Video Games and Defining Morality

video games and defining morality

Every Sunday, they come into my class.  Several precious third grade boys.  When I ask them about their week, they answer in terms of video games.  Call of Duty, Halo, and several others that I consider inappropriate for such young children are the games that these boys enjoy the most.  All these games involve shooting, shooting and more shooting.  Sometimes you’re killing aliens.  Other times you’re killing enemy soldiers.  Either way, there’s no redemption beyond destroying your enemy.

I really hadn’t given it much thought beyond the Wow!  I’m shocked these parents let their eight year olds play that until one class discussion recently that I found surprising.

My husband was teaching the class that week.  He had been teaching them about salvation, and as a review over some of the material from the few weeks before, he asked the question, “How do you enter the devil’s family?”

The answer that he was going for was to be born.  This is kind of a culmination of several verses about how someone must be born again and he second birth.  However, the primary verse that he had been using as back up for this question came out of John 8:44:

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

Even after discussing it a few weeks ago, some of the children in our class were reacting with  surprise over the idea that they were born into the devil’s family.  So, Hubby decided to try an example they would relate to.

He said, “So imagine that Darth Vader is your father in his black robes and completely evil.”

Suddenly there was lots of movie talk going on in our classroom.  All about the Star Wars series and not about the actual question at hand.  Finally, after a couple of minutes, our students refocused on the task at hand.

One of the students said, “If my father was Darth Vader, I’d definitely kill him.”

My hubby’s reply was, “But the Bible says not to kill.  That’s in the ten commandments.”

The student says, “No. I’d kill him.”

My hubby again says, “The Bible says not to kill.  Killing him would be a sin.”

The student finally says, “If he was evil like Darth Vader, I would have to kill him, even if he was in my family.”  He follows this statement up with a reference to combat in one of his favorite violent video games.

It was then that I realized that this conversation was going nowhere today.  Hubby and this precious boy were pointing to completely different moral compasses.  While Hubby was using the Bible as his moral code, this young man was using the video game as a guide to what he should do morally.

The young man, in his allegiance to this video game, completely overlooked the fact that the good guy in the movie my husband used as an example didn’t even kill the bad guy.  In fact, he tried to look for the good in the bad guys until the very end of the movie.  Even if he had been getting his moral focus from the actual Star Wars movie he would have come to the conclusion that he shouldn’t kill the bad guy.

I relate this story, not because I have an answer, but because I think that sometimes we assume that we’re using the same moral compass as the people we talk to only to find out, even at church, that people are not centering their lives on the Bible.  And we also find out that they’re not interested in changing their views to line up with the Bible.

I also share this because we often think that video games and movies are mindless entertainment, and that these don’t affect our morality.  I can tell you that anything that we consume, use or think about is something that affects us.

For games that are violent such as Halo or Call of Duty, we often don’t think of them as bad for us because the people we’re “killing” in these games are evil.  They’re bad people/aliens.  However, we find that these games desensitize us to violence and often cause us associate destroying our opponent as the “right” thing to do.

I’m not saying don’t play these games.  (They have the first Halo in the middle school room at our church.)  I’m just saying that we need to be especially careful with the influences we allow in and the influences we allow around our children.  Our culture tries to tell us that it’s okay, and I find myself thinking again and again about Isaiah 5:20.  This verse says:

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

I think we need to have some frank talks with our children about the things they enjoy and where they differ from our ideas of morality.  When necessary, we may find that we need to protect our children from games, television and other influences that take our hearts and our minds away from Jesus.  Only God’s word can tell us what good and evil is, so let’s make sure that our lives and our morals align with God’s words and not with our entertainment choices.

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