God and Gaming: Is it Wrong to Play Video Games?

Jul 01, 2020

In 2020, the global video game industry is predicted to generate over $150 billion dollars, more than the movie and the music industry combined! With over two billion gamers in the world today, video games are and will increasingly play a major role in society generally and the nature of human relationships in particular. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? On this week’s Ask Away, Vince and Jo respond to a teenager’s question, “What is your opinion on violent video games and video games in general? Is it unholy to play them?”


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Transcript



Please Note: Ask Away is produced to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Michael Davis: Hello and welcome to another episode of Ask Away with Vince and Jo Vitale. I am your host, Michael Davis. There have always been those who fall into what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace,” and those who fall into a sort of legalism that permeated the American church for the last part of the 20th century. Complicating the matter further, is that oftentimes we confuse things that are unhelpful with things that are sinful. The worst part is that these types of things have caused division within the church since the days of the apostles. From secular music to popular video games, many people have struggled with the question of their helpfulness or even sinfulness. We know we are to reflect God in this world, but how much of the world should be reflected in us? Is playing video games sinful? But before we get started, Jo, can you tell our listeners about ReFresh, our free online college preparation conference happening on July 21st through the 24th?

Jo Vitale: Thanks, Michael. Yes, I absolutely can. This year, for one time only due to the current situation that we're all in globally, ReFresh is actually going to be exclusively online rather than an in-person conference. And it's also going to be completely free. So I really encourage you, this is your year to get involved. It really doesn't matter where around the world you're listening from. I mean, I suppose for some of you, it might be some very late nights, but please do join us. We would absolutely love to have you with us. It would be about three hours a day. If you're on the eastern coast of America, then it will be a 1 until 4. But otherwise, just do some math and figure that one out. But it's going to be just a whole range of different talks, different questions, topics. It'll be very interactive. We're going to put a high priority on answering the questions that are coming in from different students and covering a wide range of topics as well.

Now this week is particularly geared for those who are juniors in the high school heading into their senior year. If you're a senior heading off to college, it's kind of focused around college preparation. What are the kinds of challenges, the questions that are going to arise for you as you head off to university? And how can you share your faith with others who you'll be on campus with who don't know anything about Christianity and may be quite hostile towards it? But also, how can you be sure of the faith perhaps that you've grown up in, but you've never even asked these questions for yourself? So wherever you're at on the spectrum of what you believe or don't believe about Christianity, you're so welcome. We would love to have you with us. It will be a wide variety of members of the RZIM speaking team contribution to the week.

There'll also be, in the evenings, a little extra series we're calling ReFresh Extra, where we'll be also live streaming, from Facebook and YouTube, a different talk topic each night with more live Q and A. And that isn't just for youth, that's really for anyone. So feel free to listen in to that, even if you don't fall into the category of heading off to college and so the afternoons wouldn't be the best for you. But it's going to be a fun week. It's going to be very lively and engaging and really looking forward to it.

Michael Davis: Excellent. If anyone here would like to attend or if you know someone, a friend, family member, a child that wants to attend, all you have to do is go to RZIM.org and click on the events tab, and you'll be able to find it. It's right there. Okay. Let's get to our question. This is from Zach, who's a teenager, who has the question that goes as follows. “What is your opinion on violent video games and video games in general? Is it unholy to play them?”

Vince Vitale: Well, thanks, Zach, for that question. You're asking a former boxer about violence so you may get a biased answer. But no, this is a challenging question. It feels a little bit like a catch 22, because if you're a gamer and we say video games are bad, then we're not going to be very popular. On the other hand, if you're listening and you're a parent and your children are spending all their time playing video games, and we say they're good, then you're not going to be very happy with this either. And thankfully, I think the answer is more nuanced than just as simple yes or no. And one of the things I do love about this question that you raised, Zach, is that it's very practical. It's actually saying, "I want to bring God into the real, tangible details of my day to day. Not just abstractly, what do I believe, but how am I going to spend my time each day? On a Friday afternoon when I get home from school, God is even relevant to that. So I really like that about this question.

