So is virtual killing a violation of the Sixth Commandment? I read an article today about how many churches are using the highly sought after Halo3 release as a means for luring in teens and young men to also hear the Gospel. Play a few rounds of Halo, take a break and listen to some preaching. Play a few more rounds of Halo…you get the drift.
The writer of the article clearly seemed to find that there was a disjunct between a faith that proclaims that killing is wrong using a violent video-game as a means of getting people in to hear that killing is wrong (among many other messages). But is virtual killing the same as ‘real’ killing?
Of course, the immediate and obvious answer is “No. Duh!” Video games are not reality. They affect how we interact with reality, however, since they condition us. How we react to things. What sorts of thoughts and images are our heads filled with? Does violence in general bother us? Those sorts of things. And of course, video games are not the only conditioning we receive in those respects. Movies, music, television – we’re saturated with conditioning sources. Video games are just one.
It seems simple to draw a line in the sand and say ‘no violent video games’, just as we *do* draw a line in the sand and say ‘no video games that depict graphic intercourse’. Nobody balks too much at the latter restriction. It’s only because video games have a long history of acceptable violence that the former ban causes an outrage.
And the fact that Halo is really, really, really cool.
The problem with drawing an arbitrary line is of course that vices don’t affect everyone the same way. I might be able to have a drink every night without feeling the need to indulge to drunkenness. For someone else, there might not be an alternative. One drink leads to two, leads to four, leads to passing out or driving home drunk. Some people can’t kiss or hold hands without being ravaged with lustful thoughts. For others, this is not a problem.
We can draw our lines in the sand, but the issue is who gets to draw them, and why. Invariably, people that find themself most prone to a given vice are the ones arguing for the most rigid and tight lines. Witness the spate of conservative politicians and religious leaders who have railed against homosexuality, only to be caught in compromising homosexual situations themselves. We all tend to operate with the assumption that what is a danger or temptation for me, must be a danger or tempatation to everyone. And this just clearly isn’t the case.
Some people can play violent video games without any adverse social effects. No desire to collect guns or purchase explosives or things like that. The game remains clearly and only a game. The line demarking reality from fantasy is clear and strong. For others, and I think that the younger you are, the more prone you are to this, the line between imagination and reality can blur. The desire to emulate what you see being played out is stronger. Doesn’t mean you’re going to start shooting people, but you may develop an interest in weaponry, etc.
For me, the bigger issue is that these churches are providing access to a game that not all kids can purchase for themselves. What sort of message is *that* saying? There are times and places where a judicious exercise of civil disobedience is in order, even necessary. But this sure doesn’t seem like one of those times or places.