Young People Ask . . .
Should I Play Computer or Video Games?
They have surrounded you! But you are far from helpless. You fire your laser cannons, mowing down your enemy like wheat. The problem is, the more you shoot, the more enemies appear. You therefore have but one option if you are to survive—kill everything in sight. As you fire, the enemies perish in a cascade of blood . . .
“SPINE-RIPPING, flesh-clawing, head-exploding fun”! This was the way one magazine writer enthusiastically described the latest version of a popular computer game. Actually, this is just one of a new generation of computer and video games that allow players to act out thrilling fantasies. Previous releases seem rather tame in comparison with these bloody, often sadistically violent games.
Even so, violent video and computer games are enormously popular among young people. And with an estimated one third of all households in the United States having some sort of electronic game system, millions of youths have access to them. For youths whose homes are not so equipped, it may take little more than a walk to a friend’s home or the local video arcade to play these games.
What about you? Have you been tempted to purchase—or at least to try out—some of these new games yourself? Well, after examining all the facts, you may have second thoughts about doing so.
Not All Games Are the Same!
First, let’s make it clear that not all video or computer games are objectionable or violent. Many games are educational; they teach such subjects as geography, math, and typing in a lively and entertaining way. Other games challenge the reflexes by simulating such sports as basketball and hockey. There are also high-tech puzzles that intrigue and challenge the mind.
Granted, even the best of games can consume a lot of time. And the Bible urges Christians to ‘buy out time,’ that is, use time wisely in spiritual pursuits. (Ephesians 5:16) However, the Bible does not require that every waking moment be spent working or studying. On the contrary, it reminds us that there is “a time to laugh . . . and a time to skip about.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4) Kept in moderation, play activities can be refreshing and wholesome.
We should be aware, though, that many of these games seem designed to make players waste excessive amounts of time. In some of them, hours are spent in mastering the play at a certain level, before the player discovers that several more levels—inevitably more intricate and more complicated—must be negotiated before the finish! There are also games that seem to give little in return for much effort. Dan and Sam, two Christian fleshly brothers, enthusiastically played a certain game that promised to help them solve math problems. However, they soon realized that it was quicker for them to do the math on paper than on the screen!
So, even with computer and video games that are reasonably wholesome, there is a need to be selective. Say Dan and Sam: “If you shop carefully enough, you can usually find a good game.” It only makes sense, though, to avoid spending a lot of money on games that only result in a person quickly becoming bored. One parent encourages his sons to limit themselves to games that will help them with subjects they are studying in school.
Their Darker Side
Unfortunately, not all computer and video games are harmless fun—much less educational. A lot of today’s entertainment software focuses on what the Bible calls “the works of the flesh”—unclean practices that God condemns. Among such condemned “works” is the “practice of spiritism.” (Galatians 5:19-21) Indeed, to Jehovah God the practice of magic is “detestable.”—Deuteronomy 18:10-12.
Many of today’s games, however, are steeped in spiritism and magic! In one game “magic spells” must be used in order to win. Players are instructed: “When you’re ready to cast the spell, click on the lightning bolt at the bottom-right corner of the menu, then click on the creature you want to fry.” Could not such games cultivate an unhealthy curiosity about demonic forces?
And what about exposing oneself to large doses of hideous violence? U.S.News & World Report tells of two popular games that display “ripping out an opponent’s heart” and “vampires drilling holes in scantily clad teenage girls.” While some may brush off the computerized bloodletting as harmless fantasy, the Bible cautions at Psalm 11:5: “Jehovah himself examines the righteous one as well as the wicked one, and anyone loving violence His soul certainly hates.”—Compare Isaiah 2:4.
It is also possible to call up cheap pornography on the computer screen. Nudity and graphic sex have become such common fare that U.S. game manufacturers produced a rating system to warn purchasers of offensive games. Few retailers, though, seem willing to curb sales to youngsters. “Our only obligation is to give customers what they want,” says one store clerk. Yet ask yourself, ‘Will exposure to sexually arousing images help me keep my mind on things that are “righteous, chaste, lovable, and virtuous”?’—Philippians 4:8.
True, experts debate how computerized play really affects youths. One study, reported in the magazine New Scientist, optimistically concluded that such games “are not a root cause of bad behaviour.” Nevertheless, 97 percent of the youngsters surveyed in that study “thought it was possible to become addicted to the games.” The youths said that arcade games were particularly harmful because “they encourage players to spend more money.”
Can these games really be addictive? Apparently so, for some players. One youth told Awake!: “All you can think about is getting to the end and winning.” A young man similarly recalls: “I spent hours trying to figure out how to kill everybody and get to the next level of the game.”
You may think that you could never get so caught up in a game. But consider the way TV shows and movies manipulate people’s emotions—moving them to tears, rage, or cheers of excitement. Imagine, then, a program that not only has an exciting plot, unique characters, and dazzling special effects but that lets you be the superhero. Would it be easy to resist getting thoroughly involved in it? So, it is not surprising that some players have difficulty separating fantasy from reality. One youth recalls: “The effect of playing violent games was so bad I even imagined that my hand was a gun and pointed it at people.”
In the event parents do not restrict the use of computer or video games, youths should consider the advice at Ecclesiastes 2:14: “As regards anyone wise, his eyes are in his head.” That means the wise one watches where he is going and sees what lies ahead. Really, the world of computer entertainment already contains much in opposition to the knowledge of God. (Compare 2 Corinthians 10:5.) And who knows what the software magicians will come up with next? So before any youth purchases, plays, or rents a game, he should ask himself, ‘What is it about? Does its name suggest occult leanings? Does the cover art portray gruesome violence?’
At their very best, electronic games can provide some wholesome enjoyment and learning. But are they really worth tying up a lot of your precious time? Fourteen-year-old Sam, mentioned earlier, relates: “Our dad has never said in so many words that we can’t have video games. But he has asked, ‘What is so interesting about pushing a button and seeing someone run or jump across a screen?’” “And now that’s our way of thinking,” adds his brother Dan.
Yes, don’t forget that there are other—perhaps more productive—ways of enjoying yourself, such as reading, doing arts and crafts, participating in healthful sports, singing, or learning to play a musical instrument. It is so much more beneficial to spend time “training yourself with godly devotion as your aim.” (1 Timothy 4:7) Doing so will be of far more value than playing any electronic game.
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Ninety-seven percent of the youngsters surveyed in one study “thought it was possible to become addicted to the games”
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Can playing violent video games really harm you?