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The Best Advice From God About Playing Video Games

I have a confession to make – I LOVE playing video games. In fact, even today at age 43 – I have to keep myself from playing them because it’s so easy for me to get sucked into their grasp. I can still play all day if I let myself go.

Technology propels society forward perhaps like nothing else. I came of age in a decade where the video game industry saw leaps and bounds like never before. I was seven in 1980 when perhaps the greatest video game of all time was released. Want to take a guess which game that was?

That’s right – Pac-Man.

But the 1980s saw even greater innovations that propelled the numbers of kids and adults playing video games to new heights.

playing video gamesThe first scrolling shooter games like Defender (1981) were created along with racing games like Pole Position (1982). I spent hours playing Duck Hunt (1984) with its light gun zapper. And who could forget Super Mario Brothers (1985), one of the most influential games ever.

And when Nintendo released the Game Boy in 1989 – well, kids thought they had died and gone to heaven. Now playing video games could happen on the go.

Today, the video game industry is all about mobility, apps and connection with others. Pretty much all the teens I know have apps on their phone or tablet. And some of the games they enjoy the most are the ones that allow them to play against each other.

As a parent of four kids, I have sincere concerns about the amount of time my kids spend playing video games. And I also care about the types of games they play. Some are pretty benign. Others, however are rude, suggestive and violent.

I filter everything for my family through my faith. As readers of this blog know, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ and believe the Bible has answers in some form to all of life’s challenges. So, as a Christian parent, how should I instruct my children on their use of video games? Is it something God is OK with? Or would He question our participation in that form of entertainment and maybe even say it’s wrong?

Before I get to that, it’s important to understand why video games are so attractive. So I offer up these 7 reasons why we end up playing video games so much.

Reasons for Playing Video Games

The number one reason I can think of for playing video games is simply for the thrill. I still remember the day when I, as Little Mac, beat Mike Tyson in Punch Out (1987). It had taken forever to master the right moves to make it through all the competitors. Beating Tyson took even longer. And when he finally went down and didn’t get back up, I went screaming around the house. It was a drop the control pad moment.

We also love video games for the mystery. Remember when you found the secret warp zones in Super Mario Brothers? Or when you opened up a secret passageway in Wolfenstein 3D (1992). Nothing gets your juices flowing and wanting more than opening up a secret passageway to a room of treasures, only to be confronted by a room full of Nazis you have to mow down with your machine gun. Guten tag!

We also play for the competition. It’s either you against the computer software or you against another person. It’s how high a score you can get or how many other people you can beat. In today’s world this has been taken to new heights as there are actually professional tournaments you can enter so that you can play for the money.

My kids play video games the most when they are bored. There is nothing else to do on that rainy Saturday so let’s go blow off a few hours. In truth, there is usually something else to do, or something else they could find to do if video games were not an option.

One of the more concerning reasons people play video games is for the diversion. What I mean by that is that they are using video games to escape from some personal pain in their life. It makes people feel better if they can forget about their troubles and lose themselves within the video game for a time. But of course, the problems are still there when they are done playing and still not resolved.

The final reason people end up playing video games is that it’s forced upon them. What do I mean by that? Well, the next time you are in grocery store or a restaurant look around and see how many parents are using games on their phone or tablet to keep their child quiet. 40 years ago a mom or dad would have had to manage their child. Now, sticking a game in front of them does the trick. And it’s happening to kids at younger and younger ages. I’d wager in most cases, the first time they were handed a video game to keep them quiet, the child didn’t ask for it – it was the adult’s decision.

God’s Take on Playing Video Games

So what does God think about all this? Would He approve of us playing video games?

Well, the Bible has no verse that says, “Thou shall not play video games.” But it does have verses that give clues to what God might think. So to figure this out, I’m going to ask some questions about video games and provide my perspective with a corresponding Bible verse.

Question #1: Will the video game edify me in some way?

The word edify means to build up. Video games could be beneficial in many ways, like how they make you laugh and build connectivity with friends. Or how they help you build a closeness with your sister as you conquer Gauntlet (1985) together.