Jo Vitale: Actually, Vince said “might get in trouble with the parents,” but according to the statistics, the average American gamer is actually 35 years old. So it could be the parents who are spending too much time on video games. But yeah, it's really interesting when you look at the statistics. I think it shows why this is such an important question because actually, people the world over, are involved in video games. It's not really such a niche thing anymore. It's like a $150 billion industry. Back in 2017, gamers collectively were spending about three billion hours per week in front of their screens. It's probably gone up since a lot of us have been in lockdown for a while. More than 150 million people in the United States play video games regularly for at least three hours per week. And so we're talking about huge numbers of people.

There's also, I think, we were discussing before the episode actually, shift in attitude as well that it used to be the case that when you sort of talk about, to use a label, “nerd culture,” it used to be hard to be involved in some of these things, you'd be a bit of a social outcast. Whether it was video games or certain fantasy stuff. Or I used to be a Star Trek fan and I didn't tell anyone at school because I would have been relentlessly mocked for it. All these different aspects of culture. It used to be kind of fringy, but now not so much anymore. Now we were talking about how very often that the coolest groups in school are those involved in this area and who have a kind of passion for enjoying these pursuits. So actually, because of the shift in the way that people are perceived in culture, it also means it's become a bit of a different question as well, because this is what all the cool kids are doing. This is what everybody is doing. And so as a Christian, what are you to make of that?

Vince Vitale: Yeah. And it's quite amazing just to put it in perspective, that the gaming industry is larger than the movie industry, both financially and numerically, when you think about the number of people who are playing each day. So it's very, very significant. And I just wanted to recommend maybe a certain approach to this question as we start to get to your question, Zach, “what is your opinion on violent video games? Is it unholy to play them?” And I think oftentimes that's our instinct to ask, “What am I not allowed to do? What would be unholy?” And then as long as something is technically allowed, as long as there's no specific verse in scripture that says we can't do it, then we just go for it and don't ask any other questions. I want to recommend a slightly different approach to the question.

There are lots of things that we're technically allowed to do. You're allowed to go into the backyard and play in the mud. There's no scripture against that, you're allowed to do that. But if you spent all of your time doing that, you spend all of your time playing in the mud, then you wouldn't live a very significant life. Your life would fall short of what God intends for it, and I'm sure what you intend for it as well. So I would just want to rephrase the question a little bit and say positively, “How do I want to use my time?” This doesn't answer the question yet about video games, we'll get there. But I think it's a good question to ask, how do I want to use my time? You only have so much of it.

And it's a good question for all of us to ask ourselves how much of our time do we spend on the most meaningful things in life? I mean, if I ask us actually to instinctively give a percentage, what percentage of my time do I spend on the things in life that I actually believe are most meaningful? I find that a challenging question to ask myself. How much of my time do I spend in reality? How much of my time do I actually spend on superficiality or just distracting myself from other things that maybe I'm afraid of dealing with? And then the most important question, why? Why do I spend so much time not in reality, not in the most meaningful things of life, distracting myself in various ways? Because I do think that there will be a connection between how we spend our time and who we become.

And maybe I'm particularly sensitive and aware of this as I approach my midlife crisis. I keep telling Jo that I'm kind of inching towards a midlife crisis. I hope it's a crisis in a good sense and not just a bad sense, as I really kind of evaluate where am I in life? What has God called me to? What is God asking of me? Am I on a trajectory just because that's the trajectory I've always been on or because that's what God is specifically asking of me right now?

And I was thinking that time is one of the greatest things that can be stolen from your life. If somebody, due to chain smoking, had lost 15 years off of their life expectancy, we would say that was a great shame. But we don't tend to think that way when it comes to other things. We don't tend to think that way when it comes to mindlessly binge watching TV. I have no problem with TV. TV can be an art form. Deep meaning can be taken from watching TV. But if we're just mindlessly binge watching TV to such an extent that it takes so much of our time that if you add it up, it actually spent 15 years of our life, is that really any different than losing 15 years to smoking?

