God and Video Games

     Since the first video games appeared on the markets in the 1960's there has been a heated debate over if playing video games conflicted with Christianity. Video games began with "Pong," and have quickly progressed to the multi-platform games of today. Today's games are a far cry from the days of "Pong," and "Pac Man," they often boast impressive video technology and professionally recorded soundtracks.  The video game business has become a multi-billion dollar industry that includes everything from small
one-man operations to international companies. With the growth of the industry the intensity of the debate has grown. Both sides have valid points of view but in the end each individual has to evaluate the affect that video games have on their walk of faith.
It is possible for Christians to play video games and still be strong in their faith.

     Opposition to this point of view raise several issues that would seem to conflict with biblical teachings. A few of the more common arguments raised are that in most games a character must kill to advance. Another major argument against video games is that in some games characters use magic. Some opponents also claim that video games do not glorify God. While these are valid issues, the people that make these claims have usually been misinformed or more often do not know both sides of this argument.

     It is true that the Exodus 20:13 plainly reads "Thou shall not Kill," but we have to ask ourselves what is killing? Webster’s defines murder as “the crime of unlawfully
killing a person especially with malice aforethought.” A game spite (non-player character) is a graphic representation of complex mathematical equations. The “life,” of the sprite is nothing more than a number attached to a variable. The game sprite itself has no soul nor is it living so this means that it cannot be considered a person. This leaves the question pending, “is the player guilty of murder on a spiritual level”? Most biblical scholars believe that killing is justified in God’s eyes in lawful wars and in self-defense. In most games the player character is being actively attacked and must defend himself. There are notable exceptions to this. Games like “Grand Theft Auto,” and “Mafia,” involve killing innocent people and glorify criminal behavior. These games are easily avoided by checking the ESRB rating or reading the box to check for content.

     Another common issue is that some games require the character to use magic. Exodus 22:18 states “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” and Leviticus 19:31 reads "Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neitherseek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God." Like the killing question one has to recognize the “magic,” for what it really is. It is a particle effect that is a representation of a physics expression. On a spiritual level this imaginary spellcraft should not have any more affect on that person than reading a fantasy novel or watching a movie with special effects. Most people who are grounded in their faith and in reality will recognize the magic in the game cannot affect reality.

     Video games offer a unique opportunity for Christians to fellowship and witness. With the addition of network connectivity to games the opportunity exist for Christian players to connect with others across the globe. Most churches now sponsor youth and young adult athletic programs such as summer softball teams and after school basketball programs. These have been proven to be effective community outreach programs and have brought many people into the church. A video game ministry has the potential to reach groups that might not normally play sports. A few Christian gamer fellowships have made their appearance recently. The Tribe of Judah (www.toj.cc) is one such group. It offers Christian gamers a forum to organize competitions and fellowship with other Christians. This group also offers more traditional programs to its members such as mentorship and message boards so that members can discuss issues and request prayer.

     Perhaps the entire debate over Video Game’s affect on a Christian’s spiritual life can be summed up in Romans  chapter 14. In this chapter the apostle Paul writes about a debate over whether or not Christians should eat meat. Paul tells us that what might be right for one man may not be right for another and that we should not judge each other’s decisions. Video games offer a unique opportunity to fellowship with other Christians and to witness to those who need to hear God’s word. Each Christian has to evaluate the their own spiritual life and what affect playing video games will have and make their own decision to game or not. It is possible to play video games and still walk close with God.