But many games do nothing to build you up. They don’t help with your attitude or emotions or relationships. They are a drag on you moving forward to become a better person.

This is where I think verses like I Cor. 10:23 can help. Paul says here, “All things are lawful for me but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful but not all things edify.” In Paul’s case, he was talking about a big controversy in the early church about eating meat that had been given as an offering to idols. Many Christians thought you shouldn’t eat that meat. Others didn’t think it was a problem.

Paul’s basically saying, “Yeah, I could eat it…to me it’s no big deal. But my actions may not edify others or the name of Christ so I’m not going to do it.”

I think we could look at playing video games the very same way. Can you play them? Sure – in most cases, it’s no big deal. That is until your playing starts to tear you or others down. Then you’ve crossed the line and it no longer is edifying.

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Question #2: What are my eyes taking in?

There is an old saying – the eyes are the window to the soul. That basically means you can look into a person’s eyes and learn about what’s going on in their inner world – thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc.

I think about this a different way. It’s what comes in through the eyes that helps create your soul. Sunlight coming through a window brightens the whole house. But if all that comes through the window is darkness, the inside will be wrapped up in that darkness.

Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set nothing wicked before my eye…” Additionally, Christians are challenged in Philippians 4:8 to think on only those things that are pure and lovely and noble. I doubt God had zombies or bloody chainsaws or exploding heads in mind when He put those verses in the Bible.

Question #3: Does it hinder good works?

I Corinthians 15:58 tells believers to be “steadfast, immovable always abounding in the work of the Lord…” In essence, we are to be continually finding ways to minister to others. Each day we are to be a testimony for the Lord and a light to the world.

Video games could easily take us away from that. How? By being a substitute for the time we would otherwise spend helping others. God might take issue with the fact you’d rather stay home on a Saturday playing video games than go serve with your youth group on a community project for the poor.

This question falls under the same general category as “Are video games the best use of my time?” Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us to walk in wisdom and use our time wisely because we don’t have a lot of it. If playing video games is distracting you from greater goals like getting good grades in school or becoming a better athlete or advancing in your career or developing deeper relationships, then you need to reevaluate your usage.

Question 4: Is evil present and obvious?

Evil should be pretty easy to spot. But we’ve become so desensitized with images of evil that we sometimes miss it. Or we blow it off as “not as bad” as it seems.

The Bible is clear about this. I Thessalonians 5:22 says, “Abstain from every form of evil.” So when you see a game entitled Diablo, red flags should immediately pop up. I know, I know…you are the hero in the game fighting off a demonic invasion. But the demonic imagery that is present and the violence and the partial nudity should scream “Stay away!” I mean, the game name itself means “devil” in Spanish. Shouldn’t that be enough of a clue?

I don’t want to paint this as black and white as it may seem. I’ll concede there is a gray area. I mean you can argue that violence is violence. Even the Jedi of Lego Star Wars are “murdering” other Star Wars Lego characters.

What’s critical to understand here is that Satan – the enemy of God and therefore all Christians – wants our mind to be open to evil. He wants us to become numb to it. Often he works in subtle ways but other times he is blatant and obvious. In many video games the evil imagery is clear – and yet we don’t turn away from it.

Question #5: Are you under the influence?

What’s your tank (soul) full of? The Apostle Paul famously wrote in Ephesians 5:18, “And do not be drunk with wine…but be filled with the Spirit.” The issue here wasn’t so much about drinking alcohol as it was about who or what is controlling your inner man. Paul’s exhortation was that the Holy Spirit should be in control of our thinking and actions instead of other influences.

So has playing video games consumed you to the point where it’s controlling your everyday life? Daydreaming all day long about how to beat that level? If so, it may be distracting from your love for God and maybe even your life purpose.

You have replaced your love for God with a love for something worldly. And the Bible has many warnings for Christians about the dangers of that. Matthew 6:24 tells us we cannot serve two masters. Either we will hate one and love the other, or be loyal to one and despise the other. There is room in your heart for only one master.