So time can be stolen from our life, but rephrase the question in the positive as we answer this question. And again, it's going to be a nuanced answer, it's not a simple yes or no. But we have to ask the question, what is God calling us to in terms of our time? How do we want to spend the time that we have? And how is that going to impact the people that we become?

Jo Vitale: Yeah, I really like thinking about it that way because we want to steward money well, and we think about that. But we don't always think about time as something to be stewarded. Now that's not to say that every second of your day needs to be taken up in work, work, work. God gives us a Sabbath for a reason. There's a place for rest within the Christian life, for rhythms of work and rest. And healthy rest leads to more productivity within your work as well. That's why Europeans take more holidays than Americans, a thing that I was always very grateful for. But actually, I guess the question, part of the question here, is what makes for creative rest?

Because I thought Vince made a good point about mindlessly binge watching TV because often, we're all so exhausted you sort of collapse in front of the TV and just watch whatever is on. Whereas, it might be the case in some circumstances that actually, video gaming could be a more creative form of rest and actually a more edifying form of rest than just collapsing in front of the TV or just sitting back. And I often sit back and read novels because I'm too tired to do anything else, but consume in that sense. Whereas, there can be something quite creative about playing video games that actually actively engages you in a way that some of these other pursuits do.

So we're not saying, "Oh," like Vince said, "There's a clear right or wrong here." It's more about nuance. It's interesting because I think a lot of people think, "Well, if you look at the science of it, what are the impacts of playing video games on a person?" So one of the things people talk a lot about is if you play a lot of first person shooter games, more violent video games, does that actually stir aggression, does it cause violence? Are all video games addictive? All these kind of questions. Or even if it doesn't stir violence within you, does it desensitize you to violence so that you're less bothered when you see it out there in the world? Maybe it might not stir up within you that strong sense of, "Oh, something is really wrong here," or cry out for justice because you get a little bit desensitized to it through the games that you're playing. These are questions to ask.

Actually, when you look at the sort of scientific studies, they're kind of inconclusive as to whether some of these more violent games actually cause you to be more violent in real life. But also, when I think about what scripture has to say about these things, it's certainly true that whatever you set your mind on does come to...Whatever you're dwelling on and focusing on does reframe your thinking. I think we see that in things like pornography, don't we? That actually, pornography winds up being more destructive for marriages than adultery, ultimately. More marriages end because of pornography than adultery because of how much it can change the way that you're thinking. And is the same true of violence, that if we're focusing on violent things in our free time and enacting them that actually that will also come to change the way that we relate to other people? So these are important questions.

Vince Vitale: And so there are definitely some cautions that we want to have as we approach video games. And yet, we're not wanting to say that there can only be bad video games, not wanting to say that at all. Jo already mentioned that they can be a form of rest. That could be a form of creative rest for some people. But there are other goods as well. They can be educational. Educational games for kids learning to read, to write, learning the Bible. They can exercise your brain, a game which is designed to really develop your brain. And then I think relationships and community can be very important in terms of why people engage in video games as well. Jo and I, every other year, when we're with Jo's family for Christmas, we have a big Mario Kart tournament at Christmas. And we really look forward to that. And we haven't seen the family in person in a while, everybody gathers around and is rooting for whoever they're rooting for. And there's a lot of banter and it's a great way to just kind of break the ice and come back together as a family. I'm always Toad, I don't know who your favorite racer is. But who are you, Jo?

Michael Davis: Toady.

Jo Vitale: Yoshi, I'm usually Yoshi.

Vince Vitale: Yeah.

Michael Davis: Oh no.

Jo Vitale: Just anyone but Princess Peach, she has the most annoying giggle.

Vince Vitale: The steering's not tight enough on Yoshi for me. So I go with Toad. He's a little bit slower, but he makes those turns.

Jo Vitale: Is that why? You never told me. Why am I always going off the road? That's why.

Vince Vitale: Nice and sharp.

Michael Davis: Setting her up for failure.

