Discussing
'Angry Birds' is only the beginning

Michael Geertsma

Drew Dixon
February 1, 2011

So interesting that you bring up McGonigal's book--I am reading it right now and recently posted those same statistics to Facebook as I was reading through. There was some discussion as to how this survey counted gamers. If you play Farmville on FB does that make you a gamer? How often are these people playing games? Did they count anyone who played games at one point in time or was there at least some attempt to count only those who play games on a regular basis?<br><br>Anyway--I don't know the answer to those questions and I couldn't find them at ESA but I do agree with you about the growing influence of games and the need for us as Christians to think carefully about them.<br><br>I think we can see what you are talking about all around us though--I know lots of people that I would never have considered gamers buying Nintendo Wii's--not sure if they play them regularly. My parents have a Wii and they play it fairly regularly and my mom has a DS that she takes pretty much every where she goes. Both of them thought video games were silly as they watched me growing up playing them and both thought that games were something I would eventually grow out of. All that to say, whether these stats are completely accurate or not, the world is changing with regard to video games.<br><br>Whether non-gamers are really in the minority or not, Christians need to be asking the kind of questions you bring up and thoughtfully investigating the world of games--it is a powerful and unique medium that does more than just waste people's time. Most people who think that video games are a terrible waste of time haven't played any good ones. Anyway, here is to hoping for thoughtful engagement of this medium by Christians! I hope you will continue to write about this--I know I plan to.<br>

xioc1138
February 1, 2011

Very interesting post. I'm a gamer, perhaps not in the strictest sense, but I'm a gamer. I play strategy games, I pay WoW, first person shooters, etc. I'm not the best gamer in the world, but I can hold my own in any battle.<br><br>I have gamed for many years now. <br><br>I also work professionally in a very busy animal hospital. I've worked there for over six years now. It only took me a few weeks to become a critical component in the critical care ward. Why? Not because of my extensive medical training (I have none), but because of my ability to consume large amounts of information quickly, prioritize that information, and then act on it systematically until everything is accomplished (that is what my first review says).<br><br>Now, I realize that this isn't the case for everybody - and there certainly is a point when playing games is destructive. However, just like everything else in this world - moderation is key. <br><br>

Joel
February 2, 2011

I absolutely agree with your assertions in this post. Gaming has become a socially acceptable form of media, and we are pretty consumed with it as far as our culture is concerned. I'm not the guy that can hold my own in any battle - it takes me a while to adapt to a new game or new controls - but I enjoy the challenge and can play in moderation.<br><br>I think beyond the social and cultural implications for Christians when I think there is also a use of time component that we often overlook. I was interested in your take on that side of it, but your post didn't address that aspect. For all the reasons McGonigal cites (and probably many others, but I haven't read her book) gaming has a hold on our culture. But as Christians I believe we have to be careful with how we leverage our most precious resource: time. That's a conversation I'm interested in, probably because I'm convicted by how much time I can quickly pass online or with friends playing Halo. I believe God calls us to make the most of our time and while I believe gaming, among other forms of media, can be reasonable uses of time with moderation, I believe we get sucked into them at the expense of how we might better be serving Christ. At least I feel I often do.

Brooklyn Cravens
February 2, 2011

Being a gamer (Call of Duty and Starcraft ftw!) myself, I think the general interactivity of games has a positive effect on people, but becoming addicted to an alternate reality is dangerous. Any sort of idol is dangerous.<br><br>I really like some of the facts and theories Jane proposes in her book (I really want to pick it up now), but I totally agree with you, Michael. When she states that there is more meaning in video games than in real life, that sounds like a bad idea. Afterall, without reality there would never be people who make video games. I think Jane knows that, and points to the bigger picture -- if video games seem better than "real life" what does that reveal about human beings? Certainly that we are sinful, and certainly that we need Jesus. now more than ever. And most definitely more than any video game.

Mgeertsma
February 2, 2011

I think you're right on with your take on the time management issue. That's something I'd like to address in a future post here, as it's something I have a lot of personal experience with (and, ultimately, it is the reason I quit playing World of Warcraft).

