Viedo games. Are they sinful?


#1

As parents, I know my husband and I will answer for the transgressions our children committ due to our lack of parental guidance.

Of course, we’ve done our best to keep them from the worst of it, and to instill powers of discernment and formed their consciences.

Still, one issue that has been disturbing me, lately, is the fact that we allow them to play video war games on the internet. They pay for it themselves, and, frankly, do hold themselves back from the really bad ones. They stick to Black Ops, Metal of Honor, and such. I do not allow role-playing games. My youngest says he tries to stick to the zombies so he’s not shooting at virtual humans, but, I can’t be sure of that.

I have tried to discern whether or not it is a sin to play these games. True, they are not real people, but, the sentiments are cruel, and the foul mouths and comments of the other players on line make me think that these are unsavory people for my children to be exposed to.

I have told my kids that they will give an account of every minute of their lives to God, and, that these are a waste of time and psychologically bad for them. They, of course, pooh, pooh this. They tell me it’s just for fun, and that it doesn’t affect them.

What are your thoughts?


#2

[quote="Ceil-1, post:1, topic:252268"]
As parents, I know my husband and I will answer for the transgressions our children committ due to our lack of parental guidance.

Of course, we've done our best to keep them from the worst of it, and to instill powers of discernment and formed their consciences.

Still, one issue that has been disturbing me, lately, is the fact that we allow them to play video war games on the internet. They pay for it themselves, and, frankly, do hold themselves back from the really bad ones. They stick to Black Ops, Metal of Honor, and such. I do not allow role-playing games. My youngest says he tries to stick to the zombies so he's not shooting at virtual humans, but, I can't be sure of that.

I have tried to discern whether or not it is a sin to play these games. True, they are not real people, but, the sentiments are cruel, and the foul mouths and comments of the other players on line make me think that these are unsavory people for my children to be exposed to.

I have told my kids that they will give an account of every minute of their lives to God, and, that these are a waste of time and psychologically bad for them. They, of course, pooh, pooh this. They tell me it's just for fun, and that it doesn't affect them.

What are your thoughts?

[/quote]

It all depend's on the content of the game. One thing i loved growing up was war history and was kinna obsessed with war movie's, game's etc. Game's that have foul language and sexual content should obviously be forbidden to one's kid's although that can be hard for parent's to be able to do sometime's as they may not fully understand themselves the content contained in a video game


#3

I have to agree that it really depends on the content of the game... be sure to look into what your kids are playing.

More so than the game, I would be wary of the other players if it's an online game. I play online games and there are a lot of very foul mouthed, downright unsavory people as you put it. I would worry more about those other players more so than the games themselves. Some games have parental filters--you might do some online research to find out more concerning the particular games your kids play. But probably it would be most effective to talk to your sons some more and let them know that while playing the games is okay, they should be wary of who they are playing with and steer clear of certain language and subjects of conversation.

Good luck!


#4

First, before I say anything, I'm 28, single, not even an uncle of an older child, so no experience. On the other hand, I've played games since age 8 and I was a bit of a journalist in that area for several years, so I know a lot about games.

Firstly, please note that games per se aren't sinful. They aren't any more sinful than comparable ways of playing or having fun by children. The medium doesn't make them sinful (not any more than books or films or comics etc.), the content may (and interactivity can matter to a certain extent, as opposed to more passive watching or reading, where you don't enact anything but merely imagine it).

I'd say much depends on the age of the child. Age categories stated on boxes (along with warnings about specific categories of potentially objectionable content) are a hint. I suppose a child shouldn't be kept in a shell when it comes to challenges that don't exceed those that are out in the street or in books or films that you'd allow him to read. Thus, I wouldn't hold back a 15 year old from playing a game with a sticker saying "age 15+, strong language, reference to alcohol and tobacco, mild violence" (that's basically as problematic as any film out there, or less), unless the child exhibited problems.

What I see as a child exhibiting problems is getting addicted, learning bad habits from the game, visibly enjoying the objectionable parts of the game while taking them too seriously, becoming more aggressive, dropping in school performance etc. A 12 year old boy in army fatigues barking contemptuously at adults certainly is having problems! A 15 year old boy replaying replaying World War 2 battles or reclaiming hostages from a building occupied by terrorists and loving it is not.

I wouldn't really worry about boys playing war games any more than dressing up as cowboys, Indians, policemen, knights etc. and "fighting" (like small cats that "kill" each other 20 times an hour). Back in the time boys from certain families were actually riding into battles managing the equipment for a knight from age 14 and that knight might have been 21 himself. And they surely did practice beforehand. There are still boys who aren't even legally adult before they sign up for the armed forces. There's also SCA and renfaires (reenactment groups). Nothing wrong with that. If it's about knighthood, manhood, leadership, strategy and tactics, defending one's country and so on, I'd see a war game as good rather than bad or neutral. (In fact, being fun is also a good reason to play a game, within reasonable limits. :)) It's a version of cops and thieves, cowboys and Indians (boys pretending to shoot other boys just because they belong to the wrong race), the knight and dragon and princess fantasy.

