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Are Computer Games "sinfull"?


The Rhino
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At this point in my spiritual journey I would consider my current view on "sin" means to do wrong, or trespass against either yourself, your neighbour or the great mystery/God/higher universal perpose. I think that all people can draw from their own human experiance to understand the difference in what is right and wrong within this moral context. Views will of course be subjective as all experiance is unique, though patterns can often be found with which we can seek to draw overall (semi-)objective conclusions of a "normal" sociatal morality.

 

With this pretext in mind I ask you, is playing computer games a sin? There are some important points to consider before you go with your gut feeling on this topic (though that doesn't mean that your intuition is wrong persay).

 

1.

 

Matthew 5: 21-22, 27-28

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother ]will be subject to judgment."

 

"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

 

The definition that I ascribe to this message is that if you harbour and cultivate lustful, hateful or otherwise immoral thoughts/feelings then you might as well have committed the act itself. Though I feel actions and desires are different, so to truly create a synonymous relationship between desire and act would be to say that if you could get away with it you would do it. For example if you look at a woman and think "wow she's hot!" You're human. If you mentally undress her you may be treading on morally slippery ground that could lead to lustful thoughts and feelings, and (eventually) may lead you to the final state: If she came up to you now and asked you for sex you would cheat on your wife. It is this final state that is IMO synonymous with the act. Though it is rare that anyone may play games to act out their real life TRUE desire to murder, it could be considered an (unproven) factor towards developing an unhealthy and violent lifestyle.

 

2. Computer games are not real, in fact is comparing computer games to a violent novel not the same concept if one draws pleasure from the imagined act? Or does it have to do with the visual stimulus and often far higher volume of death that is found in a computer game that appeals to the carnal destructive part of our mind/soul? Furthermore does the context of the game matter? For example is GTA sinful/immoral because it at times glorifies killing innocents for money, where as dead island involves for the most part, killing zombies, though the brutal visual effects are far more... Well brutal.

 

3. Gaming is highly time consuming, is the loss of all that time in our lives really beneficial to our own interest, the interests of our neighbours or the interests of the universe? Does the "sinful" nature of the act depend not on the type of game or even games themselves, but rather how and why you use them, ie do yo use them to blow off steam, as a hobby, or an obsession? If games did not exist would your life be richer? Furthermore would you be materially richer? Thereby providing a greater resource for furthering our contribution to God and society? If this is the case, I suppose it raises the question: Is it permissible to spend money on our leisure activities/luxuries when so many are in poverty? And if so, how much?

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Why stop at computer games Rhino? What about sports like boxing where one deliberately tries to hurt another person? Or watching a movie where you hope for the good guy to get revenge by killing the baddie?

 

My point of view is that 'sin' is not a category that can be strictly defined. One man's sin may be another man's pleasure. A recovering alcoholic might not be able to have a drink but his neighbour can have a glass or two of wine with no concern.

 

To me sin is something that you do which contributes negatively to your life and/or sometimes others.

 

Playing a shoot-em-up game doesn't make me want to murder, but maybe for another it desensitises them to violence.

 

I don't think there is a one size fits all. You just have to decide whether it contributes positively or negatively to your life, and perhaps how it may affect others.

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Thanks Paul. That is my current standing on this, however I can understand other people who state that killing a fictional pixelated person and saying "that's not a bad thing to do" equates to raping a computer character and saying the same. Now I would not say that playing out a rape in a game (not sure that this exists) is the same as actually raping someone, but that drawing entertainment from even a fictional duplication of such an act is not healthy for anyone.

 

As far as the whole boxing and sport etc goes, I agree, and wrote as much in the OP about writing books (though it was a little long I know). This I think is the crux of the matter. We are neither holy nor demonic but some cross over between both extremes. Though the majority of those on this board seek to elevate themselves towards holiness is this always productive? Should the carnal, darker side be satisfied? Or wholly rejected? I know that conservative Christians would say cut out anything that removes you from Jesus. Though I have no desire to kill innocent people, splattering zombie brains over the pavement provides a satisfying release, but is this a good, neutral, or bad thing for ones spiritual development?