Vince Vitale: Yeah, why would I tell you?

Jo Vitale: Wow. That explains so much.

Vince Vitale: I was speaking with a Christian friend of mine who's a pretty serious gamer recently. And I was surprised, actually, to hear how much for him it is about the community. For him, the gaming community is a community of people, and we already said earlier in the episode, it's a huge community of people who need to be reached with the gospel and are often overlooked, even though numerically and financially, it's a larger community than the movie watching community. Discord is a program that runs alongside video games and it allows voice chat and the sharing of links. And often, he says that him and his friends will be on Discord as much as they're on the games. And now they've formed a WhatsApp group, they're sharing life and challenges together on the WhatsApp group. Those who are in his area are meeting up and going for burgers. And I didn't necessarily expect to hear that from him. But for him, gaming has been an entry point into authentic relationship that is deepening over time. And in particular for him as a Christian, relationship with non-Christians who otherwise might be part of a community that are often unreached.

Jo Vitale: I think obviously we recognize, in certain instances, it's good to be aware of that if you're a parent, that there are some safeguarding concerns there that you don't always know who your kids are talking to you. So something to be mindful of. But in terms of a community of people, that can be a huge gift. We were talking before the episode about how challenging it has been historically for those who would sort of be categorized as nerds, sometimes to socially feel a part of other groups and communities, because you used to be ostracized for that, you'd feel like a bit of an outsider. And very often, gaming communities become the one place where you feel like you're accepted for yourself.

And so actually, there was even, Mike was telling me how in the American church in the past, it was sometimes a challenge because when churches would speak so strongly against video games, but it was the only community that you as a teenager felt like you were accepted in, you were actually being asked to make a really difficult choice. And many people wound up walking away from the church because of what they were told and feeling like, "Actually, this is the one place where I feel like I can be myself. Why would I want to leave that community?" So actually, in some ways, it was quite harmful. And there are large numbers of people within the gaming community who walked away from Christianity because they felt like they were forced to make a choice there. And this was a community that knew and loved them.

But even in my own life, I would say that I grew up playing video games, more like problem solving or kind of action adventure video games with my brother. And I put down to those hours that we spent together playing video games is really what built up our relationship to be a particularly close one over the years. It was a connection point for us where rather than just sitting watching TV and not interacting, we'd be constantly strategizing together, we'd be problem solving. It really taught me how to problem solve in a way that my brain naturally doesn't want to work. So I could see the positive impact in my own life in that sense. But yeah, when I look back on my childhood, those are some of my best memories with my brother and that was hugely influential for us.

Vince Vitale: And that's interesting. I hadn't thought of that. But video games, they're generally not a division across gender in the same way. Right? So you wouldn't necessarily have been on the same sports teams as your brother. Those sports teams would have been primarily by gender, but video games are something that you could do together as you forged that friendship which has been really deep for you throughout your life with your brother. So yeah, that's neat to think about.

So I guess it's complicated, as is usually the answer to every good question that we get on this show. But in terms of categories of cultural engagement, people often talk about something like there are some things we can just accept from culture. A scientific discovery that allows for a cure to a disease, we can accept that as something that's from God, even if it came from a secular discipline. There are certain things that we just have to deny and just say, "That's not biblical, that's not from God." And then there are things that we can redeem, things that they're not necessarily intrinsically good or bad, but it depends on the heart and the motivation with which they're approached.

And I think Jo and I would probably put video games into that category of something that can be redeemed, but also where we do have to be cautious about excess. Sometimes too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing. And as Jo's mentioned as well, these games can sometimes be designed in such a way that keeps you coming back for more. There's even something called a mastery loop, which is designed to keep players playing because failure is always minimized by design in the game and success is always celebrated and maximized no matter how small the success is. And that's sometimes why you get lots of people sitting around the dinner table with a new game saying, "Boy, I'm really good at this game. I think maybe I could even play professionally." Right? There's something in the game which is designed for you to have this exaggerated perception of how you're doing.

