Computer games - Good, bad or neutral?

The question here is, do you think computer games are generally good / beneficial, or generally bad / harmful, or are they neutral / no big deal / the pros and cons even out? Please contribute to the discussion and vote in the poll.

A couple of clarifications about this thread. This is not just about games for children, so can we just assume that censorship works properly so that children aren’t playing any games that are only appropriate for older teens and adults. It is also not about the extreme cases - most people here would probably agree that a game with explicit sex and violence in it that encourages evil is bad, and that a game which tries to promote a good Christian message in an appropriate way is good. I’m talking about the ordinary cases, middle of the field cases, including abstract games like Pac-man, as well as representational games.

Oh and as a side note, one interest I have in this thread is that I’m thinking about whether I want to try n have a career in computer game design after I graduate. I would like to do something good, I might do something even if it’s only neutral, but I wouldn’t do something bad.

And just before I start - Yes, I notice the bias in the lists I made below. Well, I like computer games. Ain’t gonna apologise for that :stuck_out_tongue:

Okay, computer games, the pros and cons. Bright side first?

  • They are enjoyable. God intended for man to have recreation, and not to have to work all the time. My childhood was more fun because of games (-:
  • They are, at least partly, a form of art and story. Art is beautiful and tries to reflect the beauty of God. G K Chesterton tells us that fairy tales are the first things that give us a clue that dragons can be defeated. In other words art and story are generally good things so computer games are good inasmuch as they are art and story.
  • They provide a way for people to let out their anger, frustration, and other negative emotions, without harming themselves or others. Similarly they allow people to unwind and relax by immersing themselves in a world of fantasy.
  • They increase technical aptitude / familiarity with computers.
  • Multiplayer games can be good for socialising, and Internet games allow people to socialise with others from all around the world.
  • They can also teach things or contain a message (though, this isn’t the case for all or even most games I spose).
  • Any others you would like to suggest?

Okay, now the dark side

  • They are accused of contributing to health problems because they are a kind of recreation that doesn’t involve exercise (not the only kind though) and, to a lesser extent, because they involve staring at a smallish screen for periods of time.
  • They are accused of contributing to antisocial personalities because they are a kind of recreation that doesn’t explicitly require one to talk to or be around other people.
  • They are considered useless by some because, (if you don’t accept the technical aptitude thing), they don’t improve the person playing them (like reading factual books or playing sport would), as the game is played for its own sake and being good at it ‘means nothing in the real world’, and they don’t produce anything either (like knitting would). Well, except in the cases of professional gamers whose games are recorded and displayed for public consumption like sport is, and in creative and expressive games which produce something the player created in the game. Is ‘useless’ necessarily ‘bad’ though, anyway?
  • They are accused of encouraging violence since some games (not all, though) involve the player doing some violent action in the game like shooting things or waging a war. There is no proven connection at the moment between video game violence and a tendency for violence in the real world.
  • They can be addictive (look at the World of Warcraft epidemic!) A psychology lecturer at my uni said that many of the things that designers put in games to make them fun, are the very things that make them potentially addictive. Not all games are addictive as far as I know, and it does not necessarily make games ‘bad’ anyway, just as alcohol is a good thing in general but some can abuse it or be addicted to it.
  • It might be said that we have enough games already and don’t need more.
  • Anything you would like to add?

So what do you think about computer games in general?

Ones that increase your ability to perform your job…like simulator games…are valuable. One’s that may improve your hand eye coordination or increase your mental agility like puzzle or sport games, I think are valuable. One’s that might help children learn to read or learn colors might be valuable. But role playing games that make violence the aim of the game…there is no place for them. No place at all. If you want to role play like building roller coasters or towns or farms…fine.

I think that, like so many things in our lives, they can go either way. I don’t have any problem with anyone of any age playing nonviolent video games in moderation. I personally love simulation games, such as Caesar III, and other city/empire building games. The problem is, I can spend way too much time on them and not get other things done that I should be getting done, like housework, time with family, etc. I can get obsessive with them, so I have decided not to play them any more, as I have a hard time setting limits on myself.

It’s not possible to lump all computer games into one category. Unfortunately, a lot of games are violent and some include sexual content. EVE Online seems to be pretty good from what I’ve heard but I have not played it.

I suggest you look at the companies making the games. Which would you like to work for? Which companies will give you the ability to work on games that fit your beliefs and values?

God bless,
Ed

In general computer games are good in the same that other forms of art are good. They show the ingenuity of the human mind, be the individual results good or bad, the creative element is good.

