It’s no secret that many gamers experience brave, world-conquering successes through their gaming personas. While some professions actually use game-style simulations to prepare amateurs for real-life experiences, it seems that most video games actually have an opposite effect: Instead of preparing young people for real life, video games provide a way for them to escape from it.
As noted by Dannah Gresh in How To Keep the Good in Your Boy, it’s no coincidence that the timing of a rise in the availability of home gaming systems directly coincides with major drops in boys’ academic success and the trend toward “adultescence.” For parents who desire to raise their sons to be the kinds of providers and protectors that God has designed them to be, this issue bears exploring.
As you’re probably aware, many video games give those who play them the chance to save imaginary worlds and learn the “habits of heroes.” Often, those who are failing miserably at their own real-life objectives thrive on gaming successes, even while real life failures continue to mount. When asked what it would take for us to harness these skills of gamers for real-world success, game designer Jane McGonigal had an interesting response: She asserts that it’s not the video games, but reality that is broken.
Of course, biblically, we know that since the Fall (See Genesis 3), the world as we know it is far from the perfect Creation God intended. However, God’s plan of reconciliation and redemption through His Son is not exactly the remedy that McGonigal has in mind. She thinks that the answer is to make life work more like the games she designs, which means responding to what makes them so attractive and so much more attractive than real-world challenges. The three main aspects of this optimized pseudo-world she creates for gamers includes these aspects:
• Important tasks
• Low-risk environment
• Potential collaborators
• Quick learning process
While life does include important tasks, some of them are unarguably mundane, and faithfulness in those repetitive, unglamorous, thankless tasks is honorable. In real life, there are real risks. Real people with real feelings and real possibilities of dying and spending eternity apart from God surround us daily. Sometimes training takes years or even decades, and doing right can be lonely, at times. We cannot change those facets of true reality, and God has designed the circumstances of our lives in a way that can help us develop strong character and glorify Him.
Is your son spending inordinate amounts of time in pretend worlds where success is easy and failure has no enduring consequences and can remain private? If so, those are hours in which the disciplines of the Christian life are being thwarted instead of developed. As we prepare our sons to face an imperfect world with real and sometimes less-than-thrilling challenges, we need to carefully consider how they spend their time during these formative years.
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