bit about this subject. I do agree with the author that today people are too connected to machines — this includes computers, smart phones and video games.
Back to video games: there are good video games and bad video games. Some are harmless diversion and amusement other games promote evil. The key is that video games are a form of entertainment just as watching TV is entertainment as well. At least video game are a more participatory form of amusement then the TV which is all passive. Diversion and entertainment are all part of a balanced life. Even the Catholic Church tells us that we must set aside time to appreciate the beauty of art and music. Some consider video games to be a new art form.
People in America today work very hard. Studies have shown that the human brain needs fallow time to be able to recover and recharge. For many it may be playing a video game or watching TV for an hour.
As a Catholic man, I know that TV is not all bad; there are good programs there that teach good moral values but they are rare and we must seek them out and guard ourselves against the evil that the “world” is selling us. We should be discerning in the type of TV that we watch and in the type of video games we play. And then everything should be done in moderation, except of course when it comes to loving God.
My two cents: It is better to entertain yourself by actually interacting with the world-at-large, in ways that form your character, than to entertain yourself by interacting with an imitation of the world, art though it may be. in my teens I was much more of a gamer than I am today. I gave it up and use the time for working out, reading Plato, spending time putting up shots on a basketball hoop, taking walks, jogging, etc. And I immensely more happy and fulfilled.
Time is way too valuable. More I live, more I realize this fact. We are all essentially dying. I simply don’t have luxuries of playing video games.
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