Video gaming is a hot topic. And it's getting hotter every year. Everybody seems to have a strong stance on this electronic entertainment juggernaut and what it's doing (or not doing) to the masses. Online gaming, in particular, offers up an ever-growing number of immersive possibilities. So it was no surprise to us that after our recent five-part tour of those virtual worlds, you, our knowledgeable readers, would want to voice a few opinions on the subject.
Pretty much everyone said they enjoyed the series, but a few found things to disagree with. One gent walked away thinking that the facts were purposely skewed to fit an agenda. So it seemed chivalrous to let him—and another like-minded letter-writer—air their thoughts first:
"Throughout the series, you made it a point to represent and give credibility to all the different views on gaming, but the last part did one thing different. I noticed that, throughout the article, we were reading about different views, ending with terrible stories of people whose marriage was destroyed due to unreasonably addicted spouses. If I were to guess, you arranged it like this on purpose. ... Whatever is at the end of any given article, movie, or game will be the thing that leaves the most impact, which is why the conclusion of an essay is so important. But you didn't have a conclusion. This series ended with a horrifying look into the lives of the few people who have had their lives destroyed by gaming. Is it just me, or is this a successful attempt to push your views while still representing all sides? —Thaius Tydane
"I know tons of gamers, and most lead normal social lives outside of the games. Sure, it ruins the lives of people here and there, but that is generally not the case. ... Yet these are the people that the media focuses on, and the people that end up making the gaming community look like a bunch of overweight geeks with no lives. Online games can be a remarkable, engaging, downright fun experience if you take it in moderation and know how to avoid its dark corners." —Andrew Decker
On the other hand, one woman had her own tale of destruction to tell:
"I really enjoyed your series on gaming, it came at the perfect time for me. A few years ago my husband started playing, pretty harmless, until I noticed how long he played. Then I thought it must be a lot of fun, so I learned how and then I began playing. Before long, we were ignoring company that stopped by and most importantly we weren't spending time with our children. I stopped playing and he dove in full time. We have now been divorced for two years. Unfortunately, his life hasn't changed that much except that he doesn't have me getting onto him about the time spent playing anymore. He wouldn't even stop playing long enough for me to tell him 'I'm leaving.' The reason I say this came at the perfect time is because he is trying to introduce gaming to our sons. He got them playing Warcraft last summer. I immediately put a stop to it. The spiritual influence from some of these games is not good (putting it nicely) for adults, let alone children. There are more cons than pros when it comes to online gaming. Thanks for the info, which I shared with my sons." —Tammy
But video game fan or foe, everyone who commented seemed aware of the potential for danger in online gaming, and most spoke from personal experience:
"In Part 2 of your series, it was stated that if you put in less that 12 hours a week to WoW, you won't really get anywhere in the game. If you have to spend that much time in the game, how much time do the other people in your life get? Our relationships are the only thing on earth that we can take to heaven with us, and if games are costing relationships, as they often do, then there is a serious problem." —Y.F.
"I used to be a gamer—back in high school I would come home from school and almost immediately turn on my computer to play Unreal Tournament, or some other similar shoot-'em-up. Playing online was the only way, of course—much more fun than predictable bots. The problem was that it came to the point where it would act as a drug to me. I would play, and go up on a high, and then when I finally stopped, I would drop way down." —Nathan
"I do think that an MMORPG is a great way for imaginative folks to spend time, but I have seen it become an 'addiction' for some, leading to broken families and more." —Angie Knight, Kids Hope USA
"There is nothing that disgusts me more than people who dismiss all video games as bad. Nothing, that is, except those who cross the line and give anything, anything, in the video game realm a higher importance than real life. I play video games a lot, but playing Rock Band with real friends over having a great time before we all go to church is much different than skipping church to hang out with people in an online world you may never meet." —Anonymous Gamer in the Southeast
Some expressed their views through a Scriptural filter:
"The Word of God says in Ecclesiastes 10:18, 'If a man is lazy, the rafters sag; if his hands are idle, the house leaks.' Now granted your hands are not 'idle' when you play games, I have an Xbox, but there is something to be said about getting up and doing things. Idols, not the little gold Buddha types, but the real consuming kinds, are real. Anything that takes more of your time can become an idol. If you 'sacrifice' time, energy, family time, money, it is an idol." —Youth Pastor in Tennessee
"Overgaming is not a matter of physical addiction, it is a matter of the heart. And 'the heart is deceitful above all things' (Jeremiah 17:9)." —Unsigned
"I just wanted to say that, because of the massive range of experiences out there, I don't think anyone can claim that all online gaming (or any video gaming) is inherently bad. 'What goes into a man's mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean' (Matthew 15:11). However, as this verse shows, it is the conditions and effects of a person's heart that make the difference." —Mark Lucashu
And many more urged a balanced approach:
"I suspect games are getting a bad rap for the same reason that many things do: They are perceived as evil when in fact they are as harmless as a chocolate cake. Sure if you eat nothing but chocolate cake, you'll suffer for it, but a slice after a well-balanced meal never hurt anyone. My husband and I are online gamers. ... In fact we use it as a ministry tool with teens because it's an easy way to gain common ground. It has actually replaced the TV in our household because we grew tired of the rapidly deteriorating content of network television." —Shandall Green
"Thank you so much for touching on this very touchy subject. Gaming is usually chastised, avoided or adamantly defended on various levels, but I believe, like everything else in life, it takes discernment and balance. 'Everything is permissible—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible—but not everything is constructive' (1 Corinthians 10:23). I went through a period of pretty avid gaming with games such as Guild Wars, Second Life, World of Warcraft and a few others, and over eighteen months I experienced the pros and cons of virtual vs. real life. I would pull all-nighters, delay meals and make sure my schedule was kept open for any online changes. ... In retrospect, I see many things that were good (companionship, adventure, loyalty) and many things that weren't so beneficial (compromising reality for the virtual, mostly). Now I'm not as into it as I used to be, and although I still love video games (especially playing online games with my friends), I see that there is a life off the screen that I have to live, and with God at the helm, it's an adventure far beyond anything you could ever find in an electronic, man-made world. Thank you again for understanding and shedding light on this." —Keely
No, Keely, thank you. And thanks to all of you thoughtful folks who sent your views our way. Obviously there is a lot more to talk about on this topic. So if you have questions (about online or offline gaming) that you'd like us to tackle and discuss in future articles, please let us know. And we'll keep the game controller plugged in.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Opining on Online Gaming