Saturday, March 15, 2014

Why I Won't Let My Kids Play Video Games

Video Games, Culture, Entertainment, Philosophy, Christianity
Growing up, my brother and I never played video games because we didn't have any. Our parents never got us any consoles or games, so we just never had them in the house. Of course, we'd go to friends' houses and they would have video games, and we would sometimes play with them, but other than that I pretty much grew up without video games...and I think I turned out fine. In fact, I'm really grateful that my parents didn't get me any video games as a child because it helped me learn a lot of different things, and ultimately shaped me into the person that I am today. My wife and I both strongly believe that we don't want our kids playing video games either. Here are 8 reasons for why I won't let my children have video games.

1. They're expensive. Simple as that. This is the essential reason my parents didn't get me video games as a kid; they just thought it was a waste of money. And I think that's true! Not only are the video game consoles expensive, but the games themselves can be really pricey too. Is that really a necessary expense or the best stewardship of one's finances? Personally, I don't think so. Just think of all the different games parents buy for their kids throughout childhood and adolescence, and then calculate how much all of that is worth in addition to all the the various game consoles...couldn't that money go to something serving a far greater and nobler cause.

2. They can be very addictive.Things that are addictions have control over you, and I really don't want to be enslaved to a video game. I've seen too many of my friends start playing video games at early ages and then just get hooked. They lock themselves in their bedroom for hours and play non-stop. At a certain point, it is no longer about casual, playful entertainment but it becomes like a drug you need constantly that you cannot go even a few minutes without. It's always, "I'm just gonna unlock this level..." "Okay, once I defeat this..." "I just want to see what's behind..." People get hooked to their screens, leaving them in isolation, disconnected from real human community, and simply live in fantasy land. When it becomes so painful and difficult to press pause, or simply leave a game, and go spend time talking with real people in the real world...there's a serious problem.

3. They stunt imagination. Growing up, my brother and I never had a single video game, but we still had a lot of fun with our mental imagination. We had very extravagant imaginations which we used to create all kinds of games, worlds, characters, stories, etc. Not only was it fun, but it stretched our minds to be innovative and creative with the things we had, and it also bonded us as brothers as we imagined together. Being creative is an essential element of what it means to be human as it is reflected in God, the ultimate Creator, and creativity is especially important for children. Always relying on sensory perception (over stimulation), I think hurts the imagination.

4. They stunt maturity. I see so many men even in their twenties and thirties still playing video games, and I find that pretty troubling. I think this point goes back to the issue of addiction as well, but I also I think it demonstrates that these men have simply not grown fully into maturity. Rather than developing serious responsibilities, stewardship, courage, wisdom, leadership, etc. many grown up adults people choose to waste their day and/or night away with video games. With being an adult, there comes with it significant changes that should separate oneself from being a child or adolescent. It seems strangely odd to me to see people who are grown up adults do the same types of things that is no different than a 15 year old teenager. That strikes me as a lack of maturity. 

5. They take away from real human interaction. This is perhaps one of my strongest reasons against video games. Personal human interaction and community is literally what we were made for! To take that away, and replace it with graphics and artificial interaction is really a bad thing to do. There's nothing better than a good face to face meaningful conversation with other people created in the image of God. I've seen so many small children and teenagers come home and their default is to just turn on the video game console and start playing, rather than showing any consideration for any other people. Similarly, I've seen spouses come home and not give real meaningful time to their partners, but zone out into the world of video games, and this can really damage marriages. Trying to have a conversation with these people can be a nightmare, as they're so zoned into their artificial world that you're not really important to them. I think that's a major problem. Relationships are what life is all about. Get out of yourself, and get to know people, ask them questions, talk to them, listen to them, make friendships. Human beings are amazing creatures, that are far more interesting than video games.

