I logged in under the name newfangledpower and waited for my brother, woohoodude, to join me (a sad screen name he chose as a young innocent boy, unaware of some of its implications). I sat there with my headphones on, waiting to talk to him, but all that came through was static. Some obnoxious guy made fun of my screen name while I waited. We played a round, but Joel’s voice never came through. All I knew of him was his avatar frolicking through a war zone, roping onto tree limbs, and flying through the air. We won that match (something pretty rare for me) but life became normal again when we lost the next one.
“Yeah newfangledpower! You $&@#%&!” said the obnoxious guy.
I had been sitting there quietly for two rounds, so he probably didn’t know my mic was on.
“Dude,” I said. “What was that for?”
Taken aback, he tried to find the words. “Uh… We won!”
“So you curse me out?” I replied.
“Well… You’re making me feel bad.”
“Didn’t know my mic was on did ya!?” I exclaimed, the game relocating me to a new match as soon as the words were out of my mouth.
This moment was like a real life XKCD comic.
After getting a PS3 many years ago, I talked with my friend about how I was concerned that playing some shooters felt a little bit like murder given how far they’ve come, a concern recently echoed in an Engadget article.
“It’s just a game,” they replied a little aggressively. “It’s not real people.”
Fair enough. It is just software. But given a few more years to dwell on the idea, I feel that we really can sin while playing video games. Sure, this is obvious to some extent. There’s plenty of M-rated games out there chocked full of sex, gore, and more, but I mean that we as Christians can actually sin in more of a murderous way while playing it.
In the Sermon on the Mount (perhaps the greatest message ever preached), Jesus explains that anger is synonymous with murder, (Matthew 5:21-26) which is also later reiterated by John (1 John 3:15). This is in the same way that Jesus says lust is sex, which the church makes an effort to hit on a lot, but for whatever reason we tend to overlook this bit on anger. Maybe because Jesus got righteously angry so we figure our anger is the same? Or maybe anger hits a little too close to home?
With this spiritual equation of “anger-is-murder,” it seems to me that video games can really lead to a spiritual darkness in us. Sure, in story mode we may just be fighting the software, but online shooters are another story. I’ve seen people lose they’re cool in online matches and hunt down specific players for vengeance. In fact, I’ve both been the hunter and the hunted.
“Anger is murder,” says Jesus. And when we run around in a video game with a gun in our hand after that noob that just took us out, we get just a little closer to seeing the truth there.
As Christian video gamers, we should remain mindful of this—especially with the wider release of virtual reality so close and a new world of both beautiful and dark possibilities ahead of us.