Why You Like Video GamesPosted: June 4, 2011
Well, school is out, and I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands. More accurately, I have a lot less school work to fill up the time that I do have. The next few weeks won’t be filled up with studying for exams, writing essays, and reading assigned books – but they will still be filled up. In fact, I’ll probably be doing a lot of the the same activities as I had been during school… just not for school. I’ll still be doing a lot of studying – more for personal growth and upcoming preaching appointments, though. I’ll still be doing a lot of reading – though I’ll have a bit more time to read broadly, rather than assigned texts. And I’ll still be doing a lot of writing – for this blog, hopefully.
But I’m also looking forward to doing some things that I simply haven’t had any time for while in school. Like playing video games. Prior to this week, I ignored my poor PS3 so much it must have been getting some kind of complex. But with a little bit of breathing room, I’m happy to wile away an hour or two with a controller in hand.
Video games are pretty intense at times and fairly mindless at others. So I find my mind going quite a bit as I’m playing. One of the things I’ve reflected on is that video games are fairly ubiquitous, at least among men. I didn’t bother with statistics, but I suspect that it is rare to find males in the adolescent, teenage, or young adult brackets without at least a PS3, an X-Box, or a Wii – and often more than one. Even as you get older, I suspect it continues. I’m over 30, and I know most of my cohort still get down with gaming systems. If you’re willing to extend the definition of “video game”, the demographic probably increases dramatically. With the plethora of handheld and mobile devices, and the proliferation of apps, you can now play video games consisting of everything from alien space invaders to all out war between birds and pigs. Even older folks like a little bit of Minesweeper or Solitaire on the computer.
Why this popularity? Several reasons, I suppose. We’re now several generations into video games, and tech companies continue to market to each generation as they get older – gaming is not just for kids, if it ever was. Plus, tech is everywhere. I recently saw a commercial that suggested by 2020 we’d average 7 mobile devices for every man, woman, and child on the planet.
There is one reason for the popularity of gaming that I think is important to consider: video games are easy. They’re meant to give just the right level of challenge and achievement to keep you interested. And really, I think this is where video games can become dangerous. You see, as much as we need recreation and enjoyment and fun, the “accomplishment” of video games – and other pastimes – can often be gained so cheaply in relation to real, meaningful activity that we jettison true life for virtual reality. We sit and play games for hours. In that way, the cheap accomplishment of games can become similar to the cheap sexual gratification of pornography. It is accessible, manageable, and above all, easy.
But at the end of the day… it doesn’t mean anything.
Nothing wrong with games (unlike pornography), but just as God created us with a desire for genuine relationship and mutual affection, we were also made for real accomplishment. Real challenges to overcome. Real work to finish. Real goals to achieve. Real heights to attain.
I think video games are here to stay, which means that those of us that choose to engage in them need to be on guard. Recreation is one thing, but we shouldn’t allow anything to steal time from redemptive activities with genuine, meaningful, real results.