6. They give the illusion of instantaneity. I've seen how this effects so many young kids in that it instills in them them the idea that if it's not fast, quick, and cool looking, it's dull and boring and unimportant. This really stunts patience, endurance, and attention as everything in video games is received fast, quick, and immediate. Not only that but it's flashy and exciting. Not everything in life is this way! And when things require even the slightest amount of patience, kids addicted to video games can't handle it, and walk away or throw a fit. This is especially problematic if it develops into adulthood, and grown adults can't display the smallest of endurance or attention when the situation demands it. The truth is nothing great is fast, quick, or easy. In fact, the best things in life take time and effort, and are not always very cool looking. A classic novel can take a while to get through. An informative lecture can be long and not particularly exciting. A delicious meal often takes lengthy preparation. A meaningful friendship takes time to build and develop.  Nevertheless these are good and highly valuable things. Particularly as Christians, we are called to be people of endurance, patience, and attentiveness. How do video games develop these virtues?

7. They're boring. Personally, I just think they're boring. Call it what you like, but at the end of the day, all you are doing is just just pushing buttons, over and over again. Is that really all that entertaining...?

8. A final reason that would specifically apply to violent games involve many of the same arguments I've given against horror films: they are ugly and they glorify violence, aggression, bloodshed, death, etc. This in turn I think creates a culture of ugliness, violence, aggression, and so on. 

All of that to say, do I think playing video games is immoral? No. Are there exceptions, can people play in moderation? Sure. . .but ultimately, why bring an unnecessary, expensive and potentially damaging thing like that into your life when the harm far outweighs the benefits?

Faith Colloquium : A Blog about Theology, Philosophy, Church, and Culture


  1. Excellent! Well written!!
    Great honour to your parents too!

  2. One of the behavioral addictions well explained!

  3. It seems like you're talking more about games that are first-person-shooters, like Call of Duty, and more specifically, the multiplier aspect (which has become the largest selling point for Call of Duty, in my opinion.) What about sandbox games, like The Sims, or Minecraft, where you can build anything you can imagine, within the constraints of the game. What about games like the Freddie Fish series, or Pajama Sam?

    As for some of the problems you addressed, Many can be attributed to the parents, and not the games themselves. Take the tv and the console out of the kids room, those should be in the living room or the media room, not the bedroom. The bedroom is for sleeping, homework, reading, and alone time, not for video games and tv.
    Parents also have started using the tv and video games as a babysitter, set the kids down in front of it and now they can go do what they want without interruption. On top of that, many parents don't put any sort of constraints on usage; "Can't play until homework is done", or "Only one hour a day" Additionally, those constraints only work if the parents actively enforce them. Family dinners have also gone by the wayside, so that 'mandatory hour of family time' is gone.
    If video games give the illusion of instantaneity, so does your phone, and your high speed internet, try downgrading to as slow as you can get, and you'll see how impatient people really can be.

    I see where you're coming from, but it's a little biased, and uninformed. As a certified family life educator, who works with children on a regular basis, this is something we encounter on a regular basis.

  4. Kalie, thanks for your comment. I agree with a lot of what you have to say regarding parents' responsibility, which is why I personally think my parental responsibility is to not give my children a video game console in the first place.

    Certainly, what I said would apply to first person shooter games, but even a game like The Sims or Minecraft I would level a lot of the same criticisms against. I'm not familiar with the others ones you mentioned. (I know there's educational type video games out there, but those don't seem to be the ones I see most kids playing.) I think the rules/guidelines you mentioned are good ones, but I think they can be difficult to enforce especially when children are clever, creative, sneaky, and naturally prone to do what they want, and parents can get very busy with work or whatever, or are tired. What you're describing is great and ideal, but I've personally never experienced that or seen that done successfully.

    You're right that the illusion of instantaneity can be given by phones and high speed internet, and may be that is something that deserves further thinking and talking about. For me the primary issue is giving something like that into the hands of someone who is young boy or girl and they are still developing how they view the world and understand life, opposed to someone who has matured and is an adult. A young person is especially naturally prone to impatience and wanting what they want when they want it, and in my estimation a video game simply reaffirms those desires, and sets up a false precedent of what the world is like at a young age. As a Christian, I believe patience and long-suffering are virtues God desires for God's people, and those virtues generally seem to be built through frustration, difficulty, and pain (Rom. 5, James 5).

    Everyone has different styles of parenting, and this is the approach my partner and I find best as we raise our children to model Christ-like character.