Video games and spiritual momentum

A Christian Science perspective.

Video games have been characterized at times as either mindless time wasters or as fuel for real-world violence. But I think the real story goes deeper than that.

I’ve spent a lot of time playing video games and thinking about how they can fit into a God-centered life. I’ve found myself praying a lot about balance. Video games are a fun way to spend time with friends and to participate in thrilling stories – but if they’re detracting from a sense of purpose in my life, then it’s time to prayerfully reconsider my priorities. Video games can become an addiction for some, and it’s right to prayerfully insist that no one’s happiness or wholeness – qualities that are divinely impelled – can be taken away by a mindless obsession. Playing games can be a normal, mindful expression of the joy that’s natural to each of us.

I like to think about it this way: To me, video games often offer a feeling of momentum. When I master the basics of a game, I’m often rewarded with more difficult challenges and new in-game abilities. It’s fun to see the relationship between effort and reward. But at times I’ve let that dynamic serve as a substitute for real life. When I’ve felt stuck in a rut socially, professionally, or spiritually, I’ve allowed video games to become a surrogate for a sense of real-life accomplishment.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Each of us has the right to feel spiritual momentum or progress as a result of our relationship with God. His love is permanent and changeless, and our expanding understanding of what that means and of how to apply it brings a sweet sense of progress.

The Bible is filled with passages that illuminate the relationship between God and His creation. A favorite of mine is from Psalms: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (8:3, 4, New International Version, 1984). Mary Baker Eddy expanded on this point. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” under the heading “Indestructible relationship,” she wrote: “God is the creator of man, and, the divine Principle of man remaining perfect, the divine idea or reflection, man, remains perfect. Man is the expression of God’s being” (p. 470).

There are lessons about God’s creation in video games, just as on TV or in movies. At their best, many games convey a sense of wonder and scale and tell stories with depth and ingenuity. God’s creation reflects His abundance and infinite creativity – and when I’m playing video games, I try to cherish the aspects that exemplify these qualities. But I also have to make sure I don’t get caught up in a model of humanity that includes needless violence, hatred, or envy.

I still spend a few hours a week playing video games with friends and on my own. But I try to do so with spiritual balance. To the extent that some video games continue to inspire me, to convey a sense of challenge and wonder that I can then bring to my own prayers, then they’re a worthwhile activity. And if they start to take too much of center stage, I know I can prayerfully reconsider where my focus lies.

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