And that, I think, is where we need to be careful because theologically, God has dominion over us. And then He has called us to have dominion over the created order, over created things, and not vice versa. And so we do need to be careful about that. And I think the test of that, one thing that's helpful to see if something has control over you is to ask yourself, "Do I tell myself I'm not going to do this and then I do it anyway? Do I tell myself I'm spending too much time playing these video games, I don't want to play when I get home today after work, and then you wind up playing anyway?"

You think of Paul in Romans seven, "For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate I do." When that begins to resonate and you go, "Even though I've made a conscious choice not to do that this evening, I just wind up doing it anyway." That's when I think we have to check ourselves and say, "Hey, this can be a good thing, it can be redeemed, but let's make sure that we're having dominion over created things and that created things are not having control over us."

Michael Davis: You know, one of the really cool things about, and you mentioned this redeeming something that can be used for both good and for bad, is there's actually a ministry called Love Thy Nerd. And you said this, that communities are notoriously very difficult to evangelize. And they're literally sharing the gospel with gamers, both video games and tabletop, about what do you think about the concept of actually using video games and the interactive nature of actually telling people about Jesus?

Jo Vitale: Yeah. I mean, I think it's an amazing opportunity because, I mean, because Jesus himself in The Great Commission tells us to go and make disciples of all nations. And actually, when you think about it, gamers are one of the most unreached people groups. And so if there are opportunities to become part of those communities...And we always talk about this, to become part of a community, you actually need to be incarnational. You can't just show up totally uninterested in what sits at the heart of that community and then expect people just to listen to you. You actually have to plug in, in that sense. You have to become all things to all people. So if there are Christians who actually, they love playing video games, like one of our friends that Vince was talking to, and it's a way into that community, then that's an amazing opportunity.

And I think that's a distinction here because Vince talking earlier about the difference between how do you use your time? And I'm wanting to make sure that actually we're making the most of the time God has given us to be in the real world rather than kind of living in a fantasy world or a virtual world where it's about pure escapism, where it's about life is too hard and too depressing so I'm just going to switch off and lose myself by plugging into their game machine. And just, that isn't necessarily a healthy thing. But if you're going to those places actually to be in the real world, because you are there to connect with and seek after and love the people who are also in those spaces who you may not ever see face to face, but actually you're building deep friendships with through the games that you're playing in the community, that's a different thing. That's not about escaping from the real world, that's about actually being missional.

But I think we need to just ask ourselves “what is the motivation?” I mean, that's the thing here. Could you actually call what you're doing when you play video games an act of worship? If Jesus was sitting next to you while you're playing, would that actually be something that you could enjoy with him or something he'd be excited about the reasons that you're doing it, or would it be extremely awkward? That might be a good question to ask yourself.

Vince Vitale: It'd be awkward because you'd always lose.

Jo Vitale: It would.

Michael Davis: You know that Jesus would be an awesome gamer, you know he would be.

Vince Vitale: Totally, totally. But when you think of that, Jo, as evangelists, when we're speaking somewhere, we're often trying to keep people's attention and then we're trying to communicate to them a deep and meaningful narrative and invite them into that narrative. Well, video games are great at both of those things, right? They're great at keeping people's attention, but also in the context of a video game, it's often the reason you are really drawn back is because it's part of an ongoing narrative that you're invited into. And I think of Jesus and the way that he used parables, he used parables in part because we connect with narrative and the trajectory of a narrative. But also, you read about the prodigal son and then it prompts you to ask the question, am I the younger brother? Am I the older brother? Am I Toad? Am I Yoshi?

Jo Vitale: Don't let me be Princess Peach.

Vince Vitale: I mean, this is what happens in a video game. You actually choose a character and see how the narrative plays out. And actually, Jesus is inviting us, especially when he uses parables, but the whole narrative arc and all the sub-narratives within it of the Bible are inviting us into something very similar. So I do get excited at the idea of a community of Christians who are passionate about gaming really getting together with this God given skill set, to be able to do it and think, "How do we tell the biblical narrative in a really, really attractive, compelling way?" Because this is something that Jesus was doing in the forms that it was done in his day through his storytelling, through the way that he kept people's attention. How do we do that in the context of our 21st century digital age?

