Reading through my news feed this last week I had to take a second to remember that I wasn’t in the 1990s and that Mortal Kombat wasn’t a brand new video game. For those of you too young or too “uncool” to know what I’m taking about let me explain.
Around 1992 a video game was released by Midway called Mortal Kombat. It was a fighting game that was bloody, violent and something we hadn’t seen in gaming before. Kids lined up deep to drop a quarter onto the arcade cabinet to ensure they had next game. It wasn’t until the games released onto the home consoles that people began to take notice of the violence and bloodshed this game had in it. From that point on, the conversation around video games and violence has ebbed and flowed as violence in society has done the same. Every time there is violence in a school or surrounding young kids and adults the questions start being asked, “what caused this”.
Lately it seems that video games and violence have come up quite a bit. After the Parkland school shooting it appears that parents, the news and even the president are weighing in on the issue. This of course brings out some of the most extreme conservatives who have been waiting in the shadows for an opportunity to demonize a medium they barely understand.
Even science and psychology have been focused on testing and observing the effects of video games and violence. Christians around the US have preached and spoken out against this medium and others such as role-playing and board games. Newly religious bloggers such as Matt Walsh have written articles demonizing the medium in the light of trending topics and buzz words.
Now, may people know that I am fairly passionate about video games. They have been a hobby of mine for a long time and I know that I can be relatively biased on issues that I feel strongly about, but my bias is no different that others who have biases or lack of experience in the other direction. What I want to present is a couple things for people to think about.
God has called parents to raise up their children to worship and serve the Lord. God has called us to be in the world but not of the world. We are to look like Christ, act differently than anyone else and be the type of person who represents the kingdom of God. With this in mind we can’t jump to an extreme opinion on anything. So many of us tend to do so with all sorts of issues. Let’s think of this rationally.
Yes! Video games can be too violent or sexual. Yes! Video games have a tendency to be addictive. Yes! Video games can become idols.
Now, replace “video games” with anything else that is not directly worshiping the Lord. Drinking, movies, books, television, sports etc…
See, it’s not the fact that it’s video games, it’s the fact that we aren’t teaching our kids balance and appropriateness in the things they enjoy. If little Johnny liked baseball and became obsessed with that, what is the difference? Because he’s sitting down in the house?
Parents have been finding ways to dodge responsibility for their children’s behaviors for a long time. We dump them in front of a TV or a game console and then are confused when they can’t cope in the rest of every day life. We take no time to research the stuff they play, sit with them and watch them to know what they are getting themselves into. We are too busy to read the content warning on the back of the game to see it has sexual content and intense violence.
In our home gaming is a huge hobby for all but my wife. My kids all have their own rooms, their own consoles and their own accounts. If they were allowed to, they would be logged in all day long and never come out to eat. But guess what, they aren’t allowed to. They are limited in their consumption of gaming and TV each day because I care enough about them to limit it. And do you know what? Sometimes I even spend time playing with them. We bond over our shared time shooting bad guys in Fortnite and building houses in Minecraft.
When we notice a change of behavior in our kids we scale back the hobbies a bit. Maybe we take a week off, or as of recent a whole month. We discuss things in the games, we celebrate each other’s victories and get frustrated over each other’s defeat.
My kids make friends online and socialize in conversation over a shared goal of winning. They experience the reality of losing and the joy of winning. It’s much greater than most sponsored sports today where everyone gets a trophy. That’s not the case in video games and my kids can understand it takes skill and time to be good at something. What a wonderful tool God has given us to teach the realities of life to our kids. But it’s only wonderful if we as the parents take the time to utilize it.