5 minute read

Video Games—Owned!

By Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr.

If you’re a video game player, you know what this means. To be owned means that someone is beating you badly. And that person is telling you and everyone else. One definition of own is this: “Owned: v. To be made a fool of; To make a fool of; To confound or prove wrong; Embarrassing someone: Being embarrassed.” Not so great, huh? But ownage is a part of video gaming. It’s part of the culture.

I admit it: I really like playing video games. Console, PC, Arcade, online, offline—it doesn’t really matter. I like them all. And I have for a long time. I remember the days of Pong and had an Atari. When I was in college, we would often spend countless hours playing a variety of games—strategy, first-person shooters—just to pass the time.

Frankly, this drove my parents nuts. “Why do you waste your time!?!” they yelled, er, asked. I claimed that it wasn’t wasting time; I was honing my skills. “What skills?”came the inevitable reply. “Eye-hand coordination,” said I. “That sounds like an important skill for a future pastor,” they countered. “What will it help you do? Make better hand movements when you preach?” Hmmmm. They had a point.

Larry’s excuse number two. “Strategic thinking! These games help clarify my thinking so that I will preach more clearly!” I think I had a point on this one. I still do. My parents weren’t against my game playing; they were worried I was wasting my time on something useless. And you know, they had a point too.

Now that I’m a parent, I find myself repeating those words with my own kids. I worry about them wasting too much time on video games at the expense of their homework and exercise. But I also appreciate some of the benefits that gaming provides, provided one plays wisely. And, yes, I play video games with my kids (though I am the one who is usually owned).

That really is the key—playing wisely and responsibly as a child of God. For while there is nothing worse than being owned on a video game, there is nothing better than God’s ownage. God has bought and paid for you with the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of His Son, Jesus Christ. As Luther put it in the Small Catechism in his explanation of the Second Article of the Creed, “I believe that Jesus Christ...has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness...”

Or, as a hymn puts it, “God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ! He, because I could not pay it, Gave my full redemption price. Do I need earth’s treasure many? I have one worth more than any That brought me salvation free Lasting to eternity!” ( Hymnal Supplement 98, 844)

As God’s owned children, you and I come at video games from a little different perspective. We see video games as a gift from God to be enjoyed judiciously within the context of our life in Christ. For there is a whole array of games available out there—from the tame to the violent, from the chaste to the obscene, from the appropriate to the improper. As you and your parents (Fourth Commandment) make decisions about what games to play, keep Christ’s summary of the Ten Commandments in mind: “And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he [Jesus] said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all y our soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 22:35–40).

In other words, is the game anti-Christian? (First and Second Commandments) Does it encourage violent or inappropriate behavior? (Fifth Commandment) Does it have sexual encounters, nudity, or suggestive or sexually immoral material? (Sixth Commandment) Does it encourage us to speak badly of other people? (Eighth Commandment) If it does, avoid it. No doubt you can think of more applications. Simply put, our video gaming should not put us in the position to be at odds with our commitments as the people of God.

One last point on all this—video game characters can often run without tiring or stopping. However, if you sit in front of the monitor too long, we will end up so out of shape that we won’t be able to run anywhere. Be sure to take care of your body and exercise—don’t just sit in front of the computer/TV all day long. (Someone email me and remind me of this! J)

The bottom line? Go ahead and play. But play smartly and wisely. There are a lot of worthless games out there. And no matter how good the game is, if you spend all your time on it, it is now playing you. But God gave you a wonderful mind and body that are able to process incredible amounts of information quickly and turn it into action. Use that mind to make good decisions about what games to play and for how long. Keep you parents informed of what you’re playing, and seek their advice on what’s appropriate. In so doing, we can appreciate God’s good gifts while at the same time rejoicing in the fact that we are owned by Him.

The Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr. is a certified game nut and associate professor of historical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His email is rastlr@hotmail.com.