Video games have been a great source of entertainment for both adults and kids alike many years. The first interactive electronic game, a "cathode ray tube amusement device," created in 1947, allowed the player to work to position a dot over an airplane in order to shoot it down. Electronic gaming was revolutionized with that golden oldie, Pong, for the Atari game system. Now you had the opportunity to grab a joystick and play a game of virtual, sideways "table tennis" on your computer screen. What fun!
Modern video games have a way of making Pong look pretty cumbersome and boring by comparison. We now have beautiful, realistic graphics, in-depth characters, and epic storylines that allow for hours of entertainment. We have fun ways to work out or play carnival games with our families without leaving the comfort of our own home. Video games have allowed us to be creative, to experience new worlds of fantasy, and to bring family and friends together to play in a relatively new way.
Unfortunately, there's also a dark side to gaming. I could talk about the violence inherent to many video games, where the main character runs around shooting limbs off zombies or destroying objects with his car. I could also mention the immorality of some games, where the characters curse profusely or the storyline takes the gamer into a place like a strip club. But we'll discuss one of the issues with gaming that isn't often addressed: obsession.
As humans, we have a tendency toward unhealthy obsession with many things: health, work, leisure, food. There's nothing inherently wrong with any of these; in fact, all of them are good to some degree. It's when we become obsessed with them that detrimental sin comes in to play.
Obsessions of any kind can be an obstacle to our relationship with God. While God doesn't look down on us having fun, He also doesn't want us spending all our free time on entertaining ourselves while neglecting our pursuit of a deeper relationship with Him. Luke 10:27 says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind." If our heart, soul, and strength are overtaken by video games, there's little, if any, room left for God. Matthew 6:24 makes it clear we can't "serve" two things at once: "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other."
A gaming obsession can also affect family relationships. Have you seen the tongue-in-cheek videos on the Internet about video game "widows"—women who feel their husbands no longer exist in reality due to their newest video game addiction? For every woman who laughs it off, there are plenty of others who feel lonely and neglected while their husbands spend countless hours in front of their computers, game consoles, or mobile devices. Marriages have dissolved because of these addictions, and it isn't just men who are the perpetrators. The Bible commands husbands and wives to be committed to each other, love each other, and to symbolize Christ's love for the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). None of these things can happen effectively when a time-consuming obsession takes precedence over commitment to a spouse.
Parents are also supposed to care for their children and disciple them, both of which take time and effort. If most of a parent's or child's free time is focused on video games, there are not many opportunities left to "train a child in the way he should go" (Proverbs 22:6). Depending on the depth of the parent's obsession, a child may begin to show other signs of physical or emotional neglect.
Finally, one of God's mandates is to take care of the bodies He has given us. We are created in His image (Genesis 1:27), and believers are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). When we neglect our bodies in order to feed a sedentary obsession, we're not honoring God's greatest creation.
Obsession in any form is never a good thing. Let's be vigilant and make sure that our entertainment choices don't become an addiction—no matter how fun they are, how understanding our spouse seems, or how time-consuming the games "need" to be in order for us to excel at them. Our first priority is our relationship with God, and the second is our relationship with the people around us (Matthew 22:37-38).