My dad is always full of wise sayings, great advice and terribly painful jokes. Growing up he was always fond of reminding me that one way to spot a bad decision was that it would “take you farther than you want to go, cost you more than you want to pay, and keep you longer than you want to stay.”

Compulsive gaming is like that. It draws the gamer beyond the limits of a healthy life. I could give you a list of why gamers game too much, explain each and we could all go our way feeling we learned something.  But that isn’t the goal of my writing. The goal is to be helpful.

Really any reasons I give can be boiled down to one primary idea: We game too much when we don’t understand our purpose. I continually look to the Bible because I’ve found it to be right again and again, and I’ve found it to be incredibly insightful in my own life in this area of addiction. Jesus said that our behaviors, that includes our addictions, come directly out of our heart. Our actions will show the good, or the bad, stored up in our hearts. (Luke 6:45).

That seems simple enough. All I need to do is have a good heart. Just be good, right? Ever tried that? It’s the very reason I used to game so much. I tried really hard in life to be good enough, and I failed. I’d beat myself up, try harder next time, yell some scripture at myself and eventually crash in a heap in front of my computer either gaming, or looking at porn, or both.

The real question we’re left with from the verse in Luke is how did the good get stored in his heart in the first place? After all we’re also told that none of us are just naturally good. (Romans 3:10)

That’s where I want to start, with a focus on the beauty of that statement: It isn’t our goodness. Christ gives us his. When we don’t understand this we seek our satisfaction elsewhere. That’s when we get weird.

Yet sometimes it feels quicker to find satisfaction, to find purpose, somewhere else. When gamers do this we run to games in order to:

  • Be independent
  • Be part of something epic
  • To belong
  • To max out (more on this in another post)

My dad had a point with his “longer than you want to stay, more than you want to pay” thing. Pursuing independence, epic experiences, belonging or even maxing out can be exciting, but it won’t be fulfilling. This is why gaming addiction and compulsive gaming exist: We always need just a little more. Gaming itself then is not the problem; it’s a symptom. If we’ve got a heart-focus problem we can look at our gaming lives and quickly see if our hearts are seeking satisfaction somewhere other than Christ. Just like Luke 6:45 said, our actions will show what’s in our hearts.