Jo Vitale: Yeah. That's why we've loved the TV show, The Chosen, because it sort of helps invite you into the story of Jesus in a fresh way, and really brought that to life. And I actually noticed that Biola University offer a course, Biola University is a Christian university, but they're offering a program there where you can learn how to design video games. And part of the reason they said they're doing that is because for exactly that reason, they want Christians to enter into that space and construct Christian stories, Christian narratives that actually help people to get a sense of the wonder of the gospel and the bigger story.

And that makes sense to me because, actually, even when I was a kid playing video games, I would love the ones that had a big story arc of adventure. But there was always this part of me that you'd come to the end of the story and it would be completed. And then you'd be like, "Okay, now what?" It would draw me into this kind of bigger world and it always felt really exciting. But then it would come to an end and then I have to go and find another one, another story.

And gradually, as I was playing these games, I realized actually this is tapping into a longing within me to be part of some great adventure, some amazing cosmic story of good and evil and feeling like you're making a difference and having a part to play, and a purpose. And all of those things are good desires, but actually, they were pointing me towards something bigger. So it wasn't a bad thing necessarily, but it was just showing me, actually, this is tapping into something more and actually the place I really want to see this realized isn't in my life, that I want to be part of that bigger story of God's story. And how do I live that out, that I'm not just consuming or sitting back or being passive about it, but I'm actively following God in a way that means that I get to play whatever part he's designed for me in that great overarching narrative?

Vince Vitale: I think that's exactly it. What is the desire behind our desire to play video games? At RZIM, we're often talking about the question behind the question. So somebody might ask an abstract philosophical question about evil in the world, but what they might really be asking is a more fundamental question about something very personal. Why did God let my father die when I was six? That might be the real question behind the question. And in the same way, there are questions behind questions, there are also desires behind desires. So we might have the desire to play video games, but does that desire point to a deeper, more fundamental desire? And if so, is it a good one?

Now, if that desire is just for an addiction to pleasure or a defense mechanism or distracting ourselves from what's really important in life, then that's not necessarily a good desire behind the desire. But what if, as Jo's put it, what if our desire is to play video games because it's really, at a more fundamental level, a desire to be part of a cosmic battle between good and evil? Then I want to say, "Yes, that's a good desire. That's a very good desire. That's a biblical desire." And I just wanted to read this passage from Ephesians six because as we, both Jo and I, got thinking along this line, this really came to mind.

So a passage from Ephesians six, listen to this in the context of a video game. "Finally, be strong in the Lord. And in his mighty power, put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground. And after you have done everything to stand, stand firm then with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God."

I mean, stick that on the back of a video game box. I would definitely buy that. And the Bible is this incredible adventurous storyline with a prince trying to win a princess, the Prince of Peace trying to win his bride, the church. There are warrior dragons who need to be defeated. There's the supernatural. There's a hero charging in on a white horse with fire in his eyes and a sword in his mouth. I mean, this is the great stuff of video games, but even more so. And we're invited to be a part of that adventure. So could our longing to be involved in video games point to our real longing to be part of a cosmic battle? That is a good longing, and it's from God. And maybe really and incredibly, our desire for video games is, at its most fundamental level, a desire to be a part of the Great Commission, to be sent out, to be part of the battle that really is raging in our midst, not a battle of flesh and blood, but an epic grander battle for the hearts and the souls of all people.

Jo Vitale: I love that. And I love that that gives a kind of missional perspective too. If you're going into the world of gaming and that's something that you love to do, how could that mindset be brought into what you're doing to actually make it fruitful for the gospel and even more purposeful and meaningful? And it also raises the question for me, is that armor, the armor of God that we're talking about, is that the kind of armor you could wear into the battle that you're playing on video games? So if that's the battle that you're called to, then the question is how are you conducting yourself within it? If it's part of fulfilling the Great Commission and wanting to reach people within those communities, for example, it's going to make a difference how you're living that out and how you're playing.

