There’s an old saying that’s popular among political candidates and publicity hounds: “All press is good press.”
Colleen Lachowicz is finding out whether or not this is true.
Who is Colleen Lachowicz?
Colleen Lachowicz is a Democratic candidate for state senator in Maine’s 25th district. The Republican Party of Maine recently “outed” her as an online gamer. Specifically, she has a high-level “orc assassination rogue” character in the popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) “World of Warcraft.” Her Republican opponents have made her online gaming into a campaign issue, putting out press releases and attack postcards about her “disturbing alter ego” and “bizarre double life.”
Unfazed, Colleen Lachowicz has replied, basically, “What’s the big deal about playing video games?” In fact, hundreds of millions of ordinary adults around the world play video games of various kinds. As far as Lachowicz is concerned, her Republican attackers are way behind the times; playing video games is just part of the new normal.
In response to charges that playing video games displays immaturity of character, she cites statistics from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) showing that more people over the age of 50 play video games than under the age of 18. The same statistics show that the average age of a video gamer is 34, and the largest group of game players is in the 18-49 age range. Contrary to popular belief, video games are not just “kid stuff.” They’re also not just for the guys: 40% of all game-players are women.
And now, a middle-aged woman named Colleen Lachowicz, who is running for state senate in Maine and who just happens to enjoy playing video games, may find out that for her, all press is good press. The Republican attack on her for her online gaming has drawn international press attention to her campaign, giving her far more name recognition and possibly more votes in her upcoming election than she otherwise would have had.
(Update: Lachowicz went on to win the Maine State Senate seat against her Republican opponent in the general election on November 6, 2012.)
But never mind what the Maine Republican Party says about video games. What does the Bible say about video games?
First, let’s take care of one more myth:
Aren’t video games just one big addiction?
There is a big debate going on right now about whether “video game addiction” is really an addiction. It is clear that only a small percentage of people who play video games have a serious problem with excessive game-playing. For the vast majority of people who play video games regularly, their game play is something they do for fun in their spare time, averaging eight hours per week—which is just a little over an hour a day. Hardly an addiction.
Still, there are people who do spend way too much time gaming.
If you spend most of your waking hours playing video and online games, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that your life sucks!
No, your life doesn’t suck because you play video games all day. You play video games all day because your life sucks.
Why does your life suck?
How should I know? Maybe you’re stuck in a brutal, dead-end marriage. Maybe you’re stuck in a job that you hate, working for a boss who drives you up the wall. Maybe you don’t fit in at school, and you’re a daily target of the snobs, cliques, and bullies. Maybe your overprotective—or unstable and negligent—parents are making your life miserable. I really don’t know why your life sucks.
But I’ve been there myself, and I know what it’s like. I’ve come out the other end, too. My hope and prayer for you is that you will soon be able to move out of this depressing phase of your life, and move on to a new and better phase. When life is good, video games lose their hold. You might still enjoy playing your favorite games in your spare time. But you’ll be much too busy with the rest of your life to spend all day at it.
So . . . what does the Bible say about video games???
Umm . . . is that a trick question? The Bible doesn’t say anything at all about video games! How could it? The Bible was written thousands of years ago. Video games have only been in existence for the last fifty years or so.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped various fundamentalist Christians from putting up web pages purporting to tell us what the Bible says about video games. They offer passages from the Bible condemning violence, sexual immorality, and various other wicked and impure things—presumably because these things are present in many popular video games.
These fundamentalist charges against video games and online gaming are echoed in other quarters, with additional charges for good measure: video games are unhealthful, they are linked to actual violence, they are antisocial, and so on, and so forth.
For every charge against video games, there are those who defend them against those charges. We don’t need to repeat all the arguments here. They’re easy enough to find with a few simple Internet searches.
What if the Bible were a video game?
Now I have a question for those who quote the Bible and condemn video games because they contain excessive and explicit violence, sexuality, immorality, and so on:
Have you read your Bible lately?