 

Should we satiate guilty pleasures once in a while or is this simply giving in and purposely backing away from becoming perfect in true enlightenment. Are we afraid to fully enter that state of holiness and holding onto some part of our sin? Perhaps... Those who impart every nature of their being to God, those who are priests, monks, or just evangelical preachers don't seem to be role models I would want to aspire too. I suppose if we all become perfect we lose our sense of identity, and so the ultimate goal to become one with God becomes a fearful anticipation of the death of the self

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Rhino,

 

Your comparison of fictional killing v raping for entertainment has made me wonder why killing, on screen and in games, has become so widespread. I guess there's a long history of people playing war /war-like games; the realistic images added by computer or movie images perhaps make them more obvious and disturbing. But then adding elements of fantasy, eg zombies, distances the participants from thinking about what real violence involves.

 

I would say spiritual development has to involve acknowledgement and understanding of the 'carnal, darker side,' and those impulses that if acted on, would threaten our status as 'decent citizens.'

 

 

I haven't really thought about whether 'sin' is a relevant word since giving up a belief in fundamentalism. I think 'destructive impulses' is a less judgmental term, and one that suggests their ultimate origin is biological survival rather than 'evil'. This doesn't mean I support violence; I just want to understand its causes.

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You had me thinking about this, Rhino, especially the question - why is raping someone in a game any worse than killing someone?

 

Annie, I think you came to the same conclusion as me when you mentioned 'biological survival'. Most killing games comprise of the user fighting for survival against an army/zombies etc, rather than prolonged acts of cruelty.

 

I know from watching my young children's make-believe play, that from the offset we have the desire to 'beat the bad guy' and be a hero. It's part of the survival instinct natural to all living things.

 

I also agree with Paul, that 'sin' is not a black-and-white thing, as trad christians would suggest, but 'right and wrong' is a very complex thing that takes in culture, worldview etc etc

 

Jonny

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Sin in OT or Abrahamic contexts is the act of violating God's commandments/will or an offense against a moral law. To me, in NT context, the law of love in Christ has made me free from the law of sin and death. In essence All things are lawful but all things have consequences and are capable of bringing me under the power of the spirit of my actions. Personally, i reckon myself dead to sin and the guilt and the self condemnation that it entails. If i am unconditionally forgiving of others and walking in the light that is afforded me then sin for me is non-existent. At least that is my understanding of the concept of sin.

 

Is computer games sinful? If you esteem it as such and then do it, yes, to you it is sin. Is smoking sin? If you esteem it as such and then do it, yes to you it is sin. Is drinking a sin? Is eating meat a sin? If you esteem ......... etc. To me, faith in the Truth has made me free from what i perceive as such ignorance , dogma and doctrines of men.

 

Joseph

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Good question Rhino. I think there are many levels to your question. One that was stated is whether its the best use of time? Is it good for so many college kids to sit in front of first person shooter games for hours on end instead of doing homework or charity work or something? Probably not, but is that a sin? Hmmmm. There are kids starving in Africa, so is it a sin to sit and play a video game for a couple hrs a day instead of rasie funds to save those lives? Hmmmm.

 

More simply, I played shooter games growing up, and car games where we crashed em up just for fun, but there's no part of me that seeks to do those things in reality; it was just a bit of fun that didnt seem to warp me in any way. Maybe it was even a good stress relief or opportunity to "zone out."

 

Maybe like anything, it depends on whether the game keys in on someones trending warped tendencies.

 

And also notable, I wouldnt want my own kids playing most of the games out there these days as I just think they're over the top with sex and violence and a total waste of time. So in my house there will be none of that because I hope to teach my kids that time is our most valuable asset and not to be squandered on games like that :-)

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Computer games are just that, "games", and not much more than that. They replicate some human motivations, but not all human motivations and they do not represent all of the choices we are able to make, not? So, all that is left is to develop games that tap positive emotions and positive motivations ... but that will not sell well, will it?