This is great! i was seriously JUST about to start a thread with this debate.

I am currently in the industry and for a long time made mostly non-violent games. i came into the Church about two years ago and things have been okay job-wise, but just recently i was assigned to a couple of pretty violent games so I am now in a dilemma and trying to decide what to do. I am sole provider in my family so I have to be careful about a job change or company change but I think that may be the only solution for me (i almost misspelled that “soul-ution” – how appropriate.)

More to come soon but let’s keep this thread going.

I am interested in people’s ages on this thread too as I think growing up with games has an impact on what you think of them.

Creativity is not inherently good. The results should be viewed with an eye toward those who will see it. A creative person is a communicator and as such, his or her work is often reflective of what they believe. Creative people should examine their work, and for Catholics, sure, you can have fun but it should be viewed as to ‘what message am I sending to the viewer/user’? Another way to look at it is: Am I comfortable with this game/story as a Catholic? If the answer is no, then pray and ask God to help you decide your options.

God bless,
Ed

The games that come out nowadays just blow me away. I’ve done some programming before and when I see what can be done I’m absolutely amazed. It’s probably more of a respect for the skill and effort taken to make the game, by no means an easy task.

And again the games do seem to get more violent and more explicit, which is a shame. Perhaps even more so is the fact that those same games are often the bestsellers.

On occasion I will dabble in a game or two, but in the end when I’m done playing all I can ask myself is, what did I just do with my life? It’s time that I’ll never have back and I often feel that it’s been wasted, but in the moment there’s satisfaction I guess.

Ed - I was considering working on my own/ or starting my own company. So then, I wouldn’t be pushed by my boss into making anything I didn’t want to, or didn’t feel was right.
Not all games have a message, especially abstract games like Tetris or Pacman. What do you think of games with no message?

Daniel_G - If we considered all the time spent in recreation as ‘wasted’, we would never do anything but work, which can’t be healthy for us. Consider that time spent playing games as an investment in your continuing sanity (-:

To everyone, on the issue of violence - A lot of you have said you don’t like violence in video games, but none of you have really said why, or said what extent of violence you would consider bad, and to what audiences.

In terms of reasons -
Of course, real life violence is wrong. But that doesn’t necessarily mean video game violence is wrong. Do you think it’s wrong because the person is performing the actions? Or simply because they are viewing the actions, like they would if watching a movie? Do you think it makes a difference if the violence in the game is justified or not? What I mean by this 3rd question is, many games have people fighting because they have to fight for their survival (eg Half Life) and/or because they have to protect something else or stop something evil (eg Space Invaders). Is this still bad, or is it only unjustified violence in games which is bad?
And what do you think of the possibility that (moderate) violence in games actually reduces real life violence by letting people get their frustrations out in this fantasy world?

In terms of extent -
How violent is too violent? Is a text based RPG too violent becase the person writes “I hit the bugbear with my sword”? Is a space shooter like Galaga too violent? Is a platformer where you shoot strange creatures too violent (like commander keen)? Is a wrestling or martial arts game too violent? Is a first person shooter, with mild death animations, too violent (like Wolfenstein 3D)? How about a war strategy game like Starcraft or Age of Empires, again with mild death animations? Or are you only referring to graphically explicit, modern day first person shooters like Counter-Strike where you can see body parts and blood all over the floor when someone gets shot?

In terms of audience -
I certainly agree that children should not be playing any games that have too graphic or realistic violence. But that’s what censorship is for. All the games that children shouldn’t be playing, have an M15 rating (or equivalent) and it’s the parents’ job to make sure their children aren’t playing anything that the censorship ratings would say they shouldn’t play.
And surely adults don’t find video game violence that disturbing (except the most explicit and graphic cases, and I said at the start of this thread that we are leaving the extreme cases out of this. I wouldn’t write a game with over-the-top graphic violence anyway).

I say time “wasted” because that’s time that could have been filled with prayer or serving others in need. As is everything we do in life, so to that end I often wonder what is the real purpose of all these distractions from true good acts of charity if they do nothing to contribute to the spiritual life…maybe I’m already going insane.

As with the game violence, I suppose I see it as wrong because it perpetuates the notion of violence. Whether or not it is a cause of actual, physical violence I do not know. But by the fact alone that it allows violence to continue to exist, albeit in a virtual environment, is wrong. It’s all part of a culture of death, with each simulated death it is reinforced, and the light continues to fade to dark.