The same could be said about roleplaying games, except they can be troubling to certain consciences depending on the specific game and especially one's way of playing it, especially given the modern trends in that particular branch of the gaming industry. Personally, I'd be unable to recommend a "clean" modern title, even though I know a lot about roleplaying games since they were my favourite type, although I know there are Catholics who are able to play some titles without being bothered. An important thing here to understand is the "role" aspect, which is comparable to acting in a theatrical play, where things do not happen for real, and for the child to be mature enough to handle well whatever comes his way in books, or films or games.

I'd suggest gathering information about a particular troubling game (Googling a review or two, watching screenshots or videos from it, asking friends who have seen or played it) and taking it relatively easy, without being too agitated (at worst you'll have to veto it). Banning war games broadly would be a bit like banning war films or war books (some of which are probably in the school curriculum for the relevant age). It could also be a dramatic event for a child who really liked games (imagine being forbidden to read any comics because some can be bad. This is not to say that keeping an eye isn't needed (again, like with books or films) or that games are typically innocent (there's a lot of bad stuff, some of which a child may be unable to handle properly).

If any of the terms or expressions or references I use is unclear, please let me know and I'll explain it. Similarly, if you'd like to ask any questions, I'd be glad to answer. This forum also has a "Popular Media" section (in "Catholic Living", just like these family forums) where you can ask about a particular title. I sometimes do that because I have no desire to play anything that mispresents the Church, refers to the occult or revels in needless violence.


#5

I think the most disturbing aspect, to me, is the blood splatters over the screen when they get a direct hit.

It just seems, well, wrong.

My concern is the virtual reality it represents. While a real person is not involved, a certain satisfaction is felt when they get a "hit". I am trying to determine if there isn't some connection to the real thing.


#6

I’m an avid video gamer and father in my 30s. I think you’ve got two concerns here - one theological, one behavioral.

First, I agree with the other posters - do some research on a new game before you buy it. Some platforms are more friendly (Wii, for the most part) and bigger-name games are more likely to be strongly reviewed. Remember, though, that the primary market for video games is not your kids but rather your husband - most gamers are 30 to 40, and this is why systems are now so much more expensive, we who grew up with Atari and Coleco and NES can now afford a $500 box or to build a $2,000 gaming rig. We in our 30s don’t care how violent the game is - and that’s a concern that’s left by the game makers to the parents to determine for younger gamers.

On a theological note, there’s not a right or wrong with playing video games as a form of leisure - I personally enjoy RPGs, to me they’re like writing a story instead of reading one. That said, it has to be a balance. If it’s a reward at the end of the week to play Wii tennis for an hour, conditioned on getting homework done or doing chores, I think that’s a good reinforcement and use of the video game. They should come last, behind faith, family and schoolwork. As far as playing online, it’s quite a bit of fun to play with friends but usually no fun to play with the immature jerks online - just people you don’t want your kids exposed to. Game networks generally allow you to play certain friends and you should be able to setup their accounts so that they can only join games hosted by people your kids know.

Playing every night, on the other hand, is a questionable use of time. The Lord expects us to pray ceaselessly but also calls us to rest. That should be all in balance, and the habits they develop today are the habits they’ll carry into the future. Cognizant of this, I’ve told myself I won’t play games until I’ve spent at least some time in prayer and Scripture study (though I don’t always keep to this) and I honestly feel bad when I’ve spent an hour playing a game but only pray at bedtime, dozing off in the middle of my reflections.

From a behavioral perspective there’s another question. Games are immersive unlike other forms of entertainment and its possible there is psychological harm there. Some thirty years ago there was a fear among psychologists that children who played RPGs (the old D&D and pen-and-paper type) lost the ability to control impulses, though it’s since been found that children with impulse control difficulties or other behavioral disorders feel like outsiders and are drawn to these kinds of games as an escape. So there’s not that kind of causality.

More recently there’s real concern that violent games desensitize a player to violence, as do violent movies. Even more concerning are games with sexual content - these have been shown to encourage sexual expression and to expect sexual compliance from women. Even if there is not a direct behavioral link, one must question the value of having a child’s mind steeped in an atmosphere of violence where the way to win a game is to destroy or kill the other player.

In the end, trust your intuition as a parent. If you don’t like how much a kid plays, cut back. If you don’t like that they play the game at all, call an end to it. I think it takes considerable maturity to really play newer games because of the content. This is especially so with newer games that have a “morality” feature that allows a player to make expressly good or evil choices. The game “Fable” for example requires a player to marry a spouse before engaging in … ahem … but the player can marry one spouse in every town. Male or female. The …ahem… is relegated to a dark cut scene, but it’s just not the kind of thing that kids need and it was probably included to help give the game a Mature rating.


#7

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