Games: Cooler than Real Life

Video games can just be flat-out cooler than real life. Like Mario Odyssey. Photo Credit: Nintendo

Just ask any gamer and they’ll be able to tell you: Video games are awesome. As one of my students put it recently: “I can do way cooler stuff in a video game”.

I guess he’s got a point. Only in video games can I create a home, life, city, world of my choice without leaving my chair. I can take part in an epic journey, save an entire universe and get away with dangers, risks and choices I’d never live down, or through, in real life.

Yet saying gamers play video games because of “cooler stuff” is a little too simple. There are over a dozen major genres of games, with dozens more subgenres.

When we look for why our gamers game so much it is easy to over-simplify the conversation. The logic makes sense: Games are fun, people like to have fun, so they play games a lot to have a lot of fun. Yet there are lots of ways to spend your time, a lot of things you can be addicted to. So why video games?

Created for Adventure

Redeemed by God = Full potential + greatest adventure ever. Photo credit: Nintendo, Zelda BoTW.

To understand this we need to understand that your gamer is created in the likeness of a creative, loving, communal God and that your gamer has a purpose on this earth that they are called to accomplish.

Then God said, “Let us make [men and woman] in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26)

Your gamer, each of us, is created in the likeness of a great God who is community, who is love, and who out of that created us to be like Him. When we replace God with other stuff, addictions show up.

Genesis 2 recounts the first time people decided to trust themselves instead of God. Adam and Even had a perfect life, but they wanted to have control. They ate the fruit, removed themselves from God’s blessings, and God immediately put in place a rescue plan. But the consequences? Sin. Death. Addiction.

The Problem: This Broken World

Whether Syria or elsewhere, our world is broken. The news reminds us of this daily. Photo Credit: New York Times

The idea that this world is broken isn’t surprising to young people. It doesn’t take long on this planet for us to realize life is broken. Listen to the news for a couple minutes, go to the store, or sit in traffic. There are a lot of broken people with broken motives, trying to reach their goals that are probably not what they once were.

For many gamers video games become the reality that they can control. Ask any serious gamer why they game and they’ll be able to verbalize something along these lines: Video games allow gamers life as they really want it.

The Solution: Know Whose We Are

Unhealthy gamers pursue through video games what we all pursue: Knowledge that we have a purpose, that we are on track, that we matter. It is this very idea that drives gamers to game. When gaming gets out of hand, it usually isn’t games that are the problem.

Gaming addiction is a quick-fix for what, at its heart, is a God issue.

Ultimately, addiction comes in because we don’t trust the God. Like Adam and Eve we may be fine with God, but we believe we need to take the reigns if good things are really going to happen. So we take control, and run after happiness as we know best.

Freedom = Not Being in Control

This world is broken. We aren’t strong enough to bear the hurt, the disappointment, the weight of our own mistakes.

Using games to run away might make us feel excited, but never satisfied. No one who struggles with gaming has ever played a game and said “That was it! That fixed it. I don’t need to play again.” Instead the first question that runs through the unhealthy gamers mind after playing is often “When can I play again?”

All gamers, and non-gamers, need to know the truth behind Genesis 1:26. Each of us is created in love, for a purpose. Our gaming and lives need to reflect that truth. The sooner we run towards it rather than away from it, the sooner we will find peace in this life.