Ah, welcome to the forums by the way (-:

Aren’t there some references in the bible to a constant battle going on between good and evil, between heaven and hell, that won’t be resolved until the last day? (I’m not sure about this, maybe someone can confirm). In which case, it is not humans that are allowing violence to continue to exist, and in fact, we are encouraged to join in the fight, as long as we join in on the right side.

My own feelings on the subject are we are raising a generation of kids who don’t know how to interact face to face with anyone. They are tied to computers, cell phones and the like. They don’t interact with others except to text message someone or yammer on the cell phone. I think it’s a shame.

Kathy

Right. Not all games have a message. Games like tic-tac-toe or card games that are not played for money, or Monopoly. There is an appropriate time for everything in life. The Bible provides solid guidelines about what we should be thinking about and doing. The things we think about should have some virtue. We should be holy in all that we do.

It’s great that you’re thinking about starting your own game company. Every creative thing contains a reflection of the person who made it. Electronic games can be very realistic but to what end? I think if you look at film and television over the years, there has been a constant, gradual upping of the graphicness. Older movies show people getting shot and falling over. Older television shows contained simple scenes that were pleasant. Today, everything is taken to the Xtreme. It can’t be modern if it’s not excessive and over the top. It’s even contaminated the world of politics where rational discussion has given way to people ranting.

For inspiration, I recommend you look at things that you believe contain the right balance, visually and story-wise, about the ongoing battle between good and evil, whether it’s an old movie or idea in your head. Pray for guidance.

I’ve got no problem with Pac-Man or Galaga. I think the first Star Wars movie was amazing (not Episode One). Another way to look at it is asking yourself, “is this game suitable for everyone”? It’s sad, to me, that some creative people produce things that need to have warning labels on them. PIXAR is my favorite animation studio and they are master storytellers and artists.

God bless,
Ed

My thoughts on wasting time on games is that the time spent on games should be no more than one would spend on all other forms of entertainment (TV, Movies, music, etc that do not necessarily teach or have other clearly positive benefits.) If you are spending more time on a game than you would say watching a couple TV shows then, yes, this is something you should think about.

Just a sidenote - back in my college days, after exams, my buddy and I would rent games for our (was it Nintendo back then? don’t rightly recall) system and just veg. We’d joke that we wanted something with an automatic fire button, one that you could just hold down and mow down anything in front of you. Now granted, it was a 2-d game back then so graphically I never had the impression one might get with games now. It was just nice to veg and drool and ultimately relieve the stress of final exams, etc.

I think the line that I personally draw is realistic violence. And even that’s a funny line. I’ve played Medal of Honor and that’s actually a very educational game, but you are shooting 3-d people. That didn’t bother me. There was another game my buddy had where you drive around in a car and you could run over people. If we turned off the volume, it was no big deal.

BUT with that said, that same game, when we turned on the sound, you could hear the people screaming. That was where we both drew the line. That was TOO realistic and quite upsetting actually.

The only other video game that really affective me was driving game that my brother-in-law had on a console. It was where you race through the city. Well after a couple hours of playing that, when I got in my car and started driving, I REALLY had to concentrate on driving and make sure that I didn’t take wild chances and drive like I did in the game.

Other than that, I don’t have time nor access to many of the more recent games people might object to.

Personally I enjoy the extremes. I enjoy the mindless games and also the thinking games - I really enjoyed Myst/Riven/etc. and similar games. We have a Nintendo64 and I like playing games like DK64 and Banjo-Kazooie where there’s a goal.

I just don’t play games, because I don’t really have the time…besides, I have CF to spend my time :slight_smile: And I don’t feel that I wasted too much time. A few, sure, but not ALL my time.

Plus, I stink at computer games
It proved to be a little addictive, so I put the brakes on that. Books, on the other hand…how can I say no? :smiley:

But I can see the benefits of letting stress go by just vegging out…

In conclusion:

Everything in moderation :smiley:

This made me think about the work I was doing a bit more closely:

catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=24133

Thank you, very much, for that link. The darkness and dysfunctionality currently being promoted by the media works against the things mentioned in that article. I suggest you get a copy of the DVD, The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal, and pre-1965 animated films by Walt Disney.

God bless,
Ed

As with many things, I think computer games are fine, in moderation. If you spend a rediculous amount of time on them everyday, that’s no good. But if you like to play them for a short while each day, or even every couple of days for relaxation and enjoyment, go for it! :smiley:

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