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I wonder if there's something hardwired in humans that generally has them enjoying violence? Are violent shoot 'em up games the Colosseums and gladiators of the 21st century perhaps?

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It seems to me that there is a little bit of mileage in the old slogan that "we are not sinners because we sin, but that we sin because we are sinners." No need to be a hell-fire preacher or "old time" believer to get the sense of it.

 

Really, approaching individual things with an eye to whether they constitute a "sin" or not misses the point - at least, that is how I have come to understand it. I have to admit that Thomas Merton once again provides me with some sort of illumination in this respect, with a small reflection found in his "New Seeds of Contemplation".....

 

"All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honor, knowledge, and love to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages..........."

 

As Joseph has intimated....."All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not." (1 Corinthians 10:23)

 

For me it comes down not to the accumulation of knowledge and activities ("works") designed to make us fit for the kingdom, but more a surrender of the self to the work of grace, a letting go (of self) and letting God . As I see it, the more we are able to surrender, the more we are able to discern exactly what is "expedient" in each and every moment - or, as Buddhists would say, "skillful" for the coming to be of a heart that is compassionate towards all.

Edited by tariki
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Hmm not sure if this is unimportant or not but its another level that came to mind linked with the rape in games idea. Though I do not know of any mainstream games that glorify rape, there are a lot of games that involve playing the bad guy, Dungeon Keeper etc. in these games you kill and torture good guys, how does everyone feel about this? In World of Warcraft, if you play as a warlock you 'steal' people's souls, I myself have played this game and gained pleasure from "being the bad guy" in fact, at times enjoyed the idea of being positively evil! So there are elements of games that glorify elements of the human psyche that are not survival instinct. That encourage violent and detestable emotions, often towards innocent victims. But is this ok? I for one don't know, but I would like to. In other aspects of my life I find I want to understand the mind of others, including people that are hated. I find the minds of psychopaths fascinating, I try to put myself in other people's shoes to understand why they draw pleasure from the things they do. A useful skill for a mental health nurse, but is it healthy?

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Rhino,

 

It seems to me that everything we do including playing the "bad guy" in games and enjoying it, is not a case of being a sinful act. To me, it is more a case of making wise or unwise choices. I would not condemn unwise choices but rather refer to them as poor or unskillful life choices. Instead of leading one to peace and joy these choices seem to strengthen the more base emotions in us. This i see as not only having respective negative consequences in areas of life but lead to more unconscious actions that only serves to strengthen ego. Doing so i perceive creates more fear , perceived separation from others and God, and the stress and anxiety that often seems to go along with it.

 

Just my personal take on it,

Joseph

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Rhino,

 

I think it's healthy, until it's not.

 

What I mean to say, if playing the evil guy in games or trying to understand psychopaths contributes positively to your life, then I have no issue with it. That positivity may just be plain old fun and escapism and/or enjoying role playing, as perhaps is the case with your game examples. Should it contribute negatively to your life (make you unhappy, make you a nastier person, etc) then perhaps it is not so healthy.

 

I too am fascinated as to how other people think and for a period of time as a police officer I worked in a unit that often had the opportunity to 'think' like the criminal (I worked in covert operations - surveillance and intelligence gathering) for 6 years. But there is a difference between 'thinking' like somebody else and actually 'being' like somebody else. Clearly you are not a psychopath just because how they think interests you, unless you become a psychopath. Clearly at that point such behaviour is harmful (and not just to you! :) ).

 

I don't know you well at all, but maybe your interest in psychopaths and others with mental illness explains your life choice as a mental health nurse. Many people don't choose to go down this career path which contributes so positively to society, perhaps because for whatever reason they just don't have the 'internal wiring' that interests them enough in this area. But for you, and others, thankfully you do.