You can’t get four chapters in without encountering cold-blooded murder: fratricide, no less! (Genesis 4:1-16). And before that chapter has finished, yet another murder has taken place (Genesis 4:23-24). Two chapters later, supernatural beings are coming down to marry and have sex with beautiful young human females, who are bearing famous heroes and warriors as a result of these illicit liaisons with the gods (Genesis 6:1-4) In fact, God is so displeased with how wicked human beings have become that he decides to wipe everyone off the face of the earth except for the righteous Noah and his family (Genesis 6:4-8).
So after God kills everyone else on earth yet saves Noah in the famous ark, what’s the first thing Noah does when he and his family are finally able to leave the ark and live on dry land again? He plants a vineyard, gets drunk, and curses one of his three sons for the sin of walking in on him while he is lying around naked and inebriated in his tent (Genesis 9:18-27).
If that isn’t enough sex and violence for you, how about Bible stories of:
- Genocide: In 1 Samuel 15:1-3, God commands his people, the Israelites, to utterly wipe out an entire nation, killing not only all of their men, but all of their women, children, and babies . . . and even their livestock.
- Gang rape and murder: In Judges 19:20-28 local ruffians rape to death the wife of a traveler who is staying overnight at one of the houses in their town.
- Dismemberment: At the end of the same story, in Judges 19:29-30, the woman’s husband cuts her dead body into twelve pieces and sends one piece to each of the tribes of Israel as a rallying cry to war against those who had raped and murdered his wife.
- Attempted homosexual gang rape: In an earlier story in Genesis 19:1-11, all the men in the city of Sodom rush the house where two angel visitors are staying, intending to rape them. Incidentally, before the angels themselves put a stop to the whole horrid scene, their host offers the would-be rapists his own two virgin daughters in place of his angel guests.
- Incest: In Genesis 38, Judah, one of the twelve sons of Jacob and the patriarch of the tribe of Judah, sleeps with his own daughter-in-law thinking she is a local prostitute, and fathers two of his three surviving sons through the union.
- War, adultery, deceit, and murder: In 2 Samuel 11, while David, the famous warrior king of Israel, has his troops out killing and conquering their enemies, David sleeps with the wife of one of his soldiers and gets her pregnant. Unable to induce her husband to sleep with her in order to cover his tracks, David arranges for the soldier to be killed in battle, then takes the dead soldier’s wife for himself.
Certainly these are some of the most shocking stories in the Bible. But they are by no means unique. In fact, the Bible is chock full of sex and violence, including long, detailed descriptions of wars and battles, complete with all the strategy, murder, and mayhem.
Let’s just say that if the Bible were a video game, the ESRB would have to give it a rating of AO: Adults Only. This rating is for games that “include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.”
Does the Bible really condemn sex and violence in video games?
Now, these are the sorts of arguments and Bible quotes found in articles written by atheists and skeptics to attack the Bible. And the skeptics do have a point. If the Bible contains so much violence, sexuality, and just plain objectionable material in it, how could it possibly be the Holy Word of God?
That’s a question for another time. For now I’ll simply say that I’ve read the entire Bible many times over, including its “worst” passages, and I firmly believe that it is the Good Book and the Word of God.
The point of all this is not that the Bible is an evil book. Rather, it is to point out that if video games are to be condemned because they contain violence and sex, then by that measure the Bible should be condemned as well.
As with the sex and violence in the Bible, I believe something more and deeper is going on in violent and suggestive video games.
Why are we drawn toward sex and violence in our entertainments?
In fact, if we think violent and sexualized video games should be banned, we might as well just go ahead and ban the whole world! This world of ours is filled with sex and violence.
Some of the sex and violence is good. If it weren’t for sex, we humans would have only one generation left, and then we’d cease to exist as a species. And if it weren’t for violence, what would all the football fans watch on Sunday afternoon?