Mgeertsma
February 2, 2011

Jane does a good job acknowledging the "bigger picture" in her book. I believe she slightly overstates the amount of meaning that video games provide on purpose, to shock readers out of their standard "ho-hum" video of gaming. As the book progresses, it becomes clear that she has spent a great deal of time thinking about the positive and negative ramifications of video games. <br><br>If you're interested in exploring her ideas further, I recommend looking up a video of her TED talk--it's available for free online.

Mgeertsma
February 2, 2011

We've had very similar gaming experiences--I, too, play primarily strategy games, first person shooters, and (as I said in the post) WoW. <br><br>Despite WoW's addictive nature, I believe it has a lot of positives to offer--not the least of which are, as you mentioned, helping develop the skills of systematic problem solving and leadership.

Mgeertsma
February 2, 2011

Thanks for the thoughtful responds, Drew.<br><br>I certainly plan to continue writing about this--at least in a series of a few posts here, perhaps longer if the Think Christian community remains interested and engaged with the topic of gaming.<br><br>Are there any specific issues you'd like to see addressed in future posts?

Mgeertsma
February 2, 2011

Whoops! I of course meant "response," not "responds."

Chosen9
February 2, 2011

I am not a gamer, yet I am willing to accept the possibility that gaming may serve a valid function in our culture, in particular, a function that fills a void that has been created by the culture. God has provided, and permitted a variety of elements in the world to help ease the suffering and shortcomings of a fallen world. For instance, "wine to gladden the heart of man." But, of course, there are abuses and over indulgences.<br>I don't believe that Christians should be offering the world any element besides Jesus to heal our broken reality. Rather, we should address the void that gaming appears to be filling and apply to it the only true cure.<br>God spoke to Israel through Jeremiah saying "You have not listened to Me and have provoked me with the things your hands have made, bringing harm to yourselves." This is what happens when we make the things of man a priority over the word of God. Don't you see how the culture is squeezing out the word of God?

Rickd
February 2, 2011

Recently my daughter and her husband moved in with me for 3 months. It was an odd experience because I rarely saw my son-in-law, every spare minute he spent in interactive, social gaming. He is completely devoted to an alternate reality. I believe electronic gaming is a nasty virus introduced into the human genome designed to remove us from reality. We have advanced to the point where we can operate as virtual avatars in alternate worlds interacting with other avatars. When does the virtual avatar experience graduate to being indistinguishable from reality? Advances in gaming follow Moores law and there is almost an inevitability to creating complete reality simulations. Humans have a fatal flaw. Ever since we ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we have an irresistible urge to create our own realities. As God said of the Babel builders, “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them!” Including reality simulations. Advances in 3-D technology, holographic technology, Wii technology, digital rendering, streaming video and computing power are all proceeding at exponential rates and at some point will converge and evolve to the next step. Playing is good, recreation is good, amusement is good and wherever we find traces of civilization we find games. But gaming has become an alternate reality replacing big chunks of the natural world. My friends who teach school have noticed that kids do not know how to play in the natural world. The experience of climbing trees, building forts, finding polliwogs and putting them in jars, playing “flies up” or stickball, and jumping rope till it is time for dinner are losing out to the virtual reality offered by cell phones, Facebook, iTunes, youtube and gaming. I agree with McGonigal, “Games are providing rewards that reality is not.” Our kids are answering Michael’s question “Is it ever OK to disconnect from reality” with a semi-conscious, “Huh?”

Paulvanderklay
February 3, 2011

Good piece. I've played older style computer games for years. Now I'm pretty much consigned to a bit of Civ IV now and again and perhaps some console gaming with my kids from time to time. Lots of good points in the piece and comments. Time? yes, but book reading takes time too. Addictions? yes. Most goods can become addictive. The question of an alternate reality is very interesting. Deep within us is the hunger for mastery and I think that is what gaming engages most and is probably the greatest danger. Christian living is really about receiving rather than mastery of the other. This is of course not unique to gaming but electronic games are perfecting the tease. <br><br>Nice post, keep working on the subject. pvk

Brooklyn Cravens
February 3, 2011

Thanks! I'll definitely have to check that out.

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