So Should I Stop Playing Video Games?

I can’t give you a definitive answer to this question. It’s your own personal conviction. We will still allow video games in our house going forward.

But I can say we are monitoring the games and their usage very closely. I’m controlling what games and apps we buy and who my kids can play with online. I’m actually raising our kids on many of the games I used to play. Yes, I still have our Nintendo Entertainment System with all my old games, now some 25+ years old. They still work and are loads of fun to play. You can still find games of this era out there if you look.

I believe God created all things for our enjoyment. But our enjoyment of His creation should be tempered by its spiritual impact on our lives. If our activities distract from our love for God, damage our personal testimony or impact how we influence others, then those activities should be called into question. And I believe that includes playing video games.

Questions for Discussion: How do you think God feels about kids or adults playing video games? Are there any other Bible verses you could point to that relate to this topic? Do you think violent video games are contributing to violence in our culture? What was/is your favorite video game and why?

Image courtesy of JD Hancock at Flickr Creative Commons

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  1. This article really resonated with me as I gave up video games when I came back to faith. A part of me wonders if God stepped in so I had full attention towards him. Like you I grew up with gaming and the advances. I have had every Playstation released this far and it was almost a part of my identity.
    Recently I have been wondering if I could get back into it casually but the points about being distracted from God’s calling or connecting with people is a big one. I also wonder if it’s the devil’s temptation to get me back there so i can be pulled away from God.
    It’s certainly been a challenge for me as so many great memories from my gaming life. That may also be due to I was addicted and addictions die hard so temptations will arise.
    Great article is still very relevant in 2023

  2. Richard S Viands says

    I am a recent parent to an Autistic 13-year-old boy whose parents allowed him to continually play whatever video games he wanted. His parents did not live a Christian lifestyle and within the past year and a half have been addicted to drugs and living on the streets. He has a brother and sister living in another home but since he has been here his life has drastically been changed for the better. We apply Christian principles here. The one struggle I have, however, is with his gaming. He was saved since he has been here in a church event we had and he has tried very hard to make good changes; however, he struggles deeply with violence and zombie, and war games. He does not understand just how bad they are for him because he was always allowed to play them. He literally spent hours crying over the fact that he is going to have to give up these things. We went over this questionnaire with him along with many verses. His statements were actually what many Christians face today. I don’t understand why I cannot play these games, I want to do what is right for God but I still want to play my games. He said he doesn’t understand why it seems everything he likes to do and enjoys is a sin. I almost laughed but held my composure because he was serious and explained to him that it was normal to feel that way as every Christian experience that feeling at some point. My thing is this, he is Autistic (high functioning). He has to have things a certain way all of the time and if you take him away from those things it is difficult to change things. The games help keep him focused and the only thing he has ever known is the bad ones and the violent ones filled with evil. It is difficult to get him to like anything else because to him everything is boring outside of those killing games and blood and gore. He has so many things in his life that are hard for him to deal with such as not being with his family, his parents being drug addicts, and are living on the streets. I really do not want to stir the pot, but I refuse to allow his young brain to be poisoned any longer with these sorts of games. He has come a very long way and I certainly wish we could find an alternative for him. This was an excellent article and thank you for sharing your thoughts and biblical truths.

    • That’s an amazing story and circumstance Richard…thank you so much for sharing it. I can see the delicateness of the situation you are trying to balance here. I’ve banned the hardcore violent games in our house…Fortnight is as far as we go. I would say a couple of things here though. I would not let video games be a wedge between your relationship with your son. I know you disapprove but you are trying to build a relationship with him. That’s going to take time. The last thing you need now is to have something you disagree about hinder that relationship growth. Maybe spend some time with him as he plays…build a bond through his gaming. Second, if he continues to play these games, make sure you give him a solid dose of other positive experiences, words of encouragement and affirmation and continued instruction from God’s word. There needs to be a healthy dose of “good” to balance out the “bad” he is seeing in these games. Third, try and find games he really loves that have less of the violence and gore. Don’t prohibit the gaming per se, just find alternatives that you both can feel good about. And lastly…and this is a long-term play here…let God do the work. As he matures and finds his identity in Christ, he’ll realize the destructive nature of these games. I know the autism throws a completely different issue into the mix here, but I truly believe God can do a work with this despite that issue.

