When it comes to video games, theres always alot of talk about violence in video games and the negative effects. Do they affect you or your children? Should you play violent video games?
I was talking to a friend and the both of us have grown up playing video games. We grew up playing games like GTA and Counter Strike, both involve shooting and violence. As I’ve gotten older and I’ve accepted Christ in my life as lord and saviour, and as Ive become an adult with family responsibilities and two sons of my own. Ive had to rethink about the games I play, the games I want my sons watching me play and the games I would want my sons to play. You often see and hear about the negative media coverage video games get, which is alot. About how video games are addictive and cause violent behaviour and depression. Now while I don’t find it beneficial to go completely all in on the negative end of the spectrum, it isn’t helpful to just say all of this is completely false without looking a bit more into these claims, as outlandish as they may seem.
I do not believe and evidence does not show that if you play a game once or twice it will dramatically alter your behaviour, but playing violent video games or ‘rule breaking’ games excessively have shown to have negative effects on humans.
Psychologist have studied the effects that video games have on humans and their research and findings should begin to help us navigate this terrain. Research shows that an over exposure to violence desensitises people to violence. In other words, if you are watching too many violent forms of media, in this case video games research shows that you can begin to partake in violent behaviour. I think in-part because of the engagement aspect of video games, you have to choose to be violent in video games, this eventually spill over into the real world, even if its minimal, its something to consider. I remember a case in California about 10 years ago where a group of people were imitating the crimes they would commit in a video game in real life and caused havoc amongst innocent bystanders, an extreme case, but real nonetheless.
Media Psychologist conducting a study followed five teenage boys who were playing ‘rule-breaking’ games; games where you have to break the rules in order to win. Such as ‘Need for Speed’ or GTA and another set of boys who were playing ‘rule follow’ games such as NFL Madden and FIFA; games where you have to follow the rules in order to win. After three years the studies showed that the boys playing the rule breaking games actually were more likely to be arrested for crimes like speeding and other petty crimes. This is significant because it shows that the game play does in fact teach, shape and has an impact on our real life behaviours.
This evidence should show us that actually we should be careful when we pick and choose which genre of video games we want to engage in. You and your children do not need to play violent video games to have fun or to enjoy gaming. There are literally thousands of non-violent video games that are amazing, that are fun, that are classics. Sports games like FIFA and creative silly games like Overcooked 2, both of which I have written free youth sessions for here on Discover God. I think most importantly as Christians we have to ask, would Jesus play video games? Of course he would, he used to be amongst children and welcomed them to him (Luke 18:16), children are playful by nature and they learn through play and I believe Jesus was playful by nature as well. But I dont think Jesus would play violent shooting games where the purpose of the game is to run around and kill people.
As Christians we have to allow our faith to make our decisions for us when it comes to video game interaction and consumption. We have clearly as a society become desensitised to violence in TV & Film, but I think due to the effects these powerful media forms have on us, we have to be wise, discern and choose healthy alternatives, for ourselves and our children.