Some of the sex and violence is bad. War, murder, rape, forced prostitution, sexual abuse, muggings, beatings, armed robberies . . . the list of how we hurt one another every day, on large and small scales, goes on and on.
In other words, for anyone living on this earth, sex and violence are simply a fact of life. We cannot ignore them. We must face them and deal with them.
Sex is a matter of reproduction. And the drive to reproduce ourselves is the most powerful, fundamental drive of every species, including humans.
Violence is a matter of life and death. And the survival instinct is second only to the reproductive instinct as a gut-level driving force in our lives.
We are drawn to these politically incorrect subjects of sex and violence because they deal with our deepest drives, our deepest fears, our deepest struggles, and our most powerful aspirations. The more we attempt to suppress these drives and sweep them under the rug in polite and acceptable discourse, the more we humans seek them out in other venues.
And quite frankly, video games are one of the least damaging ways we can engage in and deal with our powerful, conflicting human drives and emotions relating to issues of healthy and unhealthy sexuality, life and death, good and evil. No one is actually getting hurt in a video game. It’s all just pixels and lines of computer code. We are working out some of our deepest drives and desires in a relatively safe environment.
In short, we seek out sex and violence in video games, movies, books, and television shows because these are issues and drives that are close to our heart and in our gut.
This is also why there is so much sex and violence in the Bible.
The Bible is a book for adults. It deals with the entire range of human drives and passions, from the highest to the lowest. It does not shy away from any of the fundamental issues of human life. It puts all of them in the context of God’s relationship with human beings. It deals with every dark corner of our lives, as well as offering us the greatest spiritual light that we can comprehend and aspire to.
So . . . What does the Bible say about video games?
The Bible says nothing directly about video games. But if we read the entire Bible, both the “good” parts and the “bad” parts, and if we look at the entire Bible from a deeper perspective, we can arrive at a much more helpful and spiritual view of the video games that are played avidly in over two-thirds of American households.
In Part 2 of this article, I’ll take up this challenge, and shine a Biblical and spiritual light on the experience of adults, teens, and children as they engage in their favorite computer games.
For further reading:
yes that’s true and god wanted to show that no matter what you can be saved and i love violent video games and god and the bible (some of it) could make a great game
Thanks for stopping by. I’m not big on violent video games, but I know that a lot of people love ’em. I agree that there could be some great Bible-based video games.
i actually think game developers and christians could work to gether to make great christ oriented games that are good
Hi Lee. It’s so nice to read about so many different topics on your website! It’s always a pleasure and I learn so much. Well, I have a question about video games, specifically about emulators. Leaving the legal aspect of it aside (since different countries have different copyright laws, some more strict and others more loose), spiritually speaking, is it a sin to use emulators? Am I a horrible person for having done it? Am I no different from a thief? I ask this because in my country video games are extremely expensive, so the alternative for many people is to download old games to play on the computer. I did this a lot when I was a kid, it was the only way for me to play since I could not afford to buy that kind of stuff because modern games and consoles here always have a very very high cost. However, I was just a child and didn’t know anything about the legal aspect of it, especially considering that everyone around me did it I did not think of it as something wrong. I recently felt the desire to play some old games but as an adult I started to reflect about the morality of doing so. I’m not asking for a permission or a prohibition to do it, I just want to know if spiritually speaking this is sinful and the same thing as stealing and if I should just overcome my selfish desire to play Super Mario World and Castlevania haha. =] I know that some people use emulators just to avoid having to pay for the games, but as a kid I used it only because I did not have the money, but if I did I would have bought every single one of them. Still,nowadays I simply feel bad for having used emulators in my childhood. Any thoughts about it? Thanks!
Glad you’re enjoying the articles here.
About emulators, of course, if someone is using them just to avoid paying for games when they perfectly well could, that is a clear case of stealing, and certainly wrong.