    • I have what used to be known as Asperger Syndrome, so, this may help You here.

      I used to play Violent Games all the Time before I was Saved, everything, and I admit this to My Great Shame, from COD to GTA.. Now I do not Play any of them, I am in fact looking to sell them and give the Money to Charity, I find them Utterly Repugnant! the Whole idea of Playing any of the Violent ones, even the old “James Bond” ones, (which were basically rated “PG” ESRB E-10/PEGI 7 to 12) gives Me Literal NIGHTMARES. let alone any of the really Bloodthirsty Ones, which make Me feel Sick to even think about now.

      Now, I just Play the Car Racing Games, and even then the more Family Friendly ones such as Forza Motorsport/Horizon. Project CARS, DiRT (Colin McRae Rally) , GRiD (Race Driver/Toca) etc as they are cleaner, more Edifying, and can even glorify God, the Forza Horizon Games, as Example, often have downright Gorgeous Scenery (However, the Mexican Setting for 5 might be a Stumbling Block due to the extremely Pagan “Mayan” culture that is still, sadly, Present there) In fact it was the Expansion “Fortune island” for Horizon 4, that God used to get Me to think about Him, and how I had let Him and Christ down…. Leading to a very Tearful Cry for help, Forgiveness and Mercy… REPENTANCE.

      Yes, God used a Videogame to call Me back to Christ. This is Part of why I lean towards what the world calls “Calvinism” , because that is very much an example, I feel, of irresistible Grace.

      These Car Racing Games can even be played in a way that results in good Works, Forza often locks up Cars behind *Very* Hard Challenges, so, telling another Player how to unlock a Car He has unlocked, but they have not, and helping them to unlock it, would Certainly grow Fruit and be Edifying for Him 🙂

      They can even be used to Share Faith, Some of them let You change the Licence Plate on the Car, Setting it to Reference Scripture can be a Good way to do that 🙂 for Example, over Holy Week, I had it set to “Mark16:6” which is the Gospel according to Saint Mark, Chapter 16, verse 6: “And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. ” -King James Version.

      To ban Gaming in the House entirely could lead to Him getting a false Image of God, that of a fun hating Dictator, and could drive him away and into the Wilderness, so that may not be a good Idea!

      To Move Him into Car Racing Games, some of which can be Very Challenging, (for Example, Assetto Corsa, which has *extremely* Realistic Handling, although that one Does need a very Powerful and Expensive custom made PC to get the best out of it…), so if He relishes the Challenge of the Evil Games (as they can be very Hard) the more challenging “Sim” Side of the Racing Game Genre could be a good way to Provide that Challenge, would still allow him to Game, while also Preventing Him Exposing Himself to Brutal, Violent Images that Ultimately, and I only wish I had realised this Sooner than Last February, can only come ultimately from Satan!

      Plugged In from “Focus on the Family” is a pretty solid Source that might Help You find some more suitable Games for Him.

      I hope that Helps, from an Autistic Brother in Christ.

      Love and Peace.

  3. This article literally sent me a grave warning with the attitude for gaming. I am a first generation Christian and have been walking close with God. However, since I have pursue my tertiary education overseas alone, even though I have been attending a church around my area, I feel like something has been trying to severe my connection with God, and that’s gaming, which I found temporary happiness with the mates I know during my studies. At one point, I have been some addictive with it which I fail my grades and has not been attending church services anymore. Even now, even if I am trying to get rid of this addiction, the urge is still there. I am thankful that this article came by my sight, it makes me more determined that I have to quit this thing once and for all, and continue to be His lovely child, serving Him and glorify His name. Thanks Brian.

