Electronic Gaming

Posted on January 27, 2009 · Posted in Culture, Entertainment, Gaming, Shaping Influences, Television

He who works his land
will have abundant food,
    but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.
Proverbs 12:11

But whoever has doubts
is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever
does not proceed from faith is sin. Romans 14:23

Electronic gaming is another one of those activities that is
not mentioned by name in the Bible. Such  activities often cause problems for parents
and children. We tend to want to find a verse somewhere that gives a thumbs up
or down to our activities. We think it would be nice if Proverbs 35:10 said: It
is okay to do gaming, but no more than 30 minutes a week, else you will be in
great danger of losing your mind.  But
God, in his infinite wisdom, did not provide a book with a list of rules for
every possible situation. What he did provide is a book that teaches his people
how to love him by applying principles. Yes, there are commandments, but these
are meant to help us form principles for all of life as we obey them. So, for
example, the Holy Spirit directs the apostle Paul to use the concerns of his
day about eating meat offered to idols to form a principle that not only
answered the immediate concern of his day, but applies to all of life for all
time – whatever does not proceed from
faith is sin.
In one master stroke of wisdom, God provided a timeless
principle relevant to all cultures, including ours. Just as we have seen in the
Facebook series, God has much to say about an issue that is not mentioned by
name in Scripture.

I believe there are at least two defining principles that have
specific application to electronic gaming:

     1.  Gaming must not detract from a biblically
productive life.

     2.  Gaming, if it is to be done, must proceed
from faith.

We will make practical application of these principles in
upcoming posts. But first I want to provide a little history about the gaming
phenomena. In 1993 David Sheff wrote Game
Over: How Nintendo zapped an American industry, captured your dollars, and
enslaved your children
(Random House).  As you can tell from the subtitle, the author
had a problem with Nintendo. Sheff did not write from a Christian perspective,
but from the perspective of an analyst of American business and culture.  He was angered and alarmed by the success of
Nintendo and its impact on American culture. Shortly after the book was
published, Nintendo lost its leadership role in the gaming industry, as Sony
and Microsoft became serious rivals. Sheff chronicles the rise of how a
Japanese company that began in the late 1800’s as a manufacturer of elaborate
playing cards for leisure use in Japan became a gaming giant in America. As the
family-run company grew, it tried its hand at various avenues to tap into the
Japanese market for leisure dollars. The company moved beyond playing cards and
dabbled in ventures such as instant rice, running a taxi cab company, and even
prostitution. But they returned to the company’s initial vision of amusement in
leisure time. The focus shifted from playing cards to toys. Nintendo had built
a huge distribution network in Japan
and they made full use of it. Eventually one of their employees began to
explore toys that incorporated electronic devices, such as remote controlled
cars. That led to using technology to place simple games on a TV-like screen. In
1981 Nintendo had it’s first major hit game – Donkey Kong. The rest is history.
By 1990 their character Super Mario was more recognized by American children
than Mickey Mouse.

Sheff draws this telling conclusion:

In the last part of the twentieth
century, leaps in technology ushered in a new era in which children and a
substantial part of the culture as a whole would be more influenced by
interactive electronic media – in their simplest form, video games – than by
television, which had defined the previous generation.

This insight is key to understanding the impact of gaming on
our culture and your children. Interactive electronic media is a more precise
term to help understand the gaming influence. This term also helps to
illustrate the strong attraction of Facebook and other forms of social

In all of this, living for the glory of God must be understood
on a practical level. Because the church was not particularly concerned with
video versions of tennis or a plump Italian plumber named Mario, we were
unprepared for what would come. Bouncing white balls on a screen and a harmless
looking plumber gave way to captivation by games like Doom and Grand Theft
Auto. Parents and church leaders finally became alarmed, but it was too late—electronic
gaming is here to stay.

Principles were ignored because the initial presentation
didn’t seem so bad. Now, interactive electronic media is riding a wave of
powerful technology that has the power to enslave and encourage rage, lust, and
revenge in ways few thought possible. The Wii offers an even broader arena for
interaction. If biblical principles are not carefully applied, the temptations
that Wii type systems provide far outweigh previous forms of gaming.

The biblical response is to bring the power of the glory of
God to bear on these pursuits, which for many are no longer merely a leisure
pursuit. The seductive allure of interactive electronic media offers to define
life itself for the avid gamer, at least temporarily. Nothing but the majesty
and glory of God can turn your children from the attractions of a dazzling,
compelling electronic world.

In the next post we will look at the danger of chasing