 

Cheers

Paul

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Some wonderful discussion here. Having spent a great deal of time in the past with video games let share my own experience and why I tend to use caution when engaging with video games (though personally I can get carried away with any past time).

 

Much of my experience with video games was Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs) so many of these observations are specific to such games, though a few of them could apply to games like gold old Super Mario Brothers.

  1. The sense of accomplishment in a video game lessened my feelings of defeat / doubt in relation to daily activities. This release I think can be healthy (e.g. had a tough day at work and enjoyed a round of FIFA at home to unwind). However, I would often use the accomplishment in the video game to avoid facing my feelings about what was going on with work / school.
  2. The sense of community in a video game lessoned my feelings of isolation. These connections can be very important / valuable, especially for individuals who have relocated or are being challenged socially for other reasons. There are some great articles here on the subject.

There are other things I could add, but I think I'll take some more time to look back over what has been discussed so far before continuing.

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I think the whole concept of anything humans do that someone in ecclesiastical authority deems a "sin" is a very destructive idea.

 

I think we should repent the sin of sin.

 

NORM

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I think the whole concept of anything humans do that someone in ecclesiastical authority deems a "sin" is a very destructive idea.

 

I think we should repent the sin of sin.

 

NORM

 

As short hand 'sin' can be a useful tool for discussion, but I agree with you. 'Sin' can become a very destructive idea when used to imprison. I vote for 'obstacle' as a more useful word. An obstacle to a full and abundant life; that is how I wish I could always understand 'sin.' It would do me good rather than getting caught up in the 'woe to me' I am horrible sentiment.

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As short hand 'sin' can be a useful tool for discussion, but I agree with you. 'Sin' can become a very destructive idea when used to imprison. I vote for 'obstacle' as a more useful word. An obstacle to a full and abundant life; that is how I wish I could always understand 'sin.' It would do me good rather than getting caught up in the 'woe to me' I am horrible sentiment.

 

Chado,

 

I like it! Obstacle. That is exactly how I would characterize the really stupid things I do. It is an obstacle to my full enjoyment of life. I spent far too much of my life feeling guilty for merely being human.

 

You are my new best friend!

 

Welcome to PC.

 

NORM

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I think 'obstacle' is an excellent replacement word for sin. Alcohol for instance may be a terrible sin (obstacle) if it rules your life, causes family breakdown, etc, as it limits your life. For another though, drinking isn't a sin because it presents no obstacle - in fact it may even better compliment their life (social aspects, taste, etc).

 

Nice one, Chado.

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These forces good and evil seem to be used to pressure men and women into different actions. Evil and sin are not principles or causes, but only the results from bad actions. Evil tells the mind that an action is wrong with the experience of pain and tells us it is right with a good feeling or experience. If we turn on the light darkness disappears so if we think good thoughts evil disappears. I feel evil and good are relative to our experience. Video games can be relaxing, but when you promised to pick someone up and play instead maybe not so good.
Good and evil are the active forces to guide us in a wholesome way, a way leading to oneness because every discord or evil is just a mistake that should be corrected. No person ever attempted to hurt or wrong another without being injured somehow, sometime, or in some way in return. Our actions repay us in kind as kindness fosters kindness and respect fosters respect. Good and evil are the right and the left hands of God because he views all of creation as a whole including these pairs of opposites; therefore, I think here is no need to fear sin, but just learn from it.

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Thank you. I've thought about the word 'sin' since a well meaning bible study leader shared a bit about the greek, I think, it's been a while. Anyhow, the illustration was that 'sin' (in greek) came from archery terminology, meaning off target / off the mark. Since then I've often wanted to ask, whose target?

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  • 2 weeks later...

If I may take this to a more basic and primal level. Forget whether computer games are actually sinful in the worst sense of the word. Are computer games, especially violent computer games beneficial to our spiritual being?