    • Thanks so much for sharing. I’m thrilled that you were helped by this article. I remember thinking when I wrote it that it seemed like an odd topic. But I’ve dealt with it myself at some level, being a child growing up in the middle of the video game infancy during the 1980s. So many things challenge for our attention and can get us distracted from our work, families and our relationship with God. Ultimately, I’ve realized there is nothing wrong with enjoying some down time with games. But I’ve had to set limits and force myself to put the controllers away. There are more important things in life anyway that bring deeper personal fulfillment.

  4. Clara Johnson says

    I appreciate this. My mom was super against stuff that had any firm of evil. We all thought she was crazy. Now as a mom myself of the kids, I woods wish I could have one more conversation with her on it.

    On an unrelated note, you sell reality. I work on the leasing world and want to build our buy my own home. I was studying the Bible and reading what God thought on that. I was surprised to find that it says that a man shall not build a home and have another man live in it.
    In super curious your thoughts on this.
    Thank you,

    • Great question Clara. Without knowing the exact passage or context of the verse, I’d have to say that sounds very much like Old Testament, Jewish law to me. God had a reason for the legal code he laid down for the nation of Israel. However, Jesus instituted a new covenant when he died for us where we are not bound by the Old Testament law. So I’d have to say it doesn’t apply to what you are trying to do with home ownership.

  5. An article like this is a rarity. It’s amazing how you explore what’s okay and what isn’t, backed up with the truth of Scripture, rather than take on the typical black and white approach that the world tends to take and stigmatise those who play video games. I find there is a great deal of relatability as I read this, which leads me to be more open and receptive to what I am about to receive from this. Thank you!

    • Thanks Francis. Maybe I have a different perspective about it because I grew up in THE era of video games – the 1980s (and early ’90s). So many advancements were happening then in the industry and I loved playing all the games that came out. For the most part video game playing is an innocent activity but obviously can be taken to extremes. And anyone, not just followers of Jesus, need to be careful how the games are impacting their life.

  6. I’ve been a video game player since I was in the 7th grade. At first, the novelty of new worlds to explore and the view of others’ imaginations was what peaked my interest. In retrospect, I see how much time I have wasted in virtual lands, and how I have taught my children that it’s okay to avoid reality.

    I still struggle with balancing real life responsibilities with electronic recreation, so this question might not necessarily apply to me. My question is: Would it be possible for a game streamer or reviewer to express their love of God for the public audience through their interest or conversation?

    • i am a streamer too, apply the teachiing of our Lord Jesus Christ through actions when live (example, keeping calm even we lose in the game, congratulate enemy wins, smile, etc) basically do the opposite things a toxic player does for the glory of God!! 🙂 hope this helps. I share this too John 3:16 most of the time

  7. This article is very interesting and unique. I admire your efforts. I will come here to check new updates. Thanks for posting this information.

  8. I really like the article in which you explain about the God advice about playing video games. Well, I am also a video game lover so I know that how you can easily connect with your siblings with the help of the video games. It does not only connect you but your imagination powers also grow. Thanks for such beautiful explanation.

  9. Well I think it can deduct stress and entertain my self but I can’t play it more than hour because my eyes start to hurt and hot , Peculiar article, just what I wanted to find
    Really appreciate thanks for sharing !!!!!

  10. I can play video games all the week without the recreation, and then just forget about my PC for a month. My love for gaming depends on my mood 😀

  11. I am more of an occasional gamer. Not like my friends who spend their free time playing Dota. Thanks for sharing this.

  12. My kids still play video games, and I monitor it closely so that they’ll be guided and know exactly what they’re playing. I think it’s really misunderstanding and misinformation why it badly translates into society and the role of parents should come into play with regard to this playing of video games.

    • “…be guided and know exactly what they’re playing.” It’s great that you are doing that Liz. There are so many subtle and subliminal negative messages within some games. It’s just like things they might see in TV shows or commercials that their mind might not process like an adult’s mind. Parents need to have the courage to point these things out to their kids and talk with them about the consequences of believing the negative messages.

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