Being a nerd I’m going to give myself license to make the occasional Star Trek reference.
There is a Next Generation episode titled “The Game” (ep. 106) where the crew of the Enterprise is introduced to a game that creates a euphoric sense of ecstasy for players when they complete a level.
It doesn’t take long until the entire crew is addicted to this game, leaving all of their other responsibilities to wait while they get just one more level, one more hit.
Much like any other addict, the crew falls dangerously close to disaster before being saved by those who resisted and one who is immune to the effects of the emotional high (thank you, Data).
Fake Love, Fake War
Today we are basically dealing with a Star Trek-esk reality. In his article “Fake Love, Fake War” Russel Moore looks at a study done on the correlation between unhealthy gaming and pornography.
The two psychologists leading the study, Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan, look at behaviors trained by playing video games and find that our culture is steadily more like the intrepid Enterprise. Moore points out specifically that “[Zimbardo and Duncan’s] concern isn’t about morality, but instead about the nature of these addictions in reshaping the pattern of desires necessary for community.”
Video games, research has shown, can change the way we behave and in doing so change the way we think. This is the idea behind neural-plasticity: Our brains change based on our behavior. They prune themselves to get rid of what they don’t use and to specialize in what they do use.
What’s that mean? It means PRACTICE MAKES PERMANENT. It means we can train ourselves to need certain behaviors to feel happy, normal, fulfilled.
Addiction: Drink, Game, Sex
Usually with addiction that means you need more of what you’ve had in order to feel the way you want. In the area of gaming and pornography it’s a little different. Moore puts it this way:
“If you’re addicted to sugar or tequila or heroin you want more and more of that substance. But porn and video games both are built on novelty, on the quest for newer and different experiences. That’s why you rarely find a man addicted to a single pornographic image. He’s entrapped in an ever-expanding kaleidoscope.”
The brain receives a constant stream of new images, new information, and can actually train itself to find satisfaction, even come to desire the never-ending deluge of newness. This what drives the video game market and what has kept pornography as a thriving industry for thousands of years. Pornography been found from ancient Greece and Ephesus to Thailand; it’s not a new idea. The challenge is that as users desire more they want not just more selection but a heavier dose. It’s the same with video games; they must be more intense, more involved, more engaging.
A Perspective on Variety: Change Isn’t Always Good
For pornography the fastest growing part of the industry is child pornography. Child pornography has become a $3 billion industry and is a constant battle being waged by international organizations such as the Internet Watch Foundation and everyone interested in the wellness of vulnerable youth.
Similarly, in 2005 the global video game industry brought in $27.7 billion US. In 2014 they brought in an estimated $86.8 billion according to Statista.com. In comparing ourselves to the crew of the Star Trek Enterprise, we do not seem to be tiring of finding novel ways to please ourselves.
“BUT VIDEO GAMES AREN’T PORN!” You Say
I hear you, and I agree! I was going to do a clever paraphrasing, but Mr. Moore nails it down pretty well:
“Pornography can’t be consumed in moderation because it is, by definition, immoral. A video game can be a harmless diversion along the lines of a low-stakes athletic competition.”Watch Full Movie Streaming Online and Download
Yet both can be taken to the same extreme: Variety and an ever-changing pallet of self-satisfaction is not what God created us for.
Created for Singular Relationship
So then what’s the point? Moore points out that it wasn’t in the multitude of animals that God showed Adam the fullest joy of his creation, but with the presentation of one woman. It isn’t for a myriad of earthly distractions that God has purposed us, but to love our one God with all our heart, soul and mind (Matt. 22:37).
God is the Father of creativity. He created the world, our souls, the universe with a word. Satan is, to paraphrase Mr. Moore, the father of plagiarism. He uses the intrinsic gifts God has given us and twists; they are meant to serve an eternal God and not bend to the wills and passions of finite creatures like ourselves.
While pornography is in itself a lie of what God intended, it gives the illusion of desire, relationship and affection. In reality it’s just a lonely person seeking a string of new, empty, one-sided relationships.
The problem that we see in games isn’t the game itself: It’s WHY we seek it. Take a thoughtful gaming Self check. Do I game:
- To escape?
- To feel normal?
- To numb myself to problems?
- To avoid confrontation or important conflicts?
All of these show gaming used as medication, just another drug to make it through the day. These are all another form of addiction in place of trusting God. If we look to be satisfied by anything other than the true source of joy, we are in the wrong place.
Where do we look for joy?
Video games can be an amazing expression of God’s creativity and the joy that a new experience can bring. They can also be a twisted lie that we participate in for our own pleasure and that have no redeeming value. Video games themselves are not the problem.
We believe the lie of variety almost naturally. It shows in how we:
- watch or play sports
- seek jobs or places to live
- seeking just a little more money because then…
- expect our spouse to fulfill our needs
- escape our world by reading or gaming
If we allow ourselves to get to the place where pleasure hunting becomes the status-quo, we miss out on the joy that God has planned for us. We also may not be so fortunate as to have a Data we are willing to listen to.