As for the rest, it gets into a gray area that’s quite difficult to untangle. There is an inherent injustice in people who are good and decent being kept in poverty by bad government and by companies run by immoral people. And while that doesn’t justify stealing, in some cases it makes it almost inevitable. I don’t think God judges harshly people who steal because it’s the only way to survive and to have some level of happiness in life.
It is quite harsh for people in poor areas and poor countries to look at their richer neighbors, and everything they have, and know that it is unlikely that they will ever have the tiniest part of what the wealthy enjoy. Once again, this doesn’t justify stealing, but it makes it almost inevitable. The real solution is to correct the selfishness, greed, and corruption of the people causing others to be in grinding poverty. (And also to correct the laziness and lack of discipline of those who are poor not because of oppression by others, but because of their own laziness and lack of discipline.)
However, poverty is more than a political problem—hence government’s general inability to solve it. It is really a spiritual problem. Ultimately, it can be solved only by people taking responsibility for their own lives, repenting from their sins, leaving behind their old greed and lust for power and personal pleasure at others’ expense, and committing themselves to a life of love for God and the neighbor, according to Jesus’ commandments.
As I say, these issues are very difficult to untangle. So I would suggest not beating yourself up about playing pirated games in your childhood. Besides, it’s what we’re doing now, not what we did in the past, that really matters. See the section on “Have you committed terrible sins?” in the article, “If You Think You’re Going to Hell, Please Read This First.”
As for today, if you want to play a game, and it is currently being sold, the only fully moral thing to do is to purchase the game. If it’s an old game that is no longer being sold, you’ll have to make up your own mind whether to use an emulator to play it. In that case, you’re probably still technically stealing, since the company or person that published the game probably still holds the intellectual property rights on it. However, they are not actually losing money if you use an emulator, since they are no longer selling it. In other words, it’s not really hurting anyone—which is the true measure of whether something is evil and sinful. So once again, it’s a gray area.
I would only add that in the larger scheme of things, being able to play a particular game is not all that important. Perhaps there are other games you could play, or other more useful things you could do with your time. Being able to gracefully not do some things you might like to do, and still be happy, is part of the process of gaining emotional and spiritual maturity. Not that there’s anything wrong with playing video games, as expressed in the above article. But doing the moral thing is easier if we don’t let ourselves be driven by hankerings to do things that, while basically harmless in themselves, are in a moral gray area.
One more thought: I like to think of life as happening in chapters. There are things we enjoyed doing, places we enjoyed being, and people we enjoyed having relationships with that are no longer part of our life today. We could look back with nostalgia and sadness that we no longer have them in our lives. Or we could look back with thankfulness that they enriched our lives in that chapter of our lives, while feeling happy that we have moved on to a new chapter, which has new experiences, new places, and new people in it for us to enjoy.
Hi Lee. Thank you for your answer. Just to be clear, I’m not going to download copyrighted games. I felt the desire of doing so, but I started to think that this is probably wrong, and I have what Catholic theologians call “a tender conscience”, so it’s not gonna happen, but I do agree that it is better not to beat myself up for having done this a lot as a kid, and yes, I also agree that life is made of chapters and in each phase of life sometimes we act in a very different way. Anyway, I’ll probably just look for something cheap and oldschool to buy (legally) in the near future to have some fun. Thanks!
P.S.: oh, and by the way, most people that I know download movies, songs, and other things. I don’t do it, but I also don’t say anything to stop them. Should I tell them that it’s wrong or should I just mind my own business? I prefer to just be quiet about it, I don’t wanna judge what people do or don’t do. And this kind of practice is so common in my country that if I say that it’s wrong they will probably just laugh at me anyway.
It’s probably best to pick your battles, and fight only those that have some possibility of success. On pirated movies, songs, and so on, you’re fighting a mighty tide. Probably not the most constructive use of your time and moral suasion to rail against it. Of course, if someone asks, you can state your views. Maybe it will make a difference for the person who asked.
Okay, thank you very much.