I like Mark Driscoll. I listen to the Mars Hill podcasts regularly. I listen to the podcasts while I run and I listen to them on my long drives for drill once a month. Driscoll has a gift for preaching a text well and applying that text to the situations that people face every day. That said, he recently said something I took some issue with. I think this is mainly because he was painting with a very broad brush, but nonetheless, it merits some discussion. Here’s the video excerpt from the recent sermon:
One of the things I like about Mars Hill is the obvious technological proficiency of the church and staff (they are in Seattle after all). So I was a bit surprised that pastor Mark was so quick to condemn video games. I totally agree that video games can become an addictive activity that distracts from doing meaningful things in life. That said, anything can do that so it is really unfair to generically paint video games and those who play them as “stupid.” Here’s where I think he misses the point:
1. Video games are about much more than high scores and some misplaced sense of achievement. That fact is that video games have some of the most engaging, thought provoking, and compelling stories of any medium that has ever existed. The difference between a video game and a movie is that a video game lets you become a part of the story and it can also tell a much more developed story than movies because there aren’t the time constraints that a movies has. Some of the best story telling in a game has to be the Mass Effect series. It’s science fiction (which I love) and lets you create a character that shapes the way the story develops. It’s one of those games with awesome gameplay but also with a story that will leave you on the edge of your seat as characters face perilous situation. Video games are a combination of different art forms and when done well are both entertaining and thought provoking.
2. There’s absolutely nothing “stupid” about video games in moderation. Pastor Mark loves him some MMA action. I love me some Mass Effect. Both are recreational activities that we do in our spare time. Why is playing Mass Effect, Halo, or Call of Duty “stupid” while watching men bludgeon each other isn’t? I have no problems with MMA, but it can just as easily become an obsession and replacement for real accomplishment as video games can. Video games become a problem when they substitute for real achievement and real human relationships. Video games become a problem when they take up so much of your time and energy that you have little left to devote to meaningful things in life like spiritual growth, family, and church involvement.
3. Video games have a great social aspect. I bought a PS3 just to play Call of Duty with friends. I actually only own one game for the PS3 (most of my gaming is done on the Xbox) and it is Black Ops (I sold MW2 just before BLOPS came out). I usually jump on the PS3 between 1-3 nights/week and log 2-3 hours of time playing with my friends. It’s a great way to socialize during the week and instead of just seeing each other during Sunday School on Sunday morning, we get to chat it up online while having a good time playing a video game. How is that so different from having the guys over to watch MMA or croquet?
So, Pastor Mark, I think you make some good points here but to call all video games, and thus those who play them, “stupid” I think is taking it a bit far. There is definitely room to criticize those who neglect the real world in order to pwn some pixels on a screen, but video games are more than just a time waster. They are a great way to socialize. They are a fantastic storytelling medium. They are a fun hobby or recreational activity. Some gamers are deserving of this criticism but not all.