 

I am a non violent person. I consider myself a pacifist, and never wish harm on anyone. But I am extremely entrenched in what I call geek culture: sci-fi, fantasy, action films, super heroes, computer games, books and films; with the common thread being at least some form of violent conflict. My idea of God is spiritual perfection; what I aspire to be like more and more as I grow in my life and my journey. But I've come to see a logical contradiction with the way I live my life, and what I fantasise about. I used to think fantasy was ok in all forms, but have come to understand that some things I used to fantasise about we're not beneficial to my life. I am wondering if this geek culture is the same.

 

My subconscious reaction is NO!! As it has been and is a part of me that goes so deep I don't even know if I could change it... I've always loved knights and monsters even as a small child. But why is this if I hate violence IRL? Perhaps my base nature from the limbic system fighting against my more moral cerebral cortex. But which side of this fight should I back? Usually I celebrate my human side more as though I realise I am an animal, I know spiritually I aspire to transcend this primal nature. But should this part of me be given some leash or not? Is giving in to primal compulsion healthy? Does it take me away from, or draw me closer to God?

 

Many main line christians think no. You should cleave to pure thoughts. And there is some biblical support to this effect. However, as with all philosophical questions, I think it paramount to consider all sides of an argument. But there is little I can find to support spiritual growth through the enjoyment of virtual violence.

 

Any thoughts/ links are welcome.

 

R

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Rhino,

 

i think you have answered your own question above. It is well known that continually giving in to your primal compulsions only strengthens them. If a more spiritual life is what you want and feel is drawing you closer than why head or tempt yourself by heading the other direction? To me it is as you say not a question of sinful or not but rather a choice that has consequences of sort. Whatever choice you make you will reap that which you sow. Either way, i believe you will reach a point where it is obvious which path is more desirable. Peace or Drama? To me, you are free to some degree to choose.

 

Joseph

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I must admit I don't get our deep love affair with sin.

 

Adam and Eve got kicked out of the Garden of Eden for disobeying God's will and tasting the fruit from the tree of knowledge. Therefore when thinking in terms of good and evil all of a sudden we have a requirement for fig leaves etc. The result of this knowledge is we start having pain and suffering.

 

There is a parallel in the Upanishads two bird poem - where one bird partakes in the joys and sufferings of the world and the other sits quietly.

 

So to answer your question Rhino - I would say no. Just be aware of our actions and their consequences.

 

As to becoming addicted to our primordial instincts - I am addicted to breathing amongst other things.

 

In short ... the original sin is thinking in terms of good and evil.

 

rom

Edited by romansh
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Well I feel I may have been observing this wrong; through a feverish and panicked mindset. My Therapist says we all have primal urges within us. So then, to hide from them would be to deny that part of ourselves exists. Like hiding our heads in the sand. It is not our thoughts but our action that govern us. And though escapism can lead to unhealthy degrees of obsession, I know that I am not linked in such a way to my past times so much as I have been in the past. And though cleaving to pure thoughts is good. I have also read that resting the mind is also good.

 

Perhaps this is what fantasy and even violence is to me... I live and work in a world where I cannot express emotion in the way my instincts tell me to. When I am punched I must remain calm and centred to diffuse the situation. My aggression must be denied in order to fight the real "bad guys" in my life, specifically the violent parts of those in my care. Aggression only begets more aggression in real life, and in order to help these people I must be strong enough to not respond as my instincts tell me too. Adrenalin highs and lows are a destructive force on the psychie when not handled naturally.

 

However, I have also read that the cathartic theory of releasing pent up aggression may not hold much water. Aggression feeds aggression, at least in the short term. So why is it healthy for me to react by playing violent games, or escaping to a fantasy world? I believe the answer may be because its simplistic. Good fights evil in the way my instincts say it should: Fight your enemies, win and justice is served. The perfect escapism for my life. And escapism is essential (in small doses).

 

I'm cirtainly not condoning this for anyone else. But meirly saying that for me, I think may have found some peace in the violent aspect of my personality.

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