Power Gamer from World of Warcraft Southpark Episode
This is a pretty interesting article, and something that I can identify with. This fellow is a Christian who is addicted to online games. To some this sounds absolutely silly, like something from a Seinfeld episode. Are you kidding me? Who would be addicted to a video game? But these are the same people who can’t imagine being addicted to anything at all. There are those of us who understand addiction all too well, and this simply makes sense.
Certainly there are various levels of commitment to video games, ranging from those who think they are evil to those who play 80 hours a week or more. “Exgamer,” as the guy is known, was on the “more” end of the spectrum. Though I have never played as much as this brother, I have played my fair share, and I understand the impulses that drive him to the online world.
There is something attractive about alternate reality. It appeals to the human in all of us. For many, a virtual universe, especially like those of the mmorpg genre, this is even more so. The persistent universe of the mmorpg allows us to not only plug in for a few hours of distraction, but to build something that will be there when we get back. The game world continues and changes when you “log off,” and when you get back, it is not only computer programming you are interacting with, but the decisions of other human beings. Your “character” is just as you left him, and all you have to do is spend more time and effort to make him better and stronger. The better and stronger your character becomes, the more you can do in the virtual universe, and of course with other people playing there is the social aspect of potentially being the best, or at least finding some kind of niche.
The Distorted Image of God
We as humans like this kind of progress. We like dominion. We like advancement. We were made in God’s image to “cultivate and keep” God’s creation (Gen. 2:15). It is precisely this aspect of the Imago Dei (Image of God) in us that makes mmorpgs and other video games so attractive. One look at my 4 year old son building bridges out of cardboard and making forts out of pillows is a case in point. He was made to create…all of us were…and online games offer that in a very attractive way. If it stops here, then I would say that these games are great. Get your game on! But for many this is not the case. It is precisely this humanness that has been twisted and perverted by sin, and here we find the seedbed of addiction. After the fall, Adam and Eve were still created in God’s image, but their desires as God’s image bearers now revolved around themselves as chief authority over and against God. Adam and Eve ate of the fruit because they became convinced that God was not who He said He was, not worthy of obeying, and had no interest in their true happiness. They decided to take matters into their own hands and make themselves happy, but what they found was only shame and futility. Instead of honoring God as cultivators of His perfectly created world and enjoying its secure blessings, our first parents honored themselves as cultivators of their own glory, and paid the price of a disintegrated existence.
A Template for Sin
Ever since that time, we have been finding ways to exalt ourselves over God. What Adam and Eve did served as a template for us. Their story is our story, in nature and in choice. The way we have approached this in the church has been to deal with the fruit of the problem while leaving the root thriving. As a result we have become known for everything we are against. If it is involved in our shameful acts, then it must be destroyed, and so we ban heavy metal music and start phenomena like Christian rock, just as an example. And while it is often necessary to “get rid of temptation” (especially in the case of harmful drugs and pornography), we must understand that this is ultimately useless without a corresponding commitment to gospel renewal and repentance. The very essence of false spirituality is to blame sin on something physical, because in this scheme it is simply the “getting rid of” that something that redeems us, and that is simply self-righteous. Our bodies are not the problem where lust is concerned, they are simply the vessels through which our sinful desires are carried out. I’m reminded of the giant man from the Adam Sandler movie, Happy Gilmore, who wears a shirt that reads, “Guns Don’t Kill People, I Kill People.” How true that is! The problem for us is just the same as it was for Adam and Eve. We are blind to God’s goodness, we don’t believe in His promises, and as a result we want to take the wheel for ourselves when in fact we have no business driving!
Sin is Looking for a Ride
We, as sinners, are dying for an idol that will allow us to live as we please outside of God’s Lordship. Those who are addicted to online video games may have found this in a universe that, while allowing them to live out their legitimate God-likeness in some very real and exciting ways, at the same time has caught the attention and jealousy of their lustful flesh. Sin, seeking the opportunity to flower itself in very concentrated and attractive doses through human bodies and real human decisions, finds plenty of kindling in the persistent universe of the online world. If sin is looking for transportation, online games provide an able set of wheels for some. It is there that a man can pour all of his energy and time into making “progress” outside of the real world in which God intended him to thrive. He can be enthralled by his “leveling up” while his real life might actually be going down in flames. He gets the highs of success while not having to be successful at all. And this is where the danger lies. Online video games give the illusion of success, and even require the effort to secure this illusion, but do not pay off in any real way (though some have become rich by selling in game assets).
But is this not the very nature of sin? How many countless hours have we all spent in self seeking ventures at the expense of reality? Not a video game addict? Ok fine. How about lust? How many marriages have been destroyed by the “progress” of a relationship between a man and his pornographic idols? How about pride? How many lies have been covered up by the self-righteous morality of people who are terrified of being thought less of by their fellow man? How about bitterness? How many relationships have been destroyed by the sense of self entitlement that refuses to forgive a wrong done? The list goes on and on. Sin has a whole slew of vehicles at its disposal as diverse and creative as the human imagination.
The Way Home: The Gospel
In one way or another, we are all addicted to something. Some addictions are more apparent, more “ugly”, than others, at least on the surface. But in light of who God made us to be, that is, creatures who reflect His perfect character through a life of dependent obedience to His good and perfect Law, we are all guilty of thoughts, feelings, and actions that come only from the pit of hell. It is for this reason that I cannot condemn video games as being inherently evil. We are inherently evil. They may need to be avoided by some, probably more than are willing to admit, but if we can please God simply by blaming something other than ourselves, then it is we who are in charge of our own salvation, and we are walking blindly on a busy freeway. If sin is not acknowledged, it cannot be dealt with by the glorious cross of Christ. If it is not repented of with the renewed heart found only in the Gospel, then one addiction will simply take the place of another.
We must come to understand that God is good, loving, and worthy of worship.
We must come to understand that our problem is not our bodies, our circumstances, or our surroundings, but ourselves, we who are born with an inherent desire to hijack whatever is at our disposal in order to disobey God’s good commands, even to our utter peril. It should be remembered that it is our sin, and so it is we who are guilty. This is not blame shifting.
Finally, we must come to understand that God’s love has been most evident in the atoning life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He paid it all, and in so doing, dealt with our sin problem, which consisted not only of condemnation but of polluted and destructive minds, affections, and wills. Jesus not only gets us out of hell, but re-establishes us as true worshipers of the living God by giving us a new set of ruling affections.
Regarding “Exgamer”, I praise God for His work in leading him to repentance. I am praying for him and his addiction, marriage, and family right now. I pray that all of us, myself included, will have the courage to live in the light, fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit, and walking in constant renewal and repentance.