Preventing gaming from dominating

Gaming is a worldwide pastime. According to the statistics site Exploding Topics, in just seven years the number of gamers has increased by one billion. There are over three billion active video game players in the world today, and that number is only expected to grow. In the U.S., two out of every three people play some sort of video game.

I used to play video games, but I recently stepped away fully from the gaming world. Both the positive experiences and lasting relationships to be had and also the negative effects of it taking over my time. I hope to widen your perspective on this topic and try and answer the question: How can Christians keep this pastime from becoming a full-time obsession? 

My first official video game was World of Tanks. For a while, I was just playing by myself. Then at church one day, I was walking past someone on their phone and I saw them looking at a tank model from the game. This started a conversation, which led to us playing online together, which led to a friendship, which led to me meeting his younger brother, who is now one of my closest friends.

That was eight years ago. Skype turned into Discord. Family computers turned into custom-built PCs. Tanks turned into Rocket League. Gamer tags turned into phone contacts. Game chats turned into theological conversations. All of these were great without one large detail: time spent playing turned from hours into weeks. Gaming had become more than a pastime. Time flies by when you are having fun, but life also flies by when you have your eyes glued to a screen. Gaming often receives a bad reputation for this, but it isn’t a bad thing in and of itself.

Gaming actually has many positive outcomes as a hobby. Exploding Topics says that almost 90% of people surveyed said video games can bring together different types of people. In the same survey, roughly 80% said gaming provides mental stimulation, stress relief, team-building skills and inspiration to players. Additionally, 50% said gaming provided a way to make new connections with strangers and stay connected with family. 

CenturyLink provided a survey on time spent playing video games, and its stats show that 33% of Generation Z individuals play video games for eight to 12 hours a week. Another 23% play for over 13 hours a week. If we do some quick math, this means over half of our generation will spend a minimum of 4,500 hours gaming between middle school and college graduation. I don’t know about you, but when I think about spending 26 weeks in front of online games, I take a step back. “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

As Christians, we must be aware of what we are letting control us. Ephesians 5:15-17 says this: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” I want this verse to inspire us to look at how we are using our time, whether that be gaming, reading or even schoolwork. Anything can become an idol, consuming us and our hearts without us even realizing it. 

Games are engineered to draw you in and keep you there. Be cautious with the amount of time you let this fun and engaging hobby keep you sitting in front of a screen. Are you improving relationships with it or avoiding them? Are you rewarding yourself for a job well done or putting off your work with one more game? Are you building each other up with your speech or tearing each other down with banter and harsh language? Ask yourself these questions before you pick up that mouse or controller. It’s just a game, so keep it just a game.

Maas is an opinion writer for the Liberty Champion

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