I think of Vince. When he played sports, it was important that he played as a Christian on the pitch. And if he was trying to be a witness to his sports team, but at the same time, he was being way overaggressive and violent towards other people, if he'd been rude and kept constantly breaking the rules, actually that wasn't going to be a very good witness to his team. I'm assuming you weren't.

Vince Vitale: I was going to say, it's like you were watching me, Jo.

Jo Vitale: But the same way would be true of video games. If this is a community you're called to, we're thinking that, "Okay, how do I live that out?" For example, would there be something very incongruous about wanting to be a witness in that space, but playing such violent video games that you're trying to share about Jesus while you're literally running people over in a violent game. There's going to be a bit of a discrepancy there between the message you're sharing and what you're actively participating in for entertainment and what that might even imply about human value and what we should or shouldn't find entertaining. So it's just worth thinking, "Okay, how do I enter into this space in a way where I can actually be a Christian within it and be showing Christian characteristics of encouragement and teamwork and love for my neighbor, even while we're playing these games together?" And if it feels too jarring, maybe that is a reason to think, "Okay, is this the game that I should be playing?" Perhaps that's one filter through which to look at it.

Michael Davis: Well, guys, we are out of time. Vince, sum it up for us.

Vince Vitale: Yeah. Well, that's a good last point that you raised, Jo. And it gets us right back to really the concrete nature of the question, violent video games, is it unholy? And it's not a simple answer, we've worked through some of the nuances. But I would say let's be thoughtful about it, let's be cautious with some games. I do remember one game where you get extra points for running over innocent people. And I remember that really bothered me. And thinking it through, you think, "Well, you know what? We're created in the image of God, He created us in his image, and then we create images of those images on a screen. And then if we run them over for fun, does that make us callus to suffering?" I certainly wouldn't want to be playing that game as somebody who recently had had someone die by a car accident walked into the room.

And is that the best way to honor God? I was thinking, actually, Leonardo da Vinci painting the Mona Lisa, would it be a little bit like an image of an image? A virtual image of the image of God that God has created, would it be a little bit like having a print of the Mona Lisa and tearing it up in front of da Vinci for fun? That wouldn't necessarily be the same as tearing up the Mona Lisa itself, but it also wouldn't necessarily be the best way to honor him and to celebrate him. Yet on other hand, I've read to you from Ephesians six and you can see that the symbolism of a battle is very biblical and it could be the case as some games invite you into that and invite you into that first on a more superficial level, but it's actually connecting with a deeper longing to be part of the battle which is not just flesh against blood, but is much more significant and eternal than that. And what an amazing fact that we are invited into that battle.

So I guess to sum it all up, I would say, C.S. Lewis said, "Our desires are not too strong, they're too weak." And we're like those children who settle for playing in the mud in the backyard because we can't imagine the possibility of a vacation at the beach. So I would say, yes, enjoy video games if you can find a way to be redemptive in the way that you enjoy them, they don't have control over you, but you have control over them. But I think our primary closing thought would be don't stop there. Yes, enjoy the video games, but don't stop at just playing in the mud, don't stop with just the superficiality of the battle on our virtual screen. Have that be a pointer to the cosmic battle that you're invited into to actually go out and be part of the invitation to people to have their souls and their hearts transformed where you literally, in a supernatural way, see someone go from one person to another, from the old life to the new life, the same sort of transformation you might see on a video game and think, "That's not possible in real life." It is possible in real life. It's possible in real life because Jesus offers that possibility. And not only that, but he offers for us to be part of it.

So enjoy some video games in the proper context, but make sure that's pointing to something which is not just a game, but is an invitation into the most significant thing in life, to be sharing Jesus with the world so that people can come to know him and see their lives transformed and then themselves be invited into that adventure, into that battle that we all can be a part of.

Michael Davis: Thanks guys. Thanks Jo, thanks Vince for joining me. Thank you all for listening. And we will catch you guys next time.

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